Among the American left, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are nothing less than martyrs, the ultimate victims of the "Red Scare" that gripped the nation in the early 1950s.
Never mind that the Rosenbergs were convicted--and executed--55 years ago for passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. Or that dispassionate historical analysis (and disclosures from the Soviet archive) have affirmed their guilt. Apologists for the Rosenbergs still insist that the couple was framed by a red-baiting federal government, put to death not for their crimes, but rather their unconventional veiws.
In today's edition of the Los Angeles Times, historian Ronald Radosh shatters those arguments forever. Radosh, who has written extensively on the Rosenbergs and their activities, offers a recent, stunning footnote to the case. In comments published just last week, the Rosenberg's co-defendant, Morton Sobell, admitted that he and his friend Julius were, in fact, Soviet agents.
As Radosh observes, the impact of that belated confession cannot be understated:
It was a stunning admission; Sobell, now 91 years old, had adamantly maintained his innocence for more than half a century. After his comments were published, even the Rosenbergs' children, Robert and Michael Meeropol, were left with little hope to hang on to -- and this week, in comments unlike any they've made previously, the brothers acknowledged having reached the difficult conclusion that their father was, indeed, a spy. "I don't have any reason to doubt Morty," Michael Meeropol told Sam Roberts of the New York Times.
With these latest events, the end has arrived for the legions of the American left wing that have argued relentlessly for more than half a century that the Rosenbergs were victims, framed by a hostile, fear-mongering U.S. government. Since the couple's trial, the left has portrayed them as martyrs for civil liberties, righteous dissenters whose chief crime was to express their constitutionally protected political beliefs. In the end, the left has argued, the two communists were put to death not for spying but for their unpopular opinions, at a time when the Truman and Eisenhower administrations were seeking to stem opposition to their anti-Soviet foreign policy during the Cold War.
Readers will note that the MSM media has greeted this blockbuster with a collective yawn; other than the Radosh op-ed (and the piece that appeared in The New York Times), little has been written or broadcast about Mr. Sobell's blockbuster admission. Journalists who previously described the Rosenbergs as victims (apparently) have little interest in correcting the record.
The same holds true for historians. In his opinion piece, Radosh recounts the results of a survey, taken by Larry Schweikart, a history professor at the University of Dayton. Examining college history textbooks, Dr. Schweikart found few even admitted the Rosenbergs were guilty. Schweikart found that most claimed the couple were innocent, or excused their actions, stating that the information they provided "wasn't that important."
Sadly, such distortions and fabrications will likely continue, despite historical revelations over the past 50 years, and Mr. Sobell's recent admission of guilt. Using the excesses of McCarthyism as a convenient context, the left can seemingly explain away any crime of that era, including treason. It's a safe bet that college history books in 2018 and 2028 will still depict the Rosenbergs as martyrs, with no mention of their actual guilt--or Sobell's delayed confession.
ADDENDUM: In fairness, a case can be made that Ethel Rosenberg didn't deserve the electric chair. As Dr. Radosh notes, key testimony that secured her conviction may have been concocted, though their is little doubt about her participation in the espionage ring. Ethel Rosenberg was clearly a spy, though her activities may not have warranted the death penalty. The same cannot be said for her husband. Sobell's admission of guilt affirms his role--and that of Julius Rosenberg--as active Soviet agents, conspiring to steal the nation's most vital nuclear secrets.