Commentary Magazine


Holocaust literature; liberty and property; Pinochet.

Holocaust Literature TO THE EDITOR: Cynthia Ozick builds and dwells in a beautiful edi- fice for most of her essay, "The Rights of History and the Rights of Imagination" [March], only to leave it through a staircase to the basement. She claims that in the novel Sophie’ Choice, "[William] Styron’s Sophie deflects from the total an- nihilation ofJewish presence in a Poland that continues with its land, language, re- ligion, and institutions in- tact." But it is difficult to see how this accusation is war- ranted given the novel’s in- tensive and accurate depic- tion of Jewish suffering in Auschwitz and its modest description of Polish mis- ery in Warsaw and Ausch- witz. In addition, as a Jew born in Poland and a sur- vivor of the camps, I do not see how a fictional charac- ter can ever displace the re- ality of the murder of mil- lions of innocent men, women, and children and the wanton destruction of prewar Poland’s vibrant Yid- dish life and culture.

More significant is Miss Ozick’s question, "How is it possible for a writer to set forth as a purposeful em- bodiment of the inmost meaning of the camps, any emblem other than a Jew- ish emblem?" It is one thing for this question to stand as a challenge to both Jewish and non-Jewish writers; it is quite another matter for it to become a new standard for Holocaust fiction. And based on what Miss Ozick attributes to Sophie’ Choice, it seems that it is the latter that she is proposing. She argues that Sophie is "not so much an individual as she is a counter-individual. She is not so much a character in a novel as she is a softly polemical device to distract us from the epitome." Although I had last read this novel more than twen- ty years ago, out of respect for Miss Ozick’s wisdom I read it once again, keeping in mind her warnings. I to- tally disagree with her as- sertions. Sophie is a fully re- alized character and not a "stalking horse" for any oth- er character or idea. She is necessary for and expres- ses well the internal logic of Sophie’ Choice-an outstand- ing Holocaust novel that gives the lie to Miss Ozick’s proposed new standard.

BERNARD OTTERMAN Old Westbury, New York To THE EDITOR: As a student and teacher of Holocaust literature who has taught Sophie’s Choice since 1984, I read Cynthia Ozick’s essay with interest.

The historical truth that she expects in Holocaust liter- ature is the "purposeful em- bodiment of the inmost meaning of the camps." But "inmost meaning" is not as universally agreed upon as her essay suggests.

In the Holocaust litera- ture that I have read, the complicated varieties of evil are "the inmost meaning." The essence of the Holo- caust experience is evil. It annihilates the soul, destroys beyond the powerful images Miss Ozick uses, beyond "crowns of fire," "skeletal human corpses," and the "terror-stricken little boy with his cap askew and his hands in the air." Most victims were Jew- ish, and Styron’s novel ac- knowledges that historical truth. But Miss Ozick says that historical fact should prevent Styron from creat- ing an "emblem" who is not Jewish and that Sophie is a "softly polemical device to distract us from the epito- me." Readers know that So- phie is not Jewish, but far from "corrupting" history, and even further from "dis- placing" Anne Frank (as Miss Ozick charges), Sophie’ Choice illumines a truth about evil that is worthy of our closest attention.

If Sophie as a Polish Catholic is an "anomaly" who "displaces history," as Miss Ozick writes, then her own perspective on history assumes parameters for evil that in historical fact do not [3]LETTERS FROM READERS exist. Christians slaughtered Christians in the American Civil War; Native American Ojibway wiped out Sioux villages throughout the Midwest; Hutu kill Tutsi.

The Balkan tragedy speaks for itself. Evil thrives with- in as well as between reli- gious, ethnic, and racial walls. Kapos were less than honorable in the concen- tration camps. And that is the historical truth rendered in Styron’s novel.

The hundreds of students with whom I have studied Sophies Choice have never ar- ticulated (or felt) any di- minishing of Jewish suffer- ing. On the contrary, the depth of Sophie’s anguish intensifies and clarifies the anguish suffered by all of the victims of the Holocaust.

PAUL V. OLSEN Augustana College Rock Island, Illinois To THE EDITOR: Cynthia Ozick is right to reject any attempt to create a general view of moral re- sponsibility based upon an example that is so unlikely as to be bizarre, i.e., a wo- man who accidentally en- lists as a guard in a concen- tration camp because she is illiterate, as in Bernard Schlink’s The Reader. The tension, of course, is be- tween an accurate account of the Holocaust as we know it and the sympathy that engaging fiction can make us feel for an individ- ual character. The power of literature can make our emotions bend toward an agent who is engaged in the purest of evil.

But perhaps there is a different interpretation of Schlink’s novel that Miss Ozick did not consider: could the illiteracy of the protagonist be a metaphor or allegory for the illitera- cy of the German soul? Ironically, in a nation that was a world leader in liter- acy, the soul had been ne- glected, and was thus (like the protagonist) able to en- list unwittingly for service in the most evil deed. Thus seen, Schlink’s novel might not be "about" this woman or her illiteracy, but rather about a nation’s failure to educate its soul: her intel- lect is used as a symbol for the collective spirit.

A.C. SMITH Ann Arbor, Michigan To THE EDITOR: Cynthia Ozick’s observa- tions on recording the Holocaust are timely and to the point. True, it was nec- essary to make the world aware of the enormity of the crimes committed against the Jewish people. The written word and the media were the proper tools to employ. But storytelling should never have invaded the realm of the historian.

