Ivan W. Parkins

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About Ivan W. Parkins:

Dr. Parkins is a retired professor of Political Science from Central Michigan University.  He received his PhD from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy.  Dr. Parkins served as a naval officer during WWII aboard the battleship Alabama.  He is a recent widower with three daughters, 3 grand children and 2 great grand children.  Dr. Parkins has written extensively, having authored 3 books and a newspaper opinion column for many years. 

Front Page

In This Issue: 

           -CRONKITE, THE MEDIA ……..

             A look at  past media manipulation which affected U.S. and World politics


                 The relationship of the intellectual elite in efforts to destroy our country.  The

                 espionage story of Michael Straight.              


                 A brief recollection of Lincoln Steffens.



By Ivan W. Parkins


Freedom, prosperity, and, especially, a government that will foster them, are not things that one large society can confer upon another.  They must be valued and diligently supported and protected by those who are to enjoy them.  But, how much of our problem with the politics of our international clients originates with them, and how much of it here?  That is the question.  The following article illustrates this and was originally published, 10/13/71.



By Ivan W. Parkins


       The reelection of President Thieu in South Vietnam ought to provide an occasion for American rejoicing.  The fact that it has not reflects, in some degree, American sensitivity to shortcomings of South Vietnamese democracy.  But, who is offering evidence that Thieu is less a democrat than other leaders of new governments in war-torn countries?  Is he less a democrat than any of his principal predecessors or opponents, less than Diem, Minh, of Ky?  How much of American discouragement over Thieu’s reelection reflects, not shortcomings of Vietnamese politics, but failures of our own?


      American distrust of South Vietnamese leaders did not begin with President Thieu.  A decade ago, President Diem was under bitter attack in the American press.  Diem, like Thieu, was faced with trying to lead a country made up of fragmented social and religious groups, and plagued with terrorism encouraged from outside.  Diem’s considerable achievements in education and economic production were little noticed in the United States.  His sometimes repressive efforts to maintain his government were the principal subjects of comment here.  Diem was overthrown and killed.


     President Kennedy extended American aide to South Vietnam while Diem was President there.  But, even Presidents of the United States may have difficulty in getting their views to the public.  An exchange of letters published in the NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE early this year disclosed that CBS had, in effect, censored comments of J.F.K. regarding President Diem. The charge, raised by John Roche (an aide) and answered by Walter Cronkite, was substantiated by Pierre Salinger who wrote (3/14/71: ”In the actual interview, which was filmed, President Kennedy spoke of his respect and sympathy for the problems of President Diem.  When the film was shown to the public, only the unfavorable Presidential remarks remained, and J.F.K.’s  praise of Diem had been deleted.”


     Former Press Aide Salinger added that he did not think the distortion of the President’s views when CBS cut the interview represented deliberate intent on the part of Mr. Cronkite, and that other matters kept the White House from offering a correction.  Cronkite contended that the comments cut out were not very significant and that TV is under no obligation to clear its editorial judgments with those whom it quotes. {Even the President of the United States?}


     Our press, while defending its own “rights” and attacking presidential credibility, is not always careful to report the obvious and pertinent facts. We have all listened to several years of charges that President Johnson had no legal authority to involve us in war in Southeast Asia.  In a recent article, Senator Goldwater recalled that the sponsor of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Senator Fulbright, had responded to that specific question during Senate debate.  I checked the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD and found the following, August 6, 1964, at page 18409.


     “Mr. Cooper.  Then, looking ahead, if the President decided that it was necessary to use such force as could lead into war, we will give that authority by this resolution?


     “Mr. Fulbright. That is the way I would interpret it.”


     Only two Senators and no members of the House voted against the resolution.


     If one believes that it is in the American interest to leave a viable South Vietnamese government behind as we withdraw from the war, President Thieu’s reelection should be encouraging.  In spite of having won only 34% of the vote in his first (11 man) race, and in spite of bitter criticism that he was a minority President, he managed to govern the country for a full term.  Now, his efforts to be a majority President have been rewarded by a very large vote—and increasingly bitter criticism.  Even if we accept most of the charges that Thieu rigged the election (and few of those charges come from unbiased sources), at least Thieu appears to be more firmly in control than before.  His control should facilitate our withdrawal—unhumiliated, except for the calumny which some American opinion leaders heap upon our entire Vietnam effort.


     We should discount the current despair over Thieu’s “dictatorship” to at least the same degree as in necessary to reconcile the contemporary governments of West Germany, Italy, and Japan with predictions of twenty years ago, when numerous journalists and academics were charging that our occupations of those countries were resulting in the restoration of fascism there.  It might also pay to look at Iran and Korea, other “victims” of American imperialism.


      As an indication of President Thieu’s fitness to govern South Vietnam, most of the criticism aimed at him is of trivial significance.  As a means of stampeding the American public, and Senate, into some rash undercutting of Thieu, the criticism may be significant—similar denunciations helped to destroy Diem.




