Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Negroponte Nomination

You have to give the Bush Administration credit, they're fearless. Today the President nominated John Negroponte, the current ambassador of Iraq, as the director of national intelligence and, naturally, he accepted.

Now I' m sure there are a whole host of pragmatic questions as to whether this is the right choice, but I'm more concerned with the morality of the choice. Between 1981 - 1985, Negroponte served as the ambassador to Honduras, the second largest U.S. embassy in Latin America at the time. During this time the CIA helped train both the Honduran military and the Nicaraguan Contras in counterinsurgency, or terrorism to be more precise. As the Baltimore Sun reported in 2001, there's evidence Negroponte knew of the CIA's activities and did nothing to stop it.

In 1995, The Sun published a series about a Honduran army unit,
Battalion 316, that was trained and equipped by the CIA and which kidnapped, tortured and executed hundreds of suspected subversives during the 1980s. The articles showed that Negroponte had access to information about abuses committed by the battalion.

At the same time, the Honduran military was providing material and logistic support as well as a safe haven to the Contras. The Contras -- the loathed remnants of Somoza's Guardia, some graduates of the School of the Americas -- waged a terror campaign from Honduras against the democratically elected leftist Sandinista government throughout the 1980s, all with the support of Washington. The civil war that erupted resulted in tens of thousands of lives lost. So when President Bush says Negroponte "brings a unique set of skills to these challenges [national intelligence]," you have to wonder whether there isn't a bit of unintentional black comedy in the adulation.

In the era of Abu Ghraib, nominating someone who it appears to have covered up horrendous human rights offenses doesn't seem like the most appropriate choice. I'll keep you posted as the nomination reverberates throughout Latin America and the human rights community. My guess, not well.

M. Wood