UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 23, 2009

ALL IN THE FAMILY

Jeff Stein, CQ Spy Talk - Longtime megawatt diplomat John D. Negroponte may have made his bones in Republican administrations, but his next act will take him to a powerful consulting firm run by former Bill Clinton chief of staff Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty according to an item by Al Kamen in The Washington Post. . .

Lest conservatives despair that the outgoing Deputy Secretary of State (and first head of National Intelligence) has gone over to the dark side, though, they should note that McLarty was partners with Henry Kissinger (as Kissinger McCarty Associates) from 1999 to a year ago. Their apparently amicable January 2008 dissolution was over strategy and the allocation of resources and income, according to a report at the time.

Recovered History

World Socialist - From 1981 to 1985, Negroponte was the US ambassador in Honduras, overseeing operations that included the illegal funding of the Contra mercenaries and a massive buildup of the Honduran armed forces, including the construction of bases, air fields and supply dumps throughout the country.

Among these facilities was the El Aguacate air base, built on the pretext of providing a temporary facility for the thousands of US troops that were rotated through Honduras on "training" exercises. In reality, it was used to provide a permanent facility for the Contras and to funnel aid to these right-wing mercenaries in violation of restrictions imposed by the US Congress. In 1999, mass graves were discovered at the site, along with blood-stained jail cells.

While he was ambassador to Honduras, Negroponte supervised a 20-fold increase in US military aid to the country, which he aggressively defended as a model of democracy in Central America.

During this same period, hundreds of people were kidnapped and "disappeared," including a number of union leaders, student organizers and other opponents of the military-dominated regime. Prisoners were routinely tortured on the direct orders of the chief of the Honduran armed forces.

Much of this dirty work was carried out by a unit known as Battalion 316, whose members were trained in the United States and "advised" by the CIA in Honduras. While issuing his glowing endorsements of the Honduran regime's human rights record, Negroponte was intimately familiar with the grisly work of these killers. . .

Honduras was not Negroponte's first introduction to US covert operations and mass killing. He began his climb up the national security establishment ladder as a political affairs officer at the US Embassy in Saigon from 1964 to 1968, a position that often serves as a cover for CIA operatives.

From 1969 to 1971, he was an aide to Henry Kissinger in the Paris negotiations with the Hanoi government, reportedly criticizing Kissinger for making too many concessions to the Vietnamese. From 1971 to 1973, he oversaw operations in Vietnam for the National Security Council, then headed by Kissinger. Thus, for nine years he played a direct role in prosecuting a US war that killed millions of Vietnamese.

Progressive Review - 1984: Ronald Reagan wants to send the National Guard to Honduras to help in the war against the Contras. Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis goes to the Supreme Court in a futile effort to stop it but Clinton is happy to oblige, even sending his own security chief, Buddy Young, [later FEMA official] along to keep an eye on things. Winding up its tour, the Arkansas Guard declares large quantities of its weapons "excess" and leaves them behind for the Contras.

Terry Allen, In These Times: According to a 1995 four-part series in the Baltimore Sun, hundreds of Hondurans were kidnapped, tortured and killed by Battalion 316, a secret army intelligence unit trained and supported by the Central Intelligence Agency. As Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson wrote in the series, Battalion 316 used "shock and suffocation devices in interrogations. Prisoners often were kept naked and, when no longer useful, killed and buried in unmarked graves." Members of Battalion 316 were trained in surveillance and interrogation at a secret location in the United States and by the CIA at bases in Honduras . . . Negroponte tried to distance himself from the pattern of abuses, even after a flood of declassified documents exposed the extent of US involvement with Battalion 316. In a segment of the 1998 CNN mini-series Cold War, Negroponte said that "some of the retrospective effort to try and suggest that we were supportive of, or condoned the actions of, human rights violators is really revisionistic."

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