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The myth of the myth of the Red Scare

By Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J. (articles ) | May 10, 2003

"It was a damn near-run thing." So replied the Duke of Wellington to a civilian's ill-judged remark (made after the battle) to the effect that English victory at Waterloo was a foregone conclusion.

Most Americans are unaware that the much-derided Red Scare was both redder and scarier than anyone outside of Moscow could have imagined at the time. The latest recurrence of the media tide of ridicule aimed at Sen. Joe McCarthy ignores the fact that, for all his histrionic oafishness, he underestimated the extent to which Soviet agents had penetrated the U.S. government -- a finding proven beyond question by files inspected in Soviet intelligence archives and by deciphered signal intercepts. The Scare passed, but it was a near-run thing. A review by Hilton Kramer in the New Criterion stresses the political reasons behind the myth of the Myth. Perhaps a basic reading list would not be amiss:

Robert Conquest, The Great Terror.

Allen Weinstein, Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case.

Allen Weinstein & Alexander Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America.

John Earl Haynes & Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America.

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