Rep. John Conyers, Kremlin tool

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John Conyers

He’s the oldest and longest-serving current member of the U.S. Congress, having been first elected to his seat in the House of Representatives by the voters of west Detroit, Dearborn, and other parts of what is now the nation’s most horrific metro area way back in 1965, when it was actually not only livable but affluent. What’s striking about John Conyers‘s career is that he’s consistently won re-election despite an abiding inclination to defend despotism.

Indeed, he first got into politics thanks to two Communist Party mentors, and throughout his career has been closely associated with Communist and socialist groups. 

conyers2As noted, his district includes Dearborn, which during his years on the job has become the Muslim capital of the United States. His coziness to extreme Muslim groups is legendary. In 2005 he proposed House Resolution 288, which would have violated the First Amendment by protecting Islam from criticism. He has intimate ties to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a terrorist front group, which he’s defended from charges of having spies on Capitol Hill. In 2006 he attended a fundraising dinner for Islamic Relief, a Hamas front group, at which the entertainment “consisted of young boys…simulating beheadings” and stomping on the U.S., Israeli, and British flags. 

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Louis Farrakhan

He’s also spent a lot of time hanging around with Louis Farrakhan, the contemptible, hate-spewing bossman of the Nation of Islam. Yes, Conyers has sometimes felt obliged, for political reasons, to criticize Farrakhan for things he’s said, but he keeps going back for more. In May 2013, for example, Conyers attended an event at which Farrakhan gave a speech reviling “Satanic Jews” and criticizing President Obama for surrounding himself “with Satan…members of the Jewish community.”

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Monica Conyers

Oh, and let’s not forget Conyers’s wife, Monica, a former member of the Detroit City Council. For years, they’ve both been heavily involved in influence-pedding; starting in 2010, Monica spent 27 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit bribery. She’s also “famous for threatening people with guns.” Hey, but who isn’t? She’s litigious, too: this past June, she sued McDonalds for $25,000 after allegedly cutting her finger on a chair at a McDonalds at the Detroit airport.

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Vladimir Putin

But that’s not all. In August of this year, the Huffington Post ran a piece by Kristofer Harrison, a former Defense and State Department advisor, entitled “Putin’s Man in Congress.” Harrison explained that on June 11, the House of Representatives had passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, “rushed through by Rep. John Conyers,” that “would prevent the U.S. from aiding Ukraine’s volunteer Azov Battalion based on the Moscow-inspired lie that it is a neo-Nazi organization.” Wrote Harrison:

There is no charitable excuse for Conyers’ amendment, even if it is stripped from the final bill: It was the product of Russian disinformation. Over the past six weeks, news of the amendment featured prominently in virtually all Russian- and foreign-language propaganda outlets, and is even appearing in some U.S. press. Rep. Conyers should disclose which lobbyist cajoled him into becoming a cog in Putin’s propaganda machine.

This matters a lot to Ukraine. The Azov Battalion has been one of the most effective units at halting Russia’s advance into Ukraine. The nonsense that Ukraine is filled with Nazis has been part of a propaganda meme pumped through Russia’s state-controlled media for more than a year. Russia is trying to create the fiction that Ukraine is beset by Nazis and Islamic terrorists, thus necessitating Russian military intervention. If the idea actually takes hold in the United States, it could also cripple whatever support Ukraine is receiving.

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Kristofer Harrison

Harrison charged that blatantly dishonest Russian propaganda about purported Ukrainian Nazis had found its way into such media as the New York Times, the Daily Beast, Bloomberg View, and Canada’s National Post. According to Harrison, Conyers has played a key role in helping “the Russian Nazi meme to evolve from the stuff of conspiracy theorists, kooks and fellow-travelers into something the mainstream press happily prints.” Since the publication of Harrison’s piece, his claims about the Azov Battalion have been harshly disputed; but whether or not one accepts his argument that the battalion isn’t packed with neo-Nazis, it’s hard, knowing Conyers, not to nod in agreement at Harrison’s statement: “I find it hard to believe Congressman Conyers reads a lot of press about Ukraine and independently drafted that amendment.”

