||Being confident of our own future, we are now free of that inordinate fear of communism, which once led us to embrace any dictator who joined us in that fear. I'm glad that that's being changed.
|President Jimmy Carter
University of Notre Dame
We sense a certain fear of Russians in the West. It is useless to be merely afraid. Negotiating disarmament with them, supplying them with grains and new technology, will not deter them from attacking you anyway. For a decade the Soviet Union has preached détente and disarmament while it arms and prepares aggression. Has this been more to their advantage or to yours?
|Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Shu
Peoples Republic of China
In a 1979 Interview
On November 6, 1978 in an extraordinary indictment of communism, a cover article of the French Magazine Le Figaro charged Marxism-Leninism with responsibility for the deaths of 150 million human beings since the day in November 1917 when Vladimir Lenin arrested the provisional government of the Russian Social Democrat Alexander Kerensky. Le Figaro surveyed communism's legacy of genocide country by country, tallying the human devastation that had occurred over a sixty-one yearperiod. Already prior to this, in The Great Terror (1968) Hoover Institution scholar Robert Conquest had estimated communism's death toll since 1917 at more than 100 million victims. When KGB archives became public in the Post Cold War era, Conquest's calculations were shown to be more than credible. Soviet records even suggested that Conquest may have underestimated the ravage perpetrated by Marxism-Leninism since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. More recently French scholar Stephane Courtois' Black Book of Communism (1997), citing figures similar to Conquest's, has begun to make its way into the mainstream and the American establishment seems to have begun to face the sobering reality that the human devastation perpetrated by communism surpasses even Nazism's shameful record.
In the years following the coup that brought Lenin to power, the United States joined other Western powers in marshaling forces to prevent Soviet efforts to consolidate and institutionalize the successes of their revolution. With the conclusion of World War I, America joined Britain and France in supporting the efforts of White Russians to end Soviet rule. When these efforts failed to unseat the Bolsheviks, the United States chose to withhold diplomatic recognition of the Bolshevik government. It did so until the early 1930s when, under diplomatic pressure, the Soviet Union dissolved the Communist International (Comintern). This step by the Soviets was viewed as a major concession, allegedly symbolic of a commitment not to espouse ongoing expansion of their revolution.
At the conclusion of World War II the United States and Britain grappled with Stalin's betrayal of agreements signed at Yalta, Potsdam, and Teheran that had guaranteed Soviet support for elections and the democratic normalization of Eastern Europe. The West's sense of betrayal and outrage was characteristically memorialized in Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain speech" at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri on March 5, 1946 where Churchill described Soviet ambitions very bluntly:
|I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines.2
Following World War II, the West took measures to create spe-cial commercial and military alliances aimed at preventing the furtheradvance of communism. These initiatives included the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as regional accords with Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. The Bretton-Woods agreement and the Marshall Plan numbered among the high profile economic initiatives designed to promote trade, development, and economic and military assistance amongst US allies. Such arrangements provided an important support network during the protracted Cold War period but they also experienced setbacks. One of those was the uncoupling of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), which coincided with the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Vietnam, a military debacle that constituted the most dramatic defeat of the Cold War.
The West had once been winning the economic war and holding its own in the military face-off with communism. However, on the home- front, naïve, "knee jerk" support for anti-communism dissipated in the McCarthy era and virtually disappeared in the last years of the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam War was not lost on the battlefields of Southeast Asia; the United States military and its allies prevailed in almost every major military confrontation including the North Vietnamese failed Tet Offensive. Yet, even the decisive victories by U.S. and South Vietnamese military forces spurred skepticism because those opposed to the American military presence in Vietnam, i.e., the Anti-War Movement, steadily won greater sympathy and support from mainstream Americans. When opponents to the war found the way to minimize or discredit American military successes, their skepticism found itself reiterated and amplified in America's mainstream media.
From the inception of America's involvement in Vietnam, the United States chose to wage a limited war. Undoubtedly, one rationale for pursuing this policy was to lessen US casualties. Another was concern that an excessive show of American force could lead to escalation of the war and the possible involvement of the Peoples Republic of China and the Soviet Union.
