Reply to Lindbergh


By KEY PITTMAN, United States Senator from Nevada

Delivered in the Senate, October 14, 1939

Vital Speeches of the Day , Vol. VI, pp. 61-62.

COLONEL LINDBERGH brought glory to the United States through his courage and skill in pioneering a successful solo flight across the Atlantic. We respect and admire Colonel Lindbergh for his accomplishments and his high character. History does not disclose that Colonel Lindbergh has had the same experience in statesmanship and military affairs as he has had in flying, although his address in its learned expressions indicates a remarkable intuition. Summing up in his address, Colonel Lindbergh says: "I believe that we should adopt as our program of American neutrality as our contribution to Western Civilizationó the following policy:

"1. An embargo on offensive weapons and munitions.

"2. The unrestricted sale of purely defensive armaments.

"3. The prohibition of American shipping from the belligerent countries of Europe and their danger zones.

"4. The refusal of credit to belligerent nations or their agents."

1. An embargo on offensive weapons and munitions. Apparently, to Colonel Lindbergh's mind, a bomb is an offensive weapon, and yet our military experts tell us that bombs carried by airplanes would be one of the strongest defensive weapons against an attack upon our shores by an enemy fleet. Colonel Lindbergh apparently considers an airplane an offensive weapon because he desires the export of such weapon embargoed. Our military experts consider the airplane one of the strongest defensive weapons we have, and our Congress has approved this opinion by appropriating money for one of the largest aerial programs in history.

As I understand, Colonel Lindbergh has approved of this great military program for the defense of our country. Certainly Colonel Lindbergh, when he gave this advice, did not have in mind that we would use these planes for offensive purposes.

Colonel Lindbergh evidently considers powder an offensive weapon because it is on the embargo list. I cannot conceive how any country could defend itself successfully today without powder and explosives. Colonel Lindbergh evidently does not consider that gasoline and oil are offensive weapons because they are not on the embargo list; and yet the plane that carries the bomb that destroys the lives of innocent people could not operate without gasoline, and the submarine that destroys innocent neutral merchantmen, together with the lives of their seamen on boardówithout a traceócould not be operated without oil.

Statesmen must strive to be sincere as well as logical, even in the government of their sentiments.

2. The unrestricted sale of purely defensive armaments. This policy is totally undefined, as it becomes evident in the analysis of his No. 1 policy.

3. As to his third policy, that is carried out more strongly in the proposed legislation than was ever before undertaken by this country or any other.

4. As to his fourth policy, the existing law as well as theproposed law, in accordance with the opinion of the Attorney General of the United States on the Johnson Act, prohibits any credit to belligerent governments and that customary drafts, checks and acceptances are construed as cash. Colonel Lindbergh says:

"I do not believe that repealing the embargo would assist democracies in Europe, because I do not believe this is a war for democracy."

I don't know what definition Mr. Lindbergh gives to democracies or what definition he gives to totalitarian powers. There are certainly totalitarian powers in Europe and there are other powers that are not totalitarian, which are based upon principles of democracy as we understand such principles.

Was Czecho-Slovakia a democracy? Was Czecho-Slovakia attempting to defend her democracy or was Czecho-Slovakia engaged in power politics?

Was poor Poland mobilizing her forces and attempting to obtain arms, ammunition and implements of war for the purpose of power politics or for the purpose of defending her democracy?

Were Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, through the mobilization of their forces, preparing to defend their form of government, or were such mobilizations for the purpose of power politics?

Germany, before she brought about war against Czechoslovakia and Poland, purchased arms, ammunition and implements of war from the United States. Was it right to permit a country preparing for war to obtain arms, ammunition and implements of war, and when she was prepared, start war, and then to prevent her peaceful neighbors from obtaining the same materials for defense?

Are Finland, Norway and Sweden mobilizing their forces by reason of power politics and a desire for conquest?

Isn't it evident that they are threatened by conquest and are seeking to defend their democracies?

Colonel Lindbergh is patriotic beyond a doubt, and yet Colonel Lindbergh sees that the present law injures Great Britain and France, and that its repeal will remove such injury. Apparently he cannot see that the present law not only injures Great Britain and France but gives great aid to Germany, Italy and Russia. He can't see that one of our domestic laws, which aids one of the belligerents, is unneutral, but he thinks if we had no law at all then that would be unneutral.

The most unfortunate part of Colonel Lindbergh's statement is that it encourages the ideology of the totalitarian governments and is subject to the construction that he approves of their brutal conquest of democratic countries through war or threat of destruction through war.