Otto Reich’s Appointment

1) No large sum of money contributed to Republican or Democratic — coffers goes un-rewarded.

I once debated Otto Reich on a Colorado TV station and afterwards our differences became downright sour, so I can testify to the fact that he was and is a confrontational intransigent, a man who worked hand in glove with fanatics like retired Gen. John Singlaub and Lt. Col. Oliver North.

Reich, in his key role at the Office of Public Diplomacy, routinely lied to the public about US involvement in writing assassination manuals, mining Nicaraguan harbors and ultimately about what became the facts of the Iran-Contra scandal. But, true to the formula for success in Washington, he got promoted for his astute dissembling and became US ambassador to Venezuela.

Reich subsequently served the public interest by lobbying for the tobacco industry, selling arms to third world countries and serving the cause of the Bacardi (rum) family as a kind of personal emissary for the booze giants.

I breathed a sigh of relief. But not for long. During the Congressional break, George W. Bush made a “recess appointment.” That means he circumvented the need for Senate approval. So, welcome Otto Reich as Assistant Secretary of state for Western Hemispheric affairs. From Hudson’s Bay to Patagonia, I can hear the sound of one hand clapping. Why, you might ask, do Latin American heads of state not leap with joy over this appointment?

The “good guys” on US payroll acted like wise guys and knocked off priests and nuns and even an archbishop — in their zeal for democracy of course.

This way the US public would “understand” why Reagan was using their taxes to pay these people who on the surface looked like truly loathsome characters. Or become so confused that they would stop thinking about the assassinations, the harbor mining and other terrorist acts.

The Iran-Contra scandals arose from trying to conceal this operation and, when the hearings and trials took place from 1987 on, Reich’s name became ubiquitous with dirty dealing and lying.

Courts later determined that Ollie North, Eliot Abrams, John Poindexter and other high officials had lied to Congress or committed other felonious infractions, but Reich miraculously escaped the criminal taint, and, Reagan the lion hearted rewarded Otto for his role in eroding the law and the Constitution. He named Otto Reich ambassador to Venezuela.

Venezuelan authorities had arrested Dr. Orlando Bosch after a terrorist bomb exploded on board a Cuban commercial airliner as it took off from Barbados. All 73 passengers and crew died. Although Venezuela arrested Bosch and held him for ten years, they never actually tried him for the crime because of US pressure not to do so. But so zealous was Bosch in Castro hatred that he practically admitted the airline terrorism to interviewing journalists on several occasions.

Bosch returned to South Florida and resumed his terrorist plotting. In December,. 2001, The Miami New Times reported that Bosch had admitted to recently smuggling explosives into Cuba.

He began lobbying for tobacco companies and weapons manufacturers who wanted to sell their wares to Latin America. But he stood out as a kind of family retainer for Bacardi who had engaged in a trademark war with Cuba over Havana Club rum.

I talked with other Washington insiders, all of whom shared their extreme doubts about Reich’s ability to accomplish anything more than exacerbating already existing Latin American grievances and creating some new ones and, of course, lobbying for his old boss, Bacardi. All agree that Reich’s appointment means a straight payoff to the right wing Castro-haters who threw millions into brother Jeb’s gubernatorial coffers and millions more into W’s presidential campaign.

The fact that Reich will damage US-Latin American relations seems unimportant for the White House. Forget when Bush talked about wanting to unify people, when he called for consensus, when he promised he could work with his opponents.

Reich stands for Bacardi, weapons and tobacco sales; for freeing those terrorists who hate Castro and for dissembling in public office.

Reich will serve almost a year before the Senate must confirm his appointment. He can do a lot of damage in that time period. Remember his name and how the word “third” comes to mind.

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