Magazine article The Nation

Bush's New Iraq Viceroy

Magazine article The Nation

Bush's New Iraq Viceroy

Article excerpt

Like dirty money, tainted reputations can be laundered, as the Administration fervently hopes in the case of John Negroponte. Now UN ambassador, Negroponte has been chosen by George W. Bush to be the first ambassador to post-Saddam Iraq. When Bush selected Negroponte to be his UN representative in 2001, Negroponte was one of several Iran/contra figures being resurrected by the Bush crowd. As Honduras ambassador in the early 1980s, Negroponte, a career diplomat, participated in a secret and possibly illegal quid pro quo in which the Reagan Administration bribed the Honduran government with economic and military assistance to support the contras fighting the socialist Sandinistas of Nicaragua. Perhaps more significant, while Negroponte served in Honduras, he denied or downplayed serious human rights abuses by government security forces. This past threatened his confirmation as UN ambassador. But 9/11 rescued Negroponte. At the time of the attack, his nomination was pending, and the Senate moved quickly to approve him.

These days Negroponte's tenure in Honduras is old news. The Washington Post's front-page story on his nomination did not mention his stint there. Senate staffers say that his record in Honduras won't be a focus of the confirmation hearings. But his tour of duty there is worth scrutiny, for it raises questions about his credibility and his ability to handle tough situations and inconvenient truths. While he was in Honduras and for years afterward, Negroponte refused to acknowledge the human rights abuses. In a 1982 letter to The Economist he said it was "simply untrue to state that death squads have made their appearance in Honduras." The next year he maintained, "There is no indication that the infrequent human rights violations that do occur are part of deliberate government policy." And during his 2001 confirmation he stated, "I do not believe then, nor do I believe now, that these abuses were part of a deliberate government policy. …

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