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Thursday, June 14, 2018


OVER WORLD WAR II, 1939-1941 (New York: Random House, 2013)
Rev. by Hugh Murray

A good read does not make a good book. Olson's volume is well-written, easy to follow, flowing along with the American nation from its isolationism of 1939 when war erupted in Europe, to the day of infamy when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Those were angry days, when most Americans, some 70% according to a poll she cites (p.28), believed in 1937 that the US had been tricked into mistakenly entering the Great War (WWI). Many continued to believe it best for America to stay out of the wars boiling over in 1939. Others, like Pres. Franklin Roosevelt, viewed Hitler as a threat to America, with his blitzkrieg over Poland in 1939, followed by further blitz victories over Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and finally France in spring and summer of 1940. Hitler followed with his surprise attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941; Roosevelt concluded that all that posed a great threat to the US and the world. Roosevelt pushed to end American neutrality, pressed for a draft law at home, repeal of the Neutrality Act, the sale of arms to help Britain, and then lend lease, to keep supplying Britain as it verged on bankruptcy. To prevent German occupied Denmark from claiming Danish islands, the US occupied Greenland and Iceland, even escorting British convoys of ships to Iceland. The American ships even sailed beyond and there were minor skirmishes with German U-boats. In the fall of 1941 Roosevelt issued a shoot on sight order against the German subs. On the heated debate that occurred in America over all these policies, policies that were shoving America to the brink of war with the German Reich, Olson is good. She describes in America the growing intensity, anger, hatred on both sides, easily lumped into two camps – isolationists vs. interventionists.

However, Olson leaves out an important part of the equation – and she is too knowledgeable to ascribe this omission to ignorance. Thus, she blithely writes: “Indeed the US never faced any serious threat of internal subversion before or during the war.”(337) What bull! Olson must have heard of the Manhattan Project, the A-bomb, the Rosenbergs, and the many others? All striving to give Stalin the American atomic secrets. Was this not a serious threat of internal subversion during the war? Furthermore, there was also internal subversion BEFORE the US entered WWII, and that subversion is related to how American entered WWII.

Olson writes: “HUAC had been set up in 1934 as a special committee to investigate pro-Nazi and other right-wing extremist groups in the United States. After ending its operations a year later,...revived by Congress in 1938 under...Rep. Martin Dies, a right-winger, anti-New Deal Democrat...Dies focused...on...Communist presence in organized labor and the federal government....[Dies] worked to portray the New Deal as part of a vast Communist conspiracy.”(327-28)

Olson understands the HUAC of Rep. Dies had a different mission from the earlier committee that investigated “pro-Nazi and other right-wing extremists groups.” Perhaps the main difference between the Dies and the previous HUAC led by N.Y. Rep. Samuel Dickstein was that the New Yorker was at that time being paid $1,250 a month by the Soviet NKVD. Perhaps, that might help explain why the earlier committee was less interested in uncovering any Soviet penetration of the US government or any criminal activity by left-wing extremists. Olson, in a typical case of liberal bias and blindness, condemned the Dies' exposes as McCarthyism before McCarthy (and she did not mean that as a compliment). Of course, Olson fails to mention Dickstein's connection to the Soviets as an example of foreign penetration of the US government.(328-29)

Olson's myopia on the Communist issue leads her to misinterpret much of the period 1939-41, the scope of her book. Even the terms “isolationists” and “interventionists” had to be slightly scrambled during this period, and the reason was Communism.

The world of the 1930s seemed to crash on 23 August 1939 when the two leading antagonistic nations, Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union, signed a non-aggression pact. We now know there were secret clauses so it was, in effect, an aggression pact by the two tyrannies to divide much of Europe between themselves. Just 9 days following the signing of that non-aggression pact, war began on 1 September 1939 with the German invasion of Poland – the blitzkrieg. On 3 September, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Often overlooked, on 19 September 1939 the Soviet Union also invaded Poland, from the east. However, Britain and France, which had declared war on Germany because of its war against Poland, DID NOT declare war on the USSR. The apparent reason, - there was a view in the West that declaring war on Stalin would force him to get closer to Hitler. And one possible reason for Stalin's delay in his entry into the war for Poland's spoils: the USSR and Japan had been engaged in an undeclared war around their puppet states of Manchukuo and Mongolia. That was a war the supposedly weak USSR easily won, but both belligerents preferred to keep news of the war quiet. Meanwhile, Poland was quickly crushed, and divided, between the Germans and Soviets by the end of September 1939.

As the blitzkrieg completed in Poland, all was then quiet on the western front. Indeed, it was so quiet on the Franco-German border, they called it the sitzkrieg. In the east, Stalin prepared to expand the borders of the USSR into Europe. In October 1939 his government made territorial demands upon Finland, which had been a Russian province during Czarist days. He demanded that the Finns give the Soviets most of the Karelian Peninsular which contained the main defenses against the Russians that had been constructed by the Finns since their independence; in return, he offered the Finns a large area of wasteland. Stalin's demands were to be only only the first, for he later intended to make Finland a Soviet satellite. Stalin made no war plans, because he expected the Finns to yield to his demands. When the Finns rejected Stalin's swap, he had to show the Finns a lesson. Soviet troops invaded Finland on 30 November 1939. As part of secret protocols of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, Finland had been assigned to the Soviet sphere of influence. Hitler, an indirect ally of Stalin, refused to aid the Finns, and worse, refused to allow Hungarian forces transport military and other aid across Germany and German occupied lands. Finland might look large on the map, but in 1939 its population was a mere 3.5 million, compared to the 170.6 million in the USSR.

In the US, many isolationists were fiercely anti-communist, and Soviet aggression against Finland, prompted a great increase in anti-communism. Even the moribund League of Nations expelled the USSR because of its aggression against Finland. Yet, the American isolationists did not become over-night interventionists, in part because of the difficulties in attempting to help Finland. Germany could block Western access to the Baltic. Republican former Pres. Herbert Hoover did raise a large sum for clothing and medical supplies for the Finns, and he delivered strong anti-communist speeches, but the GOP, even if it had wanted, did not have the power to get the US to help Finland militarily. Roosevelt, who did have power, did not want to push Stalin closer into the arms of Hitler, so although the Neutrality Act had been modified, the Roosevelt Administration refused to sell arms to Finland. The Finnish Ambassador declared that decision a death sentence.

