Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

UN Report Prompts Heated Debate on US Foreign Policy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

UN Report Prompts Heated Debate on US Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

IT'S been two weeks since the United Nations Truth Commission released its report on atrocities committed in El Salvador's civil war, but the study continues to generate controversy in the United States.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher last week appointed an independent commission to "examine the implications of the UN-sponsored Truth Commission report on the conduct of US foreign policy and the operation of the US Department of State."

In particular, the commission will be looking into the UN report's most controversial implication: that US officials knew the Salvadoran military they trained and funded was committing murder but covered it up because the US was mainly concerned with defeating communism.

Mr. Christopher's commission will be made up of George Vest, a former director general of the US Foreign Service and assistant secretary of state, and Richard Murphy, a former assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration. Advising them will be two academics: I.M. Destler, director of the University of Maryland's Center for International and Security Studies, and Carol Lancaster, a professor of international relations at Georgetown University in Washington.

"To look into any such thing you must look for people on the outside with extensive foreign service experience," Mr. Vest says. Congressmen seek policy review

The commission won't be the only ones following up on the UN report's conclusions. On Capitol Hill, Rep. Robert Torricelli (D) of New Jersey, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Western Hemisphere affairs, and other congressmen plan to ask President Clinton to conduct a review of US policies toward El Salvador and to declassify documents dealing with alleged human-rights abuses detailed by the UN report, a Democratic congressional aide says.

One of the most contentious questions that will confront both Congress and the independent commission is whether the United States should overlook human rights abuses committed by Latin American governments that are receiving US aid to fight guerrillas or drug traffickers. …

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