Don't forgive Haitian rulers for abusesThe critical issue...

the Forum

October 04, 1994

Don't forgive Haitian rulers for abuses

The critical issue for Haiti is how to break the cycle of vengeance and brutality-with-impunity.

Democratic institutions have no roots there, democracy is not systemic and 80 percent of the impoverished population is illiterate.

And yet there is hope for both the U.S. and this tiny island nation 500 miles off our shores.

Reconciliation and respect for political minorities are essential. To achieve them, and to forestall violent revenge, there must be justice.

You can't tell a mother whose son has been dragged out of his bed and hacked to death, or a father whose daughter was raped and tortured by police, that the perpetrators were granted amnesty and are now free.

Whatever Jimmy Carter had in mind, amnesty should only involve forgiveness for specific political activities.

Amnesty cannot protect those guilty of murder, rape, torture, impromptu executions and other violent abuses. If it's applied that broadly, there will never be respect for law nor acceptance of an independent judiciary.

A distinguished international tribunal can perform the investigative and judicial functions required, and be the lightning rod, for the new Haitian government.

The successive reigns of terror in Haiti can only be ended by adjudication and condemnation that is accepted by all the people.

It is a delicate balance, because either revenge against or impunity for those found guilty of terrible crimes can abort this democracy.

Roger C. Kostmayer


Cows have feelings

Allow me to respond to Kevin Cowherd's attack on Paul and Linda McCartney and other animal advocates ("Cute and cuddly can save a life," Sept. 19).

It's not true that we only focus on animals that humans find appealing. We see beauty in all animals, and we have taken plenty of heat, for example, for liberating lobsters, defending rats and saving turkeys from slaughter.

Although Cowherd describes cows as big, fat and filthy, we find they are gentle, sensitive animals who have cried real tears when their calves were taken from them.

As Jermey Bentham put it 150 years ago, "The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But can they suffer? . . . The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything that breathes."

Carla Bennett

Washington, D.C.

Ms. Bennett is a senior writer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a Washington-based advocacy group.

RP 'Cuba Cure'

I read with interest Chris Kaltenbach's story "The Burden of Proof," Sept. 20, regarding the experimental treatment for retinitis pigmentosa (RP) developed in Cuba.

As a volunteer for the RP Foundation Fighting Blindness for the past 20 years, I have met and befriended many people who live daily with the fear of slowly going blind from RP. Understandably, they are desperate for a treatment and a cure.

The RP Foundation Fighting Blindness has been committed to reaching this goal since it was established here in Baltimore in 1971. The foundation is also dedicated to providing RP patients and their families with accurate and timely information about potential treatments for RP. In the case of Dr. Orfilio Pelaez's treatment, the RP Foundation has pursued every avenue to lTC gather conclusive scientific and medical information, but has not seen to date any evidence of long- or short-term benefit to vision.

Of great concern to us, however, are documented cases of patients who suffered damage to the eye including crossed eyes and damaged retinas. Therefore, the RP Foundation has no basis for recommending that RP patients pursue the Cuban treatment.

We feel a responsibility to alert individuals about these serious risks as well as the potential for financial and emotional exploitation.

However, because of the intense patient interest in this treatment, the RP Foundation recently approved a grant to the University of Miami to clinically and scientifically evaluate the results of Dr. Pelaez's work. We are hopeful the clinic in Havana will cooperate.

The RP Foundation is proud of its role as the research leader in seeking a cure for RP, which is stealing the sight of over 100,000 Americans and many more worldwide. We appreciate your concern for people affected with RP who deserve accurate and fair assessment.

Harriet L. Finkelstein


The writer is vice chairman of RP Foundation Fighting Blindness.

Drug threat

In a letter about the crime bill (Sept. 27), Michael Michener states that it is time to start looking at drugs as a threat to national security.

Doesn't he realize that we have already been treating certain drugs as a threat to national security for the last 25 years -- and that as a result those same drugs now actually are a threat to our national security?

In fact, it was the singling-out of these drugs -- especially cocaine and heroin -- that has made them so dangerous to society today.

In fact, our "tough on crime" stance has done nothing but to take a controllable health problem and turn it into a monumental, unsolvable crime problem.

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