18 February 2005
For the past couple of years a goodly section of the ‘left’ has obsessed over the ‘neo-con’ guys as if they suddenly crawled out from under a rock but as I have observed in many past essays, these guys, far from crawling out from under a rock are the long-time managers of imperialism. Their ‘pedigree’, if that’s what we can call it, extends back at least one hundred years, to at least the age of the ‘Robber Barons’ as innumerable studies illustrate all too clearly. From generation to generation, via a network of relationships borne out of financial, political, education and family ties, they are the public face of an imperial dynasty every much as entrenched as any network of European monarchs (mostly famous for bonking close relatives with the resultant genetic abnormalities and living free off the state).
And whilst we can spend a lot of time on dissecting their actions as opposed to their utterances and in doing so, revealing their outrageous hypocrisy, what really counts is the underlying reality that they represent, else we run the risk of reducing events to the actions of a handful of individuals whilst ignoring (at our peril) the larger issues of the corporate capitalism that these people serve and for many, are actually an integral part.
Also of prime importance is the relationship between these managers of capital and the media who preserve and maintain the illusion of a state run by people basically on the ‘straight and narrow’, whatever their ‘peccadilloes’ thus preserving the illusion of democracy in action and people like John Negroponte are just ‘career diplomats’ doing their job.
Today, I weakened in my resolve to stop bankrolling the corporate press and bought a copy of the Independent (well I had to go out at the crack of dawn and get milk for my wake up café con leché). The ‘news’ paper had a piece on John Negroponte, the new consiglieri for US capital that contained the following throwaway statement:
Mr Negroponte, a former US ambassador to the UN, is considered close to the Bush administration and willing to take on high-pressure positions. He has served as ambassador to the Philippines, Mexico and Honduras. He was condemned by the left for his actions in Honduras, assisting the US-backed Contras in their war against the democratically elected Sandinista government of Nicaragua.
His confirmation to the UN post was delayed for six months because of criticism of his record in Honduras, where he was also accused of acquiescing to abuses by death squads.
The Independent 18/2/05, byline Andrew Buncombe, p. 29.
Note the use of the phrase “condemned by the left” as if it was only the ‘left’ that condemned his actions in Central America (and thus effectively marginalising the criticism to the ‘loonie’ left) and the reference that he was accused of “acquiescing to abuses by death squads” that delayed his appointment. What a way to describe US complicity in torture and mass murder! No matter, small potatoes when fighting the ‘war on terror’, it’s all behind us now, at least that’s the picture being painted in the pages of the Independent and elsewhere, there’s bigger fish to slaughter.
Now I could produce a litany of crimes committed by Negroponte and his fellow conspirators, there are tens of thousands of documents available on the Web including thousands of pages of Congressional testimony that Buncombe could have referred to that document not only his “acquiescing” to death squads but his direct involvement and the fact the US trained them all at the School of the Americas, an establishment that even wrote a torture manual for them to use. And we haven’t even considered his role in the Iran-contra scandal. For the issue here is not so much Negroponte’s role in overseeing (overlooking?) the deaths of tens of thousands of people in Central America (at least 70,000 in El Salvador, 200,000 in Guatemala, tens of thousands in Nicaragua and Honduras), in the ‘war on Communism’ but the fact that Negroponte is merely the visible tip of a state machine that employs hundreds thousands of people whose sole function is to maintain the rule of capital ‘by any means necessary’.
But of course it would be expecting too much for the Independent to contextualise the actions of Negroponte and his ilk and indeed, the innocuous text of the article is designed to obscure any connection between events and the reasons for them. For even if we accept the premise of the Independent’s article, why is there no reference as to why Negroponte “acquiesced”? Was he merely being polite and not wishing to offend central American governments. Brutally, what the fuck was Negroponte up to in Central America and why is there no reference to the reasons why the US bankrolled death squads aside from the predictable ‘war on communism’?
For even a half-arsed ‘paper like the Independent can join the dots together and show its readers quite conclusively that there is a direct connection between the actions and policies of the US State Department and the desires of corporate America, desires that go back to the 19th century. What other reason can there be for the cold-blooded murder of hundreds of thousands of Central American peasants than the fact that they stood in the way of big business. For here we are talking about countries that were (and largely still are) wholly owned by US capital, an ownership that the ‘Marxist guerrillas’ threatened.
Thus the complicity of newspapers like the Independent in obscuring the reasons for events is all too clear even from a couple of paragraphs of alleged reportage on the appointment of a single individual. Imagine the impact if the actions of the dozens of Negroponte look-alikes were exposed for what they are, the hired guns of big capital.
Referring once more to the Independent’s article, we find that the first two paragraphs (the other stuff came at the end) spells out the central mission of the story:
President George Bush has named the veteran diplomat, John Negroponte, as the first national intelligence director – a position created to co-ordinate America’s various intelligence agencies and prevent the failures that led to the attacks of 11 September 2001.
The main task of Mr Negroponte, 65, the US ambassador in Iraq, will be to oversee the often disparate intelligence community and ensure information is shared.