The Holocaust experts lavished praise and laurels on Binjamin Wilkomirski, the author of Fragments. If Holocaust survivors had been asked to give their opinion on the veracity of his story, they would have suggested that the author change the title from Frag- ments to Figments. The chance that a four-year-old could survive the ordeal of meandering from place to place in Nazi-occupied Po- land for the duration of the war is nil. Other children survived, but never under the circumstances described.

Recent inquiries into the author’s post-Holocaust cur- riculum vitae have revealed inconsistencies that cast considerable doubt on his age and origin. But the nar- rative sinks into the mire of lies and fabrications on its own merits-or rather de- merit.

HERMAN F. WOLF Syracuse, New York To THE EDITOR: Cynthia Ozick’s wonder- ful article helped me to fo- cus on a long-felt feeling of uneasiness. It is a shame that she did not include some re- cent films in her discussion, since their wide dissemina- tion and broad appeal have greater impact on our cul- tural "reality." My moral outrage is es- pecially reserved for Life Is Beautiful, the movie by Roberto Benigni that has received great praise and awards, including several Oscars. Benigni’s imagina- tion, being freer than that of Elie Wiesel or Primo [5]COMMENTARY JUNE 999 Levi, is able to create this "wonderful" story of Jewish suffering in an extermina- tion camp. The general health, cleanliness, and abil- ity of inmates to recover from serious injury while surviving in this camp must have required tremendous imagination indeed-or perhaps an ulterior motive.

To a new generation, not steeped in the indelible hor- ror of the Holocaust, revi- sionists can use this movie to change slowly and subtly the perceptions of this singular event. Is Benigni complicit with others who attempt to distort future understanding of the Holo- caust? Has he also come, in Miss Ozick’s words, "not to illumine but to corrupt"? DAVID ZEBELMAN Fairport, New York CYNTHIA OZICK writes: Bernard Otterman asserts that my essay proposes "a new standard for Holocaust fiction." I cannot fathom what "new standard" he has in mind. There has always been only one serious his- torical standard for fiction concerned with the Holo- caust: that such fiction should understand precise- ly what is meant by that term. There were many vic- tims of Nazism, the Poles painfully and prominently among them. Let us make no mistake about this, and let us not minimize a na- tion’s suffering, and the murder of thousands. But what defines the Holocaust, and distinguishes it from multiple other large-scale victimizations of the Nazi period, is not only the in- tent to annihilate every last living Jew, from the mori- bund elderly in nursing homes down to newborn in- fants, but also, and preem- inently, the total erasure of European Jewish civiliza- tion- language, culture, in- stitutions.

As "a Jew born in Poland and a survivor of the camps," Mr. Otterman surely knows the difference between the brutal invasion of a country (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland, etc.) and the achieved extirpation of an entire civilization. In the af- termath of the German oc- cupation, Polish land, lan- guage, and Church were still extant. Mr. Otterman, in contrast, has fled the land of his birth, has perforce ac- quired a language other than his native tongue, and I Your Private Oasis Just South of Midtown Manhattan Imagine…You’re just minutes away from a trip to Europe! Whether you’re dining on one of Chef Robert’s 20 freshly prepared pastas ($12.50 – $19.50) or planning a wedding, (packages begin at just $64 per person), you’ll find our hotel to be an oasis of Olde World charm. With Soho, the Village, Madison Square Garden and Off-Broadway theaters in the neighborhood, make it your business to pleasure yourself in style.

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New York, NY 10010 212-475-4320 L l it Fax (212) 505-0535 Out of state call toll-free: ad ; I, u 1-800-221-4083 is wholly aware that Po- land’s (and Europe’s) long- established Jewish acade- mies, libraries, and social and religious bodies are no more. By this criterion- and it is the only historical- ly factual one-he is wrong to style Sophie’s Choice, with its Polish Catholic protag- onist, a Holocaust novel. The invasion and occupa- tion of Poland was deeply cruel; but the Holocaust is not about the invasion and occupation of one nation by another. A Holocaust nov- el, to earn that designation, must touch solely on those who were subject to the Fi- nal Solution, which was aimed only at Jews.

"I totally disagree with her assertions," Mr. Otter- man writes of my observa- tions; yet he speaks exactly as I do when he mourns "the wanton destruction of prewar Poland’s Yiddish life and culture." As to the fic- tional Sophie, he finds her to be "a fully realized char- acter." This must mean that for Mr. Otterman she is ful- ly situated in her identity as a Catholic Pole. Accord- ingly, he concludes that a fully realized fictional Catholic Pole cannot "dis- place the reality of the mur- der of millions" of Jews.

That is my very point; and it is the source of my dissent from this aspect of Styron’s novel.