Poland, a nation of 35 million would last for less than a month after invasion. Tiny Finland would endure for 3 1/2. Though the Red Army stumbled, and seemed to have great difficulty in advancing through the peninsular, eventually, with great cost, they broke through. By 13 March 1940 the war was over and Finland sued for peace. It had to give up important strategic territories, but it would retain its independence. The Soviets lost 127,000 soldiers killed. “The whole world was shocked by the unbelievable weakness of the Red Army.”(Viktor Suvorov [Vladimir Rezun], The Chief Culprit: Stalin...p. 140) Suvorov disagreed with most of the commentators. The war started in the far north in December, when the sun sets at 4pm, earlier in the northern sectors. The average temperatures during the “Winter War” were minus 21 to minus 24 Celsius – minus 6 to minus 11F. While Hitler and the West concluded that the months it took to defeat Finland proved Soviet military weakness, Suvorov concluded; “If it [the Red Army] was capable of advancing in such conditions, then it was capable of advancing in any other conditions ...”(Suv. p. 144) Advancing even to Berlin, and Paris!

So in June 1940, when the West was shocked by the German blitzkrieg again, and Hitler was celebrating a triumphal visit in Paris, Stalin now made demands for bases on the soils of the 3 small Baltic nations: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. All were close enough to Finland to be aware of the consequences of any rejection. Soviet troops “were invited” into all 3 nations; soon Communist governments were imposed, and in 1941 they were incorporated into the USSR.
Stalin then made demands on Romania for the province of Bessarabia. The Romanians also quickly yielded to the Soviets. All this was accomplished in accord with the Hitler-Stalin Pact. But when Soviet ships began to get closer to oil fields in Romania and pose another threat to strategic metals in the Baltic, Hitler began to have doubts about his alliance with Stalin. Meanwhile, despite all theses Soviet “advances,” no one declared war on the USSR.

After the German blitz in the West, conquering from Norway to Paris to the Mediterranean in spring/summer 1940, the Roosevelt Administration sought to help Britain in its lonely struggle against the Axis. Because Britain was desperate and lacking funds, the Administration proposed a Lend-Lease bill, whereby America would lease bases on British islands and America would lend Britain ships. Here is how Olson describes the raging debate in the US - “thousands of activists poured into Washington to buttonhole members of Congress...Lend-Lease foes paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue,...'Kill Bill 1776, Not Our Boys.' An organization called American Peace Mobilization picketed day and night outside the White House, its members carrying signs denouncing Roosevelt as a war monger. One of the ubiquitous right-wing mothers' groups also appeared outside the White House...”(278-79) I contend that by placing her sentences in this manner, Olson leaves the impression that the APM was another right-wing group. It was not – it was a Communist-front. Surely Olson knew that, but she chose to mislead her readers. To make it clear, as Olson does not, after the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov non-aggression treaty in August 1939, the world Communist movement ceased its anti-fascist struggles, reversing its 1934 “popular front” policies of working with liberals. When war broke out in Poland in September 1939, the CPUSA, like the rest of the global Communist movement, now saw the greatest threat, not from Hitler, but from the imperialist powers – Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, who were oppressing hundreds of millions of colonial peoples. Therefore, the American Communist movement and its fronts were “anti-imperialist,” opposed to any actions that would aid Britain or France. The APM was the American expression of this general Communist policy. The APM did picket the White House with signs like, “The Yanks Are Not Coming,” until 22 June 1941, when Hitler and his European allies launched a surprise attack against the USSR. Overnight the American Peace Mobilization changed its name to the American Peoples Mobilization, demanded US intervention in the European war, and the same picketers of the White House now carried signs, “Send the Yanks!”

Olson included a footnote, which again, revealed her myopia. “The Almanac Singers, an antiwar folksinging group whose members included Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie introduced a song 'Plow Under' soon after [isolationist Mont. Dem. Sen. Burton] Wheeler” remarked that, like the New Deal agricultural program to raise pork prices by plowing under every fourth pig, now Roosevelt's policies would plow under American soldiers in the same manner. The Almanacs sang, “Instead of hogs it's men today, Plow the fourth one under.”(276) The Almanacs followed the CP line. They also sang against lending and leasing. After 22 June 41, however, in accord with the new Comintern policies, they dutifully demanded that America send aid to all nations engaged in the fight against Hitler and the Axis, and they destroyed all of their anti-war recordings still in stock.

On 16 October 1941 off Iceland, a German torpedo struck the American ship, the Kearney, killing 11 American sailors.(400) Roosevelt proposed modifying the Neutrality Act and ordered a “shoot on sight” policy and the arming of American merchant vessels. On 31 October 41 the American ship Reuben James was sunk by a German U-boat. Many interventionists were hoping Pres. Roosevelt would use this German attack as grounds to declare war against Hitler's Reich. But Roosevelt chose not to do so, disappointing the pro-war groups. The pro-war coalition had grown since 22 June to include the formerly anti-war CP activists. Suddenly pro-war, “Upset that no one seemed to care [about the 100 plus young sailors who had lost their lives]...,the folksinger Woody Guthrie wrote a song called 'The Sinking of the Reuben James' and recorded it with Pate Seeger.”(406) It became a folk classic. However, had the ship been sunk in the early part of 1941, before Hitler struck at Stalin, neither Guthrie nor Seeger would have bothered or publicly cared about the 100+ lost seamen.

