Thank you Frontline for profiling Fred Cuny.
I worked in the Kenya and Somalia during 1994
and saw many of the things reported by you show.
Your unbiased and comprehensive representation
of the facts is seldom seen today. Thank you
for great journalism. I did not know Fred Cuny,
but now thanks to you program, I feel a little
that I do. Fred Cuny writings is now on the
top of my reading list. The Web page is comprehensive
and a good resource on humanitarian operations.
The subject of reforming the international disaster
relief 'mechanism' has been widely written about,
but I think your presentations and excerpts of
Fred's writing are excellent. Please keep
up the good work. Thank you again on the
excellent program. Fred truly was modern
day hero and leader. He will be sorely missed.
Robert J. Belch
Last night's show, all I knew about Fred Cuny
was what I had read in The Dallas Morning
News, shortly after his disappearance. I think
that, unfortunately, there are some places in
the world that are too dangerous, and too
unstable, for even someone like Fred. I think
Chechnya was one of those places. If Fred
were still around, he would be working his
magic in Mexico, helping victims of Hurricane
His work in Bosnia was especially heroic.
I can remember days when I was so angry
about what I saw happening in Bosnia, that
I wanted to kick in the TV. It was hard
to watch, especially since the West wasn't
lifting a finger to stop it. I am a Republican
and a conservative, but I believe we have the
moral responsibility to be the world's policeman.
I hope that our government, in the future,
will listen to people like Fred.
I've been watching Frontline since the first
program in the fall of 1982. I've always enjoyed
it, even when I disagreed with the political
slant of a particular show.
Keep up the great work.
I applaud Frontline on the superb program on Fred Cuny and its success in bringing
to greater public awareness the significant work of this man and of the wider
humanitarian community. Despite this appreciation, however, I do have several
concerns, not only with the content of the program itself, but particularly with
certain components of the educational materials.
First, the program. Although the program from its title was most directly focused
on Cuny the man, the overemphasis on his personality and his motivations seemed to
minimize the significance of his work in saving innumerable human beings, his
creative response to those needs, and his deep understandings of the problems.
This struck me as being most unfortunate, leaving the impression that somehow his
work can be ignored because it may have been driven by his ego.
The educational materials. While I recognize that these materials are designed to
be accessible to elementary age children, accessibility is no excuse either for
factual error or misleading statements. The answers to many of the questions
diminish the significant role played by NGOs throughout the world. Even in wealthy
countries, NGOs are usually the first entities to develop immediate and effective
responses to need. In the US., the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are often the
first organizations to arrive after hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes. Certainly
it is true that most of the funds for these activities in the US come from the
country itself, your materials lead one to the impression that the responses are
more from the governmental side. Similarly in the "Who Helps?" section, the claim
that governments are usually the first on the scene is somewhat incredible. Any
examination of the facts would lead one to the conclusion that most governments are
most immediately concerned with minimizing the pubic relations problems that a humanitarian
emergency creates, from the Kobe earthquake to the famines in Somalia and Ethiopia,
to the earthquake in Armenia. Government action often is nothing more than
attempts to hide the fact that the government cannot respond adequately to the
demand. NGOs, despite the limitations imposed upon them by governments, remain the
most responsive and flexible agents for responding to humanitarian emergencies. In
fact much of the work done with USAID monies is channeled through NGOs as is much
of the work done by the UN. Undoubtedly, one can criticize the duplication of
effort and the failure to coordinate activities that may mark some of these
operations, but when compared to the undertakings of governments, NGOs stand far
above them in terms of flexibility, commitment, and responsiveness. I believe it
is most unfortunate that a program dedicated to the work of a man whose entire life
in the world of NGOs--and who was funded often by private contributions such as
those from George Soros--should fail to recognize and to illuminate their role
Edward L. Queen II
Director, Jane Addams-Andrew Carnegie Fellowship Program
Director, Religion and Philanthropy Project
Visiting Professor of Philanthropic Studies
Indiana University Center on Philanthropy
Congratulations on an outstanding web site. I came to it via the
documentary -- and specifically because I spent time in Sarajevo as a
journalist covering Fred Cuny and his water project.
Good work on the innovative use of graphics prompting viewers (on the
broadcast piece) to go to the web site for more info. And, once there,
they can find a rich amount of info on him and a thought-provoking
Good work all around!
I was riveted to the screen. This story was reminiscent of my father
recounting Vietnam. My mother made me read "All's Quiet on the Western
Front", so that I'd have an idea of what war really came down to, in a hand
to hand combat. Your special illuminated war in a similar but significantly
different fashion. Personal motivation aside--you special gave a stark look
at the US in international affairs. Thank you for jogging my memory and
heightening my awareness of my US citizenship.
I just finished browsing through your "viewer discussion" section regarding the
program on Fred Cuny. Similarly to other viewers I too, was both fascinated by the
story of his life and accomplishments, and enormously grateful that Frontline is
able to bring such reports to it viewers on a regular basis.
I can only add that I am surprised that I had never before (at least not that I can
remember) heard of Cuny. Apparently, I am far from being alone in my ignorance.
Something is not right when a man of his significance is largely unrecognized by
those of us who consider themselves well-informed. Kudos again to Frontline for
bringing his life to our attention.
Carl M. Heffner
Great special on an interesting man.
