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The Tally Ho

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Un- no, Believable

In typical Bush White House fashion, they have decided to send John D. Negroponte to the Senate for confirmation, the AP reports.
“John will make sure that those whose duty it is to defend America have the information we need to make the right decisions,” Bush said. “We’re going to stop the terrorists before they strike.”

Responding, Negroponte called the new job “the most challenging assignment I have undertaken in more than 40 years of government service.”

Negroponte, 65, was at the United Nations when he was tapped to take on the delicate job of transforming the U.S. presence in Iraq from that of an occupier to that of an adviser. Bush chose him for the job last April and he went to Baghdad hours after the handover of sovereignty to Iraq’s interim government.

Negroponte has also been ambassador to the Philippines, Mexico and Honduras.

As ambassador to the United Nations, Negroponte helped win unanimous approval of a Security Council resolution that demanded Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein comply with U.N. mandates to disarm. Negroponte worked to expand the role for international security forces in Afghanistan after the overthrow of the Taliban government.

Negroponte’s confirmation to the United Nations post was delayed a half-year mostly because of criticism of his record as the U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985. In Honduras, he played a prominent role in assisting the Contras in Nicaragua in their war with the left-wing Sandinista government.

Human rights groups alleged that Negroponte acquiesced in human rights abuses by Honduran death squads funded and partly trained by the CIA. Negroponte testified during the hearings for the U.N. post that he did not believe death squads were operating in Honduras.

If you are wondering what the fuss about Mr. Negroponte is, this In These Times article gives a quick summary
As U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, Negroponte abetted and covered up human rights crimes. He was a zealous anti-Communist crusader in America's covert wars against the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua and the FMLN rebels in El Salvador. The high-level planning, money and arms for those wars flowed from Washington, but much of the on-the-ground logistics for the deployment of intelligence, arms and soldiers was run out of Honduras. U.S. military aid to Honduras jumped from $3.9 million in 1980 to $77.4 million by 1984. So crammed was the tiny country with U.S. bases and weapons that it was dubbed the USS Honduras, as if it were simply an off-shore staging ground.

The captain of this ship, Negroponte was in charge of the U.S. Embassy when, according to a 1995 four-part series in the Baltimore Sun, hundreds of Hondurans were kidnapped, tortured and killed by Battalion 316, a secret army intelligence unit trained and supported by the Central Intelligence Agency. As Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson wrote in the series, Battalion 316 used "shock and suffocation devices in interrogations. Prisoners often were kept naked and, when no longer useful, killed and buried in unmarked graves." Members of Battalion 316 were trained in surveillance and interrogation at a secret location in the United States and by the CIA at bases in Honduras. Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, the chief of the Honduran armed forces who personally directed Battalion 316, also trained in the United States at the School of the Americas.

Negroponte tried to distance himself from the pattern of abuses, even after a flood of declassified documents exposed the extent of U.S. involvement with Battalion 316. In a segment of the 1998 CNN mini-series Cold War, Negroponte said that "some of the retrospective effort to try and suggest that we were supportive of, or condoned the actions of, human rights violators is really revisionistic."

By the time Negroponte was appointed ambassador by President Reagan in 1981, human rights activists in Honduras were vocally denouncing abuses. Former Honduran congressman Efrain Diaz Arrivillaga pleaded with Negroponte and other U.S. officials to stop the abuses committed by the U.S.-controlled military. "Their attitude was one of tolerance and silence," Diaz told the Sun. "They needed Honduras to loan its territory more than they were concerned about innocent people being killed."

Negroponte ignored such protests, and annually filed State Department reports from Honduras that gave the impression that the Honduran military respected human rights. But in an interview with In These Times, Negroponte's predecessor as ambassador, Carter appointee Jack Binns, tells a different story: "Negroponte would have had to be deliberately blind not to know about human rights violations. ... One of the things a departing ambassador does is prepare a briefing book, and one of those issues we included [in our briefing book] was how to deal with the escalation of human rights issues."

A quote from our President
John understands America's global intelligence needs because he has spent the better part of his life in the nation's foreign service

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