Burns/Novick's Vietnam War: John Negroponte "decent"? Really?

Brian Sat, 2017-09-30 18:28
Vietnam: Got 'im! Dangerous NLF (Viet Cong) activist captured by democracy promoters (OK, OK, I admit he looks quite a bit like Ho Chi Minh!)

There's something that's annoying the bejeezus out of me as I watch the Burns/Novick documentary on the Vietnam War. They've got these guys/gals talking at you, and all you're told about who they are, so you can judge what they're saying, is a name, and "Marines," or "Pentagon." You're not told anything about them.

Since Burns/Novick start the series by asserting that the American effort in that war was started by "decent people," it seems to me we have a right to assume they'll have decent people talking to us about it, no?

So who are these people Burns/Novick interviewed for this "new look" at the Vietnam war?

Here's one: John Negroponte, a man Noam Chomsky has called "one of the leading terrorists of the late 20th century." At 1:14:30 of episode 3, he appears for the first time. He tells us that in 1965, "everyone" was telling defense secretary McNamara that the situation was "so dire" that American troops would have to be brought in. (He doesn't say he was among the folks advising McNamara, though he undoubtedly was.) I'm sure we'll be seeing him again.

Negroponte has been a CIA man all his career. (The documentary identifies him as "US Embassy," not CIA.) He got his start, apparently, in the CIA's "Phoenix Program," which was basically a neutralization/assassination program aimed at National Liberation Front (sorry, Viet Cong) civilian "infrastructure," that is, civilian officials. Around 40,000 Vietnamese were killed. As a "political officer" in the US embassy, he also was involved in the rise of Nguyen Van Thieu, and his "election" to the "South" Vietnamese presidency, a CIA operation.

Later, he served in Nixon's White House, and got in trouble with Henry Kissinger. He argued that no treaty signed without the agreement of the South Vietnamese "leadership" could possibly succeed. Not only that, but he accused Kissinger of making too many "concessions" to the "Communists" to try and wrangle a deal. Seymour Hersh says HK was so mad he made Negroponte ambassador to Ecuador, an assignment in perdition, but the start of his career as a "diplomat."

As ambassador to Honduras in the early to mid-1980s, he is widely credited with setting up the Contras, and also overseeing "American funding of the regime’s death squads, known as Battalion 316, that wiped out the democratic opposition ... Murdering teachers and slitting the throats of midwives were a speciality." (Pilger) While he was in that country, US military aid grew to $77+ million from $4 million. (Increases in US military aid are always accompanied by violence and repression.) The US Embassy suddenly had 50 CIA agents working there. A wave of terror by CIA-trained thugs ensued, as usually happens when the CIA comes to town. Though the previous ambassador had complained about repression there, Negroponte said he didn't see any. “I have never seen any convincing substantiation that they [the death squads] were involved in death squad-type activities.”

As the death squads rampaged, arresting, kidnapping, torturing and "disappearing" student leaders, trade union leaders, teachers, human rights lawyers, journalists, and many others, often reported in Honduran news media, and even internationally, Negroponte saw nothing. State Department reports on human rights in Honduras positively glowed. In 1982 the State Department reported, "Student, worker, peasant, and other interest groups have full freedom to organize and hold frequent public demonstrations without interference. ... Trade unions are not hindered by the government." (Baltimore Sun)

"Each week, hundreds marched through the streets of the capital demanding the release of the disappeared. Sometimes they marched past the U.S. Embassy, a hulking concrete complex on Paz Avenue." (Baltimore Sun) But apparently Negroponte never looked out his window.

"'The whole process of using Honduras for cheap political purposes is a dirty page in our history, and Negroponte played a major role in the damn thing,' said Lawrence A. Pezzullo, whose service as ambassador to Nicaragua from 1979 to 1981 bridged the Carter and Reagan administrations." (Baltimore Sun)

As ambassador to Mexico, 1989-1993, he made another name for himself, stumping for the North American Free Trade Agreement. Though I wasn't able to find anyone willing to give him credit, the Mexican war against the Zapatistas apparently broke out just after he left his post. Given all my readings of how the CIA operates, I find that at the very least curious.

George W Bush appointed Negroponte to the post of ambassador to the United Nations. Given the outrage over Trump's remarks there about North Korea, it's instructive to note that Negroponte informed the UN that America might well be "required" to attack more and more countries. He's also given credit for coaxing the Security Council into demanding that Saddam give up the weapons he didn't have. He was UN ambassador as the US destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2004, W appointed Negroponte ambassador to Iraq, and, along with fellow CIA asset Ayad Allawi, who'd been appointed PM there, and other CIA associates, he presided over the continuing reign of terror in that benighted land. One of their major accomplishments was the setting up of a number of Special Police Commandos, that is, death squads. The usual death lists, disappearances, and bodies dumped in the streets ensued.

Robert Ford, a successor to the Iraq ambassadorship, continued Negroponte's work and, later, took it to Syria, where the "Free Syrian Army" set up death squads of its own, and started disappearing "traitors" (that is, people who objected to being ruled by a rabble of deserters and torturers).

"According to John MacGaffin, the CIA's former associate deputy director for clandestine operations, 'This is a guy who plays hardball. He's a man who understands the whole range of counterintelligence, intelligence and covert action. They're all parts of foreign policy and protecting ourselves.'" (Wikipedia)

Wherever Negroponte goes, the Phoenix Program follows. Myself, I can't see what he'll be able to add to a "new look" at the Vietnam War. He's been a very successful proponent of the old look.

The previous paragraph was me being just too kind. He's a monster.



Baltimore Sun: A carefully crafted deception (1995)

Chossudovsky, Michel: Terrorism with a “Human Face”: The History of America’s Death Squads (2013)

Davies, Nicolas J.S.: The Victory of Popular Resistance In Occupied Iraq (2011)

Parry, Robert: John Negroponte’s Dark Past (2005)

Pilger, John: A War in the American Tradition (2001)

Staff, In These Times: Previous Coverage of John Negroponte (2005)

Wikipedia: John Negroponte (Accessed 30 Sep 2017)

Negroponte: Hello Iraq! How about some more death?!