Let me first declare my interest in the issue. I am from Callistemon Publications and we published Tibor Méray’s book titled On Burchett. Neil James explained the issue about Wilfred Burchett insofar as members and ex-members of the Australian Defence Forces are concerned and others who follow the topic of the Koran war and indeed anyone who is interested in history.
Jamie Miller expressed a generally favourably description of Burchett. However, Miller (also in The New Critic) is ducking the numerous issues raised by Méray in the above book.
Neil James called for a civilised discussion where people address the issue rather then impute intentions of the debating partner, etc. Ironically, in the same issue of Crikey, Simon Nasht commits the very same offences. His contribution is replete with adjectives heaped on James and imputes sinister intentions behind anything untoward said about Burchett. If this essay was submitted by a high school student, I am certain the teacher would mark it down. When Nasht does quote facts, then these facts are a bit strange.
Nasht states that Burchett was expelled from [communist] Bulgaria. Well, Burchett died in Bulgaria (as an alcoholic, by the way). How could he die there if he was — according to Nasht — “kicked out Bulgaria”? Nasht also argues in Crikey that: “Méray made his career as a CIA funded hack denouncing Burchett.”
What are the real facts?
Méray came to Australia twice on lecture tours in the late 1950s. He did not discuss Burchett on any of these occasions. However, when Burchett had his defamation case in Australia, Méray was invited several times to become a witness for Jack Kane. He declined the invitation because he remembered that Burchett was friendly and helpful when they were in Korea, although he could have related a thing or two about facts he knew. Méray wrote his book On Burchett in the late ’80s when he read Burchett’s lies, written about himself and his friend, the executed Miklos Gimes.
In the same issue of Crikey, Nasht stated that Meray was “formerly a Communist Party cultural commissar”. The real fact is: Méray was expelled from the Communist Party. Even before his expulsion, Meray was never in a commanding position. So much for another “fact” by Nasht.
Nasht states: “It is laughable to suggest that Meray’s life was ever endangered by anything Wilfred Burchett wrote or said.” Well, Méray never said in his book that Burchett endangered his life. However, there are several well-documented instances in the book when Burchett did this to others. Lack of space limits me to quote them.
Nasht also mentions — in this instance correctly — that Burchett was denied an Australian passport for 17 years. Méray in his book also considers that this was not the right way dealing with Burchett’s activities and Brigadier Greville agrees in the introduction. However, Nasht and other admirers of Burchett seem not to be aware of the fact that Burchett (surprise, surprise!) did not raise his voice about citizens of the Soviet Bloc and other communist countries being unable to obtain passports freely.
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Nasht also refers to Burchett’s well-documented “mistakes” [my inverted commas] and Nasht adds that “…admitted by the man [Burchett] himself.” The fact: See the Meray book about Burchett’s “mistakes” that were never acknowledged by Burchett. Furthermore: as Méray points out, there were occasions when Burchett added fresh lies to some of his earlier ones.
In Crikey, George Burchett has defended his father’s role in the Korean War and quotes thankful letters to Wilfred. We must remember that these letters were written by people who were in showcase POW camps, maintained for propaganda purposes by the Chinese and North Koreans. George Burchett is completely ducking the numerous and very serious issues raised by Tibor Méray.
George Burchett raises the issue of brain-washing. Tibor Méray was never a witness to brain-washing, consequently he did not write about Burchett’s involvement in it. Once again: how about other, excellently documented instances of Burchett’s activities and writings in the Méray book?
In summary, I can say that Simon Nasht, George Burchett and Jamie Miller are ducking the book written by Tibor Méray. Nasht also makes statements that are factually incorrect, to say it politely.
It appears that — to paraphrase Nasht’s title — “there is something about Tibor Méray’s book on Burchett.”