By the United States opting for a limited war, the prospects for a decisive U.S. victory in Vietnam never existed. As the War was prolonged, the American public's patience grew thin. By Spring 1973 the anti-war movement had gained sufficient popular support to convince the U.S. Congress to cut off all military aid to the government of South Vietnam. During the Cold War, the Free World could largely be divided into two distinct political persuasions. One of these represented the "Free World" or the liberal democratic tradition, characterized by rule of law, free elections, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, free speech, and a free press. Until the implementation of the Reagan doctrine, corrupt pro-Western military dictatorships were also included under the "Free World" rubric. These repressive governments infringed upon their citizens' right to vote, their freedom of speech, their right to assembly, and their right to due process. In other ways as well, they compromised the democratic tradition in the name of "anticommunism."
In the Cold War era, the American mainstream media became increasingly vigilant in pointing out the excesses and abuses of these rightist, pro-American dictatorships. Some representatives of the mainstream openly advocated US support for the overthrow of corrupt, rightist governments. However, for a variety of reasons including the tighter control of information in leftist totalitarian regimes, these representatives of the media did not demonstrate the same track record of vigilance in reporting on human rights violations or in advocating political change in leftist, pro-communist governments.
In some cases, America's mainstream media demonstrated such a visceral opposition toward corrupt rightist governments that it seemed to view them as ultimate evil. Perhaps this was most lucidly demonstrated in the final days of Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier's dictatorial rule of Haiti. On February 1, 1986 just one week prior to Duvalier's flight from Haiti to France, The New York Times stated an editorial title that "Anybody is better than Duvalier." The editorial itself softened the strident teaser, stating that "almost any leader would be an improvement" over the Haitian dictator. Nevertheless, on February 7, 1986 The Times reversed itself by stating in a second editorial "any new regime would be an improvement, but a democratic one would be the best." One could infer from the Times' position that "any regime would be an improvement" that even a Haitian government headed by the likes of a Pol Pot, an Idi Amin, a Charles Manson, an Adolf Hitler or a Godzilla would have been "an improvement" over the status quo.
Perhaps again because information was more readily accessible, America's mainstream media wrote scores of articles concerning the disappearance of several thousand dissidents in Augusto Pinochet's Chile but wrote very little during that same period about the CambodianHolocaust, which, per capita, was the largest national scale genocide of the twentieth century.
In spite of communism's shameful legacy, marked by summary executions after the Bolshevik Revolution, Show Trials under Stalin that led to the execution of Soviet revolutionary icons such as Zinoviev and Bukharin, mass executions of Soviet citizens during and after World War II, China's Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot's "Killing Fields" and numerous other blatant acts of genocide, the Western dominant media seems to have operated under the assumption that communism was a more humane option than the authoritarian governments of the Right.
Until recently there was a tendency in the West to maintain that the Bolshevik Revolution only went awry once Joseph Stalin assumed power.3 Yet former Soviet General Dmitiri Volkogonov's work Lenin (1994) clearly demonstrates that terror began with the mastermind of the Bolshevik Revolution, Vladimir Lenin. The Soviet Union's founder did not hesitate to execute his opponents regardless of whether they were members of the Church hierarchy or they served in the government. This included his ordering the execution of the Czar and his entire family.4
Amazingly, even Joseph Stalin, responsible for the most extensive mass murders in history, received numerous accolades in the mainstream Western media. Even while Stalin formulated a policy of collectivization, which would be enforced through an imposed famine in Ukraine, New York Times reporter Walter Duranty portrayed Stalin in an adulatory fashion. In the December 4, 1930 edition of The New York Times Duranty wrote:
|It is easy to speak admiringly of men who have proved their greatness by success but Stalin has been tried in the fires of prison, exile and disaster, of civil war when at times his cause seemed desperate, of leadership challenged by men of greater mental agility, of terrific material obstacles to his policies, and he has come out stronger from each test of his strength. He is veritably like steel, not rigid like iron but resilient and able to bend, as his modification of the agrarian policy last March made clear.
Duranty served as a virtual sycophant during a period when Stalin perpetrated, according to the Chicago Tribune, what "may stand as the crime of the century." While Ukrainians starved around him, Duranty wrote about Ukraine's "plump babies" and "fat calves" for his New York Times readers. Robert Conquest maintains that the forced famine killed 14.5 million Soviet citizens and he cites conversations that Duranty had with officials that affirm the journalist's awareness of the famine in spite of his reports to the contrary.