It is particularly regret- table-because he is a teacher and influences new generations-that Paul V. Olsen falls identically into the all too common error of blurring distinctions when he states that "most victims were Jewish." No; all vic- tims of the Holocaust were Jews. The Nuremberg laws and the Final Solution, which are the defining ele- ments of what has come to [6] Gramercy Park Hotel _ _ A___ l_ F,_~irPr LETTERS FROM READERS be known as the Holocaust, were directed at Jews and Jews only (how often must this be emphasized?). In a speech in January 1939, Hitler looked forward to "the annihilation [Vernich- tung] of the Jewish race in Europe"; nothing could be more explicit. That is why Mr. Olsen, contrary to his empathic conviction, is not teaching "Holocaust litera- ture" if he is under the im- pression that the subject of such a literature is the pre- valence of evil. The subject of an authentic Holocaust literature is the plan to wipe out the Jews of Europe (how often must this be reiterated?). That is the "in- most meaning" of the Holo- caust; nothing else. Why is there so much resistance to (I will not say denial of) this self-evident historical datum? Evil manifests itself in this and that population, yes, and too frequently in the form of genocide or at- tempted genocide. These distinct events deserve their own definitions and com- memorations. But the Ho- locaust cannot be general- ized into abstract Evil, or handled as a kind of tem- plate to be laid over every atrocity in the record of man’s inhumanity to man.

To generalize is to expunge.

The-Holocaust is recog- nizable only in its own terms; it signifies what was done to the Jews of Europe at a specific time by a spe- cific regime and its specif- ic supporters. To use the Holocaust to symbolize, typify, exemplify, or allego- rize is to dilute and obscure, even to crush, its historici- ty. If Mr. Olsen is moved to teach Holocaust literature, he would do better to as- sign the reading of Primo Levi’s The Drowned and the Saved, or Lawrence Lang- er’s excellent anthology, Art from the Ashes. And for the sake of his students’ clarity he should not confuse the Holocaust-wherein hatred went in one direction only and a nation murdered its own unarmed and passion- ately loyal citizens-with the American Civil War, or with Native American or African tribal conflicts, in which two sides, both well equipped with weapons and reciprocal enmity, clashed in mutual fury.

A.C. Smith’s metaphori- cal version of The Reader- illiteracy standing for moral illiteracy-would certainly save Bernhard Schlink’s novel, if only there were in- ternal evidence for it. On the contrary, Mr. Schlink’s unlettered protagonist is depicted throughout as yearning for the bookish world of moral intellect; how can this be a metaphor for blindness to it? To Herman E Wolf’s dis- cussion of the Wilkomirski controversy, one might add a bit of updating. Defend- ing an award recently be- stowed on Wilkomirski’s Fragments by the American Orthopsychiatric Associa- tion (many members of which are Jews), one psy- chologist stated: "We are honoring Mr. Wilkomirski not as historians or politi- cians, but as mental-health professionals. What he has written is important clini- cally." From this it would be fair to conclude that "men- tal-health professionals" care nothing for historical evidence, and do not rec- ognize when they are, in fact, acting politically. If Mr.

Wilkomirski is indeed a fab- ricator, then to laud him is to take a stand-political- ly-on the side of those who insist that the Holo- caust is fabrication. In any case, how does it advance the public cause of mental health to encourage a pos- sible public liar who is pos- sibly an opportunist and possibly a madman? David Zebelman, while he is right on target other- wise, overlooks the most in- sidious threat to what has been called "the future of the Holocaust"-and that is Roberto Benigni’s open and obvious and exuberant good will. Unfortunately, when a benevolent intent accompanies an outrageous distortion of documented truth, a precedent is set for the gradual erosion of an honest and honorable his- torical perspective. It was Benigni’s film that inspired the Public Theater’s Com- [7] More than just a telescope…more than just a microscope…

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Liberty & Property To THE EDITOR: Richard Pipes’s "Life, Liberty, Property" [March] could easily evoke in the critical reader a response too lengthy for any letters sec- tion. I will, therefore, deal only with his most provoca- tive points.

Mr. Pipes writes that "Liberty is by its nature ine- galitarian, because living creatures differ in [capaci- ty]." Isaiah Berlin made the same point, but less ab- stractly: "Liberty for the pike is death for the trout." He argues that the "eco- nomic rights of citizens (rights to property)" are es- sential to their "civil rights (rights to equal treatment)." But to say that the poor in a liberal society have the "right" to possess any prop- erty that they acquire- though they are incapable of doing so by virtue of their poverty-is at best mean- ingless. What counts in sup- porting civil rights is only the actual property pos- sessed.

He also states that "ac- quiring property is the uni- versal engine of prosperity." Yes-and of poverty as well.

As Proudhon observed a century and a half ago, there are two kinds of property: the property of the peasant, the carpenter, and the me- chanic, which gives them the means to work; and the property of the landholder and factory owner, which forces others to work for them. The result of the sec- ond form of property-the interest of Mr. Pipes-is the dichotomy between the os- tentatious prosperity of the few and the (relative or ab- solute) poverty of the many.

Mr. Pipes believes that "Democracy… cannot do without" property. On the contrary, capitalist proper- ty undermines the realiza- tion of democracy. The words of Mikhail Bakunin, written over a century ago, remain virtually undisput- ed: "Where universal suf- frage is exercised … [under circumstances in which] the mass of workers is econom- ically dominated by a mi- nority that controls the property and capital of the society,… elections can only be illusory and antide- mocratic in their results." Finally, Mr. Pipes states that "liberty cannot flour- ish when property and the inequality to which it gives rise are forcibly eliminated." This contains an inconve- nient antimony: material property is a good in limit- ed supply and thus its un- limited acquisition by the strong and the clever can only be achieved at the cost of depriving those who are less well endowed. In other words, for human beings as for fish, the "liberty" of the few means inhibiting the liberty of the many.

