Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies. By M. Stanton Evans.
M. Stanton Evans has written an impressive and compelling book. Blacklisted by History tells the real story of the much-maligned Senator Joe McCarthy and sets the historical record straight.
MASTERPIECE OF SCHOLARSHIP
The book is a masterpiece of scholarship. At over 600 pages, it isn't for the easily distracted, but it is well worth the effort. Evans has poured a significant chunk of his life into this book. He spent six years writing it, and spent decades before that researching McCarthy.
The extent of his research shows. The book is bursting with facts, some long-forgotten, others newly discovered. Evans' research makes use of recently declassified transcripts and reports, documents that became available after the collapse of the Soviet Union, papers stored in out-of the way places overlooked by others, and materials that were readily available but ignored by liberal journalists and academics. Some documents had mysteriously disappeared, only to turn up elsewhere.
Evans uses the original sources to tell the real story of McCarthy and the McCarthy era. Here is a summary of the real story.
Before and during World War II, the United States government developed a very serious problem of communist infiltration. Back then, communism was seen by many on the left as the wave of the future, and many on both the left and right failed to understand the nature and severity of the threat.
Consequently, communists were readily hired into the newly-created New Deal agencies. The problem accelerated during the war, when the Soviet Union was America's "ally". They were hired into the temporary wartime agencies, and after the war they moved on to more established agencies. The State Department was a particular target, with communists also becoming staffers in many other cabinet agencies, the White House, some scientific labs, and some Army institutions. Literally hundreds of people who had sworn their allegiance to Moscow ended up on the government payroll.
EFFECTS OF SUBVERSION
All of this subversion had disastrous effects for America and the world. During the war, communists engaged in espionage of sensitive military plans. The worst of the many incidents of espionage was the theft of the plans for the nuclear bomb, achieved by the Rosenbergs and others. This dramatically strengthened the position of the communists in Russia, facilitating the slaughter and tyranny they committed. It also lead to the threat of nuclear war that continues to this day.
Communists also used political subversion to shape the course of World War II. They manipulated intelligence and State Department analysis to push America toward war with Japan, relieving the threat that Japan might go to war with Moscow. They fought against a plan to invade Europe through Italy, rather than France, as this would have imperiled the eventual Soviet control of Eastern Europe. Soviet agent Alger Hiss was a top advisor to Roosevelt at the Yalta conference that confirmed Soviet control of Eastern Europe, leading to forty years of tyranny and millions murdered in those countries.
Communists were also key in founding the post-war international agencies. Secret agent of Stalin Alger Hiss co-wrote the United Nations charter with a (known) Russian agent of Stalin. Hiss was the secretary general of the conference that founded the United Nations. Not surprisingly, the UN soon had American communists on its payroll, too.
Meanwhile, Soviet agent and deputy Treasury Secretary Harry Dexter White participated in the Bretton Woods conference that founded the International Monetary Fund, and was then appointed by President Truman to head that agency.
Soviet influence of the intelligence received by the President and other key officials had significant effects on American actions that would decide control of nations. One example is Yugoslavia, where America was convinced to support communist Tito rather than anti-communist General Draja Mihailovich to fight Nazi control. With this aid, Tito seized control of the country after the war, and the usual slaughter of millions and decades of tyranny ensued.
A much larger example of the same phenomenon is China. Before the war, nationalist Chaing was fighting the Japanese forces occupying China, while communist Mao Tse-Tung maneuvered to take control of China himself. American officials, who were secretly Soviet agents, relentlessly attacked Chaing and praised Mao in their reports. Communists used front groups, including the Institute for Pacific Relations to crank out an endless stream of propaganda aiding the communist cause.
When the Japanese left Manchuria, the weapons and ammunition they left behind were turned over to Mao, not Chaing. Aid to Chaing was reduced, delayed, and eventually cut off. The State Department even hatched a plan (never implemented) to assassinate Chaing. Mao was victorious, and went on to slaughter seventy million Chinese. The threat from communist China continues to this day.
We know of the communist infiltration for certain due the Venona transcripts, decoded Soviet communications naming many of their agents. But significant evidence of this communist infiltration came to light at the time.
Communist handlers Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley defected and told their stories to the government, each naming scores of communist agents. The FBI was busy for many years investigating communist subversion, identifying many communists and security risks. Various internal security divisions in the State Department and other agencies compiled documentation on communists and other security risks. And congressional committees like the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA) also investigated subversion.
These efforts did succeed in getting some communists out of the government. But these efforts were often either ignored or resisted. The FBI sent a steady stream of reports exposing communists in the government to the White House, only to have them ignored by Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. The efforts of internal security divisions often met with the same fate, particularly in the State Department and the Army. Bentley and Chambers were ruthlessly attacked when they testified publicly before the HCUA. Communists not surprisingly participated in these attacks, but many non-communist liberals were just as vitriolic. The Truman administration actually planned to indict Chambers rather than his nemesis Alger Hiss before public opinion and the weight of evidence forced them to reverse course.
One less-known but particularly egregious case is the Amerasia spy scandal. The FBI caught State Department official John Stewart Service handing reams of classified data to the communist-run magazine Amerasia. Service and the others involved were charged. But officials high in the Truman administration conspired to fix the case so that Service was found not guilty. The FBI caught them on tape.
Security practice at the State Department was particularly bad. The Department refused to act on many serious security risks, setting an almost impossible standard of proof for removal. When the evidence or political pressure became overwhelming, the suspect would be allowed to quietly resign rather than be fired, and so could get a job elsewhere in the government or at agencies like the UN.
