Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ordeal by Lattimore III

We last left the saga of Owen Lattimore as he was scrambling to explain to the Senate Internal Security subcommittee, in 1952, how it was that he forgot to mention that he'd briefed the POTUS, in 1945, on his recommendations for our policy toward post-WWII China. Not very successfully, as the subcommittee concluded in its final report on the hearings that the evidence showed that Lattimore had been a conscious agent of the Soviet Union and was a major factor in China's falling to Mao's Communists.

Further, the subcommittee forwarded the testimony of Lattimore to the Truman Justice Dept with a recommendation that he be investigated for perjury. With the result that a Grand Jury did indict him on seven counts of lying under oath. When the trial judge threw out four of the counts as too vague, the prosecutor appealed his decision and got two of the counts restored. Then, he re-submitted amended charges of Lattimore lying about having ever promoted the foreign policy goals of the Soviet Union to a Grand Jury.

The re-submission made the charges more specific--to cure the supposed defects that led the trial judge to dismiss the first charges--by citing nine specific things Lattimore did to promote Soviet policy, supported by 132 statements Lattimore had made.

Bolstered by the testimony of former Ambassador to Russia, Wm. C. Bullitt, who said that in 1936 Lattimore, while in Russia, came to the US embassy to urge him to recommend to FDR that we recognize Outer Mongolia as an independent state. Bullitt testified that it was obvious to anyone who knew anything at all--Lattimore spoke Mongolian--about the matter, that Mongolia was dominated by Russia. To Bullitt, either Lattimore was working for Russian interests or he was woefully ignorant of the political reality.

That Grand Jury duly re-indicted Lattimore on two counts of perjury. However, after the prosecutor attempted to get the judge in the case to disqualify himself as biased for Lattimore, he refused and again dismissed the new indictments. Finally, in 1955, two years of legal wrangling went for naught and the Justice Dept. concluded that it  would be pointless to proceed further in Judge  Luther Youngdahl's courtroom. Lattimore went unprosecuted.

Though he was not able to be as unbridled in his enthusiasm for that as he had been in 1950 when former Senator Millard Tydings exonerated him of essentially the same charges, after a kids glove treatment of the charges. That chapter had ended with Owen Lattimore inventing the slander of McCarthyism, in his book Ordeal By Slander. The irony not only lost on Lattimore, but on countless commenters to follow, to this day.

To which we will be returning, soon.

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