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John Negroponte, the Power Elite and the Washington Post

By Abu Spinoza

he Washington Post is the daily newspaper that I read. Its business is not just providing news but packaging it in terms of a worldview compatible with the power elite’s interests. Its coverage of George W. Bush’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, John D. Negroponte, shows the parameters of corporate journalism. Negroponte served as U.S. Ambassador to Honduras when the U.S. government was providing covert support to contras in Nicaragua and death squads in Honduras.

William Branigin describes Negroponte as the "senior U.S. diplomat designated to help steer Iraq toward democratic rule” and quotes Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) as saying that he is “more than eminently qualified to take on this challenge.”

Branigin does mention that Negroponte “previously served as ambassador to the Philippines, Mexico and Honduras,” but there is only a slight hint of what Negroponte’s role in Honduras was. Branigin writes that “during his tenure in Honduras, at the height of the contra war in Nicaragua,” Negroponte “ran afoul of Dodd and other Democrats opposed to U.S. support for the contras.”

In another Post article titled, “Nominee Assures Senate on Iraq” by Walter Pincus and Colum Lynch, there is no hint of Negroponte’s role in Honduras. The Post’s Al Kamen does report in a gossip column:

“Baghdad John D. Negroponte is sailing through his confirmation hearings en route to his new post. Normally, the White House wouldn't send the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a nomination without the receiving country's having agreed to accept the potential nominee as ambassador. … So Negroponte, nicknamed Negropotente during his ambassadorship in Honduras — ‘potente’ meaning powerful or potent — is giving up the lovely $25,000-a-month Waldorf-Astoria suite in New York complete with the spectacular new kitchen renovated last year for only $600,000. At least he's going to a palace.”

To his credit, Peter Slevin, a Post foreign policy reporter, mentions in response to a question during a Post live discussion that “Amb. Negroponte, now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was serving in Honduras when the United States was funneling money to the Contras. I don't know how his choice will play in Iraq; Republicans and Democrats in Congress have said they do not intend to make a big deal of his Honduran exploits during his confirmation hearings. For Iraqis who oppose the U.S. occupation, I suspect there are already enough grievances with the United States for Negroponte's past to play much of a role. But I suppose some could try to use his past against him.”

This is as close as the Post gets to providing some background information about Negroponte’s past. It is surely a worthy story to investigate to what extent Negroponte was complicit in the flow of funds to death squads, how knowledgeable he was of their activities, and what type of directives, if any, came directly or indirectly from the U.S. authorities in knocking off opposition figures and human rights activists in Latin America. The responsibility of journalists is to report the facts and to uncover unpleasant truths.

The Post’s failure to report allegations about Negroponte’s past, let alone investigate his role in past crimes, is a sad comment on the state of mainstream journalism in the United States. It also reveals that mainstream newspapers seem not to care whether Negroponte or other U.S. government representatives will also resort to the use of deaths squads and local proxies in Iraq and the Middle East. True enough Paul Bremer is already using Iraqi forces to occupy the country, kill Iraqi civilians and control the population, but John Negroponte’s considerable experience may lead to the introduction of more systematic, vicious and lethal patterns of liquidations and disappearances in Iraq.

Abu Spinoza is a columnist for Press Action.