Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Lew Anselem: Yet Another Bush Holdover Undermining Decency

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 29, 2009

This certainly explains a lot — not only is the odious Amselem a Bush holdover at OAS, he’s also got a long history of evil trailing behind him in Latin America dating back over two decades:

Journalist Jeremy Bigwood, who was reporting from Guatemala during Amselem’s tenure there, remembers the diplomat for the same kind of outrageous behavior and statements over the years that he displayed yesterday in Washington. Amselem, according to Bigwood, “would put a positive spin on the extermination of a couple hundred thousand Guatemalan Indians. The guy should be sent to the International Criminal Court for abetting war crimes. He even arranged illegal supplies and airlifts to the Guatemalan Army after US military assistance had been banned. I can’t believe that he would be representing the Obama administration in the OAS.”

Most amazing is that Amselem’s current boss, Secretary Clinton, should already know that he’s a loose cannon because she was, as First Lady in the 1990s, involved with one of Guatemala’s most notorious human rights abuse cases, that of Ursuline nun Dianna Ortiz, who was kidnapped and tortured there in 1989.

In 1995, a US federal judge ordered Guatemalan General Hector Gramajo to pay $47 million dollars in damages to Sister Ortiz and other plaintiffs for those crimes.

Human rights champion Kerry Kennedy has written, “Ortiz’s raw honesty and capacity to articulate the agony she suffered compelled the United States to declassify long-secret files on Guatemala, and shed light on some of the darkest moments of Guatemalan history and American foreign policy.”

Well, guess who pops up in Sister Dianna’s memoirs? Lewis Amselem: and not in a good way. Ortiz wrote:

“…after a U.S. doctor had counted 111 cigarette burns on my back alone, the story changed. In January 1990, the Guatemalan defense minister publicly announced that I was a lesbian and had staged my abduction to cover up a tryst. The minister of the interior echoed this statement and then said he had heard it first from the U.S. embassy. According to a congressional aide, the political affairs officer at the U.S. embassy, Lew Amselem, was indeed spreading the same rumor.

“In the presence of Ambassador Thomas Stroock, this same human rights officer told a delegation of religious men and women concerned about my case that he was ‘tired of these lesbian nuns coming down to Guatemala.’ The story would undergo other permutations. According to the Guatemalan press, the ambassador came up with another version: he told the Guatemalan defense minister that I was not abducted and tortured but simply ‘had problems with [my] nerves.’”

So yesterday was not the first time that Amselem revealed a mean-spirited streak to blame the victims of human rights violations. Most disturbingly, Secretary Clinton – who met with Sister Dianna in the 1990s and expressed sympathy and solidarity – should already know this history.

The good news is that a replacement, Carmen Lomellin, has been nominated. The bad news is of course that the Senate Republicans are holding her and other Obama nominations hostage, as always (and with a nary a peep of protest in the media).

Charles says: Al Giordano spells in “Amselem.” Google renders a split decision. The OAS agrees with Al.

12 Responses to “Lew Anselem: Yet Another Bush Holdover Undermining Decency”

  1. Charles II said


    I don’t know if you’ve seen Sister Diana speak.

    It’s heart-rending, not so much because of the vicious crimes against her, but because she never heals. The pain gets worse with every telling. And yet she speaks.

  2. Nell said

    No one’s this incompetent.

    I’m grateful for Giordano’s illuminating background.

    But Obama and Clinton can’t get her OAS ambassadors confirmed why? Because John Kerry’s too palsy with Lugar? And/or because they haven’t even tried?

    If the barrier is that famous Senate comity, then WTF is stopping the Secretary from just moving Amselem aside and having someone else be the interim representative?

  3. Nell said

    I’m reconsidering my last suggestion. I suppose if the position requires confirmation, you have to keep someone in the job who has been confirmed. But then there should be some public heat on Kerry and company.

    Myself, I think this administration isn’t terribly unhappy with the mixed message. Or they’d have done something about it.

  4. jo6pac said

    The bad news is of course that the Senate Republicans are holding her and other Obama nominations hostage, as always (and with a nary a peep of protest in the media).

    O isn’t out and about to help them is he, strange and Sad.

  5. MEC said

    Notice that the once-vaunted “no leaks, no drama” ambiance around Obama disappeared about five days after Rahm got hired?

    I was horrified when I heard that Rahm Emanuel would be Obama’s chief of staff. I despise the man. For me, it’s personal (or at least local). He stabbed several Michigan Congressional candidates in the back in the 2006 campaign. Whatever his agenda is, it’s not the good of the country or even the good of the party.

    • Charles II said

      I’m sad to say, that’s been the norm for 20 years. After business realized it could own a real Republican for only slightly more than the price of an Atari (now Blue Dog) Democrat, the regulars in the Dem. Party have been reserving candidate slots for “self-financing” candidate. That is to say, rich men with no very strong loyalties to anything except their own personal advantage. That generation of Democrats is rife with opportunists and political entrepreneurs.

      I think that what the regulars hate and fear most about grassroots liberals– and have ever since 1968– is that grassroots liberals actually believe in causes. The regulars want Democrats who are easy to “disciple:” dangle a dollar before their eyes and they’ll roll over and play dead.

  6. Nell said

    Color me extremely unimpressed that it took the Clinton-run State Department eight months to send a new nominee for OAS rep to the Senate (when they’ve had a crisis in the OAS since June).

    I’m also confused about the excerpt below, which seems to say that Lomellin is replacing Hector Morales, not Amselem. If that’s true, Amselem should be booted to another job immediately, where he can do no harm, and be replaced by a more trustworthy interim representative. Though, as before, since State functionaries say his remarks are consistent with the current policy, then I have to take them at their word — the mofo was and is conveying the real policy.

    Carmen Lomellin, of Virginia, to be Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States, with the rank of Ambassador, vice Hector E. Morales, resigned.

    • Charles II said

      I don’t think I understand the WH statement. It sounds as if the Hector Morales already resigned. So there is no replacement for Amselem. Except that they could hold him in Washington for “consultations” indefinitely and send career staff to the meetings.

  7. Nell said

    Okay, now I think I understand, and I am really angry.

    See this State Dept. list of permanent reps to the OAS. It doesn’t include acting representatives. Amselem was never nominated or confirmed; he’s a career guy that this administration has either installed as acting amb. or was doing so when the transition occurred and was allowed to stay in place.

    As Giordano points out, Sec. Clinton’s direct involvement in the Dianna Ortiz case means she should understand exactly who and what Amselem is. So he speaks for this administration, what he says is official policy — it’s all part of the two-faced tap dance.

    • Charles II said

      There’s something puzzling about the list. It may be out of date or incomplete. Henry Bonilla, a hack GOP politician from Texas, is listed as the permanent rep. to the OAS. But his nomination was withdrawn, and he is gone from State.

      But, yes, Amselem is a career diplomat. That’s how he happened to be in the embassy at the time that Dianna Ortiz’s story started to come out. And, yes, I agree that sending Amselem to the OAS was a statement of solidarity with the Honduran death squads. I don’t see any other way to read it.

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