Diana West’s American Betrayal — a remarkable, novel-like work of sorely needed historical re-analysis — is punctuated by the Cassandra-like quality of “multi-temporal” awareness. Cassandra, during her scene from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, is possessed with the unique ability to visualize past and present, and even to augur future events, all as if they were happening in the present. There is a terrifying quality to Cassandra’s intensity, her peculiarly broad, profound, and temporally extended knowledge, and the directness with which it is conveyed. But West, although passionate and direct, is able to convey her profoundly disturbing, multi-temporal narrative with cool brilliance, conjoining meticulous research, innovative assessment, evocative prose, and wit.
American Betrayal chronicles the nation’s original subversion by Communist totalitarianism — the ugly, watershed “Big Lie” event being U.S. recognition of the Soviet Union in November 1933 despite knowing the Ukrainian terror-famine (see Robert Conquest’s The Harvest of Sorrow) orchestrated by Stalin’s Communist regime had already killed four to six million souls. Having long since crossed that ignominious threshold, West argues, it is easy to fathom how we are currently being subverted by the contemporary “Big Islamic Lie,” which romanticizes totalitarian Islam.
FDR, in a blatant lie designed to justify massive Lend-Lease aid to the Soviets, praised the USSR (in 1941) for its “freedom of conscience, freedom of religion,” which he further claimed was comparable to “what the rule is in this country [i.e., the U.S.].” Six decades later, George W. Bush mendaciously bowdlerized the timeless, global aspirations of Islam to impose its universal totalitarian system, Sharia (Islamic law), via jihad when sanctioning the American response to the mass-murdering jihadist terror attacks of 9/11. Addressing the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. on September 17, 2001, Bush opined:
The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.
By 2003, President Bush had fully embraced the delusive (and self-contradictory) Bernard Lewis Doctrine, which, squandering precious U.S. blood and enormous U.S. treasure, empowered the forces of Sharia to foster Islamic “democracy.” Similarly, FDR’s massive material and propagandistic support of Stalin’s Soviet transnational state abetted the metastasis of Communist “democracy” during the World War II era.
Despite its momentum, the grotesque transition to the acceptance (and at times blatant agitprop hagiography; see the 1943 film Mission to Moscow, aka “Submission to Moscow”) of Soviet Communism, which Diana West painstakingly details, was not seamless or uninterrupted. She also brings forth the countervailing efforts of a pantheon of brave, albeit isolated (and at times understandably shrill) truth tellers about Communism, Communist subversion, and Communist depredations: journalists and writers/educators (including ex-Communist apostates, or ex-fellow-travelers) such as Eugene Lyons, Gareth Jones, Malcolm Muggeridge, Fred Beal, William Wirt, J.B. Matthews, Victor Kravchenko, Whittaker Chambers, Elizabeth Bentley, Louis Budenz, Arthur Koestler, George Orwell, Max Eastman, Hanson Baldwin, Edward Kennedy [the AP and Atlantic Magazine journalist], Vladimir Petrov, Albert Konrad Herling, David J. Dallin, Boris Nikolaevsky, Elinor Lipper, Julius Epstein, Robert Conquest, Claire Stirling, Joseph D. Douglass, Tim Tzouliadis, M. Stanon Evans, Herbert Romerstein, Yuri Besmenov, Vasili Mitrokhin, Vladimir Bukovsky, and of course Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; military leaders, and intelligence officers and analysts including George Racey Jordan, Albert C. Wedemeyer, John Van Vliet, and Mark W. Clark; jurists Robert H. Jackson and Irving R. Kaufman; and politicians/staff lawyers, ambassadors, federal law enforcement, and even State Department officials, such as Martin Dies, Robert Stripling, Pat McCarran, Joseph McCarthy, Ronald Reagan, William Bullitt, George Earle, J. Edgar Hoover, Robert Kelley, Roy Atherton, Raymond Murphy, and Loy Henderson.
