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Treason and patriotism in Canada and the current-day world (Part Two)

By Mark Wegierski
web posted March 27, 2017

Joseph McCarthy is today one of the most highly vilified figures in U.S. history. At the time he was active, however, many persons supported his crusade against "Communist traitors." What precisely was McCarthy's greatest crime? At the time he was active, America was indeed locked in a ferocious struggle with Soviet Communism. Were not those willing to be members of the U.S. Communist Party at that time, at the very least, very suspect elements? Should such persons have been allowed to continue to hold positions of high cultural and scientific influence?  Should such persons have been allowed to continue to burrow their way into influential government departments? How much suffering was prolonged for decades in the Eastern Bloc by the fact that so many Western nuclear scientists of the 1940s and 1950s took it upon themselves to reveal as much as they knew about U.S. nuclear programs to the Soviet Union -- presumably because they felt the U.S. was "unworthy" of exercising global power responsibly? Were these not legitimate security concerns of that day?

McCarthy's chief failing was grossly overplaying his hand in the end, which has subsequently made him appear as some kind of inquisitorial monster. Yet, it should also be remembered, how utterly inconsequential the social penalties meted out to most of these persons were, e.g., "not being allowed to direct big-budget Hollywood movies for ten years." On the other hand, these persons were frequently not some milquetoast social democrats, but out-and-out apologists for Stalin, professional deniers of the many genocides carried out by Soviet Communism, and representatives of a then-active and dangerous evil. Unfortunately, the left-liberal friends of the far left have been able to utterly transvalue the meaning of McCarthy's efforts to the point where "McCarthyism" has become a very sharp term of opprobrium. In reaction to the ever more amplified excesses of McCarthy, America became extremely skittish about properly identifying, condemning, and punishing treason.

This tendency was exacerbated in the Vietnam War era, because of the possible moral ambiguities of that conflict. What some Americans at that time saw as one of the most odious acts of treason in their history was Jane Fonda's trip to Hanoi, where she manifestly "gave aid and comfort" to an enemy. The fact that Jane Fonda remains unpunished to this day for such manifest treason may be one indication of how far America's self-conception as a nation has sunk. In some of the more recent spy-scandals, importantly placed moles who have done enormous damage to U.S. intelligence efforts, and actually betrayed other agents to death by torture, have received punishments which amount to being little more than symbolic. Is this how a nation that believes in itself behaves?

In the case of Jonathan Pollard, ever-increasing levels of mendacity have been reached. Because Pollard spied on behalf of a U.S. ally, it is often considered that he did nothing wrong. But what if Israel took that highly-sensitive information and used it as bargaining chips to obtain concessions of various sorts from regimes hostile to the U.S., e.g., the Soviet Union? Pollard had a large number of very prominent supporters in the U.S., who continued to press for his release, and finally got their way in 2015.

Britain, of course, has had its own problems. A book about the famous Cambridge spy ring was very acerbically titled, "spies, lies, buggery, and betrayal." The treason of the so-called "best and brightest" certainly attests to the decay of at least a part of Britain's traditional ruling elites. John Le Carré, who is among the best-known writers of espionage novels in the world, was nourished on this kind of climate, and, although writing with enormous skill, tried to pretend that there was no moral difference between the Soviet Bloc and the West. His writing has certainly played a part in what has been called by critics, "the relativizing of treason."

Canada was so innocent of the realities of the Cold War, that when Igor Gouzenko made his heroic defection in 1947, many Canadian government officials thought he was simply a lunatic, and considered sending him back!

Considering a figure like Igor Gouzenko, it may be noted that the Soviets, of course, saw him as a traitor, and sentenced him to death in absentia. So to say that a person should be bound by the obligations of loyalty towards a state, regardless of its ideological complexion and political realities, is fallacious.

One thing that can be noted right away is that no totalitarian state like that of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union throughout most of its history can legitimately and unquestionably claim the adherence of its population. In the case of authoritarian regimes, however, the admonition to reject and resist such a regime is less clear-cut.

To be continued. ESR

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.

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