NORTH Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms, ever the cuss, believes that Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide is a "dangerous psychopath."
There are a number of ways to respond to such a charge. The first is to dismiss it as a small, mean-spirited comment emanating from a small and mean-spirited man.
Or we can make use of the adage, "It takes one to know one," and speculate whether Senator Helms believes the people of Haiti are the only ones who have the right to elect the psychiatrically challenged to public office.
But that might be libelous. Jesse Helms might be perfectly sane, which might be part of what's wrong with him. Some genuinely gifted people were afflicted with some form of mental illness. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill suffered from severe bouts of depression. Sir Isaac Newton invented the calculus and then went quite loony several years after. (Perhaps it was inventing calculus that caused Newton to go bonkers.)
But we certainly don't want to include the gentleman from North Carolina in this group. He lacks the compassion and vision of Lincoln, the wit and leadership of Churchill and the genius of Newton.
The most appropriate response to Senator Helms' analysis is to consider his source. In this case it's the CIA, which last month issued a report questioning Father Aristide's mental health. The CIA then briefed Senator Helms and others. No doubt the agency knew it could count on the senator to go forth and assassinate Father Aristide's character. It was not disappointed.
But the CIA has its own history of psychopathy to contend with. The organization has never met a group of right-wing thugs it didn't like, and its involvement in the 1960 murder of Patrice Lumumba, the first premier of the Congo (now Zaire), was particularly gruesome.
The CIA aided and abetted the Belgians in removing Lumumba, who was afflicted with the curious notion that the natural resources of his country should belong to the people in it. Agency operatives plotted with other Congolese leaders -- including Mobutu Sese Seko, the psychopath who currently mismanages Zaire -- to assassinate Lumumba. Then they helped install Mr. Mobutu as president for life.
Deposed in a coup led by Mr. Mobutu, Lumumba tried to make his way to his supporters in Stanleyville when he was captured. While in custody, Lumumba was tortured, beaten, bayoneted in the chest and shot in the head.
His body was disposed of in a vat of acid provided by the CIA. The CIA station in Katanga province in the Congo sent a message to CIA headquarters in the U.S. which read:
THANKS FOR PATRICE. IF WE HAD KNOWN HE WAS COMING WE WOULD HAVE BAKED A SNAKE.
If the folks at the CIA are sane, I want to be crazy.
Instead of casting aspersions at the duly elected Haitian president, Senator Helms might do well to ask the CIA why it wants the current crop of drug-dealing, murderous cutthroats ruling Haiti to remain in power.
Gregory P. Kane is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun.