Washington Times Letter to the Editor Defends IRI

Reporting on the IRI in Haiti
The Washington Times
Letter to the Editor

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.

Robert M. Holley 
Chevy Chase

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