J.W. BARCHFIELD University of Guanajuato Guanajuato, Mexico To THE EDITOR: Richard Pipes’s "Life, Liberty, Property" is a fine defense ofJohn Locke, from whom the article’s title is borrowed. But the United States was founded on an entirely different set of prin- ciples. When Jefferson, a man not given to careless writing, changed Locke’s phrase to read "Life, liber- ty, and the pursuit of hap- piness," he did so with a purpose.

If the pursuit of happi- ness expresses itself in some people as the pursuit of property, so be it-until such pursuit begins to in- hibit the ability of others in our society to pursue their own brand of happiness.

And that is exactly what is occurring in this country.

The gap in wealth between those at the top of Ameri- can society and those at the bottom is at an all-time high and is widening at an alarm- ing rate. The wealthiest country in the history of the world cannot take care of its elderly, mentally ill, poor, disabled, or even its babies.

Most of this failure can be attributed to the fact that a significant portion of our population is effectively de- nied access to the minimal property they need by a small portion of our popu- lation that seems intent on hoarding wealth. We live in a world of limited, not un- limited, resources, and some people are driven to acquire disproportionate amounts of those resources. These people can-through altru- ism, righteousness, or even a simple survival instinct- voluntarily find ways to re- turn wealth to the populace from whom they gathered it, or they can face the fact that government or the peo- ple will ultimately rise up and take it from them.

DAN KACSIR Indianapolis, Indiana To THE EDITOR: Richard Pipes’s general- ly excellent essay on the in- terrelationship between lib- erty and property is marred by a somewhat dated view of what the courts have been doing. It is true enough, as he puts it, that "since the late 1930’s [the courts] have assumed that civil rights and property rights can be sharply dis- tinguished, and that civil rights … merit greater ju- dicial protection than prop- erty rights." But more re- cent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have retreated somewhat from this unfor- tunate view.

In 1972, in Lynch v.

Household Finance Corpora- tion, the Court flatly reject- ed the argument that prop- erty rights are not protect- ed by the Civil Rights Act.

More recently, in Dolan v.

City of Tigard (1994), Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote, "We see no reason why the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment [protecting pri- vate property from uncom- pensated takings], as much a part of the Bill of Rights as the First Amendment or the Fourth Amendment, should be relegated to the status of a poor relation." In several other cases decided in the past decade or so, the [8]The truth will There’s something downright invigorating about knowing the truth. No unanswered questions. No cynicism or self-serving misinformation from clever folks in expensive suits. Just the certainty that no matter what happens you will be well-informed and ready to meet the world.

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So much for the good news. The bad news is that though the Supreme Court has by and large rebuffed demands that "just com- pensation" under the Fifth Amendment be declared unavailable in cases of con- fiscatory regulation, it has also created a well-nigh im- penetrable procedural ob- stacle course for aggrieved property owners to pass through before they are able to sue in federal courts. Un- der the current rules, prop- erty owners suing for viola- tion of their constitutional rights must first go through a lengthy administrative process to achieve a "final" administrative decision, then apply for a zoning variance, then sue in state court. Only then-after being denied re- lief at every step through this litigational maze-may they bring their case to fed- eral court.

Unfortunately, when they do, they are greeted with a true Catch-22. Several fed- eral courts have taken the position that, having been unsuccessful in state court, the aggrieved owners are barred from suing in feder- al courts. The practical up- shot has been that because of the cost and delay inher- ent in this Dickensian legal regime, only the most de- termined and wealthiest landowners (or those few ordinary folks whose plight attracts the pro-bono sup- port of conservative public- interest law firms) are able to seek judicial relief for de- facto takings of their prop- erty. These costly and at times pointless procedural complications have effec- tively put the great majori- ty of American landowners beyond the pale of consti- tutional protection.

GIDEON KANNER Loyola Law School LosAngeles, California To THE EDITOR: In his provocative "Life, Liberty, Property," Richard Pipes reminds us how easily private-property right–one of the cornerstones of our nation’s political heritage- can be taken from us. Indeed, the "taking" of private prop- erty by the federal govern- ment-and without consti- tutionally guaranteed just compensation-has become a common occurrence in rur- al areas of the United States.

Regulators at the De- partment of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service and their environmentalist al- lies-the "guardians" about whom Tocqueville warned over 150 years ago-have succeeded in making the Endangered Species Act an instrument for national land-use policy. Landown- ers who happen to have threatened or endangered species on their property, or who have habitats that might be used by endan- gered species, are routinely prevented from deriving economic benefit from their land, whether by harvesting trees, planting crops, or building homes. Ironically, the better steward a land- owner is, the more likely it is that he will be punished by losing the use of his property.

Similarly, federal wet- lands regulations wreak hav- oc with landowners and with the Constitution. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Pro- tection Agency claim that Section 404 of the Clean Water Act gives them au- thority to regulate wetlands, even though the word "wet- land" appears nowhere in that section of the law.

Behind every property owner who sees his liveli- hood destroyed or life sav- ings depleted by regulations purporting to protect the environment lies a threat to liberty no less serious than many of the transgressions routinely committed by run-of-the-mill despots. It is to Mr. Pipes’s credit that he has warned of the dark- er side of such self-ap- pointed and self-anointed "guardians." BONNER R. COHEN Lexington Institute Arlington, Virginia To THE EDITOR: Richard Pipes’s "Life, Lib- erty, Property" is outstand- ing. It should be required reading for every elected of- ficial in the country, al- though, unfortunately, it would likely have little effect.