American voters were aware of events in Europe, and American opinion generally changed with news from abroad. The problem, of course, then as now, what are the biases of the media in reporting the news? Most Americans were opposed to Hitler and to Stalin. True, fascists and communists had their supporters in America, but to most Americans, those were radical fringe extremists. Invasions in Manchukuo probably troubled few in America outside the State Dept. and Naval Intelligence. Mussolini's assault on Abyssinia may have wakened some American Blacks to world problems, but the American Depression, and how to climb out of it was still the dominant issue. The revolt by the 4 generals and the Falange against the left-wing government in Spain did rouse more Americans, with some left-wingers volunteering to fight in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade to support the Republic. In opposition, the popular radio priest, Father Coughlin devoted time on his national network to report how the Falange was defending Christian values in Spain, and the leader of the rebels, Gen. Francisco Franco was gratefully receiving aid from Mussolini and Hitler against the Communist Republican Govt. Indeed, the only major country to help the Republic was Stalin's USSR. Father Coughlin established a weekly newspaper, Social Justice, and he gathered his Social Justice warriors into the National Union for Social Justice. Coughlin not only denounced Communists, but also the “International Jews.” Some estimate the radio priest was heard by up to 90 million Americans each Sunday. When CBS dropped his popular broadcasts from its network, Coughlin put together his own chain just for his sermons. His weekly Social Justice magazine gained a million subscribers. And in it he explained to his readers how social justice was being implemented in the thriving nations of Italy and Germany. Olson states that Coughlin's organized followers beat Jews and others who rejected appeals to purchase the Social Justice magazine.

On the other side, the Communists, even if members of the Peace Mobilization, were hardly pacifists. They fought anti-union bosses, non-union workers, Trotskyists, members of opposition rallies, and scuffled with police. Hemingway went to Spain to toll the bells; Orwell went to save the Spanish Republic by joining a Trotskyist militia, and was lucky to exit Spain before the NKVD got to him. Picasso painted Guernica, to reveal the horrors of bombing civilians. The fascists killed poet Federico Lorca, and the Left sought to destroy the plans and early stages of Gaudi's cathedral, Sagrada Familia. To anyone watching the news, the struggle in Spain between Fascists and the ever-increasingly Communist dominated Republic, all assumed that the next big war would be between those two giant ideological contenders – fascists vs. communists. In Spain, Franco won for the Falange and the fascist side. And then, the world was turned upside down when Stalin and Hitler, instead of going to war with each other, joined together in the non-aggression pact of August 1939.

The American public was being swayed by the wars blasting round the world. While movies sought to remain apolitical (Europe was a profitable market for Hollywood films), the newsreels (and cartoons) that preceding the showing of the feature films, were important for molding opinion in the era before television. Henry Luce, chief of Time-Life magazines, also created the weekly news film, “The March of Time.” “Movietone News,” and others also were seen in different theaters. Luce was an interventionist. But men with cameras showing aggressive wars, would inevitably show wounded and dead Chinese and victorious Japanese; marching soldiers of the Wehrmacht, Italian planes bombing natives in Africa, etc. These pictures tended to stir the audience to take sides in distant conflicts. This would not necessarily make them interventionists, but it tended to make them less sympathetic to Germany, Italy, and Japan.
By the late 1930s radio technology had advanced so some radio stations and CBS, in particular, began to include reports from journalists in Europe. Americans were interested in the live reports of what might become conflicts, or even a general war. Important in forming opinion would be those like Edward R. Murrow, who broadcast from London as the Luftwaffe dropped bombs on Britain's capital. The Germans hoped the bombing would compel the British to negotiate a peace, as had France, and thus end the war whose continuance only served the “plutocrats.”

Olson says little about radio in her volume, a great failure in the pre-TV era. When discussing that medium a few points should be stressed: The National Broadcasting Company began its chains officially in November 1926. It was one company, but in reality 2 networks, the red, the more popular chain with the stronger stations; and the blue. By 1930, the leader of the Radio Corporation of America, NBC's parent corporation, was David Sarnoff. On January 1929 a newly reorganized competitor began broadcasting as the Columbia Broadcasting System, led by William Paley. Paley, as a manufacturer of cigars, had been a major advertiser on the precursor radio chain to CBS. NBC Red, NBC Blue, and CBS were the three dominant networks during the period under discussion. Significantly, both Sarnoff and Paley were Jewish. Might this not affect the portrayal of Germany on their networks? In 1934 another network started, but it was a looser chain, often with weaker stations. In 1940 the FCC sued NBC maintaining that its two major networks were a monopoly, and should be divided. The legal cases took time but in 1943 the US Supreme Court ordered the severance of the NBC Red and Blue chains. Eventually, the Blue network would re-emerge as ABC, but during the period 1939-41, the leaders of the 3 biggest networks were Sarnoff and Paley.

One powerful station held a large portion of stock in the Mutual Broadcasting System, the station owned by the Chicago Tribune with the modest call letters, WGN for World's Greatest Newspaper. The Tribune was strongly isolationist, and its editor, Col. Robert McCormick, a staunch enemy of Roosevelt's New Deal. Mutual grew to have more stations than the other chains, but in North Carolina, for example, 4 stations each sufficed for the NBC's and CBS chains to cover the entire state; Mutual required 14 stations. I don't know, but suspect the news and commentary on Mutual in those angry days was probably different from the reporting on NBC and CBS. That Mutual was the poorest of the networks can be seen by the late 1940s with the growth of television. NBC, CBS, and even ABC made the transition to network television; Mutual failed to do so.

[Though it comes from a later period, one incident may illustrate the contrast in interpreting the news. On 9 March 1954 Edward R. Murrow's CBS-TV program “See It Now” was devoted to an attack on the methods of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in allegedly exposing subversion in the US Govt. The very next day on Mutual Radio, commentator Fulton Lewis, Jr. had as his guest Sen. McCarthy to defend himself and his Committee from liberals like Murrow; McCarthy asserted that they the committee was being fair to the accused, who ought to cooperate in exposing other subversives in Govt service.]

Generally, the radio chains were not neutral; they were interventionist and anti-Nazi. And Hollywood? Olson writes: In 1936 “energized by the growing threat of Nazi Germany, hundreds of screenwriters, directors, actors, and producers had come together to form the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, which became the focal point of liberal interventionist activity...sponsored rallies, mass meetings, and letter-writing campaigns...from support of the Loyalists forces in the Spanish Civil War to backing the beleaguered Federal Theatre Project.”(361) What Olson does not reveal is that the League was a Communist front. When some speakers rose and urged that they denounce Communist as well as Nazi totalitarianism, they were booed and hissed. Furthermore, after August 1939 (Hitler-Soviet Pact), the organization voted itself out of existence, for the Comintern had decided that Britain and France were a greater danger than Nazi Germany. The leaders of the HANL then joined the American Peace Mobilization. Again, let me emphasize, the HANL, the organization Olson implies was liberal, was in fact a Communist-front with considerable influence in Hollywood.

