Blasting Burchett


To the Editors of the Crimson:

Gay Seidman's column on Wilfred Burchett in this week's Crimson should not pass without notice. Here is a friendly protrait of a man until recently barred from the United States, now once again in circulation to sell his new book. Seidman describes Burchett as a war correspondent better able to understand the Vietnam War than American reporters because of his intimacy with Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Cong, and as a life-long supporter of popular revolutions around the world.

She writes amid new charges against Burchett--not only in the Hearst newspapers, which she brushes off, but also in newspapers which were harshly critical of America's presence in Vietnam, such as the New York Post. Though she alludes to the charges, she does not mention the most serious ones. The Post story reported that Burchett was well known to American prisoners of war in the north as the man who would try to wring phony confessions from them, using savage threats of force, and then doctoring their words for use in North Vietnamese propaganda. It would be a great understatement to say that many of the POWs retained a very lively disgust for this man, whom they thought a shameless lackey for a tyrannic regime.

If Seidman were unaware of these charges, or if she knew of them but failed to ask Burchett about them, she was remiss as a newspaperwoman. If she thought them not important enough to ask about, she was remiss as a decent human being. If she did ask, but spared us what Burchett told her, then she was not being truthful with her readers.

An account of such indecency might spoil her agreeable picture of Burchett, and this pleasant "peripatetic fellow" might have seemed better worth contempt than an encouraging column. But it is time that American supporters of Ho Chi Minh and his successors gave up the delusion that the barbaric tyranny under which all Vietnam now groans, and which the ill-managed American effort bravely tried to spare the south, is tempered by any particular humanity. James W. Muller '73

Seidman Replies:

The Crimson interviewed Burchett before the Post published its article, and was thus unable to ask his response. He has, however, denied the charges completely; as far as I know, they have been printed only by papers owned by Murdoch and the John Birch Society. In addition, the Hearst papers have printed charges that Burchett was a KGB agent, as I reported.