NOTE: In Book Reviews, page 5, I reproduced an old column regarding Michael Straight, and his very interesting associations with the highest levels of both Communist spies and American politicians.  It has since become clear that Mr. Straight’s story of having broken with communism was a ruse, suggested to him, in detail, by his Communist superiors.       For more on Michael Straight see SPIES pages 245-252; also see Michael Straight in Wikipedia.


By Ivan W. Parkins


     A few months ago I mentioned a new book, SPIES, based upon extensive notes taken by Alexander Vassiliev, a former officer of the KGB, from archives in which he worked.  The following is a summary of a few of the most interesting disclosures.


     The book’s sub-title is “The Rise and Fall of the KGB;” it is more limited than that, besides rarely mentioning other Soviet espionage such as that of the military’s GRU, it covers only the 1930s and 1940s.  It was the GRU that employed Alger Hiss.  The agencies discouraged most fraternization as a security measure.  Thus, when Michael Straight became an agent at our State Department and was asked for names of likely recruits, he named Alger Hiss and Larry Duggan and was warned away.  They were both agents already.


     [Years later, it would be a fraternization error that sent Alger Hiss to prison—for perjury in denying that he had known Whitaker Chambers.  With his many top level government admirers, Hiss had been able to beat earlier and more serious charges.  But Senator Nixon’s investigation, questioning him casually about his interest in birds, led him to disclose that he had seen a rare wild bird at a particular place and time.  The place and time corresponded to those of a picnic shared by their two families, and to Chambers’ mention of the same bird.]


     The KGB, in 1941 listed its agents in America by occupation: 49 engineers, 22 journalists, 8 professors, and 4 economists.  One journalist source was Mary Price.   She, for two years, was the secretary of Walter Lippmann; he was probably foremost in the field of diplomatic and military affairs, hence in close touch with numerous top officials.


    The code word for the atomic bomb project was “Enormous.”  It was especially appropriate for an undertaking that several major powers were contemplating, but were restrained largely by the huge cost in money, electric power, and engineering skills that initial attempts would require.  Soon after FDR initiated the Manhattan Project Julius Rosenberg scored his first big prize, one not even identified until some of Vassiliev’s notes became available.  Earl McNutt, an engineer for a N.Y. architectural firm, gave Rosenberg a set of plans for the initial Oak Ridge facility.  Afterwards, McNutt changed employers, brushed off further KGB requests, became, and retired as, chief engineer of a major oil company.  When finally identified, in his old age, he brushed off inquiries and soon died.


     It is interesting how many of the spies identified in this book were little punished, if at all. Our laws, at first, were lax, if any existed.  Industrial espionage became, clearly, a federal crime only in 1996.  [From other sources, I know of a former embassy code clerk who sued successfully an America news magazine for accusing him of having been convicted of spying against America. It occurred before Pearl Harbor.  He was giving the Germans secret messages passed between FDR and Churchill. Since we had no clear law regarding such an offense, Ambassador Kennedy turned him over to Britain and he was imprisoned for spying against them.]


     In 1948 things at Arlington Hall, our code breaking center, “went dark.”  William Weisband, employed there, had informed the Soviets of our success.  One result was that during our “blindness” Stalin was able to prepare North Korea for the strike southward, a surprise to us.  Mr. Weisband, got one year in jail on a technicality. Our intelligence people were afraid that evidence required by legal procedures of a full trial would harm us more than the spy’s freedom.

     Our laws are now tougher.  But as SPIES makes clear, people of the far left, such as Michael Straight, are often, if not spies themselves, very helpful to those who are.


     The final conclusion of SPIES is; “It was no witch hunt that led American counterintelligence officials to investigate government employees and others with access to sensitive information for Communist ties…they only knew the half of it.”

 Notes and Comments; RECENT BOOKS AND


By Ivan W. Parkins

     Books can provide a person with some perspectives not readily available from the more technologically advanced media,  For instance SPIES, by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev and published by Yale U. P.  SPIES is mainly the product of extensive notes smuggled from KGB archives by Vassiliev, a former officer who worked there.  It is tedious reading, but contains many new and interesting details. An example:  Moscow Center sent to Valentin Markin, chief of its newly created station in this country, the following explanation of  why he was here:  “In the system of states, the USA is the deciding factor in questions of world politics.” The year was 1934, see page 196.

     Early in our marriage, before we had television, my wife and I read books to one another in the evenings.  I rely upon my memory rather than any copy at hand for this summary from a chapter in THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF LINCOLN STEFFENS.

Steffens, perhaps the most famous of the journalists who President Theodore Roosevelt labeled “Muckrakers” was visiting the recently elected mayor of Philadelphia.  Why?, he asked the mayor, were so many crooked deals being pushed at the same time; did he not hope to be reelected?  The mayor replied that it was all part of an agreement with the local party machine.  He would crowd as much “business” as he could into one term.  The press and the public would be unable to keep up and to organize effective interference.  And reelection was not part of the plan.

     Now, I sometimes wonder if our President has read Lincoln Steffens. Reprint 07/22/09