ONWARD WITH crime reports. Here is a honey. Before you laugh, please remember the author of this letter, from which I excerpt, is undoubtedly rotting away in some dungeon, having struck his blow for the dignity of mankind.
The man who wrote it, and nothing will pry his name from me, was given a modest sum of money to take part in some project of interest to our government in Asia.
He does not know our language flawlessly, as you will see, but when our government demanded an accounting for the money he spent, he responded with a nobility any one of us might envy. He wrote (and this is fairly brave reporting, if I may pat myself on the back, since I think it is now a high crime to print anything in the archives of any government agency without permission):
"I answer late (a year late) the letter about expenses vouchers and so on for a travel made to Pakistan going to Ceylon on the - Project.
"I send you the SF-102 white form with my signature with nothing more. I spent all the money they gave me. I don't remember the amount. That is absolutely true. But I have no papers, no remembrances, no receipts, all about. Sorry.
"I hope you can put yourself the reasons of expenses, because all travellers going to Ceylon have, I presume, the same allowance.
"I hope that it will be feasible for you. Eventually you can write in the SF-1012 that I killed a camel, 2 elephants and 25 dogs and had to pay those poor animals. And I took luxurious 'mille et une nuits ' taxis. Or that I was robbed.
"I helped poor girls. I was munificent with beggars. I suffered belly pains in Ramadam's days. I went to Taxila covering devotously hundreds of Lord Buddha statues with rare flowers and gems. I helped agains poor girls. Etc., Etc., Etc. "As said our friend Willy, put all that, dear friend, As You Like. Sincerely, -."
Bet you never even thought of belly pains in Ramadan's days.
Nobody ever knew an American president to lie, so I, for one, assume that none of the men being tried for treason in Russia was a spy for the American government. President Carter says they weren't.
And since in America we suspend judgment in court matters until we know what the evidence is, or learn what some of the facts are, we are never in the position of judging guilt or innocence at the beginning of a trial.
The thing that struck me as the most strange this week, during the various hours I spent in the Rayburn Building listening to "testimony" before a House-Senate committee, was that everybody except me had proof positive to begin with that the accused are saints.
The only question was whether our country should abandon the arms limitation talks, or stop all trade, or merely cultural exchanges. We might not let Ali make any more good-will trips, I gathered. That would show 'em.
In our country the Rosenberg case is the last one I can think of off-hand in which the grave issue of treason was raised, and the Rosenbergs were executed. Of course there is some question now whether they should have been. Quibble, quibble, quibble.
If the Soviet premier and press and so forth had threatened at the beginning of the Rosenberg trial about the mockery of American justice (before hearing the evidence presented at the trial) some Americans might have thought it a poor way to win clemency for the Rosenbergs.
It may be perfectly true that the accused in Russia are martyrs to the caused of freedom, and that the charges against them are the height of cynical barbarism. But on the day the trial began, before any word had been spoken in court, it is reckless to prejudge the matter.
Soe say any Russian political trial is prejudged by the court and the defendant has no chance to begin with. Which is what the Communists said about the Rosenberg trials, of course.
The alacrity with which American opinion sprang to the assumption of innocence reflects a hositility to Russia (which is one thing) rather than a review of the law (which is something else).
But in Washington this week, virtually every congressperson who can still spot a microphone (and some are getting on) took the opportunity of expressing shock and revulsion at Soviet justice. Each of them knew, I suppose, in complete detail and in certain truth that the trials are utterly baseless and any evidence produced would be lies.
This struck me as a fascinating business. To sound off in righteous fury, especially when you don't have to do anything much, is always good for the lungs and the circulation of the blood.
And as every competent politician knows nothing beats the sound old adage of the Common Law:
American reaction, American style, unfortunately has always interested me more than the Soviet.
I did get one good tip on how to negotiate from Natalya Solzhenitsyn, formerly a Soviet citizen.
"You can negotiate with canniblas," she said, "but you should make it clear that I am a human and you are a cannibal."
That approach always brings excellent results.