John Negroponte skull & Bones
"Look," Negroponte says,
Fri Feb 18, 2005 00:16


"Look," Negroponte says, "any missing person is a human tragedy. For that person and their family. I've even met some of the people. My heart goes out to them. Yet, El Salvador would have more people missing in one week than occurred during the entire conflict in Honduras. They talk about 117 people missing in Honduras? [Human rights activists say the number is closer to 200.] During the height of problems in El Salvador, that happened in one week. Fifty thousand were killed in that country. It's a question of keeping things in perspective."

With the exception of four years working for McGraw-Hill, Negroponte's entire working life has been in diplomacy. "I spent 3 1/2 years of a 40-year career in Honduras. It's only a small part of my career."

As a matter of fact, when Negroponte was in Honduras, he was a fairly beloved figure. It had much to do with a Honduran baby crying by the road. And with the dazzling woman from an evening in Vietnam who had become his wife.
'One-Woman Peace Corps'

Diana's father was Sir Charles Villiers, a merchant banker who would rise to become chairman of British Steel. Villiers had a powerful social conscience. In his youth, he went to work for Tubby Clayton, a cleric who tended to the poor. The activism spilled over to his daughter. "He represented social justice for the unemployed man and their families," says Diana Negroponte. "That, along with my mother's work as a social worker in the East End of London, were elements I grew up with."

She and Negroponte met again in 1976, years after their original meeting. "I met his mother at a wedding in London," Diana says. "I asked her, 'How is your son doing?' She groans. John was 36 and unmarried. Mother got to work and mother pulled it off. Six months later we were married."

Wherever they went, he'd do the political thing, and she'd hustle off to the barrios, the slums, the tough places. "She was a one-woman Peace Corps," says Stanley Karnow. "I was down in Honduras once. She was out in the refugee camps and she came back to the capital all covered with chiggers. She's absolutely formidable."

Parents went missing during the contra war. Babies appeared on the sides of roads, in shacks, alone.

A Honduran nun told Diana Negroponte about a baby girl that had been found abandoned. The baby had been covered with ants, with worms. The nun asked Diana if she knew someone who might want to adopt the child. She did: her and her husband, Ambassador Negroponte. They adopted the child, and were hardly finished. Another child was found, and they adopted that one as well. Over the years, five Honduran children would be adopted by the Negropontes -- Marina, now 22, Alejandra, now 20, John, now 16, George, now 14, and Sophia, now 11.

The revelations about Battalion 316 had yet to surface and many Hondurans were wildly taken with the Negropontes. "She did more for diplomatic relations by adopting those children than anyone in the world," says her brother-in-law, Nick. "John and Diana turned the American residence into a nursery. The special forces troops there became sort of like nannies."

When President Bush nominated Negroponte to become ambassador to the United Nations in 2001, the revelations about what had happened in Honduras were more fully known and opponents tried to derail the nomination. But Negroponte wasn't sailing alone. "As he became a favorite target of the left," says Birns, "he became a revered figure to the right."

The confirmation hearings got underway in September 2001. They came to an abrupt halt as planes barreled into the World Trade Center. When they resumed, it was against the backdrop of a rattled nation, struck by terror, with a pronounced urgency to get a U.N. ambassador in place.

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) allowed as to how he did not wish to relive the Honduran situation, but had no choice inasmuch as the committee, in earlier hearings with Negroponte, had been "flying blind." But now, with new information, that was no longer the case. "Based upon the committee's review of State Department and CIA documents, it would seem that Ambassador Negroponte knew far more about government-perpetuated human rights abuses than he chose to share with the committee in 1989 or in embassy contributions at the time to annual State Department Human Rights reports. . . .

"Finally, I would say a word of caution to other career foreign service officers, particularly junior officers, that they not consider this nominee's lack of candor before the committee as a model to be emulated," Dodd said.

Still, Negroponte won confirmation -- as well as Dodd's vote.

Negroponte has received good reviews on his U.N. posting, from U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, among others. When President Bush announced Negroponte's nomination to Iraq, the hot lights came on once again.

Harkin's recitations from the Senate floor took on a familiar ring: the death squads, evasion, the lack of candor. Harkin summoned again the name of the Rev. James Carney, an American priest presumed killed by the death squads. Carney's body has never been found. "I am not suggesting Ambassador Negroponte was responsible for Father Carney's disappearance," Harkin said. "What I am saying, however, is Ambassador Negroponte was in very close contact, perhaps almost on a daily basis, with Gen. Gustavo Alvarez, the commander in chief of the Honduran military, and the architect of Battalion 316. For Ambassador Negroponte in 1982 to say it is simply untrue that death squads have made appearances in Honduras -- this is going to be our ambassador to Iraq at this time?"

"I should have raised my voice louder than I did," Harkin says about opposing Negroponte's nominations. "I've been amazed at how this individual -- from what he did in Central America, where under his watch hundreds of people disappeared -- has moved up. He falsified reports and ignored what was happening."

Harkin adds: "I feel a certain sense that I let people down because I haven't kept on this guy."

The Negroponte loyalists have heard it all before.

