- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Reporting on the IRI in Haiti

In response to Lorne W. Craner’s Monday Op-Ed column, “A false picture of Aristide” : Over a 10-year period from 1981 to 1992, I served three tours of duty as a foreign service officer working on Haitian affairs. I also served briefly as a sometime consultant for the International Republican Institute (IRI) on Haiti programs in 2002-2003 after my retirement from the Department of State. Haiti is a country about which I know a little something. I also know more than I would like to remember about Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s catastrophic contribution to that country’s decline into lawlessness and misery since his emergence on Haiti’s always-troubled political scene.

It also has been my professional and personal pleasure to know many of the staff at IRI who worked on Haitian issues for many years. Indeed, I have known some of them, as well as their equally professional and dedicated counterparts at the National Democratic Institute, since my last assignment in Haiti at the time of Mr. Aristide’s first election as president, in 1990. They are a dedicated group of democrats — with a little “d” — who have a firm commitment to advancing the values most Americans of all political persuasions fervently hope will take better root in a world already suffering far too much political violence and civilizational conflict.

I was deeply disappointed by the shallowness of information and the lack of analytical rigor in the New York Times article on IRI and Haiti to which Mr. Craner’s column referred, but sadly, I was not at all surprised. Over the years, I have seen a great many American journalists pass swiftly through the complications and chaos of Haitian political happenings and emerge on the other side of their swirling, fleeting encounter no better informed and no wiser about the country than when they began their moment of political tourism in one of this hemisphere’s most difficult-to-understand societies.

However, what made the New York Times piece especially egregious was the lack of objectivity and understanding of events in Haiti it showed. At the same time, it aimed scurrilous and unsubstantiated accusations of professional misfeasance at a group of dedicated men and women who, I know from firsthand experience, went to great lengths to ensure that their engagement in democracy training programs in Haiti did not give even the appearance of political conspiracy against the government of Haiti.

It’s sad that the New York Times would not allow Mr. Craner the right of unedited rebuttal to those charges, and it is a credit to your newspaper that you have allowed him at least some opportunity to set the record straight.


Chevy Chase

U.N. on human rights

Nat Hentoff, in his column “U.N. hypocrisy on human rights” (Op-Ed, Monday), draws curious parallels between events at U.N. headquarters and the secretary-general’s groundbreaking initiative to reform the organization’s human rights machinery.

In the first instance, the United Nations has publicly stated its regret over the cancellation by lower-level staff of an interview with Mukhtar Mai, a human rights heroine from Pakistan. This was an unfortunate incident, and to make amends, we have approached the Virtue Foundation, which had sponsored Miss Mai, to organize a return visit in the near future, co-sponsored by the United Nations and the Pakistani Mission.

The column also incorrectly gives the impression that the United Nations is actively participating in the making of a film on the life of Che Guevara. In fact, the United Nations was requestedbyfilmmaker StevenSoderbergh to re-create a factual episode from U.N. history, Guevara’s address to the General Assembly in 1964. Unlike last year’s movie “The Interpreter,” the long film features the United Nations in only one scene, with one weekend of filming involved. Our approval was granted in order for the filmmakers to portray accurately a historic event and to remind viewers that even at the height of the Cold War, the United Nations provided a platform for dialogue.

We appreciate Mr. Hentoff’s giving the secretary-general credit for his vigorous efforts to bring the Human Rights Council into existence, but he erroneously says that the United Nations is indifferent to the situation in Zimbabwe. Not only are U.N. agencies actively involved in providing humanitarian assistance, but the U.N. emergency coordinator went to Zimbabwe in December to facilitate efforts by the United Nations and aid organizations to set the country back on the road to recovery.



Communications and

Public Information

United Nations

New York

Zoning and charter schools

Deborah Simmons’ column “Capitol Hill vs. Capitol Hill” (Op-Ed, Friday) portrays a reasonable debate on zoning as a “battle” and a “war.” There is no need to fan the flames of hysteria. The simple fact is that by selecting a tiny residential property, the AppleTree Institute for Educational Innovation has prompted neighbors to ask whether there is any rhyme or reason to charter-school siting.

Previous charter schools that came to Capitol Hill were welcomed by neighbors into properties that were specifically designed to accommodate school uses. Just steps away you can visit the Sasha Bruce and Options charter schools in the former Kingsman Elementary School building.

By contrast, the AppleTree Institute picked a property that essentially is two residential row houses. Its “flagship” would be wedged between adjoining homes in the middle of a quiet residential block. For obvious reasons, neighbors are concerned about the potential of a large preschool to generate traffic and noise.

From the beginning, it was suggested that AppleTree schedule its proposal for a public hearing in which the neighbors’ concerns could be addressed. However, the AppleTree Institute maintains that it is exempt from review and that the neighbors have no standing to question the appropriateness of this site versus others in the immediate neighborhood.

The debate arises in part because zoning regulations do not specifically mention charter schools, which are a fairly recent development. All the D.C. government has been asked to do is to clarify the rights of residents to speak to the placement of schools in their neighborhoods.

The Office of Planning has responded with a fair proposal that treats charter schools like public schools with respect to zoning requirements. It worked closely with charter-school groups, including Friends of Choice in Urban Schools, to draft that proposal. Surely no reasonable person could argue that this is unfair to charter schools.





Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6A


A demographic problem

In his Friday Commentary column, “Arsenal of irrational outbursts,” R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. wrote, “Islam, particularly as practiced in Arab countries, embraces a vast number of very angry young men… Why so many of the countries dominated by Islam are in such a heap is a good question.”

Population Action International has a good answer. According to a PAI publication, “The Security Demographic,” a country is likely to be dangerous when it has a high percentage of young men. “The Security Demographic” calls this a “youth bulge.” It demonstrates that the countries of the Near East have a youth bulge.

This theory also helps explain why the two world wars happened and why the Soviet Union collapsed without a fight. World War I began in the Balkans when that area had a youth bulge. When Japan invaded China in the 1930s, Japan had a youth bulge. In 1991, when the Soviet Union came to a quiet end, it had a low percentage of young men.

In 1975, the countries in South and Central America had youth bulges. In many of those countries, right-wing dictatorships competed violently for power with left-wing revolutionary movements. Now, the youth bulge has passed. Those countries are developing democratic governments.

“The Security Demographic” explains that having a high percentage of young men is dangerous because the men enter job markets that do not have nearly enough positions for them.


Wilmington, Del.

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