BARBARA HOFFMAN New York City RICHARD PIPES writes: Before replying to these letters, let me note that my essay in COMMENTARY was taken from the concluding chapter of my new book, Property and Freedom, in which I address several of the issues raised by my cor- respondents. Thus, I discuss the case of Dolan v. City of Tigard mentioned by Gid- eon Kanner, and even cite the same words of Justice Rehnquist that he does.

Similarly, I deal with the various regulations inhibit- ing the use of landed prop- erty mentioned by Bonner R. Cohen. I believe both writers will find my full text to be in agreement with their remarks.

I.W. Barchfield’s principal objection to private property is one that goes back to re- mote antiquity, namely, that wealth causes poverty. There is no evidence for this propo- sition, although anthropo- logical studies reveal that it is commonly believed by peasants in regions as far apart as Italy and Mexico, who are convinced that if their neighbor becomes rich- er than they are, it can only be at their expense. This is a myth, but one that makes in- equality easier to bear. It is strange, however, to see it re- peated under contemporary conditions when wealth in- creasingly assumes the form of intellectual property. Af- ter all, Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest men, did not make his fortune by robbing the poor. If anything, he has made some of them richer.

In general, in countries that respect property rights, the poor fare much better than their counterparts in countries where these rights are violated. This is true for two reasons. The first is that capital, representing as it does deferred consumption, makes investment possible and thus creates employ- ment opportunities. Sec- ondly, property comprises not only physical objects but rights, which, in nations that respect property and the rule of law (the two are in- separable), are enjoyed by even the poorest members of society. As Churchill has put it: "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the in- herent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of mis- eries." In response to Dan Kac- sir, let me paraphrase what I have said above: the pur- suit of property by some does not inhibit others from "pursuing their own brand of happiness." I disagree [10] L ,I — rLETTERS FROM READERS that we live in a world of limited resources: human ingenuity, assisted by sci- ence, knows no limits in ex- panding the material basis of life. There are no facts to support Mr. Kacsir’s claim that the "gap in wealth be- tween those at the top of American society and those at the bottom is at an all- time high and widening at an alarming rate." The fact that Bill Gates counts his fortune in the tens of bil- lions in no way affects the condition of the average employed American whose living standards are steadi- ly rising.

I appreciate Barbara Hoffman’s enthusiastic en- dorsement of my views.

Pinochet To THE EDITOR: In "Justice for Pinochet?" [March], Elliott Abrams claims that the extradition of General Pinochet from Great Britain to Spain de- pends on extraterritoriali- ty-that is, on trying Pino- chet for crimes committed outside of Spain’s jurisdic- tion. But the Spanish order of extradition charges Pino- chet with crimes against Spanish citizens in Chile.

This is no different from American law, which seeks to punish those who do harm to American citizens outside the territory of the United States.

Mr. Abrams also argues that the issues in this case were resolved by the people of Chile through various plebiscites and elections, and that their decisions should not be burdened by interference from out- side their borders. But this is akin to saying that we should have allowed Ger- many to resolve the issues surrounding the Hitler re- gime by means of its own internal votes.

Mr. Abrams should have relied on diplomatic immu- nity as the most forceful ar- gument against Pinochet’s extradition. Pinochet entered Great Britain on a diplo- matic passport. Great Britain was not obligated to admit him on these terms, and could have insisted on his admission under a general passport. Once admitted, however, Pinochet, like all other diplomats, was enti- tled to the immunities which that passport provides.

JAY M. ZERIN Pomona, New York To THE EDITOR: If all of General Pino- chet’s victims had been Chi- lean, Elliott Abrams might be right in his claim that the decision to prosecute rests entirely with the Chilean people. But the Spanish judge (to the best of my knowledge) was acting on a petition from Spanish citi- zens based on actions com- mitted against a Spaniard.

Thus the judge is following the course allowed for by Mr. Abrams in his own dis- cussion of General Pino- chet’s possible involvement with the murder of Orlan- do Letelier in Washing- ton, D.C.

As for the other abusers of human rights Mr. Abrams mentions, Fidel Castro and Yasir Arafat, it is not clear whether, in the case of Cas- tro, he includes atrocities committed strictly in Cuba or those in Angola and else- where. Even if Angola is included, the political situa- tion there is sufficiently un- stable that Angolans have much more to worry about than the role played by Cas- tro. And though Yasir Ara- fat’s minions have certainly killed innocents of numerous nationalities, I suspect that many nations might have ar- rested him but for fear of what gruesome atrocities might be committed against them in retaliation.

As Mr. Abrams says, bind- ing up a nation’s wounds does involve dynamics far beyond the rules of a single courtroom. But the case of General Pinochet involves binding up multinational wounds. The trials of Nur- emberg, Tokyo, and the Hague, flawed though they may be, provide the prece- dent for helping citizens of many countries come to terms with all the atrocities allegedly committed at his command.

DORON BECKER Silver Spring, Maryland [11]COMMENTARY JUNE I999 You deserve afactual look at…

"Sacrifices for Peace" What else does the world expect brad to do? There is persistent pressure on Israel to bring "sacrifices for peace." It is understood that these "sacrifices" refer to greater "flexibility" in dealing with the Arabs, but mean pri- marily that Israel should allow its dismemberment, in order to bring peace to the region.