Olson mentions that Hollywood did begin to produce anti-Nazi films by 1940 like “Foreign Correspondent,” “Confessions of a Nazi Spy,” and “Mortal Storm,” but what she fails to mention is the films that were not made about Communist spies. In this period there were top-selling books exposing Soviet espionage in the US and its brutality elsewhere, but none were transferred to the big screen. Later, in a film guild newspaper, the Worker, Dalton Trumbo in 1946 conceded that his colleagues could not always bring progressive novels like Howard Fast's “Freedom Road” to the screen; nevertheless the Communist Trumbo boasted that his comrades had successfully prevented production of anti-Communist movies, “Out of the Night,” “Report on the Russians,” “There Shall Be No Night,” “Adventures of a Young Man,” and Trotsky's biography of Stalin. Diana West charges that the Communist influence in Hollywood was so prevalent that it created a hole in American culture in what was not produced. (Diana West, American Betrayal, pp. 88-89) Would anyone today know of the influential book, Gone With the Wind, if the movie version had been vetoed? (For more on Trumbo, see Kenneth Billingsley, Hollywood Party, pp. 92-93) Once America entered WWII, pro-Stalinist films were made in Hollywood at the request of the Roosevelt Administration, such as “Mission to Moscow,” and “North Star.”(374)

It may have been acceptable in Hollywood to be interventionist or ever a member of the anti-interventionist APM, but when Lillian Gish joined the America First group, she could no longer find work in films. She resigned from America First to find employment. We rarely hear of the Hollywood blacklist of conservatives. Yet, liberal Olson is so besotted of the mainstream myth of McCarthy that she writes that during the post-WWII Cold War era in Hollywood “anyone who had ever marched against Hitler or Mussolini was at risk of loosing his or her livelihood...ruining hundreds if not thousands of lives.”(374) Dalton Trumbo was one of the famous Hollywood Ten, blacklisted for refusing to answer questions about Communism after WWII. But during the war, he boasted he and his comrades were vetoing the making of any film critical of Communism. As Olson seems incapable of distinguishing a Communist front from a liberal organization, she probably opposed any exposes of Communists or spies in Hollywood or elsewhere. And there were Communist spies elsewhere.

In 1941 after Japan occupied part of Vichy French IndoChina and made some demands upon Siam, the Roosevelt Administration froze all Japanese assets in the US and “further Japanese purchases of American goods, including oil, had to be cleared by a government committee...The president, however, had not intended his order to signal an automatic cutoff of oil. He wanted to keep his options open and the Japanese at the negotiating table. Nevertheless, State Dept. officials applied the freeze in such a way that no further exports...were released to Japan...the crisis that Roosevelt hoped to put off for as long as possible was now on his doorstep.(410-11, emp. Mine)

That sounds innocuous enough. But in late 1941 the USSR was fighting for its life against the German and Axis invasion. The last thing Stalin wanted was a major attack on his flank. In the book, Operation Snow (2012) by John Koster we learn that a Soviet agent, Vitalii Pavlov gave orders to Harry Dexter White, director of the Division of Monetary Research of the US Treasury Dept., to provoke Japan to attack the US so that the island empire would not strike north against Soviet Siberia. Between the lines written by Olson, you can see the successful work by a Soviet agent in the American Treasury Dept. in cutting off oil to Japan, making the negotiating table useless, and prompting the Japanese to attack the US rather then the USSR. “Harry Dexter White, acting under orders of Soviet intelligence, pulled the strings by which [US Sec. Of State] Cordell Hull and [State Dept expert] Stanley Hornbeck handed the Japanese an ultimatum that was tantamount to a declaration of war – when both the Japanese cabinet and the US military were desperately eager for peace...Harry Dexter White gave us Pearl Harbor.”(Koster, p. 215) Olson is oblivious to the Communist penetration of the US Govt. that had major consequences – war.

Olson writes of the many problems in the Lindbergh marriage. On the cover of her book are the pictures of two men, two antagonists during the period of her study – FDR and Charles Lindbergh. If she is going to discuss the marriage difficulties of one of the protagonists, why is she silent on the other? Olson's silence is another form of bias. Were there not troubles in the marriage of the Roosevelt's during this period?

But the most blatant example of Olson's bias in her assessment of the two antagonists is when she calls Lindbergh an anti-Semite.(xxx)

In September 1941 as America sailed ever closer to war against Germany in the Atlantic, Lindbergh, the leading spokesman of the anti-interventionist America First Committee, decided to speak and identify outright those most responsible for pushing America into war. They were the Roosevelt Administration, the British, and American Jews. Olson notes, Lindbergh leveled “...his sharpest criticism for the president and his men,...devoting only three paragraphs to Jewish influences.”{378) But the Jewish comments broke a taboo and set off a storm. Lindbergh asserted that the reason the Jews were a danger in this setting was because of “ 'their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government.'”(378) Olson does concede that “on at least one occasion, FDR voiced “...some views similar to Lindbergh's,” that the Jews were outsiders and that America was a Protestant country.(383)

Olson dismissed as “erroneous” the view that “Jews dominate the media.”(385) She writes: “Fewer than 3% of US newspaper publishers were Jewish...” Some newspapers, however, have large circulations; others tiny; some have prestige; others not. On a different subject, Olson would dismiss the influence of Communists in Hollywood, also, but Dalton Trumbo boasted of the influence he and his comrades had in preventing the making of films critical of communism. As to Jewish influence in the media, which Olson also dismisses, I ask the reader a simple question: How many Americans died in WWII? Now, how many Jews died in WWII? She presents the answer to the former.(p. 436) She does not have to include the answer to the second question because most educated Americans know it already. Why do educated Americans know the data on Jewish deaths in WWII but not know the number of Americans killed in that war? Does this not illustrate the Jewish influence on American culture, and that influence is a consequence of Jewish prominence in the media?

