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As one of them, I know Greek-Americans share inordinate pride in democracy having begun in the land of their roots, ancient Greece. So it’s appalling to find one of us who has sought to destroy the principles of that heritage will be honored by the United Hellenic American Congress in Chicago, Nov. 12. A letter from UHAC informed me:
“At the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago, UHAC will honor yet another outstanding Hellene whose distinguished career in foreign service has brought him national and international recognition: Ambassador John Dimitri Negroponte.” It went on to paint a fictional portrait of Negroponte as “representing his country with valor, pride and commitment to democratic principles. You have no doubt heard about his outstanding efforts and recent accomplishments.”
Yes, I have heard this willing functionary of the Bush Administration has bounced around to three high profile government positions in recent years: ambassador to the United Nations, then ambassador to the nation we have devastated, Iraq, and now in the brand new post of National Intelligence czar.
What I also know is something more important, ignored by those who wear ethnic blinders: Negroponte– supposedly committed to democratic principles– first surfaced as Ronald Reagan’s instrument for trashing democracy in Central America. As ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s, he was a chief facilitator for Reagan’s arms-for-hostages scandal, Iran-Contra.
Another item from his political vita one won’t hear from UHAC is hard evidence of how he circumvented Congress and the Constitution when he made possible torture and death squads from Honduras to advance Reagan’s illegal and covert policies.
When I moved from Chicago to Oregon, Negroponte’s criminal actions took on a local face: that of the young Oregon social worker he victimized. Ben Linder of Portland was murdered by Contras as he helped build hydroelectric power for peasants in Nicaragua. An auditorium in the University of Oregon student union is named in his memory.
My fellow ethnics and I have been burned before. Spiro Agnew gave our egos a boost when he became Richard Nixon’s vice-president, only to leave office when impeached. In more recent times, George Tenet became head of the CIA, only to be discredited for giving Bush the lies he sought to justify war with Iraq. Even Greek-Americans wearing blinders winced when Bush rewarded Tenet for his fabrications, giving him the U.S. Medal of Freedom.
Greeks can be forgiven for their Agnew-Tenet excitement, as it was only later we learned of their malfeasance. No such excuse is there for Negroponte, whose illegal actions have been known for a quarter century.
Socrates: where are you when we need you?
GEORGE BERES, retired in Eugene, Ore., once was executive director of the Hellenic Foundation in Chicago in the mid-1970s. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org