Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What a Tangled Web We Weave...

Michael and Robert Meeropol, the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, aged ten and six at the time of their parent's execution, always believed firmly that both parents were innocent. In the 55 years that followed, both men continuously learned that what lead up to their parent's execution did not fall at either end of the spectrum between black and white. Rather, this was a case where murky intentions and shady morality created a convoluted tangled mass of countless shades of gray.

Remember warm and fuzzy "Uncle Joe"? The leader of one of the most evil regimes in all of history? Who in the end, was responsible for more deaths than Hitler? Well, as much as we hate communism now, or anything we feel resembles communism - socialism - during WWII, we were allies with good ol' "Uncle Joe" (Why do I feel like Sarah Palin?). "Uncle Joe" exterminated approximately 20 million people...every single Russian family lost, at the very least, one friend or relative to Stalin's forces.

They don't come any more evil than "Uncle Joe", yet we decided to ally ourselves with this regime, during WWII. Unfortunately the United States had no choice. We could not have defeated Nazi Germany without entering into this unholy alliance. However, not only were we allies with this malignant commie, we also agreed, at the end of the war, to force the repatriation of approximately one million Russian troops, who had rejected communism and willingly surrendered to Americans. Our military appropriately named this part of the agreement, Operation Keelhaul.

It was well known, at the time of the Yalta Agreement, that every single one of these men would face the wrath of Stalin, a.k.a. execution…another holocaust, if you will. This concession to Stalin made the United States reluctant, although informed accessories in the murder of two million people, as "Operation Keelhaul" extended beyond Russian troops.

"Operation Keelhaul" tarnishes our exemplary role in WWII. It proves that war is never black and white...that there are no good guys in war...even the U.S. in WWII, the one war, where the bad guys could not get any worse. We are all tainted with the blood of the innocent, it's just a matter of degree and some would say, intent.

The Rosenbergs after sentencing.
During this time, when the Soviets were "good" guys and "Uncle Joe" was warm and fuzzy, before communism was condemned so harshly, young Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, avidly pro Communist, supposedly began to engage in espionage for the Soviet Union. Whatever their involvement, their reasons for doing so was to bolster there strong beliefs in international solidarity. In 1953, their strong convictions and possibly their actions lead to their execution and the first case of civilians executed for spying in U.S. history.

Very early in the 1950s, at the time of the Rosenberg's arrest, the political atmosphere changed drastically. Anti-communism permeated the political atmosphere. Intellectuals, activists, scholars, artists, communists, socialists etc., like Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were tormented, sometimes prosecuted, and many times lost their jobs and "status" in society. The Rosenbergs lost their lives.

The belief in perpetuating international solidarity, in an of itself, is a noble conviction. Mr. Rosenberg's methods of achieving that goal - at the most, some form of low-level spying - however, completely unacceptable, although, nowhere near the level of unacceptability that would warrant the death penalty. As for Mrs. Rosenberg, it's obvious that the state executed an innocent person.

Fast forward to September 11, of this year, and new "evidence" has come to light that suggests Julius Rosenberg is guilty. However, he's not guilty of what he was executed for, conspiring to steal atomic secrets, rather, at most, he was involved in coordinating the exchange of anti- aircraft information. This had nothing to do with passing the secrets of the atomic bomb.

This new "evidence" also strongly suggests Ethel Rosenberg was completely innocent. The FBI used Ethel Rosenberg as a lever in an effort to convince her husband, Julius to talk. The FBI never believed that the Rosenbergs passed on the secrets of the atomic bomb. They understood that the construction of the atomic bomb was much more complex than simply passing on a simple recipe. Records show that even J. Edgar Hoover did not request the death penalty for Ethel Rosenberg.

Since 1975, when the Rosenberg sons filed for information on their parent's case, under the Freedom of Information Act, they also learned that their parents were victims of people who abused their power. They were framed by Judge Kaufman and the prosecutors involved in the case, one of whom is the notorious Roy Cohn. Cohn illegally communicated with Judge Kaufman, collaborated to fabricate and coerce testimony from supposed witnesses, and manufactured evidence all in an effort to get the Rosenbergs to collaborate in a lie, as the others who were arrested for espionage, did. The Rosenbergs refused and ended up dead, whereas the others got off with fairly light sentences in comparison. In other words, they were rewarded for purjuring themselves and agreeing to tell lies about their friends and sister, in the case of David Greenglass.

Judge Kaufman and Roy Cohn, especially, on the "right" side of the law, are the people who saw to it that the Rosenbergs fried. Roy Cohn, who embodied a Joseph Stalin type of "moral" code easily assumed the power to end the lives of two people who had far more integrity and courage in the tiny bones of their inner ear than Roy Cohn had throughout his whole body.

Yet, it is, often times, the "Roy Cohns" of the world - those of us with little integrity and/or courage but heaps of self importance - that rise to power in our political system. Our job, as a people, is to limit those in authority - whether that authority takes the form of a judge, prosecutor, legislator, or even juror - from taking on divine powers and deciding whether someone will live or die, as this is as divine as it gets.


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