What are the facts? A Bizarre Concept. The concept to bring "sacri- fices for peace" is a new one that has never before found application in world history. It was created by Arab propaganda to induce Israel to agree to its dismemberment, to give strategic assets to those who are determined to destroy it.

Since its creation in 1948, Israel has been subjected to almost constant Arab terror, to unceasing Arab aggression, and to three major wars. In the Six-Day War, it recovered its heartland of Judea/Samaria (the "West Bank") and the eastern part of Jerusalem; it captured the Golan Heights from Syria, which had been Here are three used for decades to shell and spread terror over much of northern Israel; for peace: (1 and it conquered Gaza insistence on and the Sinai Desert that Golan; (2) S had been used by Egypt about the as staging ground and Jerusalem; invasion route to Israel.

Many Sacrifices for Peace.

In order to achieve peace with its neighbors, Israel brought sacrifices for peace that have no precedent in the history of the world. For peace with Egypt, Israel returned the entire Sinai. There is little thanks on the part of Egypt for this generosity and this sacri- fice for peace. The controlled Egyptian press spews daily anti-Israel venom. President Mubarak has never visited Jerusalem. It is the coolest possible peace. A sacrifice for peace brought in vain-proba- bly a major act of folly on the part of Israel.

Israel made sacrifices for peace by signing a peace treaty with Jordan. In that peace, Israel granted Jor- dan a large yearly allowance of fresh water from its own dwindling and meager resources and accepted a petty demand for "border rectification"-yielding of land. As for Syria, no offered sacrifice for peace seems to be sufficient to satisfy its dictator, President Hafez Assad. He is unwilling to consider even an ice- cold peace, except for Israel’s total surrender of the Golan Heights. Fortunately, under the current Israeli government such a surrender is not in the cards.

The greatest sacrifice for peace that Israel has brought was the resuscitation of the bankrupt and moribund PLO terror organization and the accep- e good sacrifices bs could bring ) Abandon the 1 recovering the top the clamor e division of (3) Disarm the an "police".

tance of it "chairman" Yasser Arafat as a negotiating partner. In this ill-advised process, foist- ed on Israel by world pressure and by its previous govern- ment, Israel has made far- reaching and existential sacrifices and concessions. It has yielded control of the Gaza Strip and of all major "West Bank" cities to the Palestinian Authority and has agreed to detailed plans to grant further autonomy to the Palestinians. In what is probably the ultimate folly in this process, Israel has tolerated the formation of a Palestinian "police force" (actually an army) of 40,000 men-the largest police-to-population ratio in the world (!)- and has equipped this "’police force’ with a com- plete arsenal of automatic weapons. As the world now knows, these weapons were turned on Israeli soldiers and civilians at the very first oppor- tunity that the Palestinian leaders provoked.

The Arab countries, not Israel, are killing peace in the Middle East. The PLO, apart from the bloody crimes that it has committed against Israel, has now established a virtual dictatorship in the territory allotted to it. In Egypt, thousands of Copts have been killed and their churches burned. President Assad of Syria has occu- pied Lebanon and has killed and tortured thousands. Iraq, under its dictator Saddam Hussein, is a rogue state attacking its neighbors and killing its own citizens. Saudi Arabia is a monarchical tyranny. Sudan is engaged in the systematic slaughter and enslavement of its black African people. How strange that nobody asks the Palestinians or any of the Arab states to bring any sacrifices for peace. Here are three good sacrifices that the Arabs could bring for peace: (1) Abandon the insistence on recovering the Golan; (2) Stop the damor about the division of Jerusalem; (3) Disarm the Palestinian "police." Billy dubs are good enough for London Bobbies. Why should any more be needed to patrol Nablus, Hebron and Bethlehem? This ad has been published and paid for by FLAME Facds ad Log abcou t M e e Es PO. Box590359 U Sa Farcsco, CA 94159 56A To THE EDITOR: On April 15, the British Home SecretaryJack Straw ruled for the second time that the Spanish extradition request for General Augus- to Pinochet should proceed, thus rejecting arguments by lawyers for General Pino- chet and the government of Chile as well as by Elliott Abrams. In particular, Straw dismissed suggestions that, on the facts before him, Chile’s sovereignty or its de- mocratic transition should trump Britain’s obligation to extradite Pinochet for crimes pursuant to the United Nations Convention on Torture.

Mr. Abrams seems to ig- nore the fact that Pinochet directly organized the mur- der, disappearance, and tor- ture of thousands of indi- viduals. (Mr. Abrams uses the passive voice to note that the Pinochet years of supposed economic boom were also "marked by gross human-rights violations ranging from press censor- ship to torture and murder of the regime’s opponents," as if these horrors were vis- ited on Chile from above.) He similarly ignores the fact that international law au- thorizes, and in the case of the Torture Convention re- quires, the extraterritorial prosecution of such crimes.

The point of these laws, like all penal laws, is to deter crime. No enforcement, no deterrence.

