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IGNORING two protest letters from a cluster of usually pro-Administration academics, Secretary of State Dean Rusk has remained steadfast in his refusal to grant Yugoslavian author Vladimir Dedijer a visa to teach at M.I.T. this spring. Rusk's ban is clearly a frightened, anti-Communist reaction, revealing more clearly than ever how vulnerable the Administration considers itself on the Vietnam war.
Dedijer is being kept out of the U.S. under the Immigration and Naturality Act of 1952, which permits the exclusion of aliens who might "engage in activities...prejudicial to the public interest." A State Department official said recently that his visit was considered "untimely,"--translation: last summer Dedijer served as president of Bertrand Russell's war crimes tribunal, which condemned American actions in Vietnam.
The Russell tribunal was little more than a symbolic gesture against the war, although it did gather together nearly 500 pounds of evidence on alleged U.S. war crimes in Vietnam. And Dedijer himself has often been condemned by Yugoslavian Communists for his "pro-Americanism." Given this background, it is difficult to see how his presence in the U.S. as a visiting professor of humanities could be contrary to the national interest. If the State Department kept out every alien opposed to the war in Vietnam, the U.S. balance of payments would be dealt a staggering blow.
The ban is a serious breach of academic freedom, imposing a substantive restriction on the right of a university to hire anyone it chooses to teach its courses. A general application of Rusk's restriction would bar most of Europe's great philosophers, teachers, and other intellectuals from American universities--an action hardly in the long-range national interest.
Dedijer is a highly-respected academic with previous appointments at several British and American universities, including Harvard. His books include The Beloved Land and Yugoslav-Albanian Relations, which the U.S. government itself has republished. In 1954, he was expelled from Yugoslavia's Central Committee of Communists for his defense of free speech--and Rusk has now picked up the Central Committee's persecution.
The ban is a continuation of the Administration's jittery crack-down on dissent that started with last month's indictment of the Boston Five for draft conspiracy. It should be lifted.
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