Stalin and Saddam

Posted: Mar 06, 2003 12:00 AM
 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fifty years ago this month in Moscow, Joseph
Stalin died. He and his Red Army had been our allies (not formally, but
informally) in defeating Nazism and fascism.

            Winston Churchill thought well of "old Joe" for a time. During
the war, American propaganda referred to his armies as "Our Heroic Soviet
Allies," and President Franklin Roosevelt joshed that he was "Uncle Joe."

            Then we had a falling out with the mustachioed Georgian. Upon
the 1945 death of FDR (who, historians tell us, was growing uneasy about
Joe), Harry Truman became president. He was even more uneasy about Stalin
than Roosevelt. Truman rearmed the country, was rude to Uncle Joe's
ambassador and made Joe angry.

            By the late 1940s, hostilities between Truman and Stalin had
become serious. World peace was imperiled. Thankfully, from the more
sophisticated sectors of American society, a peace movement blossomed.
Hollywoodians and professors, usually of a leftish persuasion, began
marching for peace and beseeching Washington to negotiate with Stalin.

            Their peaceful protests provoked what Americans persist in
calling the Red Scare, which featured such scoundrels -- the playwright

Lillian Hellman's word -- as Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who claimed the peace
movement and even the government were being subverted by Soviet sympathizers
and spies. By the 1960s, scholars -- then referred to as revisionists --
were advancing the proposition that President Truman's foreign policy and
the fiendish McCarthy's Red Scare almost drove us to war with Uncle Joe, who
died on March 4, 1953.

            Now, after years of research in the Soviet and KGB archives, two
historians -- a Russian and an American -- are about to publish a 402-page
book, "Stalin's Last Crime," propounding the thesis that Uncle Joe was
poisoned by members of his government probably led by the head of his secret
police, Lavrenti Beria, to prevent Stalin from beginning a war with the
United States, the preparation for which Stalin by 1953 had well underway.

            Is it really possible that Uncle Joe was preparing world war in
the early 1950s, when the American peace movement insisted that Washington
was the provocateur? The evidence suggests that it is. In fact, so concerned
were Stalin's colleagues in the Politburo that he was about to enmesh the
Soviet Union in war with the West that, argue the authors of "Stalin's Last

Crime," they poisoned him, fittingly enough using rat poison.

            Historians, working in Soviet and KGB archives, have also dug up
documents bearing on the Red Scare. From such sources as the Venona
documents and the KGB archive, we now know that from the 1930s through the
1940s, there really were reds for Americans to be scared of.

            Working as agents for the Soviet Union or as artless
sympathizers, Americans were practicing espionage for Moscow. Just as
McCarthy said, they were active in our government, the American Communist
Party and the peace movement. Soviet archives have revealed that such
so-called victims of the Red Scare as Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White were
really working for Uncle Joe.

            Now the thought naturally occurs, why would such admired members
of the American establishment as Alger Hiss side with Stalin against the
United States? For that matter, why are so many of Hollywood's bien pensant
demonstrating against the American government and to save Saddam Hussein's

neck? My guess is that, as with Hiss, they simply cannot believe that the
United States is a great force for good in the world.

            What this reveals is a very low opinion of America and a very
cavalier regard for a dictator's capacity for evil. Joseph Stalin, we now
learn, was contemplating nuclear war when his colleagues gave peace a chance
and poisoned him. We know this from the Soviets' own archives. Why would we
doubt that Saddam is up to equally grisly acts?

            Both men have quite publicly been responsible for the brutal
deaths of multitudes: for Stalin, by 1953, perhaps 100 million; for Saddam,
by now, perhaps a million. These are moral monsters. No one should side with
them. Yet members of peace movements have.

            Today, just as in the 1950s, vociferous members of these
movements have made it clear their major motivation is not admiration for
dictators but misgivings about America.

            Do I go too far? The other day, Harry Belafonte informed Finnish
television that President George W. Bush and his administration are
"misguided ... and I think they are men who are possessed of evil." I wonder
where Harry stood on Uncle Joe Stalin when even Joe's head of secret police
thought he was too dangerous a threat to live.