When, Harrison wondered, did Conyers become so interested in, and (supposedly) informed about, these matters? Nazis or not, why was he standing up for Putin? What’s in it for him? Harrison wrote that he asked Conyers’s press secretary “multiple times” where her boss had gotten his information about the Azov Battalion, but “she had no response.” His question: “Who bent Conyers’s ear?”

Or, perhaps more aptly, who filled Conyers’s pockets?

Evo’s Hollywood amigos

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Bolivian president Evo Morales presents Pope Francis with a “hammer and sickle” Cross

Bolivian president Evo Morales doesn’t often make front-page headlines in the U.S., but his image was all over the Internet in early July when he presented the visiting Pope Francis with a bizarre gift: a “cross” made out of a hammer and sickle. The message could hardly have been less subtle. In the weeks preceding their encounter, to be sure, Francis had spent a lot of his time savaging capitalism, but he hadn’t yet hoisted a Soviet flag over St. Peter’s Square or hung up a picture of Lenin in the Sistine Chapel. Morales’s gift seemed to make the pontiff at least somewhat uncomfortable, although it was unclear whether he disagreed with Evo’s apparent equation of Communism and Christianity or whether he was uneasy about being seen by the entire world accepting a potent symbol of that equation.

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Evo with Fidel Castro

What’s the deal with Evo? Well, first of all – like the Castros in Cuba, the Kirchners in Argentina, and Nicolás Maduro (and Hugo Chávez before him) in Venezuela – he’s a card-carrying member of Latin America’s hard-left club. He’s presided over South America’s poorest country since 2006, and is its first president with an indigenous background; during his tenure in office, he’s alienated whites and mestizos with his “discriminatory government policies and Hugo Chávez–style power grabs, not to mention rampant corruption.” (According to Transparency International, Evo’s regime isn’t quite as corrupt as those in Venezuela or Paraguay, but it’s on a par with Argentina’s, which is awful enough.) A 2009 Atlantic Monthly article described Evo as “deploy[ing] a rhetoric studded with racial references aimed at his [white] opposition.” Last year, reports Human Rights Watch, Bolivia became “the first country in the world to legalize employment for children as young as 10.”

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Evo with Benicio del Toro

Nonetheless, like his counterparts in Havana, Buenos Aires, and Caracas, Evo has made his share of amigos in Hollywood. Among them: Benicio del Toro, who in 2007 visited Evo, who “gave him a charango, an Andean string instrument, and several books.” Two years later, del Toro, who played Che Guevara onscreen, said that he shared many of Che’s values – and that he was sure Che would’ve been delighted to see Bolivia governed by somebody like Evo. We’re sure Che would delighted too: Evo, an outspoken Che fan whose aggressively socialist policies have eroded human rights, damaged the country’s already feeble economy, and sent foreign investors fleeing, would have been right up Che’s alley. 

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Evo with Oliver Stone at Lincoln Center

Another Evo enthusiast, unsurprisingly, is our old friend Oliver Stone, the far-left director whose 2009 propaganda film South of the Border was a gushing, inane paean not only to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez but also to Morales, with whom he held an obsequious interview at the presidential palace in La Paz. During his visit with El Presidente, Stone reportedly “kicked a soccer ball and chewed coca leaves” with him. Later, Evo traveled to New York, where he spoke alongside Stone and Chávez at a Lincoln Center event held in connection with the documentary’s premiere.

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Evo with Jude Law

Then there’s actor Jude Law, who  went to Bolivia this past February as part of a deal to promote the country’s annual Carnival. While in La Paz, Law met with Evo, who presented him with a poncho and a book about Latin American history. News reports on Law’s visit didn’t indicate how much money he was paid to plug the Carnival and didn’t even hint that there was anything remotely inappropriate about his taking money from Evo’s regime or holding a chummy meeting with the authoritarian leader; the Daily Mail, for its part, was more interested in covering Law’s new hairline and his growing family.