But Mr. Abrams relies on his experience "negotiat[ing] with several dictators con- cerning their departure from power" to argue that these despots might have clung to office had they been worried about prose- cution. Presumably, he is talking about the likes of Haiti’s "Baby Doc" Duva- lier and the military leaders [12] FLAME is a 501(c)(3) educational institution. Your tax-deductible contribution allows us to publish these important messages.LETTERS FROM READERS of Guatemala and Argenti- na, all of whom were backed by the Reagan administra- tion even as they commit- ted atrocities against their own people. Perhaps if the United States had not been so indulgent-indeed, if it had threatened prosecution from the outset-these ty- rants would not have been emboldened to commit such outrages in the first place. In any event, they all left when their support dried up, not because of promises of amnesty.

Mr. Abrams misrepre- sents the Chilean domestic situation. Pinochet’s self- amnesty was not "agreed upon" with the "incoming democrats." It was imposed by the military twelve years before they left power. The elected democrats promised to annul it but could not.

Polls consistently show that a large majority of Chileans and virtually all of Pino- chet’s victims want to see General Pinochet tried for his crimes, something that is not possible in Chile.

Finally, Mr. Abrams’s principal warning of the "real dangers in proclaim- ing that any judge, any- where, may try any former official" ignores not only the mandate of internation- al law, but the role of the political branches of the Spanish and British gov- ernments. Jack Straw, after weighing the legal and po- litical factors, twice made the difficult decision to au- thorize Spain’s extradition bid for Pinochet. Had Chileans been united in support of Pinochet’s im- munity, as Mr. Abrams claims, the Home Secretary presumably would have de- cided differently.

The debate on Pinochet’s arrest offers an opportuni- ty to acknowledge the evi- dence on Pinochet’s in- volvement in crimes against humanity, to remember his victims, to re-examine U.S.

government support for Pinochet’s coup and its complicity in his abuses, and to seek the release of infor- mation still being withheld by Washington that could illuminate these questions.

Sadly, Mr. Abrams is virtu- ally silent on these matters.

REED BRODY SANDEEP PURI Human Rights Watch New York City To THE EDITOR: As an addendum to El- liott Abrams’s excellent ar- ticle on the Pinochet case, it is helpful to know some- thing of the conditions that brought about the over- throw of the Allende gov- ernment I spent a great deal of time in Chile in 1972 and 1973, negotiating with of- ficials of the Allende regime over compensation for an expropriated copper mine.

I was there during the 1973 coup and for a great deal of time thereafter.

In my judgment, things had gotten so bad by 1973 that a coup was inevitable.

The only question was whe- ther it would come from the Right-i.e., the armed forces-or from the extreme Left, which was militant, heavily armed, and influ- enced if not dominated by Castro (I call it the "ex- treme" Left to distinguish it from the Allende regime, which was itself Marxist).

Just how bad were things? The country had ceased to function. Food was scarce on all sides, from the best hotels to the homes of the poor.

Farmers feared that their land was about to be expro- priated, so they did not in- vest, and food production plummeted. In all of 1972- 73, I saw meat once, at an official government lunch.

Housewives rose before dawn to get into line in hopes of buying a loaf of bread.

Production of copper, the [13] Your First Choice for …

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In downtown Santiago there was constant turmoil and strife. Teenagers wear- ing helmets marched around carrying clubs and chanting opposition slogans. The smell of tear gas was often in the air, and fires were set on street corners with burn- ing tires. The sound of au- tomatic weapons was some- times heard.

Anyone with experience in Latin America knew that this untenable situation was about to blow up. In the event, a Castro-type regime did not take power, and a military government did.

There followed a protracted, clandestine civil war between the military and the disap- pointed and outraged Left.

In a 1980 plebiscite, Pin- ochet won with a large ma- jority, which gave him eight more years in office. The people apparently chose sta- bility. In accordance with the plebiscite, Pinochet con- ducted elections in 1988, and stepped down when he lost. Meanwhile, out of the ashes of the Allende years, he had established a pros- perous Chile that became a model for the economies of developing nations.

Surely innocent people died or were harmed in the violence of 1973 and the warfare that followed. Sure- ly there was much cruelty.

But if there had been a Cas- tro-type regime or an open civil war, the carnage would have been greater.

PHILIP C. WALSH Peapack, New Jersey To THE EDITOR: Elliott Abrams might have pointed out that Gen- eral Pinochet was detained in Britain under European human-rights law. Unfor- tunately, human-rights law is not really the issue. If it were, then of course (as Mr.

Abrams suggests) Fidel Cas- tro, receiving an honorary degree in Spain when all this began, would have been arrested too. It is worth not- ing that those who are howling for General Pino- chet’s blood, especially his victims, were and are hap- py to applaud and support Castro at his vicious worst.

To preserve even a min- imal sense of decency one must ask: why immunity for Castro (and, indeed, the Left in general) in the sanctimo- nious campaign of those who bellow against Pino- chet? The answer lies in the record of the revolutionary Left in Latin America, and of the bien-pensant support for it in Europe and the U.S. That record is, without ex- ception, a story of hideous, bloody, embarrassing fail- ure, an outrage to common humanity, let alone "rights." Cuban-backed uprisings in Central and South America failed. Nicaraguan Marxist- Leninists, after slaughtering the Miskito Indians and im- prisoning, torturing, and murdering their other op- ponents (all with direct help from Castro), sup- posed that they had their country wrapped up, and found they did not.

Of course, there is the "success" of Castro. He has ruined Cuba’s economy, and his human-rights record re- calls the darker pages of As- ian despotism. But he is still in power, thumbing his nose at the United States. Against all the odds, this ragged, nasty caudillo is still able to strut the political stage, lion- ized, stroked, smiled at, and cuddled by Europe’s vicari- ous revolutionaries.

