The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

[This column has emendations. View original version]


NEW YORK—It is interesting to find Sen. Strom Thurmond, Democrat of South Carolina, attacking the private memorandum sent by Senator Fulbright of Arkansas to Defense Secretary McNamara. Sen. Fulbright objects to military sponsorship of public forums which present what the Senator calls "radical right wing speakers," and Sen. Thurmond calls the memorandum an attack on "our military leaders and their participation in efforts to give American citizens the facts about Communism and the cold war." Sen. Thurmond also asked the Senate to vote up to $75,000 for an inquiry by the Armed Services Committee into the "uses of military personnel and facilities to arouse the public to the menace of the cold war."

Senator Fulbright's confidential memorandum probably grew out of the fact that the Birch Society has appealed to some of our military leaders, who have tried to influence the men under them with some of the same type of thinking. Yet there was a time when there would have been no question of an officer in our armed forces indoctrinating the men under him with specific political views. I grew up with the idea that the military services voted as they chose, that neither officers nor men were asked any questions about their politics, and certainly no officers took any part in indoctrinating activities.

During World War II, I remember, classes might be given on issues and discussions held, but I cannot remember that any officers took part in the capacity of lecturers on these subjects from a partisan point of view. They simply furnished information or sources of information, without advocating specific conclusions. Indeed, it would not seem to me proper for an officer to advocate a special viewpoint, because it would be so easy for young people who wanted to please to acquiesce in whatever seemed a popular point of view with their superiors.

I hope the Senate will not vote another investigation, which would seem to me a waste of money. A hands-off policy on the part of officers as regards the indoctrination of men seems a wise solution.

In the light of the Tunisian question, it is easy to understand the feeling that is sweeping Africa against allowing foreign powers any installations of a military character. Nevertheless, where there is a treaty such as existed between France and Tunis specifically granting the right to France for these installations, the change must be brought about by negotiation. Mr. Bourguiba may well have felt that this was slow and possibly unprofitable; and if the question had been brought to the U. N. without any military attack by the Tunisians, I would have judged this a proper question for discussion. I do not feel that the attack should have come first, since France was in Bizerte under her treaty rights.

It is becoming increasingly evident that no foreign military installations should be left on the soil of any people who are given the right of self-government. These simply continue to be a reminder of colonialism, which is something any nation has a right to try and forget. In the case of France and Tunisia there fortunately seems to be a willingness on both sides to come to terms now and to set a timetable for the final withdrawal of French troops. One wishes that the process could begin by withdrawing the military installations, but leaving the technical personnel for a somewhat later departure. This would allow for a better adjustment within the country gaining its freedom.

E. R.

(Copyright, 1961, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 7, 1961

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.