Messi business

Messi-490728You may never have heard of Lionel Messi, but to millions of soccer fans the 28-year-old Argentinian is a superstar. A forward for FC Barcelona, which has a larger social-media following than any other sports team in the world, as well as for Argentina’s national team, Messi holds all kinds of goal-scoring records and is considered by some observers to be the best player ever in the history of the sport.

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Ali Bongo

He’s also, as it turns out, a useful stooge for none other than Ali Bongo, “president” of Gabon, whom we wrote about here a couple of months back. Bongo’s dad was “president” of the small country on the west coast of Central Africa from 1967 to 2009, and Bongo has been in charge ever since the old man shuffled off this mortal coil. As we noted in July, the Bongo family has made an art out of systematic, institutionalized corruption, treating the country’s cash as its own and using it to purchase dozens of luxury residences around the world, plus whole fleets of cars, boats, and planes, while the average Gabonese citizen squeaks by on $12 a day.

But Bongo’s shameless, large-scale embezzlement is only the most benign of his offenses. In recent years, as it turns out, many Gabonese children have been the victims of a practice that seems almost too terrible to be believe: they’re kidnapped, ritually murdered, and then cannibalized by members of the nation’s elite in the belief that this barbaric act will, by some supernatural means, bring them even greater wealth and power. It’s widely believed that Bongo himself is behind these twisted ritual crimes. In any event, Bongo’s government has refused to investigate them.

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Messi and Bongo

Enter Messi, who, as it happens, is an “ambassador” for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, in addition to having his own charity, which focuses on “access to education and health care for vulnerable children.” In July, construction of a new soccer stadium in Gabon – which is being built for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, to be hosted by Gabon – began with a cornerstone-laying ceremony at which Messi was the guest of honor. Messi reportedly was paid €3.5 million for showing up at the event, although both Argentina and Gabon have denied that he was paid anything.

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Messi and Bongo at cornerstone-laying ceremony

In any event, he went. In addition to laying the cornerstone for the stadium, he paid a visit to a hospital and took part in the opening of a Bongo-owned restaurant. And throughout the visit, according to the U.S.-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF), he “displayed enthusiastic support” for Bongo’s regime – a PR coup for Bongo and, as HRF observed, a blow to the credibility of Messi’s foundation. There’s no indication that this UNICEF “ambassador” said a single word, at any point during his stay in Gabon – every step of which was covered extensively by state-owned television – about his host’s refusal to investigate the ritual murder of children.

The Rosenbergs in the 21st century

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Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

We’ve been looking at the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the first civilians in American history to be executed for treason. As we mentioned yesterday, the testimony of Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, was released in July, and big-media reporters who were unfamiliar with the case were quick to fall for the claim that the testimony proved Ethel’s innocence. On August 11, the Rosenbergs’ sons, Robert and Michael Meeropol, published a piece in the Times claiming that the testimony “demonstrates conclusively that our mother was prosecuted primarily for refusing to turn on our father” and calling on President Obama “to acknowledge that Ethel Rosenberg was wrongly convicted and executed.”

ros10Radosh and another expert on the case, Steven D. Usdin, were quick to reply, writing in a letter to the Times that, whatever the Meeropols’ interpretation of Greenglass’s testimony, declassified KGB documents “show that Ethel helped Julius and David’s wife, Ruth, recruit David into their Soviet network. They also reveal that Ethel was present at meetings with Soviet intelligence officers and American spies for the Soviet Union, and that she actively participated in the crime for which they were convicted, conspiracy to commit espionage.”

You’d think that by now, with the truth having come out, the Rosenberg controversy would be over. Nope. The people who said all along that the Rosenbergs were guilty have been vindicated. But so what? The Soviet Union may be gone – but Marxism has triumphed in the American academy. So when the topic of the Rosenbergs comes up in college courses, ideology all too often trumps fact. Recently, a popular cultural website published an essay about the Rosenbergs by an American Studies student named Bailey Zukovich. Her take on the subject helps illuminate what young people today are being taught about the Cold War, Soviet Communism, mid twentieth-century America – and, yes, the Rosenbergs.

