Editorial: Neutrality is fading (4-13-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (April 13, 1941)


A year or so ago, the government was such a stickler for statutory niceties that airplanes being exported to Canada were not allowed to fly across the border; they were flown to the border, and pushed across by hand.

It seemed kind of silly. But at least it was a token of a desire to hew to the letter of neutrality.

We are not so scrupulous now. The President has amended his combat-zone proclamation of last June 11 (the day after Italy entered the war), to reopen the Red Sea to American vessels. Thus, it is explained, war materials can hereafter be carried in American-flag ships across the South Atlantic and around the Cape of Good Hope and up through the Indian Ocean into the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea to the Suez Canal.

The Suez Canal is in Egypt. Egypt is a non-belligerent. So it is perfectly legal to deliver munitions to her.

But everybody knows that these munitions will not be destined for the little army of King Farouk. They will be for England – and for Greece and Yugoslavia, if those countries are still in the fight when the supplies arrive.

Of course, the Neutrality Act makes it unlawful for any American vessel to carry “any articles or materials to any state” which the President has proclaimed to be engaged in a war. The President, however, indicated at his press conference that the question whether American vessels could legally transport goods to a neutral port for trans-shipment to a belligerent was a complex matter, and that the government was not at present borrowing any headaches.

All right, but Mr. Roosevelt had better have his aspirin handy for the time when a German raider knocks off one of these gun-running American freighters.

Or is he going to use the Navy to escort them?