Conceding that the Rosenbergs “shouldn’t have done what they did” and that they “thought they were helping our ally in wartime” hardly amounts to a full recognition of their crimes. Remember, the Rosenbergs knowingly gave atomic technology to Stalin--technology that was used to keep half of Europe under brutal occupation for half a century, and helped fuel a costly and wasteful arms race, and helped a stupid and vicious communist dictatorship stay in power, too. Nor does conceding the guilt of a few minor figures such as the Cohens or Theodore Hall come anywhere close to acknowledging the enormity of what really happened, which was this: Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, the leadership of the American Communist Party was actively serving the interests of the NKVD, the Soviet secret police--the same institution which was at the time constructing a vast network of concentration camps across Eurasia and putting millions of people, of many nationalities, before firing squads. And ever since then, a certain slice of the American Left--a slice which does not, of course, correspond precisely to the editorial board of The Nation, though it at times overlaps--has flatly refused to take these facts, and their far-reaching implications, on board.
On the contrary: Instead of listening to new evidence, Mr. Navasky still continues to describe those who investigate the crimes of the American Communist Party as “neo-conservative post-cold war cold warriors,” and still considers that those who call for historical reckoning do so because of their “ideological presuppositions.” I do not work for The New Republic and I will let Marty Peretz come to his own defense if he wishes to do so; but as for myself, I find that the word “pathological” remains an ideal description of Navasky’s attitude.
Anne Applebaum is a columnist for The Washington Post and Slate, and the author of Gulag: A History (Doubleday).