Ordeal by Slander

I’ve been reading Ordeal By Slander by Owen Lattimore, and it’s a very informative view of the McCarthy era, which shows the impact on one American family of Senator Joe McCarthy’s unconscienable tactics.

McCarthy accused Lattimore of being the number one Russian spy in the United States, a charge that never had any basis in fact.

Historians in the post-Soviet era with access to Soviet records have found no evidence of any connection to Owen Lattimore, whose only crime was to be the top US scholar on the Far East during the years when China was “lost” to communism.

A nation of 450 million people. How careless can you be?

So why did  this alcoholic senator stake his reputation on this baseless accusation? Now I know. He was paid off by the China Lobby.

This was a group that believed that anyone opposed to unrestricted aid to the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai Shek was a communist.

McCarthy was the instrument of a foreign interest — the Chinese Nationalists — who were never in a position to actually govern China, as anyone with half a brain could clearly see. 

Don’t take my word for it, read Barbara Tuchman’s book about Stillwell and the American Experience in China.

Lattimore expressed the opinion that if the US threw its full support to Chiang Kai Shek and the Nationalists, the Chinese communists would have to ask for help from the Soviet Union, which would have changed the whole picture quickly, and history shows he was right.

Lattimore also shows how McCarthy’s tactics did irreparable harm to the global fight against communism in other counties in the Far East.

But the most important message the reader gets from this book is what happens when demogogues play on our national sense of fear.

The US is the mightiest nation on earth, so naturally we should be more fearful than anyone else. 

There is an active faction in this country working hard to intensify our national sense of fear, and I hope they meet the same fate as Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was exposed as a fraud and subsequently drank himself to death.