On Negroponte’s Appointment to Iraq Embassy

Noam Chomsky

Delivered at Cambridge Forum, April 29, 2004

[…] Actually, if you look further into the media, there are serious articles on Bush’s messianic vision to bring democracy to the Middle East. Here’s one from the “Wall Street Journal.” It’s a couple of days ago and by a good correspondent, very knowledgeable correspondent, Carla Ann Robins. It’s about Mr. Negroponte. So, just to counter what Amy was saying about the media, they do report things about him, if you go to the right journals like the “Wall Street Journal,” where they have a trustworthy audience and they can kind of tell people things that you might not read elsewhere. The sub-heading — it says, ‘Negroponte has tricky mission’. The sub-heading is ‘modern pro consul’. It begins by saying that as the ambassador to Honduras in the 1980’s, Negroponte was known as the pro consul, a title given to powerful administrators in colonial times. Now he has been chosen to take up that same role in Iraq, assuming — there’s one problem — assuming that the pentagon is willing to cede its control. So, the question is will the pentagon control Iraq after we transfer full sovereignty to them or whether the pro consul, the modern pro consul, will run Iraq the way he ran Honduras.

I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not, but a day or two after Negroponte’s appointment was announced, the government of Honduras withdrew its forces from Iraq. Not many, a couple of dozen, I guess, but it might have been a coincidence. Or maybe they remember something from what happened there. The kinds of things that Amy was telling you about. He did have a job. He had quite an embassy there, not the size of the one he’s going to be running in Iraq, but in Honduras, which, as you know, is a kind of centerpiece of world power, he had a huge embassy with 1,000 people. He had a huge embassy. He ran one of the biggest embassies in the country, in the world, and he also had the biggest C.I.A. station in the world in Honduras. Obviously, terribly important place for the C.I.A. to concentrate.

He had two jobs there, the article explains. One was to insure that congress didn’t get upset about the fact that the Honduras run security forces were carrying out tortures and massacres and things, – battalion 316 that Amy was talking about. He had to deny those so that the military aid would keep coming for him to be able to carry out his major task, which was, of course, supervising the contra camps in Honduras, from which the C.I.A. mercenary army was attacking Nicaragua, and not a small affair.

The death toll in Nicaragua from the U.S. terrorist war based in Honduras per capita, relative to population, would be the same as about 2.5 million dead in the United States, which turns out to be higher than the total number of American deaths in all wars in the U.S. History, including the Civil War. So, from the Nicaraguan point of view, this was not a small event. It did lead to establishing democracy. With a gun at their heads after Bush warned them this was going to go on unless they vote for our candidate – this is Bush number one – Nicaraguans voted for the U.S. candidate and were rewarded for that by, uh – there was tremendous applause in the United States and “The New York Times” had big headlines saying ‘Americans united in joy…’, kind of like North Koreans, ‘Americans united in joy at the victory for U.S. fair play’. You know, that’s pretty much what happened. Since then — since the U.S. took it over again, Nicaragua’s declined to the second poorest country in the hemisphere after Haiti. Again, by accident, Haiti happens to be the main target of U.S. military intervention in the 20th century. Nicaragua is second. But that’s just another coincidence. About 60% of the Nicaraguan children under two are now suffering from severe anemia from malnutrition, meaning probable permanent brain damage. Half of the active labor force is out of the country because there’s no way to survive there. But it is regularly described in the “Wall Street Journal”, too, as an economic miracle where you can buy anything that you want. Which is true. There are 24-hour malls open for people that can afford it. You can buy computers and plenty of great things — great place for retired Americans to go. They can live a very cheaply in wonderful mansions and so on. But for children under two, their prospects are permanent brain damage. And that’s what we call a victory for democracy. That tells you something about the Bushs’ messianic vision to bring democracy to Iraq using the same experienced official. And, we don’t have to go on about the kind of democracy that he brought to Honduras or that the present incumbents and their Reaganite face brought to the rest of Central America, but that we’re supposed to forget about.