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Josef Stalin, whose main offense was apparently that he presided over a “way of life” that too many Americans viewed as “backwards and unfamiliar”

Some excerpts from Zukovich’s piece: “The Cold War era marked a time of fear and paranoia in the United States….Communism was the enemy, a way of life that was backwards and unfamiliar. These pervasive fears led to hypersensitivity among Americans to potential spies living amongst the population.” The Rosenbergs? “Their normality was perhaps the most terrifying thing about them to Americans of the time.” And Ethel? “Reexamining Ethel through a contemporary lens, she can be viewed as a woman who refused to accept the conformity that was expected of her as the ideal 1950’s woman. Ethel seemed like more of a threat in the public mind because of her failure to adhere to the proper gender role….Whether or not she was a communist was less important than her lack of the expected 1950’s femininity.”

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Ethel Rosenberg, feminist icon?

When twenty-first-century American kids are being taught to perform this kind of historical “analysis,” it seems depressingly likely that in the years to come, the Rosenbergs will emerge as more sympathetic figures than ever – with Ethel, in particular, being hailed as a feminist heroine whose transcendence of traditional gender roles made her a veritable combination of, oh, say, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Dorothy Thompson, and Martha Gellhorn.

Useful stoogery is, alas, endlessly resilient and resourceful.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, “citizens of the world”

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Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

We’re on the third day of our probe into the history of the useful stooges who spent decades standing up for Soviet atom spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. We’ve seen that for those who accept evidence and reason, the debate about the Rosenbergs should, quite simply be over. But, as Rosenberg scholar Ron Radosh observed in 2011, “the descendants of the people who proclaimed the Rosenbergs’ innocence have now begun yet another campaign to rehabilitate them. They now argue that although it appears Julius Rosenberg was a Soviet spy after all, he gave little of value to the Soviets, was motivated by the desire to stave off atomic war, and in any case had nothing to do with handing over atomic information of any kind to the Soviet Union.”

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Staughton Lynd

Among these revisionists is Staughton Lynd, whose Wikipedia page identifies him as “an American conscientious objector, Quaker, peace activist and civil rights activist, tax resister, historian, professor, author and lawyer.” Lynd, wrote Radosh,

ros8objects to what he calls the triumphalism of those like me who have asserted [the Rosenbergs’ guilt] for years. More important for Lynd is that the couple refused to “snitch,” therefore making themselves heroes. He maintains that their trial was a “sham,” and he argues that even if they were guilty, they must be viewed as unadulterated heroes. Why? Because, he actually writes, the couple had “obligations as Communists, and as citizens of the world.” So, to Lynd, the Rosenbergs’ obligation to spy for Josef Stalin stands above any loyalty to their own country, not to speak of their willingness to make their own children orphans. Secondly, Lynd believes that if the Rosenbergs helped the Soviets get the bomb, that “might have been justified,” since he believes Soviet strength stopped aggression by the American imperialists.

Historian Howard Zinn discussed war, imprisonment, government, and the death penalty in Mandel Hall last Saturday. The event was held by The Campaign to End the Death Penalty.
Howard Zinn

As Radosh noted, Lynd’s argument reveals “the desperation some on the left have to descend to in order to maintain their view that the only guilty party was the United States.” Another example of this desperation: the late historian Howard Zinn, who wrote that what mattered about the Rosenbergs was not the question of whether they were spies but the fact that they hadn’t received a fair trial because of “cold war hysteria.” As Radosh commented: “That statement would have had some credibility if Zinn had acknowledged the couple’s guilt. But of course he argued that most of the witnesses against them were lying. No one on the left, it seems, is willing to offer any condemnation for the way in which the Rosenbergs betrayed their own country.”

David Greenglass
David Greenglass

In July of this year, the grand jury testimony of Ethel Rosenberg’s brother and fellow spy David Greenglass was made public. The New York Times and other major media, as Radosh noted, “rushed to the conclusion that this transcript proves the innocence of Ethel Rosenberg.” But only someone entirely ignorant of the case, and of the abundant evidence establishing Ethel’s guilt, could believe any such thing. The Guardian, as Radosh pointed out, ended its article on the subject “quoting a leftist true believer, Ilene Philipson, who tells the paper, ‘There was never really any solid evidence that she had been involved in any part of espionage.’ To the contrary, there is substantial evidence that Ethel Rosenberg was guilty as charged. Journalists could have found that evidence if they had taken the time to look.”