I am not denying that some of Lindbergh's views were anti-Semitic. Olson quotes from his private journal of April 1939: “A few Jews add strength and character to a country, but too many create chaos...and we are getting too many.”(380) So, in the contrast Olson has drawn between Lindbergh and FDR on anti-Semitism, Lindbergh is clearly the ogre, properly chosen as the villain in Philip Roth's award-winning, nightmare fantasy novel of 2004, The Plot Against America. But Olson has weighted the scales in Roosevelt's favor. Absent from her bibliography is the article by Rafael Medoff (Los Angeles Times, 7 April 2013) on Franklin Roosevelt's private views of the Jews. Thus, “in 1923, as a member of the Harvard board of directors, Roosevelt decided there were too many Jewish students at the college and helped institute a quota ...” Olson does discuss university policies limiting Jews by quotas(381), but never connects the quota programs to FDR. In one short paragraph, Olson notes that Roosevelt, though sympathetic to the Jewish plight, did little to help them before and during the war. She quotes Arnold Forster asserting “'FDR failed Jews in their darkest hour.'”(385) Medoff explains the not so obvious hurdles Jewish hopeful immigrants faced. “The US immigration system severely limited the number of German Jews admitted during the Nazi years to about 26,000 annually – but even that quota was less than 25% filled during most of the Hitler era, because the Roosevelt administration piled on so many extra requirements...For example, starting in 1941, merely leaving behind a close relative in Europe would be enough to disqualify...- ...Nazis could threaten the relative and force the immigrant into spying for Hitler.” Medoff discounted that possibility as absurd. (I could find no Jews listed as spies for Germany during WWII. On the other hand, many Jews were part of the Soviet network: Harry Dexter White [Weit] in Treasury, and many atomic spies, among whom were: Theodore Hall [Holtzberg], Saville Sax, Morris Cohen and wife Lona, David Greenglass, Harry Gold, George Koval, Irving Lerner, and of course, the Rosenbergs.) Moreover, Medoff asks a question, “Why didn't the president [FDR] quietly tell his State Department (which administered the immigration system) to fill the quotas for Germany and Axis-occupied countries to the legal limit? That alone would have saved 190,000 lives. It would not have required a fight with Congress or the anti-immigration forces; it would have involved minimal political risk to the president.” Perhaps Medoff answers that question when he reported in the same article of Roosevelt “dismissing pleas for Jewish refugees as 'Jewish wailing' and 'sob stuff.'” But FDR called Lindbergh a Nazi, and some of the media apparently believed the president. Olson calls Lindbergh an anti-Semite. But Lindbergh cannot be held responsible for the probable loss of 190,000 Jews, - but FDR can.

Roosevelt was clearly hostile to the Hitler regime. He allowed the British intelligence units to work inside the US, and even received the help of MI6 in establishing the first American national intelligence organization, the OSS. Roosevelt allowed the FBI to wire tap, intercept mail, even that of foreign embassies, and permitted the FBI to smear opponents and disrupt their activities.(xix) “In September 1939, he [FDR] told an associate that it was going to be 'a dirty fight.'...and he played a major role in making it so. Convinced that the isolationists, particularly Lindbergh, posed a major threat... Roosevelt..., assisted by a covert British intelligence operation, embarked on a campaign to destroy their credibility, influence, and reputations.”(xix) Roosevelt thought that Lindbergh was a Nazi,(103) and that he and other opponents should be muzzled.(310-11) FDR openly compared Lindbergh to the Copperheads of the American Civil War, the Northerners who sympathized with the Confederacy.(314) By 1941 America First found it impossible to hire public parks for rallies, and Lindbergh's books were removed from public libraries. Yet, Olson writes, “Feeding Lindbergh's persecution complex...”(376) were additional verbal assaults on him by members of the President's Cabinet. Persecution complex?!? There was real hatred of and persecution of Lindbergh stirred up by Roosevelt's Government; it was not simply the imagination of the famous flier.

What was Lindbergh's great crime? Lindbergh believed that Communism was a huge tyrannical system and a greater danger to the world than Hitler's Nazism.
When Hitler and his European allies struck eastward against the Soviet Union, what should the rest of the world do? Hitler thought the war would be short and the Soviet's would quickly crumble before his seasoned fighters. Why worry about winter supplies? A few years earlier, most Americans in 1939 knew that France had Europe's best army and the Maginot Line for defense; so it would be just a matter of time to starve Germany into submission. Those assumptions quickly proved to be wrong, but still many assumed the Red Army was undoubtedly weaker than the defeated French one. British PM Churchill was no Communist sympathizer. When Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917 and pulled Russia out of WWI, Churchill urged Western intervention in Russia to aid the anti-communist White forces. His objective was to smother the babe of Bolshevism in its crib. But when Hitler attacked Stalin, Churchill, then standing alone against the Germans, was delighted; he said he would make a deal with the devil to defeat Hitler. Churchill announced his Govt would send aid to the USSR (though as British resources were so depleted, this may have been more propaganda than reality). Because many thought the Soviets would collapse in about 7 weeks, there was a question of how viable any promise might be. FDR “cautiously followed Churchill's lead, and in August 1941 pledged to send “planes, tanks, trucks, and other aid to Stalin...”(347) Olson assures her readers that most Americans, assessing Germany as “a far greater immediate danger” than the USSR, supported the President's decision.(347)

Elsewhere, Olson reported how FDR and his supporters working inside the Gallup polling company manipulated the questions to skew poll results.(343) Not all Americans were on board with helping the Red Army. Missouri Dem. Sen. Harry Truman asserted, “'If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible.'”(346) Truman seemingly supported a balancing act for the US, liking neither totalitarian belligerent. A 3rd position was enunciated by Lindbergh. “At an America First rally...Lindbergh declared that while he opposed US alliances with foreign countries, he 'would rather see my country ally herself with England, or even with Germany with all of her faults, than with the cruelty, the godlessness, and the barbarism that exists in Soviet Russia.' Unsurprisingly, this inflammatory remark touched off another round of bitter attacks against him.”(346) Clearly, Lindbergh was in a camp hostile to Roosevelt's policies; but was he that far from Truman's skeptical idea? Moreover, was it such an inflammatory notion to judge the USSR as a tyranny worse than that of Nazi Germany?

