George H. Beres t r u t h o u t – 2005-05-03 09:04:38
(April 28, 2005) — April 28 still holds special meaning for Ben Linder’s family members in Oregon, for me and for those at the University of Oregon who helped dedicate a campus auditorium in his name. It is the date of his murder while trying to help peasants of Nicaragua during the Iran-Contra conflict of the 1980s.
It has resonated even more in recent years with appointment to high position by the Bush Administration of the man who has a basic responsibility for Ben’s death — John Negroponte.
Recently placed in charge of the new federal post of Intelligence, Negroponte served in two earlier high-profile positions under Bush: US ambassador to the United Nations, then ambassador to Iraq.
Implementing covert actions is not new to him. He is as ready to advance government policies — often secret — under Bush as he was two decades earlier under Ronald Reagan. At the height of the Iran-Contra scandal, Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras, a position from which he served as facilitator for Reagan policies in Central America.
As Reagan’s “point-man,” Negroponte expedited covert arms-for-hostages dealings that involved the US and Iran. Linder was a minor player in the overall picture. But he was in the way, and in 1987 was targeted for death, along with countless others, by the Contras whose orders were funneled to them by Negroponte.
Negorponte’s Complicity in Torture and Death
Charges of Negroponte’s complicity with Reagan are based on evidence he made possible torture and death squads, and circumvented Congress and the Constitution.
Marc Lacey of the New York Times wrote in 2004: “Inquiry by the CIA several years ago found serious rights violations in Honduras not properly reported to Washington during Negroponte’s tenure. Most of the CIA report is blacked out. Parts that remained unclassified raise questions about Negroponte’s actions, but provide no answers.”
Reporters Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson of the Baltimore Sun published a report about substantiated evidence from various sources who said Negroponte knew of Honduran human rights crimes. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Honduras told them Negroponte oversaw US training camp expansion where Contra terrorists detained, tortured and executed suspected dissidents.
The Bush Administration is adept — sometimes blatant — at hiding or doing away with incriminating data and people. A Los Angeles Times article by Maggie Farley and Norman Kempster told of the sudden deportation from the US of former Honduran death squad members who could have given testimony against Negroponte in Senate hearings leading to his UN appointment.
The Toronto Star wrote that Negroponte’s predecessor in Honduras, Jack Binns, made public his concerns about human rights abuses by the Honduran military, and gave Negroponte a full briefing on the abuses.
Binns was direct in his criticism: “Negroponte denies having been told anything. He is an exquisitely dangerous man whose Honduras role is eerily similar to the Bush Administration’s stance in Iraq. Negroponte represented the US during one of the most corrupt periods of its foreign policy under Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. With courage, he could have challenged what was happening.” Negroponte challenged nothing.
Ben’s Assassination Covered Up by Negroponte
On this month’s 18th anniversary of Linder’s murder, his death enables Oregonians to give a local face to death in the jungles of NIcaragua. Ben was 27 when, as he built a small dam (weir) to measure water flow in a stream for a project to bring electricity to a nearby village, he was assassinated by Contra rebels.
Circumstances of Ben’s death, like many others at the hands of US-armed Contras, were not revealed by Negroponte as Reagan’s man in Central America.
Ben was a schoolboy in Portland before going to the University of Washington, where in 1983, he got a degree in mechanical engineering. His father, David, said Ben went to Nicaragua to provide “appropriate technology” — small hydroelectric plants to help people make revolutionary changes in their lives. As he interacted with Nicaraguans, Ben became known as the clown who rides a unicycle, something he did in costume to entertain children.
After working in the capital of Managua for the Nicaragua Energy Institute, he chose to go inland to build a rural electric source. It was dangerous. Rebels from neighboring Honduras would terrorize the area during the day, then return to Honduras — to the protection of Negroponte.
Before his father died, he and Ben’s mother, Elisabeth, traveled the nation to lecture about the wrongful death of their son. The hydroelectric plant in San Jose de Bocay, where Ben was killed, was completed in 1993. His parents raised money to help complete other hydro plants and water purification systems in the area.
When he chose to go to Nicaragua, Ben told his father: “I wonder if we can count on the fingers of one hand engineers going to Third World countries where they hope to make life better.”
I think it would take more than one hand — covered with blood — to tally Reagan accomplices who did something else in the Third World, and their successors who today continue such work on orders from George Bush.
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