INVESTIGATIONS: Absent-Minded Professor?

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The hue & cry over Owen Lattimore, the professor and publicist who played an influential role* in the shaping of U.S. Far Eastern policy, is part of a greater clamor of alarm: What U.S. mistakes led to the Communist conquest of China and the assault in Korea? Who is responsible for the mistakes?

Last week, as Lattimore testified in his own behalf before a panel of inquiring Senators, the U.S. learned a good deal more about the professor and a little bit more about the how & why of mistakes in the Far East.

Witnesses Against. The public examination of Lattimore's record goes back to 1950. After Wisconsin's Senator Joe McCarthy charged that Lattimore was a "top Soviet espionage agent," the Senate Tydings committee held hearings and gave the professor a ringing clearance. But not everyone was convinced that the last word had been said. Since last July, a Senate subcommittee on Internal Security, headed by Nevada's Pat McCarran, had been going over the ground again. Main points in testimony:

¶ Only one witness, ex-Communist Louis Budenz, definitely called Lattimore a Communist.

¶ Another witness, former Red Army Intelligence Officer Alexander Barmine, said that his Russian superiors referred to Lattimore as one of "our men."

¶ Documents were produced from the files of the Institute of Pacific Relations to show pro-Communist influence on Pacific Affairs, I.P.R. magazine edited by Lattimore (1934-41).

¶ Presidential Aspirant Harold Stassen, Ex-Diplomat Eugene Dooman, Professors William McGovern, Kenneth Colegrove and Karl Wittfogel variously testified that Lattimore, Far East specialist and Director of the Walter Hines Page School of International Relations at Johns Hopkins, followed a line favorable to the Communists, and that his ideas had powerful backing in the State Department.

The Defense. To rebut this testimony, Lattimore came last week before the McCarran subcommittee with a 50-page statement that bristled with some of the angriest denunciation ever directed by a witness to a congressional inquiry. Lattimore's statement (released to the press before he took the stand) categorically denied that he had ever been a Communist or proCommunist. It minimized his influence on U.S. policymaking and said that actually he stood for containment of Communism, Point Four and peace. It berated the McCarran inquiry as "stacked" against him, accused it of launching "a reign of terror" against U.S. diplomats. Not since the late Harold Ickes had any polemicist turned on more derisive invective.

Lattimore called McCarthy the "Wisconsin whimperer ... a graduate witch-burner." He raked Budenz as perjured and immoral, Stassen as "irresponsible," the Nationalist Chinese as "driftwood on the beaches of Formosa." He even flailed away at people who had not appeared before the committee; for California's Senator William Knowland, who believes the Nationalists should get more U.S. support, Lattimore picked up a Communist-favored sneer, "The Senator from Formosa."

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