Underneath this hero- worship, of course, there burns a deep resentment over the debacles of the Latin American Left. And Pinochet did something which rouses that resent- ment to white heat. His dra- conian rule was a spectac- ular success, healing the economy and restoring a base for democracy in the body politic that Allende had destroyed. The process was painful, often brutal, but it worked well and ended well-in marked contrast to the "socialist" pain and bru- tality that were and, in the case of Cuba, still are nos- talgically excused and ap- plauded by the very people who are screaming for Pin- ochet’s head.

HERB GREER Manchester, England ELLIOTT ABRAMS writes: In the lead opinion in the Pinochet case, Lord Browne- Wilkinson candidly states that "it may well be thought that the trial of Senator Pinochet in Spain for offens- [14] Can’t find Commentary at your favorite newsstand? 3! Help is just one phone call away. w to_ akwrCmDial 1-800-221-3148 to ask where Commentary is on sale near your home or office.LETTERS FROM READERS es all of which related to the state of Chile and most of which occurred in Chile is not calculated to achieve the best justice. But I cannot em- phasize too strongly that that is no concern of your Lord- ships." This is a key point the Law Lords were concerned with construing the law, not matters such as stability, democracy, or even justice.

But if the Law Lords could not consider these matters, my view was (and is) that statesmen must For example South Africa’s Deputy Presi- dent, Thabo Mbeki, recently called for a new round of amnesties for apartheid-era human-rights violations, stat- ing that endless trials would produce political divisiveness and violence that would threaten his country’s future.

Still, Jay M. Zerin and Doron Becker are right in suggesting that cases must sometimes be tried by foreign governments. The question is when. Mr. Becker is wrong in suggesting an analogy be- tween the Letelier case and the Spanish cases being brought in London: in Lete- lier, the crime was actually committed in the United States, while the cases being raised in London involve acts committed in Chile-not in Spain. Mr. Zerin is correct in saying that the United States, Spain, and many other countries prosecute crimes against their citizens committed outside their ter- ritory, but here again the is- sue is when that effort is wise and when it is not.

Nuremberg is an easy case, but is it really a prece- dent for trying Pinochet? The analogies between Pinochet and Hitler, and be- tween Germany in 1945 and Chile today, appeal to both Mr. Zerin and Mr. Becker, but not to me. "Helping cit- izens of many countries come to terms" with human-rights abuses (per Mr. Becker) is too vague a goal for me to accept, and may come at too high a price. And Mr. Zerin is wrong about Pinochet’s passport.

Mere possession of a diplo- matic passport does not auto- matically bring the bearer diplomatic immunity, which is only accorded to accredit- ed persons on diplomatic mis- sions. It can be argued that as Pinochet was an official guest of the British Ministry of De- fense, this was tantamount to accreditation. The British courts saw it otherwise.

I am grateful to Philip C.

Walsh for his account of the situation in Chile in 1973.

Coups in Latin America of- ten have very broad popular support, which is one reason they succeed. (Attempts in the 1980’s against Argenti- na’s president Ratil Alfonsin and Venezuela’s president Carlos Andres Perez failed for lack of wide backing.) But Mr. Walsh goes too far, I think, in complimenting Pinochet for his achieve- ments, for some of these were squeezed out of him under great pressure, and in any event his human-rights violations were indefensible.

Herb Greer is absolute- ly right in suggesting that the Pinochet case tells us more about leftist politics than about true commit- ments to human rights. One of those "howling for Gen- eral Pinochet’s blood" but who was "happy to applaud and support Castro" and other leftists is Reed Brody, whose mendacious letter I have left for last. Mr. Brody (whose co-author, Sandeep Puri, I do not know) is fa- mous in some human-rights circles as the author of the 1985 "Brody Report" on al- legations of human-rights abuses by the contras in Nicaragua. He posed as an honest and balanced analyst, but it later emerged that during his three-month stay in Managua his hotel bill was picked up by the San- dinista regime, which also provided him with cars and office space. Somehow Mr.

Brody never got around to reporting on Communist human-rights abuses.

His letter is a museum piece of leftist agitprop. All Latin dictators, he says, were backed by the Reagan ad- ministration; the fact that the Reagan administration removed Baby Doc" Du- valier goes unmentioned, as does the relentless pressure for human-rights improve- ments in Pinochet’s Chile.

Mr. Brody’s explanation for human-rights problems in the region is that rulers were "emboldened to commit such outrages in the first place" because the United States was "so indulgent." This kind of simple-mind- edness cannot explain why there was democracy in Costa Rica and Venezuela but dictatorship in Argenti- na and Haiti, for it denies the existence of Latin Amer- ican political culture alto- gether. What is bad, ac- cording to Mr. Brody, must have come from Washing- ton. His misreading of the Chilean political situation and the Pinochet case itself would take too much space to refute in detail. Fortu- nately his knee-jerk anti- Americanism, which during the cold war characterized all too much of the human- rights movement, is now a personal idiosyncrasy rather than a significant problem.

Correction In Igor Golomstock’s article, "The Forger and the Spy," which appeared last month, the names of the art histor- ian Marc Fumaroli and of John Costello, the author of The Mask of Treachery, were misspelled. We regret the errors. -ED.

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