How Stalin Did It

The book is hefty, 666 pages with weighty material on the key role that Stalin played in World War Two. It’s worth every page. Drawing on Russian archives that have been opened in recent years along with a vast number of other souces, author Sean McKeekin describes in “Stalin’s War” the master strategy of a dictator who combined singularity of purpose wth the utmost brutality to achieve his ends, and it worked. At one point, his ally Winston Churchill proposed a toast: “God was on the side of the allies.” To which Stalin replied, not entirely in jest: “And the devil’s on my side.” Know thyself, we are told. He did.

Russian Premier Joseph Stalin, President Franklin Roosevelt, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The Yalta Conference 1945. Picture by Corbis/Getty Images

Stalin got World War Two off to a good start from his point of view. Forsaking his communism much to the horror of true believers, he made a pact with that other  devil Hitler to divide Poland. At the same time Stalin was ceded control of the rest of Eastern Europe. When Hitler attacked, Stalin held back temporarily, thus letting the German take the blame for dismembering Poland. Britain and France declared war on Hitler, and Stalin was off the hook.

But he ran into trouble when he advanced on his smaller neighbor Finland. The Finns fought bravely against an unprepared Red Army. Suddenly, world opinion turned against the over-reaching dictator, presenting him, says McKeekin, with the greatest crisis of his career. He rose to the occasion by suing for a moderate peace with Finland, and all was forgotten. Too bad, writes McKeenin, since at that time both totalitarian regimes were vulnerable to an allied strike that could have changed history.

In his expansion plans for the Soviet Union in both Europe and Asia, Stalin received critical aid from an unexpected quarter, a gift that kept on giving. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, a consummate politician at home was at sea abroad. Somehow he was convinced of the good intentions of Stalin whom he liked to call “Uncle Joe.” He gathered a tight clique around hm that shunned anyone even mildly critical of Stalin, including Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Russia expert George Kennan, who later defned the Cold War.

Stalin waged a successful subversive war against friends as well as enemies. The Russian archives reveal that hundreds of his agents honeycombed the U.S Government with often a decisive influence on policy. Harry Dexte r White, top aide to Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morganthau, was alerted to a possible agreement that might stop the pending war between the U.S. and Japan. This was contrary to Stalin’s interest of having all the other powers fighting among themselves. White managed to release an official paper subverting the effort, and the attack on Pearl Harbor followed. Later seven agents in Treasury (seven!) collaborated on the so-called Morganthau Plan that would have reduced post war Germany to impoverishment. News of the Plan, later scuttled, intensified German resistance at the cost of many more American lives.

Drawing on a range of statistics, McKeekin concludes that the Nazi invasion of Russia would have succeeded without the enormous U.S. aid to Stalin, which is not fully acknowleged to this day. The Russian troops who turned the war at Stalingrad fought valiently with overwhelming casualties to reach Berlin. But still their boss had his doubts. He sent along punitive battalions to execute any who malingered or retreated. Nowhere to go but ahead.

At war’s end, Stalin conquered and occupied Eastern Europe, including Poland where the war began. McKeekin writes that he had an all-consuming hatred of Poles akin to Hitler’s antisemitism. It’s only fitting that forty-five years later an uprising in Poland contributed significantly to the collapse of his amazing but short-lived empire.

Deporting a Journalist to His Death

Since more journalists are murdered in Mexico than anywhere else on eartth – 125 in the last ten years – it seemed reasonable for newsman Emilio Gutierrez-Soto to seek asylum in the U.S when his life had been threatened. He had committed the offense of writing about corrupt police practices in a small town in northern Mexico. For that he was warned he was about to die.

Photo by NPR

But when he reached the New Mexico border with his son Oscar in 2008, he found U.S. officials unimpressed. What was he so excited about? he was asked. The pair were placed in detention – a kind of prison while their request was leisurely considered. Eventually, a U.S. immigration judge turned them down, saying they had nothing to fear back in Mexico. They had even been promised bodyguards.