It frustrated me, however, how Cuny
consistently saw US. inaction as "stupidity"
despite the fact that he encountered it time
after time. Perhaps he might have been more
successful had he seen this unwillingness to
effect the cause (instead of the symptoms)
as a consistent response by the US throughout
the past 75 years.
If the same course of action is consistently
taken, it is *not* stupid, it's policy.
I commend you on your treatment of Fred Cuny's life. Often an individual who has so
much to offer is faulted for minor mistakes or personality flaws, despite this I
was glad to see his imperfections. People like Fred Cuny prove the epicenter of
true power and ability lies within our humanity, our imperfections, our caring and
personal loss. Many will say he was an extraordinary man, I would say he was
ordinary, that his ideals and vision are what all of us share as ordinary people.
Let's just hope that more of us will make extraordinary efforts, as Fred Cuny did,
to realize those ideals.
It is a very large comfort to know our species has within it those who are motivated
to altruistically attempt to prevent war and suffering.
Fred's drive to aid the suffering excelled so much that it lead him to take a shot
at doing the most good possible by trying to prevent the conflict in the first
It would not diminish his story to relate a small embellishment to that history, so
wonderfully depicted on FRONTLINE.
Your show only mentioned it for an instant, like the explosive instant that ended
her life, another American, the first and 'last' American to die in a post cold war
Russian air-raid, Cynthia Elbaum died in Chechnya as did Fred.
That year was a record year for journalists to die serving the common interests of
I watched your documentary last night (Tuesday, October 14th, 1997) and was moved by
the dedication of Fred Cuny. The film footage is what touched me the most though,
because I had to bring myself to realize that Fred Cuny was living under those
I don't believe for a moment that there are politicians serving us who would do the
same as Fred Cuny has done for the world. Fred Cuny is a world hero.
I hope that his son may know, that Fred, as a real Texan, in his final moment, would
not have kneeled to anyone.
The story of Fred Cuny has moved
and inspired me in a most profound way. My
humanity is confirmed ever so more after
hearing the story of his life. Life is made
more bearable knowing that there are people
on this planet with the courage to act
selflessly in the face of danger, who have
the compassion to face the suffering that
would be unbearable for most of us face, and
who have the strength and resolve to do all
they can for their convictions. Fred Cuny was
a true hero, belonging in the ranks of people
such as Raoul Wallenberg, Harriet Tubman, and
Mother Teresa .
Thank you for being here FRONTLINE ! You
make the world a little better place with the
integrity of your journalism.
Pleasant Hill, California
I saw the report aired yesterday on Fred Cuny, "The Lost American". This man
was truly an American hero. Whatever his shortcomings, they are far outweighed by
his social conscience. Your reports are, as usual, well balanced and to the point.
They present the facts as they are, whether the facts supports the "liberal" view
or that of the "conservatives".
As I was reading some of the entries in the Viewer Discussion, I was shocked by
some of the comments made by some of the viewers of the program. And if I may, I
would like to respond to some of them:
To the person who didn't even sign his name that suggested that the sniper
attacks were orchestrated by the Bosnians themselves: Do you mean to say that it
was the Bosnians themselves who were in the hills laying siege to their own city? I
don't condone the fact that the Bosnian Government refused to let Mr. Cuny open the
water plant, but with the apathy of the "civilized" world towards taking any action
to stop the genocide taking place in Bosnia, I can certainly understand it.
To the gentleman who is an Air Force reservist: The United States was NOT the
first country in Bosnia. The French and the British had sizable contingents there
long before US troops were deployed, not to mention troops from many other
countries that were also there.
The truth (as I see it, of course) is that moral correctness and "national
interests" have nothing in common. As was said by somebody in the documentary,
Politics and Economics go hand in hand. If it's worth my while I'll do something
about it. Kuwait is a case in point. It's Capitalism at its best. I guess I'm
getting cynical in my older age. However, when I see stories about homo sapiens
like Mr. Fred Cuny (and I do mean a thinking man!) it restores my faith a little.
Then a man like belief comes into the act, and ..."Homo Homini Lupus", though I do
hate to give wolves a bad name.
Eugenio Escobar, Jr.
Ridgewood, New York
Three Cheers for PBS and Frontline! How tragic it is that "mainstream media" fails
to relay the reality of the situations this remarkable man experienced. If the
network TV channels broadcast this caliber of program to substitute the "cat up
the tree" type evening news, I would expect there would be a dramatic change in the
foreign policies which permit these civil wars.
Thank you for an inspirational program. I decided to watch after listening to a
preview about the program on NPR. I follow the news very closely and yet don't
remember ever hearing about Fred Cuny. It is too bad that we only hear about the
politicians, warlords, armies associated with the world's conflicts, but never the
good people who are trying to make a difference. Now that he is gone, I wonder if
his legacy will continue. In light of this, I think that your comments about his
ambition were a little too harsh. He had every right to seek a more powerful
position. Maybe if he had been given the sort of post he sought, his ideas would
have made it to the mainstream and had a better chance of becoming part of our
policy. Your web site is great. Reading Fred Cuny's letter about the visit to DC
with his best friend's daughter showed a private, human side of the subject that
you couldn't have portrayed with a camera. Keep up the good work, Frontline.
New York, NY
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