The Henry Wallace Rewrite
Stone and Kuznick are wrong, wrong, wrong.

Vice President Henry Wallace (left) with President Franklin D. Roosevelt


Conrad Black

The facts are that Roosevelt, once he got a good look at Wallace, thought him an impressionable kook, with commendably altruistic goals, but too naïve and gullible for the highest offices, and he agreed and ordered his removal in favor of Truman, but felt sufficient sympathy for Wallace to retain him in the completely inappropriate position of commerce secretary (though Wallace proved a very able businessman after his political career). It is little wonder that, as Stone and Kuznick pointed out in the Times on January 16, Roosevelt thought there was “no one more of the American soil” than Wallace, since Wallace and his family owned one of the country’s leading agricultural publications, Wallace was a serious agronomist, and he and his father had served three presidents a total of twelve years as secretary of agriculture. But this has nothing to do with the Cold War.

At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Stalin agreed with Churchill and Roosevelt that Eastern Europe would be free and democratically organized, and that government would be by whatever non-fascist elements were freely elected in each country. Stalin violated those agreements, and Roosevelt had agreed with War Secretary Stimson that if atomic weapons (which were not tested until July, under Truman) worked, American monopoly of them would be used as suasion to encourage Soviet compliance with Stalin’s Yalta commitments; and Roosevelt held up payment of any of his promised $6 billion in aid for the USSR because it was in breach of the Yalta undertakings. Only the desire of the American high command to share the horrifying casualties of an amphibious assault on Japan with the Russians prevented Roosevelt from taking stronger measures. (The U.S. took over 70,000 casualties — a 30 percent casualty rate – in clearing Iwo Jima and Okinawa; and more than a million casualties were foreseen on the Japanese mainland if atomic weapons were not effective.)

Stalin violated his October 1944 agreement with Churchill not to support the Communists in the Greek civil war, violated the European Advisory Commission agreement of August 1944 by blockading Berlin, and rejected the offer of nonpolitical Marshall Plan aid for Eastern Europe. When Wallace ran for president in 1948, he advocated unilateral disarmament, an end to Marshall Plan aid, and no aid to European countries resisting Communist subversion or Soviet threats. As I wrote here last week, even H. L. Mencken, Dorothy Parker, and perennial Socialist-party candidate Norman Thomas denounced Wallace as a Communist stooge, and Wallace himself later renounced many of his previous pro-Communist positions. He himself eventually realized that his election would have been a disaster. Dwight D. Eisenhower did propose Atoms for Peace, as Stone and Kuznick wrote in the Times, and the Soviet Union rejected it, as they also rejected Eisenhower’s proposal for Open Skies at the 1955 Geneva summit conference, which Eisenhower opened by demanding that the Soviets honor their Yalta commitments in Eastern Europe. The Stone version of all this is not mistaken — it is a series of deliberate, demonstrable, monstrous lies.

It is of a piece with the Woodward-Bernstein version of Watergate — which in fact entailed a forced entry of which the president (Nixon) was unaware, which resulted in nothing stolen nor damaged nor anyone injured, and in respect of which the president committed no crimes, and could only seriously be suspected, but probably not convicted in a serious proceeding, of approving payments to defendants in exchange for altered testimony. (Nixon claimed the payments were for maintenance of the defendants’ families and payment of their legal bills.) The destruction of the Nixon administration, one of the most successful in the country’s history, led directly to the severance of all aid to South Vietnam and the terrible slaughter of anti-Communists in that country and region. The American liberal media have never ceased to commend themselves as the guardians of national virtue for their role in these matters, and the Woodward-Bernstein interpretative school has prevailed these 40 years, even though it now emerges that their equally celebrated and decorated editor, Ben Bradlee, had reservations about the truthfulness of their account at the time they confected it. Woodward, in furtherance of his proprietary rights as a scandalmonger, invented a conversation with a comatose former CIA director, William Casey, that he represented as a confession of unconstitutional conduct in the Iran-Contra affair.

A ragtag cabal of perverse and disturbed leftist journalists and vulgarizers of events is foisting a fraudulent and self-lacerating popular history on America, a procrustean reformulation of national history which, if successful, will morally destroy the purpose and soul of America. It must be stopped, exposed, and shattered.

— Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of FreedomRichard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, and the recently published A Matter of Principle. He can be reached at [email protected].