These truth tellers endeavored valiantly to put the lie to the myth of Soviet Communism as a “democratic” bulwark against singularly evil and dictatorial Nazism/Fascism, let alone a just, “utopian” system unto itself. (Bitter “vindication” of the anti-Communist truth tellers was catalogued, if belatedly, in The Black Book of Communism, which demonstrated that the victims of Communist mass killings were at least four times more numerous than those slaughtered by the Nazis, i.e., ≥ 100 million, vs. 25 million.) Immediately after World War II, when America’s erstwhile Soviet Communist “allies” emerged as a global totalitarian scourge more menacing than the Nazis — events forcing this undeniable reality even upon U.S. policymakers in stubborn denial of the threat — another dangerous myth began to take shape: Islam as an alleged bulwark against Communism.
Once again, early on truth-tellers possessed of both keen understanding of Islam and intellectual honesty underscored the pitfalls of such a misbegotten geo-strategy.
Sir John Troutbeck (d. 1971) was head of the British Middle East Office in Cairo from 1947-50, and was ambassador to Iraq from 1951 until his retirement in 1954. He referred to a revived Caliphate (the trans-national Islamic state empires, extant in different incarnations, from 644 A.D. until the dissolution of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924) as a potential buttress against Soviet Communism in an early September 1949 letter citing Pakistani advocates of a new “Pan Islamic bloc.” Troutbeck acknowledged the possible benefit of this phenomenon: “Islamic cooperation as a bulwark against the spread of Communism.”
But he was also very sober and forthright in expressing his concerns over such a development, arguing that should Caliphate advocates attain real power, they would be more inclined to “train their guns against Western imperialism” and also oppress indigenous non-Muslim minorities, especially Jews and Christians. Echoing Troutbeck’s trepidations, Orientalist Gustave von Grunebaum provided this pellucid and unapologetic warning of how the geostrategic paradigm of “Islam as a bulwark against Communism” would run amok in his 1955 review of writings by the immensely popular Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Muhammad al-Ghazzali:
We concern ourselves with the compatibility or otherwise of Islam with communism and regardless of the conclusion in which we acquiesce, we are apt to overlook the fact that the Muslim circles most emphatically opposed to communism are at the same time potentially if not actually the most formidable stronghold of hostility to the West. Ghazzali’s tirade against American Democracy with its warning “against the spreading American ways,” with its condemnation of “the domestic as well as foreign policy of America” as “actually a systematic violation of every virtue humanity has ever known” should make us aware that the Muslim “extremists” will be with the West not because of any recognized affinity but merely out of momentary political considerations. Ultimately, the self-conscious world of Islam would wish to consolidate into a power center strong enough to set itself up by the side of the Russian and the Western blocks, strong enough to determine for itself what its primary political concerns should be, and strong enough perhaps to be no longer compelled to westernize for the sake of survival. The hot-headed half-truths of Ghazzali must not delude us into considering absurd the aspiration of those who feel that for its revival Islam needs less rather than more gifts of the West.
American Betrayal opens with a striking juxtaposition of two men who passed through Union Station, Washington, D.C. in 1934 after disembarking from separate trains. One was Whittaker Chambers, then in his early thirties and working for Soviet military intelligence. Chambers sought to facilitate the transfer of “career Communists” from New Deal agencies (such as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration and the National Recovery Administration) to central government departments — notably, the State Department. The first member of Chambers’ new cell was Alger Hiss, who would go on to play a critical (and nefarious) role at the seminal 1945 Yalta Conference.
During late 1938, overwhelmed by the horrific actions of the Soviet Communist Party, in particular the Stalinist purges and forced starvation of Ukrainian peasants, and having rejected Communism’s militant atheism, Chambers left the Communist movement. The Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 was a seminal event for Chambers, who feared that much of the confidential information about the United States that he had forwarded to the Soviet Union might be passed to Germany. Thus Chambers, now an ex-Communist apostate, decided to divulge his prior activities for the Communist underground to the federal government. Shortly thereafter, Chambers was able to meet with the head of security at the State Department, A. A. Berle. However, it was not until 1948 — nine years later — that the information he provided to Berle was acted upon by the government.
Chambers was subpoenaed at that time by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) to corroborate the testimony of Elizabeth Bentley — the so-called blonde spy queen — who alleged that Soviet espionage was occurring within the U.S. government. Chambers corroborated Bentley’s allegations, supplemented them with his own, and confronted Alger Hiss on the first day of his testimony. (Eventually all twenty-one names that Chambers provided to HUAC were confirmed by subsequent Soviet archival research). In 1950, Hiss was convicted for perjury after two federal trials.