The ignorance displayed is breathtaking. It’s as if the judge, while next door to Mexico, had no idea of what was going on there. Perhaps he gets all his news from the mainstream media which mostly ignores the  murdered journalists and treats neighboring Mexico as just another normal state instead of the criminal enterprise it actually is. The judge may be a casualty of the media.

The bodyguards he recommended are under drug cartel control and would make quick work of the offending journalist unless torture were also involved. Gutierrez-Soto remarked: “I’d like to see the judge spend a weekend in Ciudad Juarez (a border town once known as the murder capital of the world) without protection.” Apparently, the judge has not taken him up on that, though it must be said that Americans who visit the border towns briefly and carefully are spared the kind of violence inflicted on Mexicans. That would be bad for business.

Released from detention after six months, Gutierrez-Soto worked on a food truck while awaiting the decision on asylum. Various groups came to his defense as the years went by, and in 2017 the National Press Club gave him an award. That seemed to speed things up but in the wrong direction. Father and son were ordered deported and in handcuffs they approached the border when an emergency injunction kept them in the U.S. and back in detention.

Thanks to pressure from the National Press Club and others, they are now living freely in Ann Harbor, Michigan, where Gutierrez received a fellowship from the University of Michigan. His treatment as an endangered journalist seeking help in the U.S. is truly extraordinary. It’s as if the U.S. sides with the drug cartels in wanting him to go back home to face “justice” in Mexico, e.g., certain death.

The case is indicative of a strange permissiveness toward the criminal rulers. They continue to pour their lethal drugs into the U.S. through a porous border that enrich Americans along with Mexicans. U.S. Immigration continues to withhold documents in this case, suggesting there’s something to hide. What could it be?

In Pursuit of the Drug Cartels

The Mexican drug cartels have a key role in the current outbreak on the U. S. border. Basically controlling the entire 2000 mile border, they decide who enters and when. They divide migrants into small groups that can be sent across at any time day or night, making it difficult for the under-manned U.S. Border Patrol to keep up with them. There are long stretches where it’s possible to go leisurely back and forth over the border with no one in sight. It’s a clear invitation to death-dealing drugs headed north and desperate humans trying to escape the all-pervading violence of Mexico and Central America.

Image by David McNew/Getty Images

Among the newcomers are cartel members who are increasingly setting up shop in the US, the better to direct drug traffic and assert their power locally. An endless series of cars cross the southern U.S. daily with Mexican passengers paying as much as $20,000 for the ride. If they don’t pay the full amount at the end of the trip, they’re sold into slavery. The U.S is basically under attack and is not properly defending itself.

Remedies to date have not worked. Border restrictions, loosened under President Biden, can be restored, but inventive cartels can get around them. They lure people to the border and sometimes coerce them because it is so very profitable. Pay up or carry drugs to enjoy a pleasant life in the U.S. Refuse, you take your chances and maybe lose your life. A border wall, only patches today, can be a partial impediment, but cartels can go over, under or around it.

Given that drug-addicted Americans will continue to finance the cartels, there is only one genuine solution – put U.S. troops on the border, which is not unreasonable since they currently guard borders in various parts of the world. Why not here at home were the danger is greater? And why must they stand pat? If cartels infringe on the U.S., like tossing small children over the border fence, U.S. troops are justified in going after them. It’s worth noting that present-day Mexico is less a functioning state than a criminal enterprise where cartels, police and army work together.

In a provocative column in The Wall Street Journal, Gil Barndollar, a senior fellow at Defense Priorities and a Marine veteran of the Afghan war, notes that in fighting a series of inconclusive wars after 9/11, the U.S. military has demonstrated a proficiency in what he calls raids – “peerless when it comes to projecting combat power, putting thousands of soldiers on someone else’s soil on very short notice.“ Quickly and effectively in and out. The goal is not winning an all-out war, much less nation building and democratizing, but making a geopolitical difference in favor of the U.S.

The U.S. has had a checkered past with Mexico, involving above all the 1840’s war that surrendered half the country to its northern neighbor. But it’s possible that present day Mexicans, long suffering under brutal cartel rule with one of the world’s highest homicide rates, would welcome U.S help in curbing that power. No conquest, no occupation, no total war, but a clear demonstration of what the U.S. military does best.