The Foreign Service Journal, November 2011

J OURNAL Editor S TEVE H ONLEY ’ S C lassic P icks FSJ J UNE 2006 N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 1 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 43 wrote the original version of the following piece back in 1984, when I was working in the Human Rights Office of the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, as it was then known. Among other responsibili- ties, I was editing the an- nual human rights report for the Philippines, part of the department’s annual compilation of worldwide country human rights reports. This was a particularly delicate task, for while the situation there was egre- gious, our embassy in Manila did not want to upset then-dictator Ferdin- and Marcos by saying so. In fact, the U.S. ambassador had recently returned to Washington for the express purpose, we were told, of keeping the Philippines human rights report “under control.” (As it turned out, the embassy’s defense of theMarcos dictatorship was renderedmoot only a fewmonths later, when popular reaction to the assassination of Benigno Aquino caused the collapse of the regime.) While I was editing the umpteenth weaselly-worded redraft of the Philip- pines report late one night, something snapped inside me. I put aside the document and dashed off a human rights report on Attila the Hun’s regime, as it would have been submit- ted by an overprotective embassy circa 451 A.D. However, I do not really con- sider myself its author, for the parody is really a composite plagiarism of over a hundred similarly euphemistic reports actually submitted to the department by posts from around the world in the early 1980s. I should also note that most of the particulars on Attila and his empire are historical facts, not my own inventions. The parody immediately beganmaking the rounds as a sort of samizdat text. More than two decades later, I am pleased to have it published in the Journal. Although the report covers the year 451, it follows the stan- dard format used by HA for the 1983 reports. Like the typi- cal country human rights report of the early 1980s, it has been submitted late — although 1,500-plus years late is at the ex- treme end of the scale. Attila the Hun has repeatedly stated his firm and principled opposition to all excessive torture. H UMAN R IGHTS R EPORT FOR THE H UN E MPIRE , A.D. 451 T HE FOLLOWING REPORT IS SUBMITTED A MERE 15 CENTURIES AFTER THE EVENTS IT DESCRIBES … I Donald A. Roberts, a Foreign Service officer from 1971 to 1998, served in Islamabad, Ankara, Bogota, Bamako, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Manama and Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he served with USAID in Mo- rocco and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines. He recently completed a When Actually Employed posting on the Africa Bureau’s Economic Policy Staff, where he was responsible for trade issues, and is currently on the NEA/SA roster for WAE assignments. B Y D ONALD A. R OBERTS F EATURE