There is a scene in the wonderful film, “Europa, Europa” 1990, that occurs shortly after the beginning of the German attack on Poland in September 1939. The film is based on the autobiography of the protagonist, Solomon Perel, a young Jew whose family flees persecution in Germany. They move to Poland. but in September 1939, the Germans invade. Now Solly and his brother, along with masses of Poles, flee the incoming German army. They reach a river and have to cross it, some by boat, others swimming. As they cross, they see some turn round after reaching the farther shore, and begin swimming back to the side whence they came. What's happened? The Red Army has invaded Poland from the east. An existential moment! Generally, most Jews keep heading eastward, toward the Russians, away from the Germans. Most Christians seem to be turning around, now fleeing westward toward the Germans, away from the Soviets. Given a choice between the two great tyrannies of that time, some chose to race toward the Reds, others toward the Nazis.

Under the German occupation, Jews were targeted for extermination. Before the war some 3.2 million Jews resided in Poland; after, 100,000 had fled to the USSR, 2OO,OOO made it to the West, and 100,000 were left in Poland. Of the 24.3 million Poles in 1939, excluding various minority groups, 2,770,000 were killed during the German occupation; 150,000 killed under Soviet occupation; 1.2 million moved to the USSR or to the West. Many nations had at war's end lists of the dead killed by this group or that. And how accurate were historical judgments at war's end? Many Poles had their property confiscated too, and the Nazis sought to eliminate Polish intellectuals. But in the Soviet occupied zones, Polish officers were rounded up, and 15 to 30,000 killed in the Katyn Forest (1940-41). The Germans captured this area from the Soviets beginning 22 June 1941, and discovered the atrocity, and showed the Red Cross evidence that the Soviets had done it. After the war, the Nurnberg Trials ruled that the massacre had been the work of the Nazis; of course, the Soviets were among the winners and thus among the judges. With the fall of the USSR researchers suddenly had access to evidence demonstrating that it was the Soviets who committed this crime.

Of course, the Germans were attempting to kill as many Jews as possible, mainly through work, starvation diets, and gas chambers. But to improve the planet, certain policies were not to be limited to Jews. Millions of Soviet PoWs died in without food, heat, shelter. Poles and other “inferiors” were treated with contempt, and died of various problems. Each nation had its own tabulations of how many were killed by fascists, how many killed by communists, how many killed by Allied bombings, how many killed by – the list of categories.

Which tyranny might it be better to try to live under? To fight? Or are they both equally horrible? I do not use the term inhumane because humans have developed these methods to rob, torture (in such creative ways), kill, and dispose of the unwanted. And not always in camps. Before the war began, Germany required a midwife at each birth to an Aryan woman. If the infant was deformed, it might be taken from the mother and sent to a special hospital for special treatment (usually, starvation). Alcoholics, homosexuals, the mentally disturbed, gypsies, all might be sent to camps for rehab or other special treatment, like sterilization, castration, or starvation. And in the early days of Hitler's leadership, these efforts to improve the race were generally limited to Aryans; the Reich did not care if a Jew gave birth to a defective infant. Tens of thousands of Aryans thus discovered the pain of “improving” the race.

But Hitler was a late-comer in mass torture and murder. Concentration camps had been established by the Bolsheviks early in their struggle for power. People who had jewelry and refused to disclose it and give the state its due, might endure long punishments. The Whites, at war with the Reds, could expect no mercy. And then in the Ukraine, the “selfish” better-off farmers, unwilling to sell crops to the govt. at a reasonable (low, or no, price) had to be taught a lesson. Troops went to the farms and took; leaving nothing for the selfish kulaks. Up to 3 million of those farmers who refused to help the Bolshevik state progress, they ended in the dust bin of history, dead. If you add many more millions killed in the USSR through purges under Stalin and his successors, and then up to 50 million killed during Chairman Mao's experiments in socialism, and then the 2 million in Cambodia (about one fourth of the population) in the effort to develop the new, socialist man, and extra totals from Cuba, N. Korea, and other progressive nations, the Black Book or Communism calculated the number 100,000,000 killed by communism.

Of course, the Communists have more time; Hitler had only 12 years.
Which tyranny, if either, might be the better for the US to align with? And win with? And fight against?
In 1941 Hitler's killing machines were just getting started. Einsatzgruppen behind the lines of the invading Wehrmacht tried to kill all Communist officials and Jews as they advanced, men, women, children. But the numbers murdered were small compared to what would follow, and few knew of these policies at the time. In 1941 Stalin's state had terrorized and murdered many more people than Hitler's. And in the long run, Communists, 100 million versus Nazis, 6 million Jews and perhaps a few million others. War casualties, they can share. Of course, had the Nazis endured in power longer, they might have murdered millions more. My point is that it is not a simple question of math, or of black and white, or red and brown. If you are Jewish, it is clear what the great, frightening danger was. If you are Finnish, you might see Stalin as the great monster. Letts, Estonians, Ukrainians, Hungarians might see Communism as a far worse threat to free people than Hitler's Reich. Those nationalities would not be unanimous in their decision. Across the ocean from the tyrannies of Europe, people did come to different assessments over which was the greatest threat to the US. They gave different answers to related questions: should we aid one and how much aid should we give. Roosevelt decided to give large amounts of materiel to the Soviets. We did not follow Truman's initial advice, that the US should change sides when one totalitarian state began to win so we would then help its rival. And while we were helping the Soviets with vast amounts of food and production, numerous Soviet spies were rewarding Stalin with the secrets of our A-bomb research. Yet, even with the hindsight of decades, I too believe that Hitler was the most imminent danger to the US in 1941. But in 1941, I don't think it was a clear, easy decision, and honest people might come to different conclusions.

Olson provides a well-written history of the period, 1939-41. But hers is a distorted version. Her description of the 1940 GOP convention and its selection of Wendell Willkie, a dark horse candidate whose foreign policy was a clone of FDR's, shows how far from reality was Roth's award-winning novel in which the GOP chose the isolationist Lindbergh. Olson seems satisfied with the Eastern Establishment's sponsorship of Willkie, whose candidacy removed foreign policy from the election debate and deprived voters of an alternative to FDR's warpath. Olson clearly prefers FDR to Lindbergh and believes Roosevelt's interventionism was morally required. Olson is oblivious to differences between liberals and Communists and is blind to Soviet espionage during the Roosevelt years. Her book is unfair to Lindbergh and the millions of Americans who, with malice toward none, sought to keep us out of war.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


I found both of these articles on AmRen, and the originals were on Quillette.  Hugh Murray

Steve Salerno, Quillette, May 10, 2018

Is There Room in Diversity for White People?

