In the conduct of US foreign policy, principle is important — for we do not want to confuse either our friends or our enemies as to where our priorities lie. While not always an issue, nonetheless, consistency of principle should always form the bedrock of our foreign policy. But, in our current approaches towards Iran and Honduras, while consistency is present, principle — American principle — is completely lacking.
While majorities of the population in both countries support democracy, in Iran today and in Honduras, at least up until June, we see leaders who are anti-democracy and anti-American. And yet, the Obama administration seems determined to support both.
In Iran, the mullahs’ kakistocracy held a presidential election on June 12 to give the appearance of being democratic. This illusion was quickly shattered when it became clear the choice of the people and the choice of the ruling Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were at odds. Khamenei effectively stole the election, fraudulently declaring his candidate, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the winner. Riots ensued, protestors were killed, arrested and convicted as an illegal government retained power.
This will not deter President Obama, however, from meeting with representatives of this illegal government, giving it instant credibility while its own citizens continue to protest the fraudulent election by which it claims its authority.
In Honduras, the single four-year term of President Manuel Zelaya — democratically elected in a very close 2005 election — was coming to an end in January 2010. As mandated by the Honduran constitution, he could serve only one term. But Zelaya didn’t want to leave office. So he prepared a “Chavismo” — the seizing of power by a formerly elected official.
As the Honduran Congress refused the constitutional change desired by Zelaya, he scheduled a referendum — a process for which there was no legal authority — to take place on June 28th. The plan for that referendum was challenged as an illegal effort by Zelaya to change the law of the land so as to perpetuate himself in power. The issue was litigated weeks earlier and the country’s Supreme Court deemed his effort unconstitutional — a decision Congress then codified.
The democratic wheels of government, by which the executive branch’s powers are kept in check by those of two other independent branches — the legislative and judicial — had all been put into play. The Courts and Congress had spoken to check the presidential abuse of power and to preserve the Constitution.
But, because Zelaya defied the country’s highest court and continued plans for the plebiscite, in the early morning hours of June 28,th military troops — acting on orders of Honduras’ Supreme Court entered the presidential palace, disarmed presidential guards, awoke the president and immediately put him on a plane to Costa Rica, clad only in pajamas.
While the picture of army soldiers crawling underneath the gates of the presidential palace to enter the grounds gave the international community the impression a military coup was in progress, a close examination of the facts leading up to Zelaya’s ouster reveal a different story. Unfortunately, our State Department has failed carefully to scrutinize events leading to Zelaya’s removal, labeling it a military coup, terminating most financial assistance to the country.
Former USAID director in Nicaragua under President Carter, Lawrence Harrison, as well as many other supporters of the interim Honduran government, are in disbelief Obama is supporting Zelaya rather than Honduras’ post-Zelaya government which has taken office in keeping with the country’s legal process and constitution. Harrison wrote, “I am befuddled by the U.S. posture in the Honduran crisis. In circumstances where a sitting president, Manuel Zelaya, repeatedly flouted a key article of the Honduran constitution — an article designed to prevent the continuismo that has plagued Latin America’s fragile democracies — we, along with Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s anti-American Sandinista president, appear to have ended up supporting Mr. Zelaya.” If, as Harrison believes, “one of the motives of the Obama administration is the goal of developing better relationships with the Latin American revolutionary left…my experience…leaves me highly skeptical.”
The Constitution of Honduras was written with the assistance of the U.S. Government. It was written with certain safeguards in mind that would prevent a repeat of the numerous military coups that had plagued Central America for years. It was written to ensure the civilian government that came to power in 1982 would, for years to come, have a roadmap for a peaceful transition of power whether through the mandate of the people or the mandate of the Constitution. It was a roadmap followed to the letter of the law by the interim government.
There is a consistent lack of principle in the Obama Administration’s refusal to recognize a legal government in Honduras while recognizing an illegal one in Iran. What is most troublesome in the case of Honduras is the State Department’s announcement that the United States will not recognize the outcome of the Honduran election now scheduled for November 2009.
Are we approaching the point at which we prefer to deal with governments whose mandates stem from fraudulent elections or no elections at all?
Since 1776, the most fundamental principle for which America stands is self-determination: democracy in which people choose their leaders freely and without coercion. Sadly, this is a principle Obama has abandoned.