We’ll wrap this up tomorrow.

Not traitors, but “idealists”: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

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Ethel and Julius Rosenberg

We’ve been looking at the story of Soviet atom spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg – and at the decades of posthumous apologetics and admiration in which their memory was swathed by the American left.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, as we’ve seen, documents were released proving beyond all doubt that – their passionate defenders to the contrary – the Rosenbergs were, indeed, spies for Stalin. Both of them. Dedicated, ruthless, rabid. More devoted to the most bloodthirsty murderer in history than to their two young sons.

The mass media, to a remarkable degree, ignored this evidence.

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Josef Stalin

But not everybody did. In the 2009 book Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, which drew heavily on them, John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vasseliev established beyond question that, in the words of Ron Radosh, author of The Rosenberg Files and an expert on all things Rosenberg, “the Rosenbergs were indeed atomic spies; that the military data their network stole seriously compromised America’s security, that Ethel Rosenberg was involved with her husband from the start and worked to recruit others to the network; that Julius recruited a previously unknown atomic spy, Russell McNutt, and that their primary loyalty was to the Soviet Union and not to their own country.” In the couple of years that followed, more and more material was made public, and more and more books were published, that documented in greater and greater detail the Rosenbergs’ actions on behalf of the Kremlin.

How did the Rosenbergs’ sons, Robert and Michael Meeropol, react to this tsunami of revelation? In a 2011 interview with the New York Times, Robert finally admitted his father’s guilt – kind of. Meanwhile, he reasserted his mother’s innocence. “Strangely,” wrote Radosh, “after having said that his father was guilty, Robert Meeropol makes a statement that is not only a backtracking to his own admission, but is flatly wrong.” Robert Meeropol’s statement read as follows:

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Ron Radosh

Ethel was not a spy and Julius was ignorant of the atomic bomb project. They were innocent of stealing the secret of the atomic bomb and they were fighting for their lives. It would have been next to impossible for them to explain to their children and supporters the subtle distinction between not being guilty of stealing atomic secrets and blanket innocence. Given that, I can understand the course of action they took from a political standpoint.

As Radosh put it, this desperate effort to exculpate the Rosenbergs, and to find some way of making their last-minute declaration to their children of their total innocence seem anything other than an outright lie, “makes no sense whatsoever….the secrets they stole were many, they helped serve the Soviet military machine, and they were classified and not meant to be given to any power, especially to the Soviets. Hence Meeropol’s so-called distinction is a distinction without a difference.”

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A Cuban stamp marking the 25th anniversary of the “murder” of the Rosenbergs

Meeropol claimed in his statement that he remained proud of his parents, maintaining that they had “acted with integrity, courage and in furtherance of righteous ideals, and passed their passion for social justice on to me and my brother.” Radosh’s response: “Their would-be integrity and courage consisted of lying about what they were doing, sacrificing their own children for Stalin’s cause, [and] betraying their own country” in the name of such ideals as “forced collectivization of the land, the murder of hundreds of thousands, the establishment of the Gulag, [and] the path to aggressive war in the new post-war period.”

Bingo. And yet the institutionalized far left continued to line up behind the Meeropols, agreeing that Julius was guilty and Ethel innocent and joining in Robert Meeropol’s insistence that, guilt or innocence aside, his parents deserved respect for their “ideals.”

More tomorrow.

Heroes, martyrs, saints: reinventing the Rosenbergs

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Ethel and Julius Rosenberg

Although it’s been over sixty years since the Stalinist atom spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for treason at Sing Sing, a federal prison in New York, they continue to be a cause célèbre for many persons who weren’t even born until long after their deaths. The history of the widespread and perverse loyalty to the Rosenbergs’ memory is very much worth pondering, because it reveals a great deal about the psychopathology of the very many useful stooges for whom the betrayal of a free society in the name of mass-murdering totalitarianism is not only defensible but heroic.

