Mona Charen’s spectacular book (spectacular because it shows what utter fools, if not worse, some leading Americans were and probably still are) reminded me of a delightful event that happened in the 1960s when Castro came on the scene.
Anglo-American left liberalism defended the cigar-chomping Communist comandante as a benign middle-class liberal reformer. After all Castro had told "Meet the Press" in April 1959 that he worshipped democracy. His admirers charged that it was typical reactionary Red-baiting to call Castro a Communist. But then something terrible happened: Castro made a speech in which he revealed that he had always been a Communist, a Marxist-Leninist from way back.
Castro’s confession of duplicitous behavior didn’t surprise Robert Conquest, then at work in London on what would one day be, in research and in composition, a modern masterpiece of history, The Great Terror. Conquest was also a leading anti-Communist who, amidst the fog banks of Anglo-American left liberalism, had early on spotted Castro for what he was.
So as a charter member of the Society for Intelligent Red-Baiting he got his revenge on those bien pensants who had pooh-pooh’ed charges of Castro’s allegiance to Moscow. He published an article in the London Spectator about the pro-Castro falsification campaign. Accompanying the article was a tear-out coupon to be signed by Castro’s admirers as a form of penance for their willful idiocy: "I hereby undertake to abstain from any comment on foreign events for a trial period of ten years."
That coupon is the only thing missing from Charen’s stupendous expos??© of the "useful idiots" (or in Lenin’s phrase, polezhnye idioty) whose pro-Sovietism and anti-Americanism stained American left liberalism. Such a coupon ought to be signed by Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson, a world-renowned economist, who in his economics textbook as late as 1985 wrote: "What counts is results, and there can be no doubt that the Soviet planning system has been a powerful engine for economic growth."
Six years later there was no more "Soviet planning system" and no Soviet Union itself. Stockbrokers go to jail for stealing from their customers but intellectuals are free to tell more lies when their earlier lies are exposed. And what is the aim of these lies? For America to reconcile itself to its inevitable decline.
Actually if journalistic lying were a crime, a lot of journalists would be in jail. Charen reminds us of the love-feast to which Americans were subjected when ex-KGB chief Yuri V. Andropov succeeded Leonid Brezhnev in 1982. It was as if an order had been handed down to the New York Times and the Washington Post to ignore Andropov’s evil Stalinist past and say only nice things about this monster on whose watch Korean passenger airliner was shot down over the Pacific.
One of the most important chapters in Charen’s book deals with left liberalism’s treatment of President Reagan’s SDI "Star Wars" program. It is good to be reminded of the idiocies uttered by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.), Mary McGrory, Sen. John F. Kerry (D.-Mass.), Phil Donahue, Al Gore, Ted Koppel, Peter Jennings, the New York Times, Michael Dukakis, Thomas Friedman, plus the statement of 6500 scientists, including 15 Nobel Prize winners, who signed a "pledge of non-compliance" in Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) research.
How Ronald Reagan was mocked, especially his offer to make SDI available to all countries. And now it is an accepted consensus, especially among former Russian leaders, that it was the threat of SDI and Soviet inability to compete with U.S. science and research that helped bring down the Soviet Union.
And none of Reagan’s critics have stood up and apologized for uttering those idiocies, let alone pledged to shut up for ten years. And as Reagan’s life draws to a close, we who were his admirers can say that compared to his sneering critics, he was always right and they were always wrong. Had Jimmy Carter been re-elected in 1980, there would still be a Soviet Union.
The chief "useful idiot" in Charen’s "Who’s Who" of Useful Idiots seems to be the New York Times. Perhaps it all began in the early 1930s with Walter Duranty, the paper’s lying Moscow correspondent, whose dispatches left scars on the paper’s reputation that, like Philoctetes’ suppurating wound, seem to be incurable.
And the Times is forever blemished by its coverage of Cambodia. Its correspondent Sydney Schanberg reported April 13, 1975, "for the ordinary people of Indochina . . . it is difficult to imagine how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone."
Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge were then preparing to wipe out the so-called Cambodian bourgeoisie, but Schanberg was busy looking at the genocide before him "through what we thought might be Cambodian revolutionary eyes." For his reporting, Schanberg won a Pulitzer Prize. And why not? After all Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting.
What makes this tragicomedy of a book so entertaining is that you read some senseless statement that you swear can’t possibly be topped and you turn a page and there’s Norman Mailer on Castro: "You were the first and greatest hero to appear in the world since the Second World War." But why single out the decaying Normal Mailer when he’s in such good Castroite company as Charen lists: George McGovern, Jonathan Kozol, Angela Davis, Jean-Paul Sartre, Todd Gitlin, Susan Sontag and on and on into the totalitarian night.
What gives this book particular relevance today is that virtually the same "useful idiots" (and that includes the Sovietologists in some of our major universities, which, unfortunately, Charen doesn’t deal with) are now gunning for President Bush because he wants to rid the world of Saddam Hussein.
For them, America, the greatest democracy in world history, was the enemy yesterday, remains the enemy today and will be the enemy forever. Charen’s book is the incontestable evidence.