No, Ezra Pound was not convicted of treason

Last week, Arts and Letters Daily linked to Still a Monster, a review of the third part of A. David Moody‘s new biography of Ezra Pound. The reviewer, Steve Donoghue, a Boston-based editor and writer, accuses the British academic of telling “exculpatory lies” – so ardently that he invents facts on the go:

Nevertheless, Pound was indeed convicted of treason by the Department of Justice in 1945. Through the assiduous deceit of his lawyer and friends, he avoided spending the rest of his life in prison by being committed to a psychiatric hospital, where he remained, holding court, for 13 years.

A. D. Moody got called a liar for being accurate with facts. The reviewer seems to believe that the Justice Department has the power (God forbid!) to convict people of capital crimes. The Justice Department charged Pound with treason and a grand jury indicted him for the offence in 1943, but Pound was never tried for or convicted of any crime. The use of “alleged treason” instead of “treason” is perfectly appropriate.

A jury found Pound incompetent to stand trial in 1946, and he was sent to a psychiatric ward until such time as he might regain such competence. It never arrived, and in 1958, satisfied that Pound was incurable, the same judge who had heard the case in 1946 dismissed the treason indictment.

Had Pound gone to trial and been convicted of treason – not a foregone conclusion, by the way – he would have been unlikely to serve more than other US citizens convicted of treason for spreading enemy propaganda during the war. Iva Toguri, the most (in)famous of the Tokyo Roses, served six years (the government’s case against her was later found to be flawed and she was pardoned by Gerald Ford). Mildred Gillars, who had broadcast for the Nazis, served twelve years.

Steve Donoghue also places Ezra Pound next to Genghis Khan as one of history’s murderous bastards, which is simply amusing in comparison with the accusations against Moody.

One can still call Ezra Pound a traitor in the sense that some people call Edward Snowden a traitor. Was Pound a fascist? I guess he was. Mussolini used the word as a term of praise: he simply called people he liked “Fascist(s)” without much regard for their actual convictions. But Pound probably thought of himself as a genuine, first-rate adept, or even a Fascist guru of a very special kind.

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