In response to:

An Autopsy from the December 17, 1987 issue

To the Editors:

Theodore Draper in his article on the Iran-Contra affair [NYR, December 17, 1987] cites me as a participant in a State Department “white propaganda” campaign, quoting a memo by a former official of the State Department Office of Public Diplomacy, one Jonathan Miller. Miller’s memo, published in a General Accounting Office report prepared at the request of Congressmen Jack Brooks and Dante Fascell alleges that I “collaborated with our staff” in writing an op-ed piece which appeared in the March 11, 1985, Wall Street Journal.

The facts are as follows: Late in 1984 I was approached by the Office of Public Diplomacy to prepare an assessment of the impact of the introduction of sophisticated helicopter gunships into Nicaragua by the Soviet Union. I did so on a $500 contract. I subsequently wrote the Wall Street Journal op-ed. The two pieces of work were separate and distinct. The op-ed went directly from my word processer to the Journal’s editorial desk. It was based entirely on my knowledge and research; the analysis and conclusions which it contained were mine and mine alone. I collaborated with no one in its preparation. Ironically, it was highly critical of the Reagan administration. I have had no contact of any kind with Mr. Miller and would not know him if I fell over him. The GAO did not contact me to determine the accuracy of their allegations prior to issuing the report, which went on the Associated Press wire by means of a leak to a San Francisco broadcast station on Friday, October 2nd, embargoed for a Monday release. The story received wide newspaper coverage Monday, but was dropped as soon as editors made the normal checks for accuracy. To the best of my knowledge, no major daily newspaper continued coverage of the story on Tuesday and television did not cover it at all, eloquent testimony to the credibility of the GAO report which Mr. Draper uses as his sole source of information for my alleged involvement in illegal activities.

All of this is, and was, readily verifiable. Mr. Draper is guilty either of extraordinarily sloppy research or of deliberately impugning my character.

I sincerely hope that your journal is unwilling to be used as a tool of McCarthyism…and I do not use the term lightly. We err in associating McCarthyism with a political philosophy; it is, rather, a procedure: the abuse of the investigative powers of the Congress to intimidate, silence and smear, which is precisely what Mr. Draper has done in my case.

Please publish this letter along with an apology.

John F. Guilmartin, Jr.

Associate Professor of History

The Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio

Theodore Draper replies:

Professor Guilmartin is being disingenuous. His bluster will get him nowhere.

As he says, I reported on a message dated March 13, 1985, from Jonathan S. Miller, then of the Office of Public Diplomacy located in the State Department, to Pat Buchanan, then director of communications in the White House. I devoted exactly one sentence to Professor Guilmartin. It read:

Miller cited an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal of March 11, 1985, by Professor John F. Guilmartin, Jr., an adjunct professor of history at Rice University in Houston, who “has been a consultant in our office and collaborated with our staff in the writing of this piece.”

This sentence was based on the paragraph on Professor Guilmartin in Miller’s message to Buchanan:

Attached is a copy of the op-ed piece that ran two days ago in The Wall Street Journal. Professor Guilmartin has been a consultant to our office and collaborated with our staff in the writing of this piece. It is devastating in its analysis of the Nicaraguan arms build-up. Officially, this office had no role in its preparation.

If Professor Guilmartin wishes to complain to someone, it should be to Jonathan S. Miller and the Office of Public Diplomacy. I had a copy of the original article in The Wall Street Journal: its subject matter coincided exactly with that mentioned by Miller, “the Nicaraguan arms build-up.” Its title was “Nicaragua Is Armed for Trouble.”

Now Professor Guilmartin tells us that he did accept five hundred dollars from the Office of Public Diplomacy “to prepare an assessment of the impact of the introduction of sophisticated helicopter gunships into Nicaragua by the Soviet Union”—exactly the main subject of his article. But he denies that this “assessment” had anything to do with his article.

Evidently Jonathan S. Miller did not think so; the article appeared on March 11, 1985, and Miller sent his message on March 13, 1985.

I am quite willing to believe that the article went directly from his word processor to the Journal’s editorial desk. But that does not mean his “assessment” for the Office of Public Diplomacy and the article for The Wall Street Journal were “separate and distinct.” The subject matter was identical; how the article got to The Wall Street Journal is beside the point.

As for his obfuscation about how the media treated the story, there was no reason to continue to play the story on Tuesday after the Monday release; it was not an earthshaking item. The real point is that Professor Guilmartin did not get any part of the media to put out a correction of the original story. I waited and found none. For a story that is now four months old, he waited a long time to complain in, of all places, The New York Review of Books; it is odd that he did not get a correction in The New York Times or The Washington Post.

If anyone is guilty of sloppy research, it is Professor Guilmartin. He even misrepresents his own article; it was not “highly critical of the Reagan administration.” It is mentioned only once: “In all of this, we have missed something important. It is not that acceptance by the U.S. media, if not the Reagan administration, of the delivery of jet trainers and helicopters to Nicaragua has established a precedent for the subsequent delivery of MiGs. That is valid as far as it goes. The real point is twofold: The L39Zs and Mi24s, particularly the latter, represent a major threat in themselves. Second, their arrival must be viewed as one more piece of a greater puzzle, the formation in Central America of a classic Soviet-style offensive combined arms team.” This hardly counts as being “highly critical of the Reagan administration.”

He says that I used a “GAO report” to allege that he was involved in “illegal activities.” I actually used the text of the message from Miller to Buchanan after it was declassified by the State Department.

As for the allegation of “illegal activities,” there is not the slightest hint of it in my single sentence about him. I do not even know whether he did anything that was illegal; that was not the point.

He also seems to think that I may have deliberately impugned his character. Again, there is no hint of any such thing in my sentence. In any case, I was interested in the “character” of the Office of Public Diplomacy, not in his character.

Finally, the reference to McCarthyism is simply silly. First, he accuses Congress of abusing its investigative powers “to intimidate, silence and smear.” Then he accuses me of the same three sins. A good test of this triplet is the word “silence.” Whom did I “silence”? Certainly not Professor Guilmartin. I surely did not intimidate or smear him by mentioning in one sentence a statement from an official document about his collaboration with the Office of Public Diplomacy—a statement that may not have been repeated, for whatever reason, but was not repudiated or corrected.

An Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University should know better than that.

This Issue

March 31, 1988