Bush's pick for State Department number two warrants scrutiny
January 10, 2007
President Bush's recent pick of John Negroponte to be U.S. deputy secretary of state is a clear signal this administration has not learned from past mistakes.
Negroponte was a key figure in the bid to sell the case for war against Saddam Hussein. In June 2004, more than a year after Saddam was toppled, he became U.S. ambassador to Iraq. He stayed on until he was named the first director of national intelligence. Negroponte's time in Iraq was marked by a dramatic rise in sectarian violence and sagging support for the war at home.
But it is not just in Iraq that Negroponte has a troubling record. During his tenure as U.S. ambassador to Honduras in the early 1980s, Negroponte was put in charge of "carrying out the covert strategy of the Reagan administration to crush the Sandinista government of Nicaragua," The New York Times reported.
A 1995 Baltimore Sun report found that hundreds of Hondurans were "kidnapped, tortured and killed in the 1980s by a secret army unit trained and supported" by the CIA. That finding was confirmed by a 1997 CIA inspector general's report, which concluded that Negroponte did not act on reports of human rights abuses committed by the U.S.-backed Honduran military death squads.
At best, Negroponte was unaware of mass murder and torture by the Honduran regime that he was closely overseeing. At worst, he deliberately covered up human rights abuses in order to pursue a flawed policy.
Either way, his tenure as ambassador to Honduras raises questions not only about his moral judgment and integrity, but also about his capacity to assess and convey information accurately.
Our country has seen the damaging effects of flawed intelligence and human rights abuses in Iraq. The position of U.S. deputy secretary of state is a high-ranking one, and the American people need someone to fill the position who is unwilling to allow politics to get in the way of truth.
Negroponte's record in Honduras warrants closer Senate scrutiny. Bush's new strategy in Iraq should not include a State Department number two with a history of turning a blind eye to atrocities.
Bernardo Ruiz is a New York-based writer and documentary filmmaker. He can be reached at email@example.com.