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Ron Radosh

Over the years, some of their champions have argued that the Rosenbergs were totally innocent; others, that he was guilty as charged but she was innocent; still others, that they were both guilty, but it wasn’t a big deal, either because the state secrets they passed to the Kremlin weren’t all that important or because their actions were understandable, and thus forgivable, or even downright praiseworthy – the U.S., in the view of these apologists, being an oppressive nation unworthy of the Rosenbergs’ loyalty and the USSR under Stalin a shining symbol of socialist hope. As Ron Radosh, author of The Rosenberg File (1983), put it in 2011, the case was for a long time “a linchpin of the American Left’s argument that the United States government was not only evil during the Cold War years, but was ready to kill regular American citizens because they were against the Truman administration’s anti-Soviet policies.”

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Tony Kushner

Indeed, for many on the left, the Rosenbergs are nothing less than heroes. The makers of a video entitled “Martyrs for Peace” said the following about them: “Both tried to make the world a better place for everyone. Both were courageous.” The socialist playwright Tony Kushner made the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg a character in Angels in America, his much-lauded, award-winning piece of dramatic agitprop. Kushner didn’t just treat Ethel sympathetically; he turned her into a saint, serving up what one sympathetic writer has described as “a powerful portrayal of [her] strength and humanity.”

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Ethel Sings: a promotional photo

It goes on. As recently as last year, New York theatergoers could buy tickets to a play called Ethel Sings: The Unsung Song of Ethel Rosenberg, in which author Joan Beber represented Ethel as a tragic heroine forced to choose between loyalty to her children (i.e., testify and live) and loyalty to her husband (stay silent and die). In the theater program, the play’s director described the Rosenbergs as “liberals, Jews, labor activists, and communist sympathizers in an era of virulent anti-Communism and anti-Semitism.” (For such people, it’s always anti-Communism, not Communism itself, that’s “virulent.”)

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Robert Meeropol

Among the most dedicated apologists for the Rosenbergs have been their sons, Michael and Robert. For a long time they fiercely insisted on the innocence of their parents – who, in a letter written to the boys (then aged six and ten) just before the executions, begged them: “Always remember that we were innocent.” After the Rosenbergs’ death, Michael and Robert were adopted by a couple named Meeropol and took their surname; when the boys grew up and became political commentators and professors (Michael is a retired economics prof at Western New England College; Robert has taught anthropology at the same institution), they both made a busy side career out of defending their parents, relentlessly smearing the Rosenbergs’ critics, accusing those critics of proffering false information, and charging the FBI with fabricating evidence.

1990 PHOTO OF MICHAEL MEEROPOL, SON OF JULIUS AND ETHEL ROSENBERG AT THE ROSENBERG FUND FOR CHILDREN IN SPRINGFIELD.
Michael Meeropol

Together, the Meeropols wrote a 1975 book about their parents called We Are Your Sons; in the novel The Book of Daniel (1971), E. L. Doctorow presented a sympathetic account of a fictional couple based on the Rosenbergs, whose life is viewed retrospectively through the eyes of their son. (It’s surely no coincidence that in 2011, Michael, who now teaches at the City University of New York, recommended Kushner for an honorary CUNY degree.) Once, in an article, Radosh addressed one of the sons directly: “For your own sake, I hope you are mentally prepared for the inevitable day when the KGB’s own archives reveal that your parents were guilty. Get ready, because it’s going to be soon.”

Well, that day finally came. The relevant KGB records were declassified, and secret Soviet messages that had been intercepted and decrypted by U.S. intelligence were also made public. And they proved what Radosh knew they would. Many major news media, some of which had repeatedly and ardently reasserted the Rosenbergs’ innocence over the decades, did their best to ignore these revelations. The New York Times didn’t cover the story. The Nation, which over the decades had vilified and demonized witnesses who were now shown to have been telling the truth all along, deep-sixed the disclosures – and of course didn’t apologize to any of the people it had smeared.

But not everybody ignored the newly released documents. We’ll get around to that next time.