Every so often I read some egregious bastardization of history that really gets me going. Courtesy of Jacob Heilbrunn and the L.A. Times: Once Again, the Big Yalta Lie
During his visit to the Baltics over the weekend, President Bush infuriated Russian leader Vladimir V. Putin by declaring the obvious: that the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe was "one of the greatest wrongs of history." But it was what he said next comparing the Yalta accord among Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin in 1945 to the Hitler-Stalin pact that should cause outrage here at home.
How so? The original Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was denounced as illegitimate by FDR (among many others) when it was enacted in 1939. In 1945 the very same FDR legitimized the exact same agreement (and more) at Yalta. Granted, there wasn't much the U.S. or Britain could have done about it (short of using Atomic weapons against the communists), but that does not make FDR's actions suddenly honorable. The fact that FDR didn't even bother to make the rhetorical case for freedom is damning, even if his other options were severely limited.
The slander against Roosevelt that Bush has taken up dates back to the early 1950s, after Harry Truman and Dean Acheson had supposedly "lost" China to communism. That's when the American right first decried what it viewed as a consistent pattern of "appeasement" in the Democratic Party. The right contended that Roosevelt "sold out" Eastern Europe at the Yalta conference by promising the Soviets an unchallenged sphere of influence in the region.
One element of the right-wing mythology developed in those years was that Alger Hiss, who served during the war as an assistant to Secretary of State Edward Stettinius Jr. and who was charged in the years that followed with being a Soviet spy and was convicted of perjury was instrumental in getting Roosevelt to collude with Stalin against Churchill.
Jesus Christ...not the Alger Hiss stuff again. Here is a news flash to anyone who bases anything on the old (& tired & stupid & useless & decrepit & BORING) "Alger Hiss/Whittaker Chambers controversy": NO ONE CARES!!!!!!! It's akin to going on an on about the Spanish Civil War or something. Today, and the last time I checked it was 2005 and not 1957, this sort of thing looks simply childish and moronic. Please, for the love of all that's holy, stop.
With a straight face Heilbrunn states:
[At Yalta they] discussed postwar borders and issued a "Declaration on Liberated Europe" calling for free elections in Poland and elsewhere.
And then adds in the next paragraph:
Stalin had made clear his plan to take over as much territory as possible back in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939, which carved Poland in half and gave the Soviets the Baltic states. The discovery in 1943 of the massacre of Polish officers by the Soviet army in the Katyn forest was further evidence of Stalin's malign intention to exterminate the leadership of Poland. Then, in 1944, during the Warsaw uprising by the Polish Home Army, Stalin halted the advance of his army on the banks of the Vistula River and allowed Nazi SS units to return to slaughter the Poles.
This supports FDR's legacy how exactly? This just underscores the fact FDR went along with the Yalta declarations on "Free Elections" with full knowledge that they were nothing more than a fraud and mere propaganda for the Soviet regime.
Heilbrunn seems to realize that his case is incredibly weak here so he attempts to spice it up with a few lies.
Theoretically, Churchill and Roosevelt could have refused to cut any deal with Stalin at Yalta. But that could have started the Cold War on the spot. It would have seriously jeopardized the common battle against Germany (at a moment when Roosevelt was concerned with winning Soviet assent to help fight the Japanese, which he received).
This is simply false, and anyone with the slightest knowledge of the Second World War knows it is false. Let's look at the calendar:
February 1945: Yalta conference
April 3, 1945: The Soviet Union finally renounces its non-aggression pact with the Empire of Japan. The Soviets had been the nominal ally of the United States for over three years at this point.
August 6, 1945: Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
August 8, 1945: The Soviet Union (finally) declares war on the Empire of Japan.
August 9, 1945: Soviet forces attack Japanese forces in Korea and Manchuria. Second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.
August 14, 1945: Japan surrenders.
The suggestion that the grand total of six days of combat operations by the Soviets against Japan somehow validates the Yalta agreement is grotesque. In truth, by August neither the U.S. or the British, who had both been slogging it out against Japan since 1941, wanted the Russians involved in the Pacific war at all. Heilbrunn's suggestion to the contrary is nonsense.
Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower was happy to let the Soviets bear the brunt of the fighting as they marched toward Berlin, and he was unwilling to expend American troops on storming the German capital.
This ignores the fact Stalin had already told the U.S. and British that he wanted Soviet forces to be the ones to take Berlin.
Roosevelt was hardly perfect at Yalta. He was naive about Stalin's intentions and believed he could cajole the dictator into following more moderate policies. But FDR's approach was not particularly different from that of Churchill (who had declared that he would "sup with the devil" to win the war, which is what he and Roosevelt, in effect, did).
This could only make sense if Germany still had the capability to win the war in February 1945. Germany, of course, did not have the ability to win the war in February 1945. (Just try and find an historian to gainsay that point.) Heilbrunn's suggestion otherwise is fatuous. The notion that the Soviet Union might have quit the war in March 1945 and, as a consequence, left the post-war settlement entirely up to the U.S. and U.K. is equally fatuous.
What gets me about all of this is, this country being the way it is, there are a lot of people that do not know their history very well. Such folks can be easily swayed by the fact Heilbrunn acts like he knows what he is talking about. He doesn't know what he is talking about, and he doesn't mind lying to disguise the fact. Please fell free to ignore him for now on.
I know I will.