Thus the raison d’etre is still the ‘war on terror’, all else is at best (or worst) an embarrassing aside, which brings me back to the issue at hand: In the 1970s/1980s, was US foreign policy run by a ‘cabal of neo-cons’? No way José! It was, as it still is, run by a state machine composed of people like John Negroponte who serve a handful of corporations such as Grace, Conoco, Exxon, ITT, IBM et al. It doesn’t matter what his name is (though in line with all the bullshit on human rights the Bush/Blair governments are using to justify their ‘war on terror’, these guys should all be hauled before a court along with their employers and charged with crimes against humanity as should have all their predecessors).
The prime objective therefore of the corporate media is to disconnect events from history as the Independent’s story quite clearly illustrates. ‘Reading between the lines’, it’s not difficult to see that there is an unbroken line that connects Negroponte’s actions in the 1970s-80s to his role today. Yes, sure he’s a “veteran diplomat” (surely a phrase, if ever there was one, that obscures a multitude of sins), schooled as he is in the use of terror, torture and mass murder as instruments of state policy.
Over the BBC event horizon: A time travel story where the BBC gets everything barse ackward
The BBC is even more obscurantist than the Independent in papering over Negroponte’s past. Out of the nineteen articles that mention Negroponte’s name we get the following ‘gems’ of journalism from the latest piece:
In the early 1980s, he was ambassador to Honduras.
At the time, the US was deeply engaged in covert operations in Central America – notably against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua.
What Mr Negroponte knew about these murky operations, and how far he was aware of human rights abuses committed by US clients in the region is, for some in the US, an open question.
February 17, 2005. news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4275381.stm
But not for the BBC. Note that the BBC, in line with its alleged objective position describes Negroponte’s involvement not even as accusations but merely (perhaps) as being “aware” of them. A far cry from the story the BBC wrote on Negroponte back in September 2001.
We have to go back almost five years to get a more illuminating portrait of Negroponte in a BBC story datelined September 1, 2001. The BBC’s ‘profile’ of Negroponte still airbrushes his past, describing his Central American ‘adventures’ thus:
He was accused by critics of arming the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, and ignoring murder and torture by the Honduran military regime
At least the BBC in 2001 could actually mention the accusations. But the real allegiance of Negroponte is revealed:
Born in London in 1939 to a Greek tycoon, Mr Negroponte was a jet-setter from the beginning, spending his childhood in Britain, Switzerland and the United States.
He was educated at the elite Exeter Academy and Yale University, and went on to marry Diana Villiers, whose father was the former chairman of British Steel.
Not exactly a ‘man of the people’. From the same piece penned in 2001 we even a get a pull quote by Larry Birns, of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs:
“Negroponte, although he had this patina of being a dignified career foreign service officer, he was a gunslinger for a hyper-Reagan administration policy of utilizing by every means – under the rubric of the end justifies the means – the advancement of the Contra cause in Nicaragua,” Mr Birns said.
Negroponte when US ambassador described the US role in Honduras as follows:
“The primary objective of our policy here is to assist the development of Honduras, encourage its progression towards truly democratic institutions and help to defend itself in a very difficult situation,” Mr Negroponte said.
But behind the scenes, the US was training and arming Battalion 3-16, the notorious Honduran death squad that tortured and murdered hundreds of people. The BBC’s 2001 story, in stark contrast to its current coverage quoted one of the ‘disappeared’, journalist Oscar Reyes:
Mr Reyes was a journalist and one of many opponents of the Honduran Government who was targeted.
“It was a systematic persecution of the people that have some kind of free mind, [who] were not supporting the military,” he said.
“At this time, they ‘disappeared’ a lot of people. We still have in Honduras 184 people disappeared. We don’t know where they are,” he added.
And the BBC article followed this up with the following observation:
It is not a situation you would recognise from the annual state department reports on Honduras that John Negroponte helped to prepare.
Hmm… The contrast between the 2001 story and the current portrayal of Negroponte is glaring, pointing to the role of the media as loyal servant of the state. For why is there absolutely no connection between the content of the 2001 story and its 2005 coverage of Negroponte? And what happened to justify the change of heart I wonder? Answers on a postcard please. Better still, don’t send them to me, send them to the BBC and ask them what happened to their ‘reputation’ for objective coverage of events and how they justify the contradictions between the two articles?
It all gets to be too much of muchness, with every event that is of significance to current British government policy getting the ‘treatment’, that is, scoured of meaning and history, sanitised, before being fed to an uninformed (and unfortunately forgetful) public but then it’s not surprising when there are vast gaps in the media’s coverage, a media that behaves the way a Black Hole does, sucking in anything that disturbs the status quo across the ‘non-event horizon’ and spewing it out on the other side of the galaxy the rest of us live in, never to be seen again.
This then is just one example of the background to the ‘neo-con’ nonsense, a carefully crafted fiction that presents the current situation as if it is somehow an ‘aberration’ instead of capitalism with its fangs bared that has to create an enemy of global proportions in order to justify its assault on the planet in yet another round of ‘primitive accumulation’ that has more in common with the 17th century than it does with the 21st. But if you want explanations, I advise you to seek elsewhere than the corporate/state-run media.