| Charges possible in 1976 PCV slaying
Congressman Norm Dicks has asked the U.S. attorney in Seattle to consider pursuing charges against Dennis Priven, the man accused of killing Peace Corps Volunteer Deborah Gardner on the South Pacific island of Tonga 28 years ago. Background on this story here and here.
| American Taboo
Read the story of Volunteer Deborah Gardner's murder in Tonga in 1976 and how her killer has been free for the past 28 years with the help of the Peace Corps. Read an excerpt from Philip Weiss' book documenting the murder and coverup. Then read an essay by RPCV Bob Shaconis who says that Peace Corps' treatment as a "sacred cow" has exempted it from public scrutiny and that the agency has labored to preserve its shining reputation, sometimes at the expense of the very principles it is supposed to embody.
|By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-45-115.balt.east.verizon.net - 184.108.40.206) on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 5:59 pm: Edit Post
|By Daniel Seiler (69-174-27-227.chvlva.adelphia.net - 220.127.116.11) on Thursday, October 14, 2004 - 9:41 pm: Edit Post
Started reading the book this week. It explains a great deal about the behavior of our Peace Corps training staff. Perhaps it was me, but had the staff explained what had happened I think our group would have been more understanding about the emotions exhibited when, as a group, we refused to do some parts of our training schedule. I believe Jan Worth was one of the trainers who bore the brunt of these feelings. For that I am truly sorry. She was very positive during our entire training period.
Mike Baisile did not interact a great deal with our group because he was preparing to leave country. I remember him as being honest and sincere. A man of honor. I also remember meeting Mark and Frank through other PCV's. Good people as well. Always willing to give sound advice based on their experience. Advice that served me well in two plus years in Tonga.
P.S. Dave Fryauff (Tonga 22 RPCV) moved into the mosquito building. Fondly known as Lt. Namu by his good friends.
|By Robert H. Forbes, Jr. (cpe-066-026-190-045.carolina.rr.com - 18.104.22.168) on Thursday, November 25, 2004 - 7:42 pm: Edit Post
Hi Dan - I read your msg above with interest. You might not remember me - I'm Bob Forbes, one of the 3 PCVs from Tonga 17 on your training staff. We were only about 3 weeks into training in Oct. 1976 when the murder of Debbie Gardner occurred. We felt vulnerable and confused, and our spirits were pretty crushed... not knowing if the PC program would continue in Tonga, or if we'd have to pack up and go home. But we got word that the king considered that tragic event an aberration; that he'd like us to stay on and continue our mission. We were very relieved and most of us threw ourselves into the remainder of training and then into our work, while the trial and its weirdness continued in the background. Then for months after it was over there was the strife and dissension among in-country PC staff that ended with the firing of Country Director Mary George. You might say our whole first year was a mess, at least as far as our PC connections, and half of the Tonga 17 group was gone as we began our second year of service. The rest of us stuck around though, and got involved as much as possible with the Tongan people and their culture, pretty much disassociating ourselves from ties to the PC and our fellow palangis... because I believe we were still living in the shadow and shame of being there when one PCV killed another. I don't think that we Tonga 17er's who stuck around to help train you (Jan Worth, David Goddard, and I) were really up front with your Tonga 22 Group and all of those feelings that continued to haunt us. We didn't want you to be tainted by all the 'bad blood' we had to live with during our first year. We wanted things to be better for you all than it was for us. Looking back on it I'm pretty sure that is why you sensed frustration and sadness among us when things did not go always 'just right' as we hoped. Philip Weiss did a decent job of describing some of our feelings in his book, although of course he wrote mostly about the PC groups that preceded us, and he had to dwell a little too much on the dark side of things due to the nature of his subject matter. My 2nd year was much better than my first one was, and of course on the whole my 2-1/2 years in Tonga were a life-changing experience I'll always treasure. Sad to say that wasn't the case for some of the PCVs who were most affected by that brutal murder. It's a testament to Debbie's strength of spirit that her essence returned a quarter-century later to inspire Phil Weiss to write "American Taboo," helped by many of us who are still troubled by the miscarriage of justice. It's not over though... I'm heartened by the recent inquiry of a Congressman, and feel that additional 'closure' is yet to come.
Bob "Lopeti" Forbes
|By VICTORIA (22.214.171.124) on Friday, February 25, 2005 - 6:52 pm: Edit Post
I PICKED UP THIS BOOK AT MY LOCAL LIBRARY HOPING TO GAIN SOME INFO.ON WHY SOMEONE LIKE MYSELF WOULD WANT TO JOIN THE PEACE CORPS AS MUCH AS I DO. IJUST FINISHED THE BOOK,AND ALTHOUGH I KNOW NOT 1PERSON IN IT,I FELT SOMEWHAT INVOLVED WHILE READING.ICOULDNT LET THE BOOK GO,MY EYES MOVED FROM 1 WORDTO ANOTHER NONSTOP. IT WAS TRAGIC,AND I JUSTWANT TO SAY TO ANY SOURCE THAT HELPED IN THE MAKING OF IT,AND MIGHT HAVE BEEN SLIGHTY SKEPTIC ABOUT DOING SO, IM GLAD U DID.READING ABOUT DEBORAH GARDNER HAS CHANGED MY LIFE IN THAT IT MAKES ME WANT TO LIVE MORE THAN EVER!
|By Anonymous (dialup-126.96.36.199.dial1.boston1.level3.net - 188.8.131.52) on Thursday, April 28, 2005 - 8:06 pm: Edit Post
The two things you have to remember about the PC then and now, is that it is a bureaucracy and a cult. The number one mission of any bureaucracy is not the "safety and security" of its members, nor the "vision"; its main purpose is to protect itself. And as a cult, it socializes its members to think in terms of them v. us. It uses isolation, rules, rewards, and psychological group pressure to manipulate its members into serving the bureaucracy. The events in the book could happen again, in exactly the same way. The 2003 Dayton expose on violence in the PC is a sister companion to American Taboo.
|By Robert Forbes (cpe-069-132-111-132.carolina.res.rr.com - 184.108.40.206) on Sunday, May 01, 2005 - 9:54 pm: Edit Post
While it could be said that the PC, like any government agency, has some characteristics of a bureaucracy, I find no basis in its charter or its history to label it a cult. Doing so undermines the work of 170,000 RPCVs, most of whom will tell you that their PC service was one of the finest periods of their lives, and that the PC remains one of the best diplomatic ventures undertaken by the US government. That said, the PC has certainly had some dark moments and shown its share of warts in its 40+ years, one of the ugliest being the events that surrounded "American Taboo." The 2003 Dayton study of violence and death among PCVs underscores the fact that living overseas has its elements of danger. But you only have to open a daily newspaper in any American city to see that danger is fact of life in the U.S. as well. Simple statistics predict that, of several thousand PCVs in service at any given time, some are going to be victims of violence. A much lesser number, but still some small percentage, are going to be perpetrators. And when that happens, it does an incredible amount of lasting and irreparable damage, as described in "American Taboo."