Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism

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Cover of Treason by Ann Coulter.
Great and terrible
Icon books.svg
On our shelf:
Writer's block
A woman named Coulter cried Treason.

She did it without any reason.

Though we know that she lied,

'Twas perhaps justified;

On her brain, I'm afraid there's a lesion.
Al Franken[1]:20

Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism (ISBN 1400050308) is a 2003 book by right-wing author Ann Coulter.[2] Although her first two books were far from good, this was the one that made a large chunk of people realize she, to put it nicely, had a few screws loose. This was the book in which she infamously defended Joseph McCarthy and accused anybody to the left of her of one of the most serious crimes possible.

Joe McCarthy: Coulter's hero[edit]

The book is not even a full two paragraphs done before Coulter starts praising McCarthy, writing "Liberals invented the myth of McCarthyism to delegitimize impertinent questions about their own patriotism."[2]:1[note 1] Even conservatives who criticize McCarthy aren't safe, as she says they "engage in ritualistic self-flagellation over the possibility that Joe McCarthy may have said he had in his hands a list of '205' rather than '57' card-carrying Communists."[2]:53 (Or a letter from Secretary of State James Byrnes to Representative Adolph Sabath, which made no mention of communists whatsoever, which he also later claimed.[4]:54)

The lengths that Coulter goes to in order to defend McCarthy are truly a sight to behold at points. Writing about Owen Lattimore,Wikipedia she notes that his "name has not yet turned up in the Venona cables as a Soviet agent. This glaring oversight can only be attributed to the limited number of cables that have been decoded."[2]:87 Or it could be due to the fact that Lattimore was not a spy for the Soviet Union, that's also rather possible. She goes on to say that "Thanks to Lattimore's learned counsel, U.S. policy-makers abandoned Chiang Kai-shek and supported Mao Zedong."[2]:87 However, that would mean a Soviet spy was convincing the United States to support a man widely hated by the Soviet Union (Mao)[5] and who had little positive to say about the Soviets.[6]

Regarding McCarthy's critics, Coulter does little to actually debunk what they say. She writes on Edward Murrow, the famous CBS journalist who did an episode of his program See It Now on Joseph McCarthy,[7] that he made a "deceptive hatchet piece on him," without any further explanation.[2]:120 Of course, if Murrow really had done such a terrible job, McCarthy could have responded when NBC offered him a chance to go on See It Now a month later, which he took and did little more then make baseless attacks on his critics for half an hour.[8] (Murrow was actually able to debunk all of McCarthy's claim just a week after he made them on See It Now.[9])

However, despite her defending McCarthy, Coulter also makes a point to say that even if everything she said about McCarthy was wrong, that doesn't mean communist spies weren't an issue (which is good for her given how bad she is with facts):

That McCarthy was onto something is evident in the fact that almost everyone knows he was a wretched man, this country's rough equivalent of Stalin, arguably even as bad as Ken Starr. But almost no one knows if he was right. This is the follow-up question that's never asked.[2]:102

First off, her point about wide dislike of McCarthy being evidence that he had a point is utterly nonsensical. Judas Iscariot, Mao Zedong (whom Ann called "the greatest mass murderer in all of history"[2]:87), Osama bin Laden, and Adolf Hitler are all easily far more hated than Joseph McCarthy,[10] yet we hope that Coulter isn't under the impression they were "onto something" on that basis.

Coulter then runs down a series of criticisms of McCarthy, asking "But were Communist spies working for the U.S. government?" between each and every one of them. Now, let's ignore that Coulter spends the rest of this book defending everything she can about McCarthy only to suddenly say his personal faults don't matter and attempt to answer her question: But were communist spies working for the U.S. government? Thomas Powers answered that question rather simply, there were — and they were dealt with long before McCarthy came along:

When Joe McCarthy gave his now-infamous speech to Wheeling, West Virginia, on February 9, 1950, charging the State Department was riddled with at least 205 Communists, the CIA had already been through two internal purges in addition to the standard investigation of every new employee before he or she was granted a security clearance.[11]:66

The same is true about the FBI, which "had just about abandoned its concern with bank robbers and white slavers to turn its full force on Communism,"[4]:42 long before McCarthy came along.

Bizarrely, Coulter even makes a hash of sources which would seem to vindicate her perspective. She extensively cites the work of historians John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, whose work on the NSA's Venona Project disclosed the degree of Soviet penetration of the United States in the '30s and '40s. Coulter is happy to rely on Haynes and Klehr when discussing the guilt of Alger Hiss, but ignores their characterization of McCarthy as a "demagogue" who "mixed accurate information about...[Treasury Department official] Harry White and Alger Hiss with falsehoods about [Dean] Acheson and [George] Marshall [Truman's Secretaries of State] that served partisan political goals."[12] Or Klehr's comment elsewhere that "the new information from Russian and American archives does not vindicate McCarthy (emphasis added). He remains a demagogue, whose wild charges actually made the fight against Communist subversion more difficult.[13]

Attack on Truman[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Harry S. Truman

Lest you think Joseph McCarthy is the only figure Coulter slobbers with praise in this book, rest assured she at least has the decency to not make the entire tract one long rant about the same person. Going with typical Republican dogma, Coulter writes an entire chapter about how Ronald Reagan was the man who won the Cold War, and all the other Presidents weren't involved.

