Just Who is John Negroponte?
Jude Wanniski
April 27, 2004


Memo To: Sen. Joe Biden, Senate Foreign Relations
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: John Negroponte = Ahmed Chalabi

Of course the President’s nomination of John Negroponte to be U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad will sail through the confirmation process that began today. It would normally take weeks at least to get the Senate’s rubber stamp for such a high post in such a delicate situation, but the way has been greased for Negroponte, the current UN Ambassador, on the grounds that time’s a wastin’. You surely know the real reason for the short-cut is to deny the many serious opponents of his nomination a chance to speak their piece, as it might soon become clear that he is NOT the right man for the job. In a sense, Negroponte is the foster brother of Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi foster child of Richard Perle, as Negroponte has also climbed the diplomatic ladder with assistance every step of the way from Perle and the neo-cons.

Perle continues to control his network -- which controls the Bush administration’s foreign policy, even though Perle had to resign his 16-year post at the Defense Policy Board. So too, Negroponte will be able to run Iraq as proconsul in the Perle/Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld empire even if his brother Chalabi gets cut out of the interim government to be named June 30. I noticed the New York Times this morning finally took note that Chalabi is not currently in favor at the White House, which is having trouble explaining why it has invested so much power and money in a convicted felon who would spend decades in prison if he ever set foot in Jordan, our erstwhile ally. Never mind, the neo-cons saw this coming, so they rush-rushed their man Negroponte to the Ambassador slot. There he can cut through all the red tape that Chalabi needs cutting in his megadeals in post-war Iraq. That is, if the there ever is a post-war Iraq.

You were there at the hearings today, Senator, when Andres Thomas Conteris, a Latin American human-rights activist jumped up in the audience to denounce Negroponte for the role he played on behalf of the Cold Warriors when he was ambassador to Honduras during the the Nicaragua Contra war in the early 1980s. He was detained, removed from the hearing room, and released elsewhere in the Capitol, but not before an exchange occurred, which I wonder if we will see in the papers tomorrow.

At the hearing your Republican colleague Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) asked Negroponte if "the sovereign Iraqi government of July 1 would not have veto authority over military involvement in [a situation like] Fallujah? ... If they have sovereignty, Mr. Ambassador, what does that mean? ..." Negroponte responded: "That is why I use the term 'exercise of sovereignty.' I think in the case of military activity, their forces will come under the unified command of the multinational force. That is the plan...." U.S. forces, said Negroponte, "are going to be free to operate in Iraq as they best see fit." Situations like Fallujah would have to be the "subject of real dialogue between our military commanders, the new Iraqi government and the U.S. Mission as well."

It’s here that Conteris spoke up, objecting to such a "dialogue," he said: "We need to support nonviolence, not the violent polices of the United States. There is no sovereignty Mr. Ambassador if the U.S. continues to exercise security. Senators, please ask the ambassador about Battalion 316. Ask him about a death squad in Honduras that he supported." Conteris was then removed from the hearing room by the Capitol Police.

According to the Institute for Public Accuracy, an antiwar outfit in Washington, Conteris said later: "I spoke up because Negroponte at that moment was talking about sovereignty. I lived in Honduras for five years, I know the impact Negroponte's policies had there in the early 1980s. At the time Honduras was known as the USS Honduras, basically an occupied aircraft carrier. Negroponte has been involved in subverting sovereignty in several other countries: Vietnam, the Philippines; he worked on Mexico's adoption of NAFTA and tried to subvert Panamanian control over the canal."

Now I’m not going to get into all that Honduras stuff, Senator. If you want to refresh yourself, you can read up on it at http://www.coha.org, the website of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. The fact that we were up to our keisters in the Cold War back then does excuse a certain amount of trimming, assassinations, death squads, etc., which we should try to forget about. Indeed, back then when I was associate editor of The Wall Street Journal editorial page, I stood shoulder to shoulder with Perle, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld, and the rest of the gang. But I broke ranks and became a dove when the Cold War ended. And as a dove, I have to tell you I think the Negroponte nomination has a fairly unpleasant odor about it, which I think the Senate – or at least Senate Democrats – will come to regret.

News of Negroponte’s background and performance in previous wars – not to mention the yeoman work he did for the Perle Cabal in greasing the skids for any diplomatic solution at the United Nations last year – is already making its way through the ranks of Iraqi insurgents, even as their mosques are bombed in Fallujah. I note Mubarak Awad, founder of Nonviolence International, another peacenik outfit, said today: “The appointment of Negroponte is likely to inflame the outrage of many Iraqis, and rightly so." During the Cold War, I used to hurl epithets at peaceniks like Awad. But now it seem I am one of them and I agree that another choice of ambassador would be much less likely to stoke the jihad underway in Iraq. But if stoking is what you think necessary, go right ahead, but please don’t come around saying you’re sorry it didn’t turn out too well when it doesn’t.

If we are going to have any chance of getting out of the mess in Iraq, we will have to permit an Iraqi government elected next January to have the right to invite the U.S. military to leave forthwith. It is Negroponte's job to make sure that does not happen, and we all know that, don't we?