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Sweden: Sartre’s S

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Banned in France by Charles de Gaulle and officially ignored by the U.S. Government, which it seeks to indict, the “International War Crimes Tribunal” of British Philosopher Bertrand Russell finally convened in Stockholm last week. In the ultramodern Folkets Hus (People’s House) amphitheater, Jean-Paul Sartre, long a Communist crony, called together a sullen séance of left-wing conjurors who had reached their verdict long before the trial started. Had not Russell already said, after all, that the U.S. was clearly guilty of war crimes? Nevertheless, Sartre started off the session—Russell was too frail to come—with some typically existentialist flummery. “The tribunal’s legitimacy,” he proclaimed, “derives simultaneously from its powerlessness and its universality. We can receive no orders. We will examine the facts in our souls and consciences.”

The 15-member tribunal, its staff and audience included a few eminentance leaders, bearded boys and well-scrubbed young girls. What they heard was a grim recital from “witnesses” whom Russell had dispatched to North Viet Nam this year. They dutifully returned with reports of U.S. bombings of schools and hospitals, napalming of infants, experiments with antipersonnel weapons and numerous other atrocities.

Because of Swedish laws prohibiting public attacks on friendly heads of state, however, the Russell tribunal took pains to avoid mentioning the man whom they had really wanted to indict—President Lyndon Johnson. Though many of the Swedes do not approve of the U.S. course in Viet Nam, they were nonetheless embarrassed at having such a group taking advantage of their neutrality and free-speech laws.

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