Roger Morris backs new book by Watergate revisionist Len Colodny in which Nixon comes off as a victim of neocons

Historians in the News

The controversial Watergate author Len Colodny has a new book out that is drawing the support of at least one mainstream historian. Colodny, co-author of the 1990s book, Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, alleged that that the Watergate break-in was orchestrated by John Dean. Few historians in the profession believed the book was credible. Colodny himself has backed off the charge that Nixon was an innocent victim of John Dean's manipulations. But Colodny's new book has won the support of at least one major Nixon biographer, Roger Morris.

In the new work, The Forty Years War: The Rise and Fall of Neocons, From Nixon to Obama, Colodny and co-author Tom Shactman trace the history of the Neo-Cons. Their astounding thesis is that Nixon was a victim of Neo-Cons machinations. According to Morris, who wrote a preface for the book, Colodny and Shactman provide new information and documentation from the 1970s for a “further revision of what they call the ‘toxic mix of fact, myth and distortions’ in the conventional view of the Watergate scandal, and a stunning revelation of how much Nixon’s historic fall traced to his statesmanship as well as his criminality.”

Nixon was long regarded with suspicion by right wing conservatives after he orchestrated detente with the USSR and reopened the door to China. That much is well-known. What Colodny argues is that early Neo-Cons, beginning with the powerful but obscure Fritz G. A. Kraemer, worked in the shadows to undermine his policies and overturn them. Later these same figures opposed Reagan's overtures to Gorbachev. Eventually, under Bush, they finally seized the reins of power and reoriented American foreign policy, winning the foreign policy war they had waged for forty years, a scandal in the eyes of Morris and Colodny. “The hold of Old World tribalism over Washington’s foreign policy through the second half of the twentieth century,” writes Morris, “and the start of the twenty-first is one of the great unacknowledged scandals in American governance.” Complains Morris:

[Neo-Conservatives] base self-promotion and intellectual emptiness would have been merely pathetic if it had not been paid for in a burst of blood in West Baghdad or the Helmand Valley, in hours of cemetery tears and years of hospital agony, in the squandering of national treasure from which, unlike the previous four decades of waste and plunder, there will be no escape.

In this new history of the last forty years, Richard Nixon, long the villain of our history, becomes a kind of hero martyred on the altar of his practical approach to foreign policy. Should others like Morris see virtues in Colodny's account, both Colodny and Nixon could see their reputations rise.


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