You see, according to Coulter, "all the anti-Communist initiatives eventually taken by the Truman administration came after the 1946 election … 'under pressure from the right.'"[2]:147 Even if Truman did only do these things under pressure from the Republican Party, that doesn't mean he didn't do them. In spite of the fact that Coulter claims Truman was doing this in response to conservative demands, Coulter wrote that "conservatives ridiculed the idea of 'containment,' preferring the idea of 'victory.'"[2]:150 Truman's desire to appease the radical anti-communists in the Republican Party didn't stop him from firing Douglas MacArthur, which Coulter said caused many to "erupt in fury."[2]:151 So exactly how much of Truman's actions were done out of a desire to appease Republicans seems to vary depending on the circumstances quite heavily.

Truman did confront the Soviet Union long before the Republican midterm election victory in 1946. As Joe Conason writes:

Her duped readers will believe that [George C.] Marshall and President Harry S. Truman opposed Stalin only because Republicans won the midterm elections in 1946. They probably won't know that Truman confronted the Soviets in the Mediterranean with a naval task force several months before Election Day; or that the new Republican majority cut Truman's requested military budget by $500 million as soon as they took over Congress in January 1947, nearly crippling the American occupation of Germany and Japan; or that Truman, Marshall and Dean Acheson had to plead with the isolationist Republican leadership to oppose Russian designs on Greece and Turkey.[14]

What makes a traitor?[edit]

Treason is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as "the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family."[15] If one is waiting for examples of this to be found in her book, they're sadly mistaken. Instead, Coulter seems to define "treason" as simply opposition to whatever America is doing at that given time, or just being on the left politically — that also works.

Under a definition as loose as that, literally anybody could be considered a traitor — including some of the farthest right people in the US. Coulter writes to prove that Democrats hate America "By the time of the 1991 Gulf War, only ten Senate Democrats voted with President Bush to use troops against Saddam Hussein. If the old Democratic Party was merely obstuse, the new Democratic Party was a beachhead of domestic anti-Americanism."[2]:12 However, at the time of the Gulf War, another person opposed to it was Ann Coulter.[16]

In the same regard, right-wing critics of the then-ongoing Iraq War and War on Terror go virtually unmentioned. Pat Buchanan (who defended Nazi war criminals, by the way[17]:177-178) is briefly mentioned for his declaration that "Congress could vote with the Contras or vote with the Communists"[2]:177 and then disappears from the book altogether. Ron Paul gets no mention.

Do you know did our enemies though? Joseph McCarthy! Going back to Joe Conason wrote:

Coulter discusses McCarthy's impressive high school record in considerable loving detail. But somehow she neglects to mention McCarthy's first moment in the national spotlight. That was his infamous 1949 campaign on behalf of Nazi S.S. officers who were convicted of war crimes for the massacre of American troops in the town of Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge. On their orders, 83 American prisoners of war had been murdered by Waffen S.S. machine-gunners. The S.S. officers were sentenced to death, but McCarthy insisted that the entire case was a frame-up, with confessions obtained by horrific torture. He intervened in Senate hearings on the case and lied repeatedly during his defense of the Nazi murderers. His most spectacular claim was that the American investigators had crushed the testicles of German prisoners as an interrogation technique. McCarthy was later shown to have served as the pawn of neo-Nazi and communist provocateurs who were using the Malmedy case to whip up anti-American sentiment in postwar Germany. The main source for his false charges concerning Malmedy was a Germany lawyer named Rudolf Aschenauer, whose closest ties were to the postwar Nazi underground and to American right-wing isolationists, but who has also been identified as a communist agent. Aschenauer testified at U.S. Senate hearings in Germany that he had passed information about Malmedy to McCarthy. The S.S. officers were guilty, as the Senate report confirmed — although most of them later got their death sentences commuted in a gesture to former Nazi officials who aided the West in the Cold War. But McCarthy had succeeded in his larger purpose, winning publicity for himself and casting a negative light on the war-crimes trials.

By Coulter's loose definition, his involvement in the Malmedy incident proves that McCarthy was a "traitor." He lied publicly to advance totalitarian forces in Europe against American interests. He sided with enemy forces against American soldiers. He falsely accused American officials of crimes. Moreover, he took up this tainted cause at least in part because of heavy financial support from an ultra-right-wing German-American businessman in Wisconsin. He managed to help both Nazis and communists at once, a feat rarely seen since the end of the Hitler-Stalin pact.[14]


  1. If "McCarthyism" is a myth, somebody should have really considered telling McCarthy, given he published a book of his speeches with the title, McCarthyism, The Fight For America.[3]


  1. Lies (and the Lying Liars That Tell Them): A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right-Wing by Al Franken (2003) Dustton. ISBN 0525947647.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism by Ann Coulter (2003) Crown Forum. ISBN 978-1-4000-5030-7.
  3. McCarthyism: The Fight For America: Documented Answers to Questions Asked by Friend and Foe'' by Joseph McCarthy (1952) Devin-Adair Co.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Senator Joe McCarthy by Richard H. Rovere
  5. How Comrade Mao was perceived in the Soviet Union
  6. Downfall of Relations Between Mao and Khrushchev
  7. Edward R. Murrow - A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy
  8. Joseph McCarthy responds to Edward R Murrow
  9. Edward R Murrow's final reply to Senator Joseph McCarthy's See It Now appearance April 13, 1954
  10. Top 10 Most Hated People In History
  11. The Man Who Kept The Secrets: Richard Helms And The CIA by Thomas Powers (1979) Knopf. ISBN 0394506782.
  12. Haynes and Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet espionage in America (1999), p. 17
  13. Texas Freedom Network, "Rehabilitating Joseph McCarthy?"
  14. 14.0 14.1 Has she no shame?
  15. Treason
  16. Ann Coulter Said Anti-War Dems Were ‘Traitors.’ Now She Says ‘War Is Like Crack for’ Trump
  17. Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations by Al Franken (Delacorte Press, 1996) ISBN 0-385-31474-4