OTHER VOICES

Peace Corps must value volunteers

Posted May 20, 2011, at 5:42 p.m.
Last modified May 20, 2011, at 10:41 p.m.

The Northwest has long been a stronghold of Peace Corps volunteers, with 246 Oregonians currently serving.

In all, our state has 5,652 “returnees,” a cadre that has helped to burnish a strong ethic of volunteerism here. We don’t want to diminish these ties. Yet, in recent weeks, some core assumptions have, undeniably, been shaken. People here share in the profound sense of betrayal Peace Corps volunteers themselves have expressed about the agency’s callous treatment of them — after they were raped.

How could such a progressive bastion rebuff its own volunteers when they were at their nadir in a strange country, seeking support — and justice? It is very difficult to understand. They trusted, in some cases even idealized, the Peace Corps, but it failed them miserably.

Instead, the agency responded as colleges, churches and children’s organizations have so often responded to rape and abuse victims: by blaming and shaming and trying to muffle them.

What makes this even harder to comprehend is that, for roughly half of its 50-year history, the Peace Corps has had more women volunteers than men. The tipping point came in 1985.

Today, the corps of 8,655, dispersed in 77 countries — average age: 28 — is 60 percent women and 40 percent men. Yet only relatively recently, and partially in response to national outrage over news reports, has the Peace Corps expressed remorse and unveiled a long list of changes to strengthen security and oversight.

Still, it will take time for the Peace Corps to rekindle trust and prove itself anew to Americans. Its mission remains critical. But safety of the volunteers who perform that mission is, or ought to be, paramount.

Only by showing substantial improvement, and the percolation of a new culture and mindset, can the Peace Corps rebuild its reputation and safeguard itself.

The Oregonian, Portland  (May 17)

AP seeks bin Laden photos

A Freedom of Information Act request, filed by The Associated Press in order to get access to photos of Osama bin Laden after his death, may wind up giving the world one last look at the Sept. 11 terrorist.

The AP requested the photos and other material stemming from the May 2 raid in which elite Navy SEALs swooped into the Pakistan compound where bin Laden was hiding, killed him and then buried him at sea a few hours later.

President Barack Obama decided against releasing photos of bin Laden’s body, saying that to do so would be similar to an excessive celebration, and it would run the chance of inflaming anti-American feelings in Pakistan and other nations.

The president was correct to order the photos withheld, even though doing so gave rise to more than a few conspiracy theories that wondered if bin Laden really was the man who got killed.

It’s worth pointing out that his terrorist organization, al-Qaida, confirmed bin Laden’s death a few days after the raid, so that would seem to pop any conspiracy balloons.

It’s also worth noting that a lot of people in Pakistan and elsewhere already dislike the U.S., its permissive culture, its military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its continued global presence. There’s no need to give them one more feeble excuse to hate us by releasing the bin Laden death photos just to soothe the world’s relentless, gossipy curiosity.

That being said, the AP makes just as strong an argument. The photos exist, and as government property, the public is entitled to see them if they do not include classified information.

Hopefully the most grisly images will be kept private.

Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Miss.  (May 18)

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