With Malice Toward Many

Human Rights Watch World Report 1997: Events of 1996

Human Rights Watch (distributed by Yale University Press), 424 pp., $25.00 (paper)

Human Rights Watch has tolled the passing of one more year with the release of another annual report on the advances of harshness on Earth and official ill will to the helpless. These findings at once appeal to our conscience and define the bipartisan compact that has put our conscience to sleep. Human Rights Watch takes account of infamies around the world and of our government’s response to each and every one. To put what foreign despots do together with how little our governors care is to understand that, when we speak of our two-party system, we are talking about two Republican Parties, the dubiously Grand Old one and the New Democrats it has ingested.

The consequence is just one party with two wings, one the old Republicans, who are insensitive and stony, and the other the New Democrats, who are insensitive and flaccid. They share custody of the national conscience and offer us a free choice between the stony and the flaccid with about the same results.

There is also the permanent party that joins together the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the corporations in sovereign immunity to occasional shifts in electoral whim.

Last fall, Human Rights Watch notes, General Barry McCaffrey, President Clinton’s narcotics enforcement director, paused on a Peruvian tour for a bout of conspicuous fraternity with Vladimiro Montesinos, President Alberto Fujimori’s intelligence chief.

Montesinos had been repeatedly linked to an intelligence agency death squad…. In August, a drug kingpin…accused him of extorting large sums to enable the trafficker to transfer drugs without problems.

Anyone laden with imputations of secondhand dealings in mayhem and firsthand dealings in extortion would have appeared the oddest of candidates for friendly consort with a drug fighter of McCaffrey’s high station. But Human Rights Watch has offered the full explanation, that Montesinos had “reportedly worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.”

For the CIA cleanses all hands and is too seldom asked to cleanse its own. In 1996, the United States spent $120 million to assist the establishment of democratic rule in Haiti. Meanwhile, the White House refused to return thousands of documents detailing the excesses of the Haitian junta and the Revolutionary Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), its paramilitary arm, in the course of the terror that ended with the intervention of our own armed forces.

Our troops seized the evidence, and now their commanders decline to pass it along for liberated Haiti’s government to act upon. The most plausible reason for this diffidence is that the seized material not only illuminates the sins of the junta but too powerfully and embarrassingly suggests official America’s complicity in them.

If it were not for this determinedly confession-avoiding spirit, why else would our government drop its deportation proceedings against Emmanuel Constant, boss of FRAPH bosses, and let him live here undisturbed?Constant had to be indulged because, throughout his career, he enjoyed the comity with the CIA that has customarily included the …

This article is available to Online Edition and Print Premium subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
If you already have one of these subscriptions, please be sure you are logged in to your nybooks.com account. If you subscribe to the print edition, you may also need to link your web site account to your print subscription. Click here to link your account services.