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"You should tell your friend Oliver North to send arms to the good guys" in Beijing, quipped Boston Globe Publisher William O. Taylor '54 to Chief Counsel to the Senate Iran-Contra Committee Arthur L. Liman '54.
"He'd probably sell arms to the wrong people," Liman responded.
The exchange took place during a Harvard 35th reunion symposium yesterday featuring five prominent graduates from the class of 1954.
Although the symposium was titled "Free Speech and the First Amendment," the five journalists and politicians spent the hour-and-a-half chatting about current events in a discussion moderated by Bromley Professor of Law Arthur R. Miller.
The symposium was informal, and the alumni interjected jokes into the conversation, which spanned the protests in China, elections in Poland, the resignation of House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tx.) and the Iran-Contra affair.
On the uprising in China, members of the panel hypothesized that the troops killing Beijing residents were so violent in part because frustration had built up in some army divisions, leading them to run amok in Tiananmen Square.
And Liman said control of the army would become increasingly crucial. "The big question is the loyalty of an army that is called the People's Army," Liman said.
The panelists said that the future of the pro-democracy students in China is uncertain.
"Some say the genie of democracy is out of the bottle, but history has shown it can be stuffed back in the bottle for a while," said Ronald P. Kriss '54, executive editor of Time magazine, citing as examples the post-war revolts in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and the provisional government that ruled the Soviet Union from February to October, 1917.
In a discussion of the Iran-Contra affair, the panel--which included President of the Ohio State Senate Stanley J. Aronoff '54--agreed that Lt. Col. Oliver North should be imprisoned for his role in the diversion of Iranian arms sales profits to the Nicaraguan contras.
"There was zealotry but also an attitude that the law was frustrating them from a noble cause," said Liman, who led the Senate questioning of North and other participants in the affair. "But rather than bow to these laws, they had to leapfrog them."
When the discussion turned to Wright, who has said he will resign over questions about his personal ethics, Kriss said that before Watergate, journalists had a different view of what was newsworthy.
"Those were the days when [reporters] were aware of things and didn't report them," said Kriss.
"Those were the days," joked U.S. Representative Anthony C. Beilenson '54 (D-Calif.), pretending to reminisce.
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