Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Global Network: The International Communist Conspiracy

In the 1920s, the Soviet Union developed global ambitions. It sought to undermine and destabilize governments around the globe, and hoped then to assume control of those countries.

It endeavored to achieve these imperialistic dreams by infiltrating both governments and other social institutions with undercover operatives. Once in place, these “moles” could both smuggle secrets back to Moscow, and steer policy of other countries in ways which would benefit the USSR.

Spies from various Soviet intelligence agencies were active in England, China, Mexico, and dozens of other nations. As historians Stan Evans and Herbert Romerstein write:

Further confirmed by the recent revelations is something known before but in frequent need of stressing. Communist operatives in the United States were linked in multiple ways not only to their Moscow bosses but to Reds in other countries, all parts of a far-flung global apparatus. The most conspicuous of these ties were to the Cambridge University Communist cell of England, which produced such notorious Soviet agents as Anthony Blunt, Kim Philby, and Guy Burgess. There were, in addition, North American members of this ring who attended Cambridge in the 1930s and then returned to pursue official duties on this side of the ocean. Such pro-Red operatives as Philby, Burgess, and Donald Maclean would later be dispatched to Washington by Whitehall to liaise with U.S. officials. American and British security problems accordingly crisscrossed and interacted at many places.

One example of such activity was a spy ring of Soviet agents in England and the United States who were used to influence policy regarding China. These agents, native-born Britons and Americans, nudged decisionmakers in Washington and London to reduce their support for Chiang Kai-shek, which in turn allowed Mao to overthrow China’s government and install a communist dictatorship.

The USSR Steers Policy

During 1920s, America’s attention was captured by the technological advancements and booming economy which raised incomes for citizens in all income brackets: blue collar workers, farmers, and business leaders.

During the 1930s, America’s attention was captured by the misery of the Great Depression, caused by government efforts which turned what would have been a momentary downturn into an enduring economic catastrophe.

During both decades, few people were aware of a steady effort by the USSR to plant operatives in various social and governmental institutions inside the United States. These “moles” worked for various Soviet intelligence agencies, and constituted a huge, if largely undetected, threat to millions of lives.

These spies were coordinated, in part, by the Communist Party (CPUSA), which was not merely a political party espousing various policies and candidates, but was rather a terrorist organization, espousing an explicitly “violent” overthrow of the U.S. government. The CPUSA’s documents specifically used the word ‘violent’ in its call for revolution.

These Soviet agents stole government secrets and sent them to Moscow. They also influenced American policy decisions, as historian Stan Evans and Herbert Romerstein write:

In sum, as shown by a now substantial mass of data, a powerful and devious enemy had by the middle 1940s succeeded in planting myriad secret agents and sympathizers in offices of the U.S. government (and other posts of influence) where they were able to serve the cause of Moscow and betray America’s national interests. The American people were blissfully ignorant of this danger, while a sizable number of high officials were either indifferent to the problem or in some cases complicit with it. A more alarming scenario for the safety and security of the nation would be hard to imagine.

One Soviet agent, Alger Hiss, had worked his way up to an influential role in the State Department, and had regular face-to-face meetings with President Roosevelt.

FDR, whose health was failing, relied increasingly on various advisors, who essentially made many of his policy decisions for him. Alger Hiss, a Soviet operative, was directing policy. American diplomacy in the mid-1940s sometimes favored the interests of the USSR over the security of the United States.

Soviet Moles Influence U.S. Policy

During the 1920s and 1930s, the Soviet Union and its various intelligence agencies places numerous “moles” into “deep cover” inside various institutions, both governmental and non-governmental, in the United States.

These agents had various functions: some gathered intelligence by stealing classified documents; others influenced U.S. policy makers to skew diplomatic decisions to the advantage of the USSR; and some actually prepared for an overthrow of the U.S. government.

Such spies were coordinated, in part, through the Communist Party, which was in fact not a political party, not interested in merely advocating policies and candidates, but which was actually a terrorist organization, explicitly advocating a “violent” revolution in North America. As historians Stan Evans and Herbert Romerstein write,

In due course many such pro-Soviet operatives rose to fairly high positions, which made their allegiance to Moscow even more problematic. The best known of these apparatchiks was Alger Hiss, who became a significant figure in the U.S. State Department in the war years and would play a critical role in planning for the postwar era. And while Hiss is the most remembered of Moscow’s undercover agents, he was merely one of many. As the records prove, there were dozens of others like him at the State Department, White House, Treasury, Commerce, the wartime agencies, and other official venues.

By 1943, President Roosevelt’s failing health caused him to be increasingly reliant on assistants, instead of formulating his own policy decisions by himself.

Documents declassified after the end of the Cold War verify that Alger Hiss was a Soviet agent. Hiss was one of FDR’s trusted advisors, having considerable influence on Roosevelt’s policies during face-to-face meetings with the president.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Milkweed Saves Lives

During WW2, floatation devices were crucial to saving the lives of sailors whose ships had sunk, and saving the lives of airmen who’d bailed out or crashed at sea.

The principle is simple. Give the sailors and airmen something that floats. But finding a substance that doesn’t become waterlogged is crucial. Many substances float for a while, but lifejackets need to float for hours and even days.

Milkweed is a plant regarded as a nuisance by gardeners and farmers. entomologists prize it for its ability to attract butterflies, but it true value became apparent in the early 1940s, when demand for lifejackets rose sharply.

Historian Gerald Wykes recounts how Michigan provided large amounts of milkweed for the nation’s warriors:

Late in World War II, the common milkweed was often the only thing that kept a downed aviator or soaking-wet sailor from slipping beneath the waves. The plant’s floss was used as the all-important filler for flotation devices.

Among many lives saved at sea by such flotation devices were those of President George H.W. Bush, who survived his aircraft’s crash in an inflatable raft, and Louis “Louie” Zamperini, whose raft drifted over 2,000 miles during 43 days after his airplane crashed.