Now, reasonable people can differ about whether academia, as the ancestral home of white guilt, has been overzealous at micromanaging outcomes. Significant race-based preferences remain widespread, and lawsuits continue to be filed by white and Asian students who feel they bore the brunt of academia’s attempt to realize its vision of a utopian society in which minorities are represented at demographically correct levels. Eyebrows also raise at the way in which black students may be acculturated upon their arrival: ironically, some colleges “ghetto-ize” incoming minorities by creating for them separate advising systems, housing, academic tracks, and even graduation ceremonies. Still, it’s hard to dispute the wholesomeness of the mindset from which such tokens of affirmative action spring.
And yet wholesome is not the word that comes to mind when one assesses the newest wrinkle in academia’s attempt to balance the scales: an all-out, unapologetic assault on ‘whiteness’ itself. Today’s college administrators increasingly frame diversity and inclusion as lessons that must be learned by whites alone—and they’re lessons that too often unfold as interventions that force whites to regard themselves less as full partners in diversity than an obstacle to be overcome so that other constituencies might thrive. {snip}
A tale of two coasts: New York’s Hunter College promotes coursework for poli-sci majors in “the abolition of whiteness.” Stanford examines “abolishing whiteness as a cultural identity.” Elsewhere, to cite just a few examples, classes at Grinnell and UW-Madison confront “the problem of whiteness.” New Mexico’s St. John’s College takes on the “depravity” of whiteness. Moreover, academic theorists crusade to purge whiteness from STEM courses, because critical thinking and research are regarded as tools of “white hegemony.” Engineering students at Purdue must contend with the school’s indictment of “racist and colonialist projects in science,” while a UC-Irvine professor condemns even “technical prowess” as a white male construct. A Linfield college Gender Studies professor even condemns her peers for putting “stellar” colleagues in leadership roles, because stellar individuals, she notes, tend to be white and thus have benefited unfairly from “a logic of meritocracy that is built on this racist assumption that everyone has had the same access and opportunities.” UCLA pays students a stipend to act as professional social justice activists who will diagnose, expose, and combat “whiteness” and “the patriarchy” in all campus manifestations.
Most of these initiatives surfaced within the past few semesters, so a Geiger reading on fallout is premature, but the message and predictable effects are worrisome. Aside from simple issues of fairness, academe’s crusade is almost guaranteed to backfire. Today’s white college students have little to do with the active bigotry of the past; treating them as if they arrive on campus with some endemic moral deficit is almost certain to foment a stronger sense of racial identity among students who deem the attacks unwarranted. (77 percent of today’s freshmen describe themselves as somewhere between liberal and middle-of-the-road.) No matter how erudite the packaging, labeling a race “depraved” is the textbook definition of bigotry (if not, some might argue, an institutionally sanctioned hate crime).
Consider, too, the implications for black self-reliance. It seems unhelpful to suggest to blacks that resolving the gap in minority performance remains a problem that somehow falls to whites; this undercutting of black agency subliminally echoes the very paternalism that colleges decry. For that matter, what is the message to non-whites of identifying such concepts as excellence, prowess, and stellar performance with whiteness?
Suggestion for my academic colleagues: ensure that opportunity exists for all, then allow diversity to occur organically on its own. It may take longer and never quite come to imagined fruition, but it will be genuine, and will not stigmatize an entire group of people in the guise of eliminating racial stigmas. You can commit to this truer diversity or you can allow your campus to devolve into a Balkanized chaos-sphere that not only perpetuates ancient grievances but stands in direct reproach to the mission of higher education.
You cannot do both.
Posted on May 15, 2018

