Lies, As Usual

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December
30, 1999

Bernard
Shaw’s play The
Devil’s 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, can’t 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 FDR’s backside, Professor
Schlesinger neglects to mention that FDR’s own lips were attached
to Joe Stalin’s 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 magazine’s 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 that’s 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 Stalin’s constitution for guaranteeing
religious freedom. He ignored Stalin’s 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. FDR’s
jaunty callousness was a perfect match for Stalin’s jovial
cruelty.

Contrary to
liberal mythology, Roosevelt’s friendship with Stalin wasn’t
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 McCarthy’s
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,
Stalin’s 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 such whoppers?

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Joseph
Sobran (1946–2010), conservative turned libertarian, was one
of the most significant American writers. See his
website
and his
intellectual journey
.

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