Lies, As Usual
December 30, 1999
Shaws play The Devils Disciple ends
with an ironic exchange between two British officers who have just
realized that Britain is about to lose her American colonies because of a
flukish oversight by the British cabinet.
Flabbergasted, the obtuse Major Swindon
asks: But what will history say? General Burgoyne replies
suavely: History, sir, will tell lies, as usual.
Americans, ever earnest about what
history says, cant bear to believe that some of their
great presidents have been evil men. So it was probably
inevitable that the aging historian-courtier Arthur Schlesinger Jr. should
observe the end of the twentieth century by naming Franklin D. Roosevelt
Person of the Century.
Like all those whose lips are still
attached to FDRs backside, Professor Schlesinger neglects to
mention that FDRs own lips were attached to Joe Stalins
backside. In a near-miracle of distortion, he even manages to give the
totally false impression that Roosevelt had something against Stalin.
Demurring from Time
magazines choice of Albert Einstein as P of the C, Schlesinger
asks: But would science conceivably have flourished had Roosevelt
not secured free society against ... external enemies? Where would
Einstein be if Hitler and Stalin had triumphed? (In Moscow, no
doubt but thats another story.)
Sixty years ago, Schlesinger goes on,
democracy was besieged by Nazism, Communism, and Japanese
militarism. In that dark hour, no person was more vital to
the survival and success of the free state than FDR.... He strengthened
democracy from without by leading the grand coalition that defeated the
grim forces of atrocity and horror.... He labored to awaken the nation from
its isolationist slumber and led us to understand the mortal threat posed
by foreign dictators. Schlesinger even gives FDR indirect credit for
the eventual fall of Communism.
At this point, a familiar eight-letter
synonym for bovine ordure irresistibly suggests itself. Roosevelt did
denounce dictators, but not necessarily all of them. He
made one important exception.
Franklin Roosevelt loved Uncle
Joe Stalin, as he affectionately nicknamed him, as ardently as he
hated Hitler. In his first year in office, just after Stalin had deliberately
starved millions of Ukrainians, FDR gave the Soviet Union the diplomatic
recognition it craved. He fatuously praised Stalins constitution for
guaranteeing religious freedom. He ignored Stalins purges, excused
his show trials, and forgave his aggression against five countries
adjacent to Russia. He extended Lend-Lease aid to the Soviets before the
United States actually went to war. Toward the end of the war, he was
willing to give Stalin a free hand in Poland, where the war had begun with
a joint German-Soviet invasion. Almost incredibly, he called the
Communist butcher a Christian gentleman.
Stalin never had a better friend than FDR.
And bear in mind that Roosevelt befriended him when he had already
slaughtered far more people and in peacetime! than Hitler
ever would in wartime. FDRs jaunty callousness was a perfect
match for Stalins jovial cruelty.
Contrary to liberal mythology,
Roosevelts friendship with Stalin wasnt just a necessity
forced on him by war. It was something he freely chose when he had a
choice, and it went far beyond any strategic need, beyond mere
appeasement. He chose to help Stalin from a position of
superior strength long before his indulgence could be ascribed to
age and illness. At least Neville Chamberlain never idealized Hitler as
Uncle Adolf. Next to Roosevelt, Vidkun Quisling was a
paragon of honor.
Joe McCarthys famous postwar
rampage against Communists in government missed the point. Soviet
agents like Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White were only doing on a
smaller scale what FDR was doing on a gigantic one. No wonder commies
thrived in the Roosevelt administration and the Manhattan Project. Can
anyone really believe that Roosevelt would have begrudged a few secrets
to Uncle Joe?
Roosevelt trusted Stalin, a fact of which
Stalin took full advantage rather like a spoiled child who steals
from a doting grandparent. Never one to accept as a gift what he could
steal with his own hands, Stalins shameless exploitation of his
benefactor marks him as, among other things, Ingrate of the Century.
Yes, history or at
least one historian is telling lies, as usual. But do they have to be
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