The Racism Treadmill

Coleman Hughes, Quillette, May 14, 2018

The prevailing view among progressives today is that America hasn’t made much progress on racism. {snip}
But the data take a clear side in that debate. In his controversial bestseller Enlightenment Now, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker notes a steep decline in racism. At the turn of the 20th century, lynchings occurred at a rate of three per week. Now, racially-motivated killings of blacks occur at a rate of zero to one per year.1 What’s more, racist attitudes that were once commonplace have now become fringe. A Gallup poll found that only 4 percent of Americans approved of marriages between blacks and whites in 1958. By 2013, that number had climbed to 87 percent, prompting pollsters to call it “one of the largest shifts of public opinion in Gallup history.” 
Why can’t progressives admit that we’ve made progress? Pinker’s answer for what he dubs “progressophobia” is two-fold. First, our intuitions about whether trends have increased or decreased are shaped by what we can easily recall—news items, shocking events, personal experience, etc. Second, we are more sensitive to negative stimuli than we are to positive ones. These two bugs of human psychology—called the availability bias and the negativity bias, respectively—make us prone to doomsaying, inclined to mistake freak news events for trends, and blind to the slow march of progress.
But while psychological biases may sufficiently explain progressophobia on most other topics, our denialism about racial progress calls for a deeper explanation—an explanation in terms of widely-held beliefs about race and inequality.
One such belief is the notion that disparities between blacks and whites—in income, housing, employment, etc.—are caused by systemic racism. {snip}
But the premise built into the thinking of [Ta-Nehisi] Coates and [Ibram] Kendi is false. I call it the disparity fallacy. The disparity fallacy holds that unequal outcomes between two groups must be caused primarily by discrimination, whether overt or systemic. What’s puzzling about believers in the disparity fallacy is not that they apply the belief too broadly, but that they apply it too narrowly. Any instance of whites outperforming blacks is adduced as evidence of discrimination. But when a disparity runs the other way—that is, blacks outperforming whites—discrimination is never invoked as a causal factor.
Here’s a clear example of the disparity fallacy: a recent study by researchers at Stanford, Harvard, and the Census Bureau found that, “[a]mong those who grow up in families with comparable incomes, black men grow up to earn substantially less than the white men.” A New York Times article attributed this disparity to “the punishing reach of racism for black boys.” But the study also found that black women have higher college attendance rates than white men, and higher incomes than white women, conditional on parental income. The fact that black women outperformed their white counterparts on these measures, however, was not attributed to the punishing reach of racism against whites.
Economic disparities that favor blacks have been reported for decades, yet they have rarely if ever been attributed to anti-white systemic bias. A 1994 New York Times article reported that, among college graduates, black women earned slightly more money than white women did. In addition, the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out that, as early as 1980, U.S. census data show black college-educated couples out-earning their white counterparts.3
The black/white unemployment gap provides an even older illustration of the disparity fallacy. Many commentators have reflexively attributed the modern unemployment gap to systemic racism. But in historical eras with far more racism, the gap was reversed. According to Sowell, “[b]lack unemployment rates were lower than that of whites in 1890 and, for the last time, in 1930.”4 Facts like these, however, are never explained in terms of discrimination in favor of blacks. Indeed, why progressives only commit the disparity fallacy in one direction is never explained. What the writer Shelby Steele has said about progressives and racist events is equally true of statistical disparities that disadvantage blacks: When they learn of one, “they rent a jet plane and fly to it!”
It’s a sign of the poverty of our discourse on racial progress and inequality that the rarest findings are thought to be normal, and the most common findings are thought to require special explanation.
Indeed, it is rare to find any two ethnic groups achieving identical outcomes, even when they belong to the same race. A cursory glance at the mean incomes of census-tracked ethnic groups shows Americans of Russian descent out-earning those of Swiss descent, who out-earn those of British descent, who out-earn those of Polish descent, who out-earn those of French descent in turn. If the disparity fallacy were true, then we ought to posit an elaborate system that is biased towards ethnic Russians, then the Swiss, followed by the Brits, the Poles and the French. Yet one never hears progressives make such claims. Moreover, one never hears progressives say, “French-Americans make 79 cents for every Russian-American dollar,” although the facts could easily be framed that way. Similar disparities between blacks and whites are regularly presented in such invidious terms. Rather than defaulting to systemic bias to explain disparities, we should understand that, even in the absence of discrimination, groups still differ in innumerable ways that affect their respective outcomes.
Black culture
One crucial way in which groups differ is culture. Culture matters enormously. The importance of culture is, ironically, a value often expressed by progressives. When presented with arguments that point to genetic influences on human behavior, many on the Left respond by emphasizing the importance of culture over genetics, that is, nurture over nature (see Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate for more.) Moreover, cultures differ from one another. This is true by definition. It’s unclear what the “multi” in “multi-culturalism” could possibly mean if cultures were all the same. Put these two premises together, and you arrive at what should be an equally banal conclusion: if culture matters enormously, and cultures differ from one another, then differences between cultures matter enormously.
But, together with the disparity fallacy, the denial of cultural explanations for disparity has become the received view among progressives. Coates, for instance, has dubbed cultural explanations of disparity “lazy.”5 Others believe such arguments to be intrinsically racist when applied to blacks. The sociologist and award-winning author Michael Eric Dyson has argued that cultural explanations of black/white disparities are seen by whites as “heroic battles against black deficiency.”6
But intuitive examples of the importance of culture are all around us. Disparities in athletic achievement, for instance, are inexplicable without reference to culture. Although blacks make up 14 percent of the U.S. population, they account for only 8 percent of MLB baseball players. This relatively small disparity has been enough to prompt articles in US NewsNPR, and Vox that blame the decline in black baseball representation on everything from mass incarceration to racial bias to a generic sense among white fans that “baseball culture should stay white,” as the Vox piece summarized it.
Meanwhile, blacks account for a staggering three-fourths of all NBA basketball players, while whites account for a mere 18 percent. Curiously, progressives have not seen the under-representation of whites in basketball as requiring any explanation whatsoever. When whites are under-represented somewhere, it is assumed to be a choice or a cultural preference. But when blacks are under-represented somewhere, progressives descend on the issue like detectives to the scene of an unsolved murder, determined to consider every possible explanation except for the “lazy” one: that in black culture, basketball is more popular than baseball.
Strangely, it is only among thought-leaders that these twin dogmas—the disparity fallacy and the denial of cultural explanations—have become gospel. Black people themselves are, on the whole, open to other ways of thinking. For instance, 60 percent of blacks attribute disparities in income, jobs, and housing mainly to factors other than bias, according to a 2013 Gallup poll. A more recent Pew poll found that 60 percent of blacks without college degrees say their race hasn’t affected their chances of success in life. The belief that cultural factors don’t influence outcomes, too, seems to be the special province of progressive intellectuals. For example, when asked by Pew in 2008, 71 percent of blacks said that rap was a bad influence on society. Nevertheless, for years progressives have accused those who criticize harmful elements within black culture of “victim-blaming,” never stopping to wonder whether the supposed victims actually felt blamed by such observations.
It’s no accident that the majority of blacks don’t view racial bias as the main issue they face today. Indeed, there is reason to believe that culture, rather than bias, is the primary cause of unequal outcomes for blacks. {snip}
The disparity fallacy and the denial of cultural factors conspire to create a dynamic that I call the Racism Treadmill: as long as cultural differences continue to cause disparities between racial groups, and as long as progressives imagine that systemic racism lies behind every disparity, then no amount of progress in reducing systemic racism, however large or concrete, will ever look like progress to progressives.
Indeed, it may be a mistake to think of progressives as engaging in progress-oriented activism to begin with, because that would imply that they are progressing towards some specified endpoint. But if the progressive definition of ‘progress’ ends with a disparity-free world that will never—indeed could never—exist, then progressives are left with a Sisyphean politics; an agitated march to nowhere in particular.
Staying on the Racism Treadmill means denying progress and stoking ethnic tensions. It means, as Thomas Sowell once warned, moving towards a society in which “a new born baby enters the world supplied with prepackaged grievances against other babies born the same day.”[15] Worse still, it means shutting down the one conversation that stands the greatest chance of improving outcomes for blacks: the conversation about culture.
By contrast, getting off the Treadmill means recognizing that group outcomes will differ even in the absence of systemic bias; it means treating people as individuals rather than as members of a collective; it means restoring the naive conception of equal treatment over the skin-color morality of the far Left; and it means rejecting calls to burn this or that system to the ground in order to combat forms of racial oppression that grow ever more abstract by the day. At bottom, it means acknowledging the fact that racism has declined precipitously, and perhaps even being grateful that it has.