Hamilton Fish on Cynthia Brown, Katha Pollitt on Vacation From War, Peter Rothberg on Oklahoma tornado relief


REMEMBERING CYNTHIA BROWN: Cynthia Brown died peacefully in her Manhattan apartment on May 12, following a fierce two-year battle with cancer. She wrote her first story for The Nation in 1979, when as a brilliant 26-year-old journalist covering Latin America she reported on the irreparable damage done to Nicaragua by the Somoza regime.

Cynthia led the way for a generation of independent journalists and filmmakers—including Susan Meiselas, Anne Nelson, Julia Preston and Pamela Yates, among others—who approached the coverage of events in this hemisphere through the lens of human rights. Their reporting departed strikingly from the normative framing of the Cold War years, in which the inability to see past the threat of communism—as well as to recognize the legitimate aspirations of regional populations to self-determination and democracy—repeatedly led the United States into ill-advised alliances with military dictatorships and politically repressive regimes.

Cynthia and her contemporaries reframed our understanding of these issues and our role in the hemisphere, and their reporting inspired efforts in Congress to blunt the interventionist doctrine of the Reagan era. In the pages of The Nation, Cynthia documented the ravages of US-supported dictatorships in El Salvador, Guatemala, Uruguay and especially Chile, the country that claimed her heart.

She worked for seventeen years at Human Rights Watch, first as a researcher for Americas Watch, later as the Americas Watch representative in Chile, and then as the organization’s first program director. Principled and uncompromising, committed to the facts and to analytical rigor, she placed her distinctive mark on the emerging human rights standards by which the performance of governments throughout the world came to be measured.

Cynthia died way too young, but not before making a huge difference in the times in which she lived.   HAMILTON FISH

VACATION FROM WAR: Once again it’s time to honor an annual tradition and donate to Vacation From War. This German-based peace group is celebrating its twentieth year of bringing together children for a multiethnic summer camp in the wake of civil war. Today it includes children from Croatia and Serbia, Albanians and Serbs from Kosovo, and young people from Israel and occupied Palestine. Nation readers are a mainstay of the organization, so please open your hearts and wallets: $150 makes you a godparent, but donations of any size are welcome.

Make out your checks to “Vacation From War,” mail them to me at The Nation (33 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003), and I will forward them.   KATHA POLLITT

HELP OKLAHOMA: Oklahoma’s most impoverished residents were hit hard by the tornado that struck on May 20, and support is critically needed. Among the best groups to donate to are the Oklahoma Tornado Relief Fund, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, Feeding America and Operation: Starting Gun. For more background on their work, visit   PETER ROTHBERG

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