"I know the circumstances," says Diana Negroponte, who teaches history at Fordham University in New York. "The dilemma is: Should you be explicit in your condemnation of human rights? John had a different tactic. His tactic was to go quietly to the president and the chief of the armed forces and say 'Stop it.' He did not go public. I know that he protested because he'd come back and tell me about the meetings."

Nick Negroponte has watched his brother's rise in the foreign service with awe. He attributes a good part of his brother's success to "professional silence."

To Diana Negroponte, her husband's critics emerge at intervals as if from behind a velvet curtain. "It's an old battle," Diana Negroponte says. "I want to say to these people: 'Haven't you moved on?' To keep fighting all of that is old hat."

"I visited him in Honduras," recalls Richard Holbrooke. "He denies the charges. I do not know what happened there."

"I have no idea what happened in Honduras," says Anthony Lake, who served as national security adviser under President Clinton. "I have no reason to believe John hasn't been honorable." He lauds the Negroponte appointment. "I can't think of a better appointment to Baghdad. I have opposed this [administration's] policy, but every American has a stake in its success and I can't think of a better person than John to be representing the U.S. in Baghdad."

"It's going to be difficult," Negroponte says of Iraq. "There are many challenges to face. I'd like to say two things: I am very committed to the proposition that a free and strong Iraq can be realized. I see no reason why Iraq shouldn't be able to realize its aspirations of peace with itself and its neighbors."
'I Wanted to Call Him a Liar'

Zenaida Velasquez Rodriguez is on the phone from San Jose. She is a political refugee, having fled Honduras in 1988. Her brother went missing and is presumed dead. In less than three minutes of conversation, her voice has already begun to crack.

Manfredo Velasquez was a schoolteacher and a protester. He was in the marketplace of Tegucigalpa, the capital, when eyewitnesses saw men hustle him into an automobile. The date was Sept. 12, 1981. "As of today, we don't even have a vague idea of where his remains could be," his sister says. "It's like having an open wound that is bleeding all the time."

Manfredo had a wife and three kids.

As more and more people began to go missing, Zenaida Velasquez helped found the Committee of Families of the Disappeared. "It was a state of terror," she says of Honduras during the contra wars. "We were very afraid. We were paying for ads in the newspapers to talk about the disappearances."

Manfredo's son, Hector, 7 years old at the time, taped one of the ads directed to Gen. Alvarez and the army. The boy's words: "General, my father is Manfredo. He was detained by members of your Army. Please release him. I want to have Christmas with my father."

Zenaida pleaded with the U.S. Embassy for a meeting to inquire about her brother, to ask for an investigation. Ambassador Negroponte agreed to see her.

"Finally, he received us, some family members and families of others who had disappeared as well. He denied completely any knowledge of what was going on. But we knew every day he was meeting with the chief of the army, Alvarez. Honduras is a very small country."

She catches herself, then goes on: "You know what? He doesn't even look you in the eye. We were crying and desperate. I wanted to call him a liar. It was hard."
Next Stop, Baghdad

At the end of his confirmation hearing in April, Negroponte rose and shook hands all around. A couple of his daughters were in attendance, along with his wife. Family friends and well-wishers hovered. Then Negroponte turned, swinging his umbrella in one hand and, in the other, his lovely brown leather briefcase. Heading for the door, bound for Iraq. He glided right by Andres Thomas Conteris, back inside the room now, glowering in silence, the bearded man who had yelled, who had come to represent the ghosts, the dead, the missing.

2004 The Washington Post Company


John Negroponte skull & Bones.

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Negroponte's Dark Past
The Nation - 9 hours ago
... as the Administration fervently hopes in the case of John Negroponte. ... But 9/11 rescued Negroponte. ... Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at

How many times can I write the same piece about John Negroponte?

Today George W. Bush named him to the new post of Director of National Intelligence. Previously, Bush had hired Negroponte to be UN ambassador and then US ambassador to the new Iraq. On each of those earlier occasions, I noted that Negroponte's past deserved scrutiny. After all, during the Reagan years, when he was ambassador to Honduras, Negroponte was involved in what was arguably an illegal covert quid pro quo connected to the Iran/contra scandal, and he refused to acknowledge significant human rights abuses committed by the pro-US military in Honduras. But each time Negroponte's appointment came before the Senate, he won easy confirmation. Now that he's been tapped to lead the effort to reorganize and reform an intelligence community that screwed up 9/11 and the WMD-in-Iraq assignment, Negroponte will likely sail through the confirmation process once again.

His previous exploits, though, warrant more attention than ever. He has been credibly accused of rigging a human rights report that was politically inconvenient. This is a bad omen. The fundamental mission of the intelligence community is to provide policymakers with unvarnished and valuable information-even if it causes the policymakers headaches. But there's reason to believe that Negroponte did the opposite in tough circumstances. If that is the case, he would not be the right man to oversee an intelligence community that needs solid leaders who are committed to truth-finding. Rather than rewrite my previous work on Negroponte, I am posting below the article I did after Bush named him the viceroy of Baghdad. It's more relevant today than when it first appeared. But I doubt Negroponte's dark history will finally trigger a confirmation debate within the Senate. He has skated in the past; he'll likely do so again.

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