Among the words that are anathema to the present administration are "human rights." They cause all sorts of unnecessary problems when we're dealing with the majority of our allies.
Ernest Lefever, who as of this writing is still President Reagan's nominee for assistant secretary of state for human rights, has testified that the best way to approach the subject is through "quiet diplomacy." In other words, you don't want to make a big deal of political repression, torture and government murders or you will embarrass a friendly power, and it will give its tear-gas business to somebody else.
This is how the new Reagan "quiet diplomacy" could work:
"Your Excellency, can I speak to you in private?"
"Of course, Mr. Secretary. What can I do for you?"
"There is a nasty rumor going around your capital that your troops wiped out an entire village, including men, women and children."
"Not so loud, Mr. Secretary. Someone will hear you."
"I'll try to keep it down to a whisper."
"Good. Off the record, and not for attribution?"
"Of course. That's what quiet diplomacy is."
"The village was infested with communist guerrillas, and we had to teach the people a lesson."
"Can I say something to you, that will not leave this room?"
"Of course, Mr. Secretary."
"The United States thinks you may have overreacted, particularly since the news of the destruction of the village has gotten into the American newspapers."
"That is because you don't have press censorship in your country as we do here. We know how the story got out and we have taken measures against the exiles in the United States who released it."
"Are you speaking about the assassination of the former editor of Corrida in Washington last week?"
"Hush, Mr. Secretary, we may be bugged. I will whisper the answer into your ear . . .Yes, that's the one."
"Your Excellency, I'll say this as softly as I can, but the United States does not approve of foreign foul play on American soil. It violates our sovereignty and brings in the Justice Department. We were hoping you would not blow up any more of your opposition leaders in the United States."
"We had no choice. The editor was giving our country a bad name."
"Please, don't raise your voice, Your Excellency. I would not want anyone to know we had this discussion. The only reason I brought up the assassination was that we want to modernize your army, and Congress might balk at military aid if your government were implicated in the killing. It's one thing to destroy a village in your own country, but it's another to carry your authoritarian policies to the United States."
"I don't understand you people. We are trying to fight communism and terrorism, and you make a big thing about blowing up one rotten editor in America. I thought your government's attitude towards human rights had changed."
"It has, Your Excellency. We don't care what you do as long as it's done quietly. All we ask is that you keep your atrocities under wraps, at least until we get your military aid approved by Congress."
"I suppose the next thing you'll be asking us to do is stop torturing nuns."
"We're not going to ask for the impossible. We don't want you to change your way of life. But we would prefer if you don't do it on television. There are still people in the United States who are trying to discredit our new human rights policy."
"I see your point. Can I tell my minister of interior about our conversation?"
"I suppose he has to be informed. But please don't tell anyone else. When it comes to human rights, the fewer people who know where the United States stands, the better it will be for all of us."