The Corpus Christi Caller-Times from Corpus Christi, Texas on August 12, 1951 · Page 34
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The Corpus Christi Caller-Times from Corpus Christi, Texas · Page 34

Corpus Christi, Texas
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 12, 1951
Page 34
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-The Oatis case insults every American and By SENATOR HERBERT R. O'CONOR A DISTINGUISHED Maryland legislator tells why the jailing of reporter William Oatij by Czech Commonijfj jhamej all of uj ... and outlines a program for action. * * * WASHINGTON. W E'VE GOT TO DO something for BiU Oatis. You know the facts about him: how the Czech Communist government arrested him without warning a few weeks ago, held him prisoner, and then in June staged a mock trial at which he was accused - and convicted - of "espionage." You know, too, that his employers, the Associated Press, have confirmed that he was not remotely connected with spying for the U. S. You know that because of torture or drugs or both, young, bespectacled William N. Oatis was made to "confess" to crimes he didn't commit, e And if you're like me, you felt an angry, frustrating rage when the word came that the Czechs, after their phony "trial-," ha,d sentenced Bill Oatis to ten long years in some Communist prison. That they scornfully announced his sentence would be cut to five years for "extenuating circumstances" didn't seem to help much. ./ was downright incensed to think they'd had the gall to handle a responsible, law-abiding American newsman that way. I suspect you were, too. * e That's one reason why I feel that concrete action to get BUI Oatis out of his fix is a top issue today. We simply can't let his case drag on and on, without solution or remedy, as happened to Robert Vogeler when he was imprisoned by the Hungarians under similar cir- fUTUtt AUGUST 12. 1931 cumstances nearly two years ago. ,e In my opinion, Bill Oatis could be any one of us. He could be you. The Communists simply wanted to shame America. It didn't really matter that their victim's name was Oatis, or that he was a reporter. Almost any U. S. citizen would have served their purposes as well. For the Communists are telling the world this: "Look-we've arrested an American. We've tried him and sent him to jail, and the AMERICAN GOVERNMENT HASN'T BEEN ABLE TO DO A THING ABOUT IT! "Doesn't that prove," they seem to be saying, "that all that talk about the United States being the world's most powerful country is nonsense? Our Chinese Communist allies are right -the United States IS just a 'paper tiger!'" Already our spokesmen have been much too · "nice-nelly" with the Communists. We've lost some definite diplomatic advantages in the Cold War. In plenty of instances, in China, in Germany, and at" the U. N., when we've been stern, we've won. More important, our representatives have already confused neutral and friendly nations as to where we VOGELER (center) was reunited with his family only after 18 months of solitary confinement. stand with respect to Communism. · Other countries wonder just what we mean when we carry on normal trade and diplomatic relations with countries that insult us publicly and lay hands on our citizens. It's not in keeping with our dignity, nor our strength. And the more we put up with, the more other nations, including the puny satellites of Russia, keep handing us. I'm disappointed with our policy, and I know other Americans are, too. e In the case of Bill Oatis, unless we act fast -and hard-the Czechs and their Russian masters will think we simply don't care. They'd be wrong, but so far all we've done is to forbid additional travel in Czechoslovakia and ask politely for Bill Oatis' release. That's a handpat where we need to deal a blow that will be felt. And unless we take action now for Bill Oatis, there are sure to be others in the future who will suffer as he has. But before we discuss just how we can administer a few hard, blows, let's discuss one step that would be inadvisable at the present time. I'm sure we can't send the Marines or the Air Force. This Isn't Movie Stuff CAN'T drop 500 paratroopers'on Prague, as one proposal had it, have them capture Oatis' prison and lead him home to freedom. We can't send a dozen "undercovermen" toPrague, either, and expect them to free Bill Oatis and spirit him into the U.S. Zone of Gerrhahy. ·I think the Czechs would Actually tike to have us try some such, military act. They wouldlove to be able to teU the world; *'L)k-it's the Americans who are the aggressors!" e Even more important, acts like these, which are definitely rrulitary,inightweU bring on World War m. Our policy is a peace policy- genuiriely so. We don't want another world war, and right now we and our allies probably could not withstand a Communist attack without great losses. e Much as we want to help out Bill Oatis-and ourselves-w?e need not start war. here's what we can do NOW In the same way, it would be fine if we could indict