Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Democrats' Love Fest with Negroponte

As the scandal of torture at Abu Ghraib unfolded, "on Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the nomination of John D. Negroponte as the first U.S. ambassador to post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Negroponte is expected to be confirmed by the Senate next week" ("Crucial Bush Envoy Quits for Job at NYSE," Los Angeles Times April 30, 2004). What is more scandalous than the confirmation of the real master of torturers as US "ambassador" to Iraq, who will head "the largest US embassy in the world, with more than 3,000 employees and over 500 CIA officers" ("Dems Ignore Negroponte's Death Squad Past, Look to Confirm Iraq Appointment," Democracy Now! April 28, 2004), is the Democrats' failure to even raise the question of Negroponte's abysmal human rights record in the Senate:
As ambassador to Honduras, Negroponte played a key role in coordinating US covert aid to the Contra death squads in Nicaragua and shoring up a CIA-backed death squad in Honduras. During his term as ambassador there, diplomats alleged that the embassy's annual human rights reports made Honduras sound more like Norway than Argentina. In a 1995 series, the Baltimore Sun detailed the activities of a secret CIA-trained Honduran army unit, Battalion 3-16, that used "shock and suffocation devices in interrogations. Prisoners often were kept naked and, when no longer useful, killed and buried in unmarked graves." In 1994, Honduras's National Commission for the Protection of Human Rights reported that it was officially admitted that 179 civilians were still missing.

A former official who served under Negroponte says he was ordered to remove all mention of torture and executions from the draft of his 1982 report on the human rights situation in Honduras. During Negroponte's tenure, US military aid to Honduras skyrocketed from $3.9 million to over $77 million. Much of this went to ensure the Honduran army's loyalty in the battle against popular movements throughout Central America.

Despite Negroponte's history, Democrats have not offered any organized resistance to his nomination. In fact some observers described yesterday's hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as a love fest. Sen. Chris Dodd who opposed Negroponte when the committee reported his nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 2001, has now come out in support of him, saying, "Whatever differences I've had years ago with John Negroponte, I happen to feel he's a very fine Foreign Service officer and has done a tremendous job in many places." ("Dems Ignore Negroponte's Death Squad Past, Look to Confirm Iraq Appointment," Democracy Now! April 28, 2004)
Contrast the Democrats' "love fest" with Negroponte with their sharp performance when what is at stake is not human rights but equitable divisions of pork:
Senate Democrats . . . are blocking House-Senate negotiations on other bills unless they are guaranteed a voice in writing the final legislation.

The tactic has infuriated Republicans and contributed to election-year paralysis as the House and Senate struggle to work out compromises needed to make law. The conflict intensified late last week and almost caused a partial shutdown of the Transportation Department.

Senator Christopher S. Bond, Republican of Missouri, said there was a "complete stalemate" over a highway bill because Democrats were blocking the creation of a conference committee to resolve differences with the House. The bill has bipartisan support, having passed the Senate by a vote of 76 to 21. . . .

"Without the opportunity for Democrats to participate, Republicans are going to be making very partisan decisions about the level of commitment to highways over the next several years," Mr. Daschle said. "That's wrong." (Chuck Hulse and Robert Pear, "Feeling Left Out, Democrats Stall Bills," New York Times May 3, 2004)

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