The Magazine

Battle of the Bosses

From the Scrapbook.

Apr 18, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 30 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Three weeks ago in these pages, historians Ronald Radosh and Steven T. Usdin reported on the surprising confession to Usdin by Morton Sobell, a collaborator with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in atomic-era espionage for the Soviet Union. -Sobell had previously admitted to New York Times reporter Sam Roberts in 2008 that he had been a spy, while downplaying the seriousness of the secrets he passed along. To Usdin, he admitted, as the two historians put it, that he was “a key participant in an espionage operation that provided an enormous amount of classified data to the KGB, information that was extremely useful to the Soviet military.” He also admitted that he “did it for the Soviet Union,” to which he had been ideologically devoted his whole life (his parents were both Communist party members). 

Last week, Roberts reported in the New York Times on the response to the Sobell story from the Rosenbergs’ son, Robert Meeropol, who has spent a lifetime defending his parents. Writes Roberts:

Responding to recent revelations in The Weekly Standard by Morton Sobell, a co-defendant in the 1951 trial, Mr. Meeropol wrote: “I’d be less than honest if I did not admit that the latest news that Morton Sobell, my father and two others provided aeronautical information to the Soviet Union in 1948 gives me pause. My parents wrote in their last letter to me and my brother: ‘Always remember that we were innocent and could not wrong our conscience.’ My father, at least, doesn’t seem quite so innocent anymore.”

In a column for Pajamas Media, Radosh parses the significance of  Meeropol’s concession. Radosh, by the way, with coauthor Joyce Milton, wrote the definitive book on the case, The Rosenberg File (1983). Their account of the 1948 espionage case, which has now been confirmed by Morton Sobell, was denounced as an FBI fabrication by Robert Meeropol and his older brother Michael in their 1986 memoir, We Are Your Sons. Writes Radosh:

The significance of the younger Meeropol’s admission was well stated by Tablet magazine’s Marc Tracy, who writes that this is “perhaps the final wall of denial to fall in a case that has obsessed the American Jewish community for six decades,” and, I would add, that has been 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. 

[Nonetheless, Meeropol wants] to still honor his parents while now acknowledging what he calls their “uncritical support for the USSR,” which actually was .   .  . espionage on Stalin’s behalf. He still confuses what his parents did with what he calls a “more humane and just society.” .  .  . I now wait for comments from Robert’s older brother Michael. In the past few years, it has become obvious they both look at their parents’ espionage somewhat differently, although they have often appeared together on panels. What does Michael Meeropol think, and will he too make his thoughts public? .  .  .

Time will tell. I never thought that one of the Rosenbergs’ children, despite all of his confusion, would ever admit publicly that his father was guilty. It is a good sign that finally, it has become hard for the truth to be ignored after so much evidence has been accumulated about the Rosenbergs’ guilt. There is still a long way to go for their many apologists, but at least a first step has been taken.

What’s in an Acronym?

They’re tough and heroic. They ride around in shiny red trucks. Every little boy dreams of becoming one. They are .  .  . FEMS.

 We refer, of course, to the courageous men and women of the Washington, D.C., Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. For many years the capital city’s firemen wore uniforms emblazoned with the acronym “DCFD”—District of Columbia Fire Department. But that was before Chief Kenneth Ellerbe decided the old uniforms discriminated against ambulance drivers and medical technicians. 

Now Ellerbe and new D.C. mayor Vincent “Quid Pro Quo” Gray want to forbid firemen from wearing gear that isn’t labeled FEMS. And who would’ve guessed? The manly firemen strongly object.

Firefighters union president Ed Smith told a local TV news crew, “Citizens I talked to think the insignia means FEMA, which could jeopardize their work.” Chief Ellerbe has agreed to a 120-day “cooling off” -period so everyone can calm down and work out a solution. 

Here’s a suggestion: Go back to the old uniforms. Or make a deal—the firefighters will wear FEMS equipment as long as Ellerbe’s clothes bear the acronym for Firefighters’ Official Office Lackey.

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