Very few conservatives have been willing to approve Senator Joseph McCarthy’s criticisms of General George Marshall. Some of McCarthy’s strongest defenders did not dare revisit McCarthy’s book, Retreat From Victory. Better leave that one alone, they figured. It is widely assumed that McCarthy made a mistake about Marshall; for it has been admitted, even by McCarthy’s supporters, that the senator from Wisconsin had gone too far; that George Marshall, as Chief of the Army Staff, was an exemplary figure — beyond reproach.
But was Marshall exemplary? Or was he simply too iconic to attack head-on?
History often mixes settled fact and mythology. Napoleon pointed to this when he said, “History is fable agreed upon.” Gustave Le Bon said that the masses crave fiction. They have no liking for the truth. Especially when it comes to wars and national sacrifice, there is something obscene in suggesting that our soldiers died in vain — or died because of a stupid or treacherous general. We want to believe our leaders did their best, that they were wise in their choices, and loyal to the men under them.
On the surface General George Catlett Marshall impressed people with his dignity and good manners; but others saw Marshall as militarily incompetent, a poor strategist, a political hack. General Douglas MacArthur resisted promoting Marshall because the latter took command of the best regiment in the U.S. Army and turned it into the worst. Churchill liked Marshall personally, but thought him to be strategically incompetent. Biographers Debi and Irwin Unger depict Marshall as intellectually mediocre, indecisive and unwilling to put in long hours. Of course, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin preferred Marshall above all other American generals, and asked Roosevelt (at Tehran) to put Marshall in charge of the invasion of France — even though Marshall had never commanded troops in the field. (Stalin liked the idea of the Germans and Western Allies battering each other indecisively in France. He would not have welcomed an able American general in the West, lest the Allied armies reach Berlin, Vienna and Prague ahead of the Red Army.)
Marshall got onto Senator McCarthy’s radar in the following fashion: “a deeply disturbed Senator from the Russell Committee” came to McCarthy’s office. He explained, “I always have considered Marshall as one of our great heroes and I am sure that he would knowingly do no wrong.” Then the unnamed senator posed a series of questions:
‘McCarthy,’ he said, ‘tell me who prejudiced the thinking of … [Marshall]? Why, for example, did he keep from Roosevelt the complete and correct intelligence reports at Yalta? Why did he, as Roosevelt’s military advisor, approve that Yalta agreement which was drafted by Hiss [a Soviet spy], Gromyko [a Soviet diplomat], and Jebb? Who persuaded him to disregard the intelligence report of 50 of his own officers, all with the rank of colonel or above — an intelligence report which urged a course directly contra to what was done at Yalta and confirmed at Potsdam?’
For those who don’t know, Yalta and Potsdam were summit meetings that resulted in Soviet control of Eastern Europe. These meetings also facilitated the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and — thanks to the “Marshall mission” to China — led to the victory of the communists in the Chinese Civil War. It was through these events, supplemented by further decades of “retreat from victory” under Marshall’s successors (Walt Rostow, Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, et al.) that so many countries fell to our enemies (e.g., much of Africa, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iran, etc.). But then a funny thing happened: we claimed victory over communism in the Cold War. Think of it this way: We lose, we retreat, and after four decades we somehow win. Or, rather, the communists tell us we won. And the very next thing that happens? Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton go to the White House. Years later, Obama goes to the White House. And now, when we dare to elect a anticommunist to the presidency, there is this outpouring of fury and rage, followed by accusations of treason, by investigations into bribery and extortion and obstruction, etc.
Do we understand what happened here? — do we understand what is still unfolding?
At the beginning of it all was George Marshall, handpicked by Harry Hopkins. Everything that came after Pearl Harbor had this same, fraudulent, foundation: a “great man” who was not a great man; who delayed the Allied armies from crossing the Rhine in autumn 1944, who cut the replacements going to Eisenhower on the eve of Hitler’s Ardenne offensive, who urged the necessity of invading Japan — a calamitous project which might well have crippled America’s will to defend Europe from Stalin.
The historical myth of the legendary George Marshall set the stage for other “men,” and other retreats from victory — like the retreat that delivered Jonas Savimbi’s Angola into the hands of the communists; and other betrayals which delivered other countries — from Venezuela and Nicaragua to Nepal and South Africa. The retreat from victory that Joseph McCarthy warned of has continued long after his warning. Only we do not know this history at all, having replaced it with a lie. And now history has become something that did not happen told by people who were not there. As Diana West would learn after writing American Betrayal, this false history has many defenders — ready to commit any slander, tell any lie. The real history, as McCarthy would also learn to his disappointment, was orphaned and friendless, with no wealthy protector, and no sponsor.
If a great man is not what his public image suggests; if his reputation is the result of dissimulation and his good qualities were merely a pretense — he may nonetheless prevail over his critic as George Marshall has prevailed over Joseph McCarthy. If a villain can be mythologized into a great man, then a great man can be mythologized into a villain. It is no accident that Marshall is lionized while McCarthy is demonized in our high school history books. This process should be familiar to us now as it envelops Donald J. Trump. It follows from the logic of the communist camp that Trump must receive the same treatment today as McCarthy did — so that Joe Biden might now stand in for Marshall; a man as hollow, and venal, and stupid as Marshall. A man as helpful to Moscow and Beijing as Marshall was.
Was Marshall really as bad as Biden? Hardly anyone has noticed that some of the latest errata from World War II bears directly on the questions McCarthy raised — adding weight to the suggestion that Marshall labored discretely for Soviet interests, either because he was originally the creature of Harry Hopkins, or because he had his own deal with the Devil.
Related to this, readers should consult the evidence Mark Riebling published in the 1990s suggesting that Gen. Walter Bedell Smith was a Soviet agent. In his book titled Wedge, Riebling cited FBI investigations which led President-elect Eisenhower to trick Smith into resigning as Director of CIA in January 1953. On Smith’s death there was the issue of classified documents found in his home (a very serious breach of security in itself). Together with McCarthy’s brief, Marshall is implicated once again; for Gen. W.B. Smith was an officer very close to Marshall; he was a Marshall protege with special assignments, tasked to work closely with Eisenhower at SHAEF (Supreme Headquarter Allied Expeditionary Forces); tasked to be our ambassador to Moscow; tasked to head the CIA. Smith was a witness at U.S. Army headquarters during the morning of December 7, 1941 — a morning about which Marshall changed his recollections and his testimony, in December 1945.
Yes, there is a fake history — just as there is fake news. The ancient Greeks and Romans had Thucydides and Tacitus to tell the truth about corrupt politicians and perverted emperors. We have our truth-tellers as well. The parade of liars and fakers may seem to prevail — and the century may yet belong to them. But in the long run history itself will not be theirs. It cannot be. In the long run all panderers will be cursed or laughed at by posterity; especially our current crop of panderers — whose ideological flavor of the month is currently transsexual red.