Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Once Again, the Big Yalta Lie

May 10, 2005
Once Again, the Big Yalta Lie
LA Times
By Jacob Heilbrunn, Jacob Heilbrunn is a Times editorial writer.
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.
The claim that Roosevelt betrayed Eastern Europe at Yalta, and that he set the stage for 40 years of Soviet domination, is an old right-wing canard. By repeating it, and by publicly charging that the Yalta agreement was in the "unjust tradition" of Hitler's deal with Stalin, Bush was simply engaging in cheap historical revisionism. His glib comments belong to the Ann Coulter school of history.
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. It was none other than Joseph McCarthy who declared in February 1950 that "if time permitted, it might be well to go into detail about the fact that Hiss was Roosevelt's chief advisor at Yalta when Roosevelt was admittedly in ill health and tired physically and mentally...."