Truman simply refused to do anything about the communists in the government.
Senator Joe McCarthy entered the public eye in 1950 with his famous speech in Wheeling, West Virginia. The Senate quickly established a committee to examine the cases that McCarthy brought forward. But under the leadership of Senator Millard Tydings, the hearings quickly turned into an attack on McCarthy. Denials from the communist agents were accepted at face value, and the committee refused to examine the State Department security files. Tydings, the White House, and the State Department coordinated behind the scenes to attack McCarthy. The committee eventually issued a fraudulent report clearing everyone and attacking McCarthy.
McCarthy continued to hammer these issues in speeched before the Senate and elsewhere. During the 1951-1952 session, there were two more committees convened to attack McCarthy. The Truman administration still refused to remove communist agents from the government except when public pressure became overwhelming, but they showed no such reluctance in their pursuit of McCarthy's sources of information, whom they intended to fire posthaste.
These battles were largely won by McCarthy. Truman left office one of the most unpopular Presidents in American history, due to the security battles, the loss of China, and the bloody no-win war in Korea. A number of McCarthy's Senate foes were defeated for reelection. In 1952, General Dwight Eisenhower was elected President. Eisenhower ran as a Republican, though he had no history as a Republican and was very much a product of the Roosevelt/Truman administrations.
When Republicans won control of the Senate in 1952, McCarthy became chairman of the Senate Investigations Subcommittee. For a little over a year, McCarthy rooted out subversion and security problems in the State Department, Voice of America, and elsewhere. Many of these problems were corrected by the new administration.
One of his most famous cases, and the one that led to his downfall, was his investigation of the Army Signal Corps. The pattern here was very similar to what had happened in the State Department. Clearly identified communists were committing espionage, and would have been eliminated by internal security forces, but were saved by higher officials in the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, the Eisenhower administration became increasingly hostile to McCarthy. It invented the doctrine of "executive privilege" to refuse to allow McCarthy's committee to call the official on the Pentagon board responsible for clearing the communists. The Army filed spurious charges against McCarthy, leading to another committee to investigate McCarthy, followed by a committee investigating censure of McCarthy. McCarthy was finally censured for supposedly being insufficiently cooperative with the committees that attacked him. He died three years later, in 1957.
CONTENTS OF THE BOOK
Evans covers these issues in detail. The first section of the book contains introductory material on researching McCarthy, the standard historical treatment of McCarthy, McCarthy's biography, communists uncovered by McCarthy, the HCUA led by Rep. Martin Dies, and communist subversion in Britain and elsewhere.
The second section contains background information on communist subversion and tactics, subversion at the OWI and OSS leading to the loss of Yugoslavia, the disinformation in reports from China of American Soviet agents John Stewart Service and others, the Amerasia spy scandal and coverup, the revelations of Elizabeth Bentley, the reports from the FBI to President Truman, the security battles in the State Department, and congressional efforts to investigate security problems.
The third section covers the year 1950 and the Tyding Committee, specifically McCarthy's Wheeling speech, the subsequent speech before the Senate, the Tydings hearings, backstage efforts to attack McCarthy, the Tydings Committee report, the Lee list and McCarthy's sources, the "four committees" that previously investigated subversion, the State Department security files, State Department security standards, and McCarthy's sources of information.
The fourth section covers the specifics of many McCarthy cases and others, including the cases of Robert Oppenheimer, Harry Dexter White, Alger Hiss, and others, anonymous McCarthy cases, public cases, the Amerasia spy case, the Institute of Pacific Relations, Professor Owen Lattimore, Phillip Jessup and Frederick Field, McCarthy's speech about General George Marshall, and McCarthy's battle with Senator William Benton.
The fifth section covers the years 1953-1954, including the political landscape in 1953, the Voice of America investigation, books in US information centers, the nomination of Charles Bohlen as ambassador to Moscow, the smearing of J. B. Matthews as anti-protestant, security problems in the Army Signal Corps, the testimony of Generals Kirke Lawton and Ralph Zwicker, the case of Annie Lee Moss, the Army-McCarthy hearings, and side issues in those hearings.
The sixth section concludes with the Eisenhower "executive privilege" order, the censure hearings, and McCarthy's legacy.
THE CONTROVERSY OVER MCCARTHY
From beginning to end, McCarthy was relentlessly attacked. Five different Senate committees investigated him. The White House, State Department, Senate liberals, liberal interest groups, and much of the news media attacked him relentlessly.
The real issue in the McCarthy era was that the President and his top officials refused to remove known communists from key positions in the government. McCarthy worked relentlessly to expose this. The facts here were so explosive that they threatened to destroy the entire political establishment. That is why they worked to hard to destroy McCarthy. Why the establishment was so unwilling to remove communists from the government is a question that has never been adequately answered.
Evans uses original documents to show that McCarthy was right about his major charges and that his opponents lied shamelessly and repeatedly about the issues and McCarthy. He also shows how liberal historians have misstated and distorted the record. He deals with tangential charges from the Wheeling numbers to the "three Annie Lee Mosses". He reproduces many of the most significant original documents in making his case.
While McCarthy was ultimately politically defeated, he had significant successes. He drove many communists out of the government. He succeeded in getting various agencies to improve security standards. He defeated and discredited the Truman administration, at least at the time. He exposed the subversion of China policy and prevented similar betrayals from happening elsewhere. And he made anti-communism a major political issue for the rest of the cold war.
For this, he deserves to be remembered, and thanked.
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