Klement Gottwald or some of the other leaders of Czechoslovakia before the World Court or the United Nations. Although we could not try them now, the mere fact of such an indictment would exert enormous influence on world opinion. Unfortunately, there simply isn't any mechanism by which we could, do such a thing. All we can do is to appeal to the U.N. to investigate and condemn Oatis' false conviction. Well, then, just what can we do for Bill Oatis? What measures can we take that will (a) worry the Communists; (b) force them to think twice about holding^an American citizen; and (c) not imperil his life or health? I think there are at least six positive steps that we can take, starting now. Here they are: I Shut off trad* with Czechoslovakia. ... I know there's an argument against this. I know that we buy $7 million worth of goods from the Czechs every three months, while they buy only $750,000 from us. It's a small amount, hardly worth mentioning, say some of the experts, so why bother? But I say: shut it off anyway! The longer we keep buying their glassware and cameras while they hold an innocent American prisoner on false charges, the longer we seem meek to the world. Let's be tough, even if-it costs us something! What's more, let's start at once to get British and French agreement on cutting off all West German trade with Czechoslovakia. That will really hurt the Communists-and the sooner the better. 2 Get rid of all foreign Communist .journalists assigned to the United States. There are only a handful of such reporters, but through Tass and other agencies they funnel thousands of words a day -to Red capitals, where these reports are often used against us. We can go even further, and close the agencies. Just as the Communist party isn't legitimate, Communist news agencies aren't operating here as legitimate press representatives. If we do this, can we be accused of denying press freedom? With advocating free exchange of information but in practice blocking it? Only superficially. I think it would be easy to show the world that Tass functions here only as a Communist agency-and that .the sooner it is rooted out of all free countries, the better. 3 Let's expect to sever diplomatic re. lotions with Czechoslovakia. .I'm tempted to sy-let's do it now. For the moment, however, I think it's better to wait and see whether the Czechs will change their attitude through other pressures. If incidents like the Oatis case recur, the day will come when we'll have to show the world that Czechoslovakia's present rulers are not the kind with whom we can carry on normal relations. 4 Spare no effort to arraign the Com. munists at the bar of world public opinion. We've known for a long time that the one thing the Communists hate is to be shown up for what they are. The Oatis case gives us a concrete instance of Communist hypocrisy. Let's use it-and let's pound it home endlessly in broadcasts, pamphlets, books, newspapers. Let's demonstrate to the world through every means at our disposal -and we have a very great many-just how low SADLY, Mrs. William Oatis listens to recordings of her husband's testimony at Prague "trial." Communist "justice" can sink. One good step was recently taken in the House of Representatives, when Cong. A. A. Ribicoff of Connecticut introduced a Congressional resolution denouncing the Oatis trial. Official displeasure, expressed in this fashion, has great weight on world opinion. 5 Bargain for Oatis on our terms. . Sooner or later, the Czechs will probably want "blood money" for Oatis' freedom, just as the Hungarians demanded $70 million and other concessions in return for Robert Vogeler. We should bargain with them, because there's probably no other way- of getting Oatis back on our side of the Iron Curtain. Let's Be Hard-Headed B UT IN bargaining, let's be tough and hardheaded. Let's give nothing we don't have to give; and let's be sure Oatis is delivered before we give anything. And let's be sure also that the world knows well that Czechoslovakia is resorting to extortion and ransom - practices civilized nations gave up centuries ago. 6 Finally, let's keep up our rearma- . ment program. "If we keep on arming as we have for the past year," one important official of the Defense Department told me recently, "things like the Oatis and Vogeler cases will stop. "Foreign countries just don't try stunts like that when they know you're strong." I believe that statement-and I think all of us agree that this is no time to slacken our defense efforts. . _ . . · . . . * * * · ' · ·' e We'd all be delighted if the Oatis case could end like a movie with the U.S. Cavalry racing to the rescue. e But life isn't like that. It's more stern today than ever before, and the only happy endings are those we create for. ourselves, e That's my argument: we must make a happy ending to the BiU Oatis tragedy. We know how. The thing is to start. And to me, at least, tomorrow is too late. AUGUST 12, 195) ftrmtt 7

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