mad in pursuit: greed & arrogance

2004 political season

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5.29.04 The Chilling Vision of Democracy in Iraq

When Bush talks sentimentally about bring Democracy to Iraq, we all have our Norman Rockwell idea about what that is: a pluralistic society with free elections and FDR's 4 freedoms (speech, worship, from fear, and from want).

But I suspect their actual vision of Democracy might have been a little more, shall we say, expedient.

This became all too clear to me after reading an article in Salon about the appointment of UN Ambassador John Negroponte as the new ambassador to Iraq.

Remember that Chalabi was to have been Washington's strongman in Iraq. He's a known crook, on the lam from a prison sentence in Jordan. According to Salon:

Had Abu Ghraib never been exposed, and had Ahmed Chalabi managed to avoid finally exhausting the patience of his indulgent Pentagon protectors, he might eventually have taken over as prime minister of a supposedly democratic Iraq and imposed, to his heart's content, all the "tough but necessary" measures he advocated in his Aug. 31, 2003, Washington Post Outlook section article. Chalabi urged a crackdown: "Coalition forces need to move quickly to arrest and question thousands of people" (the names of whom his Iraqi National Congress would provide).

His US overseers would be Negroponte and Elliott Abrams, now senior director for Near East, Southwest Asian and North African affairs on the National Security Council, but once the head of the anything-goes counterinsurgency policies in Latin America. Remember Reagan's Iran-Contra debacle?

...Negroponte above all else is an old Central America hand from the darkest chapter of the Reagan administration's policy of confronting, containing and eventually rolling back left-wing guerrilla movements in the 1980s. He was U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985 and oversaw the growth of U.S. military aid to the viciously repressive military government from $4 million a year to $77.4 million a year. Flouting an act of Congress, he created a covert scheme to funnel money to the Nicaraguan Contras through Honduras. Speaking of Negroponte and other U.S. officials working with him, a former Honduran congressman said, "Their attitude was one of tolerance and silence. They needed Honduras to loan its territory more than they were concerned about innocent people being killed."

Negroponte supervised the construction of the El Aguacate air base, the Abu Ghraib prison of its time, which critics charged was being used as a secret torture and murder center. It is also where Contra rebels were trained to fight Nicaragua's Marxist Sandinista government. In August 2001, excavations confirmed that the supposedly wild and paranoid rumors about torture at that prison were true. The remains of at least 185 people, including two Americans, were discovered there.

It is also a matter of record that Negroponte took no action to rein in, let alone expose, the activities of the Honduran armed forces' own special intelligence unit, Battalion 3-16. Indeed, he helped conceal its murderous activities, reportedly including the killing of U.S. missionaries, from Congress. Battalion 3-16 was trained by advisors from the CIA and the Argentine junta.

So the plan for Iraq was not so much Democracy as Banana Republic. A pro-American thug in charge, and an Ambassador with the stomach to cover up "tough but necessary" excesses.

You really have to wonder at the incredible cynicism behind Bush's accusations that his critics must not think of "dark-skinned people" want democracy. His neocon pals weren't quite planning a Mideast Iowa. They were planning a Mideast Honduras. So, maybe it was the neocons who thought this "dark-skinned people" too stupid to notice amid all their Freedom rhetoric. Maybe the Iraqi people actually do have a taste for what freedom might be like and it wasn't what Bush was handing them.

How fortunate for the Iraqis that some GI Joe blew the whistle on Abu Ghraib and the Bush plan began to unravel.

John Kerry should appoint Bill Clinton as Ambassador to Iraq.





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