There are those perhaps over-scrupulous, perhaps fanatical people who believe that a mass murderer came to speak at Harvard last Monday night and was greeted without significant protest.
The man in question is William E. Colby, one-time director of Central Intelligence. About the lack of significant squabble accompanying his visit to the Law School Forum there can be no question.
There were only about 25 protesters, most of whom were from the Sparticist Youth League and The Crimson.
They tried to make the case that Colby's involvement in a U.S.-inspired assassination program in Vietnam some years ago, among other things, tainted him as a genocidist.
The audience inside, sheltered from the sub-zero wind-chill cold that the protesters endured, didn't seem to believe that, though. Most politely applauded Colby when he finished. They listened patiently when he explained the necessity for gathering information about other countries. They did not offer dissent when he said that he tried to reform the CIA in 1973, before the sensational revelations about assassinations of foreign leaders, deals with Mafia hit-men, domestic spying, etc.
Colby himself was and is an anomaly: a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Princeton in 1940, a Wall Street lawyer after that, he headed the Pheonix Program in Viet Nam in the mid-'60s. Daniel Ellsberg '52 and others estimate that possibly 70,000 anti-Saigon government leaders were killed in that program's giant dragnet.
The former Central Intelligence head said Monday night that Pheonix was only one part of the larger pacification program, and that it largely involved distributing arms to villagers who, for all we knew, were apolitical or Communist. In any event, Colby said, 85 per cent of the Pheonix's 20,000 victims were killed in legitimate military skirmishes.
A couple of people, following Colby's lecture, had some queries about other matters the well-spoken bespectacled bureaucrat was involved in. Most wondered about Colby's justification for knowing about the coup that overthrew the elected, leftwing Chilean government in 1973, and not informing then-President Salvador Allende about it.
Colby said, mainly, that the decision not to tell Allende about the coup was a policy verdict made by others, presumably in the White House (Nixon) and State Department (Kissinger), and that the intelligence "community" was only concerned with implementation of that decision.
There were 300 people listening to Colby Monday night at Ames Courtroom; that figure beats by 150 the number who turned out to see Colby in his other major appearance here, in November 1974. But two years ago those 150 showed up to demonstrate against him.