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Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States, 1939-44 Paperback – January 1, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A fascinating study of the efforts of British intelligence to push America out of its isolationist stance and into the Allied camp during the early days of WW II. Freelance writer Mahl has convincingly drawn on a variety of sources--including recently declassified FBI and government files, memoirs, personal papers, and little-known official reports--to weave together a portrait of extraordinary schemes and activities. He argues that such conventional sources as the official British history of the war are misleading and inadequate. Britain, lacking the resources to fight Nazi Germany alone, needed the immense production capacities and vast manpower of the US to save itself. But the British government was deeply concerned about American intentions: The nation seemed both unpredictable and unreliable in its support of Britain. To gain American allegiance, Britain launched a sizable propaganda campaign and a number of intelligence actions, many carried out or managed by William Stevenson (``Intrepid''), Britain's spy extraordinaire. Mahl asserts that British agents had willing accomplices in FDR's White House, filled with an anglophile elite that identified deeply with Britain. His research reveals that foreign money was poured into some congressional elections to defeat isolationist politicians, that British agents spent money freely to ease the passage of the Lend- Lease Act, that they planted pro-British articles in interventionist newspapers and magazines, and that some national opinion polls were rigged to reflect a deeper and stronger pro- British sentiment than existed. British agents set up Bill Donovan's Office of Stragetic Services and helped run it, and they established or influenced a number of organizations pushing for American intervention. Their efforts were ingenious and effective. They were also either dubious or downright illegal, but Mahl argues that, given the desperate situation in Europe, Britain had little choice. A carefully researched, engrossing addition to WW II history and the history of covert operations. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books/Brassey's; 1st edition (January 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574882236
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574882230
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,888,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is the missing link showing how elites use their influence to bring us into wars, manipulate political conventions, conduct propaganda campaigns against the populace(now known as public diplomacy), and other dirty tricks.
For those students of power structure and are familiar with the work of the late Carrol Quigley, many of the people mentioned in his work play roles in this book.
Members of the Round Table network( a global network of discussion groups of people waging propaganda justifying the British Empire on moral grounds) include:
Walter Lippman - American Round Tabler, whose column in the Intl Herald Tribune was to guide American foreign policy in an anglophile direction.
Thomas Lamont - Director and Chrm of the Board at J.P. Morgan, allied with FDR and instrumental in getting lifelong Democrat Wendell Willkie the 1940 Republican Presidential nomination.
British members of the Round Table group include Ambassadors to the US - Lord Lothian(Phillip Kerr) and Lord Halifax. Some other members in MI6 in the US were also affiliated with this group.
The Rockefeller family also loaned much of the office space for the British intelligence operations during the war, so they definitely had some knowledge or approval of their operations. Nelson Rockefeller was also appointed Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs.
Basically, there was a group of influential anglophile Americans, who wanted to get America into the war with Germany, so they provided assistance to British intelligence, who set up front organizations to agitate in a pro-British manner. They recruited anglophiles to stage demonstrations to fight Germany, write pro-British propaganda, and destroy the careers of isolationist Congressmen.
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Format: Paperback
The book's thesis is that British and U.S. "elites" maneuvered us into WWII to serve the interests of the State. The corrupt Churchill and FDR and their respective intelligence agencies blindfolded the American public into believing that U.S. entrance into the war was justifiable on moral and political grounds.
As usual, the docile masses were swept away in all the rhetoric. Every attempt was made to smear the isolationists as Hitleresque and un-American. More often than not, with such media rhetoricians as Walter Lippman, the attempts were successful. Even today, the uneducated public is convinced that the Old Right anti-interventionist movement was Communist!
Mahl covers some old ground--for those who are familiar with the FDR-Churchill deception--but he writes a compelling story.
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Format: Paperback
Any reader on the broad topic of British Covert goals in WWWII would find this book does not break any new ground, except for Mahls's theory that FDR not only alowed the desparate Brits full reign in diplomatic and military affairs, but also may have allowed them to help select an unqualified opponent in the 1940 Presidential campaign.

If one were to search for books on Wendel Wilke, you would find few. I have read DARK HORSE, by Steve Neal, 1984 in which the subject of the Gallup Poll is discused. One of the reviewers faults Mahl, for his theory that covert ops influenced the 1940 polls. These polls did play a large part in Wilke's selection as Republican Presidential Candidate.

Neal writes that Dr. Gallup witheld his poll which showed Wilke ahead of well known but isolationists candidates, for fear that he would be accussed of attempting to influence the election.

Two points, one, Dr. Gallup confirms that his poll COULD appear to influence the 1940 primary. Secondly, the results of his poll were published by Joe Alsop and Thomas Kincaid before the convention. Both were supporters of the covert operations.

Whether Dr. Gallup, or others associated with Dr. Gallup did not participate, someone or several people inside the Gallup organization did.

Anyone who has read William Stephenson's first person account of this era, would have to agree that he was given political and diplomatic cover to conduct these activities within the US, with the full protection and knowledge of FDR and his administration.

FDR's political victory over Wilke in 1940 was an essential part of this plan, and therefor Mahl's theory is a well founded probability, and worthy of further consideration and debate.

The debate over Presidential discretion and power is extremly relevant in 2006.
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Format: Paperback
This is a shocking book. No, let's put it another way. I would have been shocked by this book had I not been educated about the corruption of the press with a crash course during the Clinton administration. What's truly revealing about Mahl's book is how long the press has been sold out to prevailing political power. In the period covered by the book, the prevailing power was the British and their internationalist collaborators here in the United States.
The legacy of the British intelligence service in the U.S. lives on with their spawn, the CIA:
"Further testimony to the success of British intelligence operations can be seen in the actions of Americans who, having learned the intelligence trade from the British, later flattered their teachers by copying their successful methods. The aggressive offensive spirit of British intelligence at war became the model for generations of American intelligence officers and government officials in the Cold War." ---
"Was [British] Special Operations Executive officer Bill Morrell planting twenty items a day in the media? The CIA planted eighty. Did BSC organize opposition for political candidates? The CIA did the same: the Italian election of 1948 is a known example. Did BSC introduce women and agents of influence to politicians? 'The CIA maintanis an extensive stable of 'agents of influence' around the world..from valets and mistresses to personal secretaries....'"
The planted stories in the American press included polls by British-penetrated "reputable" polling firms giving the impression that Americans were a good deal more eager to support the British in the war in Europe than was actually the case.
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