Magazine article Insight on the News

Senate Should Demand Answers before Sending Holbrooke to UN

Magazine article Insight on the News

Senate Should Demand Answers before Sending Holbrooke to UN

Article excerpt

Now that the Senate has apparently decided to shelve the nomination of the ambassadorial nominee to Luxembourg on the question of his sexuality, let's hope the GOP finds similar determination to scrutinize the bona fides of another ambassadorial nominee, this one with a greater potential impact on American policy. To allow Richard Holbrooke to assume the position as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations without answering questions about his judgment would be a serious mistake.

The Senate should recall that it was the information supplied by then-Assistant Secretary for European and Canadian Affairs Holbrooke that provided the so-called "accounting" of military service by M. Larry Lawrence, allowing his burial at Arlington National Cemetery in January 1996. In a story for the San Diego Union-Tribune printed on Nov. 22, 1997 (shortly after Insight editor Paul Rodriguez raised the issue of improper burials at Arlington), staff writer Terry Rodgers quoted Holbrooke as saying, "I'm proud I initiated the paper trail on this." Holbrooke's memo to the State Department's Bureau of Administration falsely detailing Lawrence's supposed military service was used as the rationale permitting the waiver request for burial in America's most sacred military cemetery. Further on in the Union-Tribune article, Holbrooke adamantly stated that it was "shameful" that anyone in possession of the facts would question Lawrence's qualifications to be buried there.

He is right; it is shameful that anyone in possession of the facts would question such things. Problem is, Holbrooke never sought out the facts and created his own version when explaining to Rodgers that "he [Lawrence] could have been at Arlington without the ambassadorship" In fact, burials at Arlington National Cemetery are restricted to specific categories of honorably discharged U.S. service men and women. These categories include, in part, service members who have died while on active duty, service members having at least 20 years of active duty or holders of the nation's highest military decorations: the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star or Purple Heart. There is no mention in these Army regulations of ambassadors being allowed such an honor for service as an envoy alone.

The ramifications of Holbrooke's selective verification in the Lawrence case are an important aspect to consider. His ill-advised vouching for Lawrence prompted one of the most tragic scenes in the history of the country, Lawrence's burial -- and subsequent disinterment -- at Arlington. …

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