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RIP Rep. Lantos
February 11, 2008 7:00 AM   Subscribe

Rep. Tom Lantos, 80, passed away this morning. Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, he was the only Holocaust survivor to ever serve in the United States Congress.
posted by awesomebrad (30 comments total)

 
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posted by awesomebrad at 7:00 AM on February 11, 2008


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posted by parmanparman at 7:04 AM on February 11, 2008


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posted by allkindsoftime at 7:04 AM on February 11, 2008


"Man, as long as he lives, is immortal. One minute before his death he shall be immortal. But one minute later, God wins." - Elie Wiesel

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posted by anastasiav at 7:06 AM on February 11, 2008


"We have been calling on the civilized world to stand up and to say, 'Enough,' " Lantos said. "The slaughter of the people of Darfur must end."
posted by awesomebrad at 7:12 AM on February 11, 2008


He also helped the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador lie to congress about the infamous story about babies being removed from incubators before the first Gulf War. Lying before congress to goad the country into war for a foreign power's benefit counts as treason in my book. His biography aside, that incident made him the single member of the house I hated the most, democrat or republican, and I can't say I mourn his passing.
posted by gsteff at 7:13 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by Kifer85 at 7:14 AM on February 11, 2008


He also helped the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador lie to congress about the infamous story about babies being removed from incubators before the first Gulf War. Lying before congress to goad the country into war for a foreign power's benefit counts as treason in my book. His biography aside, that incident made him the single member of the house I hated the most, democrat or republican, and I can't say I mourn his passing.
posted by gsteff at 10:13 AM on February 11 [+] [!]

And he knew she was lying? What is your source? I'm curious. Thanks.
posted by etaoin at 7:15 AM on February 11, 2008


Guess we're gonna need a bigger Croat.
posted by sourwookie at 7:18 AM on February 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


An elegant and fascinating old world dude. It was fun to listen to him talk whenever he appeared on the newshour on PBS, not only for his intelligence and diplomacy, but also because he sounded like The Count, from Sesame Street.

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posted by Skygazer at 7:20 AM on February 11, 2008


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posted by cerebus19 at 7:23 AM on February 11, 2008


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posted by AwkwardPause at 7:33 AM on February 11, 2008


And he knew she was lying? What is your source?

Lantos introduced her to the committee while taking money and free rent from the PR agency that manufactured her lie. He was in charge of the organization that hosted her. So his only defense, the one he uses, is the currently fashionable and apparently excusable , incompetence.

Ends do not justify the means. Even if you are a democrat pushing for human rights. I hope that someday people in power will learn this before they die rather than be surprised by the judgment they will receive.
posted by srboisvert at 7:42 AM on February 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


etaoin: Lantos, in what was surely one of the least attractive moments in an interesting life, was heavily involved in the Hill and Knowlton PR scheme that created the story of the babies being taken from incubators to sell the first Gulf War. Unless you're prepared to accept that Lantos somehow didn't know the 15-year-old girl who was testifying in front of him was in fact the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the U.S. (who was in the room listening to her testimony), there's no doubt that Lantos was party to the deception. PR Watch has the full story here, if you want to grieve for a day or two and then check it out:

On October 10, 1990, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus held a hearing on Capitol Hill which provided the first opportunity for formal presentations of Iraqi human rights violations. Outwardly, the hearing resembled an official congressional proceeding, but appearances were deceiving. In reality, the Human Rights Caucus, chaired by California Democrat Tom Lantos and Illinois Republican John Porter, was simply an association of politicians. Lantos and Porter were also co-chairs of the Congressional Human Rights Foundation, a legally separate entity that occupied free office space valued at $3,000 a year in Hill & Knowlton's Washington, DC office. Notwithstanding its congressional trappings, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus served as another Hill & Knowlton front group, which - like all front groups - used a noble-sounding name to disguise its true purpose... [and avoid criminal violations for lying to an actual Congressional committee]

In fact, the most emotionally moving testimony on October 10 came from a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, known only by her first name of Nayirah. According to the Caucus, Nayirah's full name was being kept confidential to prevent Iraqi reprisals against her family in occupied Kuwait. Sobbing, she described what she had seen with her own eyes in a hospital in Kuwait City. Her written testimony was passed out in a media kit prepared by Citizens for a Free Kuwait. "I volunteered at the al-Addan hospital," Nayirah said. "While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns, and go into the room where . . . babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die."

Three months passed between Nayirah's testimony and the start of the war. During those months, the story of babies torn from their incubators was repeated over and over again. President Bush told the story. It was recited as fact in Congressional testimony, on TV and radio talk shows, and at the UN Security Council. "Of all the accusations made against the dictator," MacArthur observed, "none had more impact on American public opinion than the one about Iraqi soldiers removing 312 babies from their incubators and leaving them to die on the cold hospital floors of Kuwait City."

At the Human Rights Caucus, however, Hill & Knowlton and Congressman Lantos had failed to reveal that Nayirah was a member of the Kuwaiti Royal Family. Her father, in fact, was Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait's Ambassador to the US, who sat listening in the hearing room during her testimony. The Caucus also failed to reveal that H&K vice-president Lauri Fitz-Pegado had coached Nayirah in what even the Kuwaitis' own investigators later confirmed was false testimony.

Following the war, human rights investigators attempted to confirm Nayirah's story and could find no witnesses or other evidence to support it. Amnesty International, which had fallen for the story, was forced to issue an embarrassing retraction. Nayirah herself was unavailable for comment. "This is the first allegation I've had that she was the ambassador's daughter," said Human Rights Caucus co-chair John Porter. "Yes, I think people . . . were entitled to know the source of her testimony." When journalists for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation asked Nasir al-Sabah for permission to question Nayirah about her story, the ambassador angrily refused.

posted by mediareport at 7:49 AM on February 11, 2008 [9 favorites]


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posted by rtha at 8:18 AM on February 11, 2008


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posted by hojoki at 8:33 AM on February 11, 2008


OK, thanks. I knew about the deception; I did not know the PR agency connection. I also don't know that I'm in grief mode, just curious at the statement which initially had no support but has now been supplied. Thanks to all.
posted by etaoin at 8:49 AM on February 11, 2008


Well, I just read the cited material; I'm not seeing a quote from Lantos about it or a statement from the site saying Lantos knew all about it. It does indeed sound slimey and something Lantos should have known--and probably did-- but I'm going to have to read more about this.
posted by etaoin at 9:00 AM on February 11, 2008


Never again.

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posted by jonp72 at 9:23 AM on February 11, 2008


As my representative, I also had some real issues with Lantos' war mongering. He also was in the forefront of those smearing France and other EU members who were trying to dissuade the US war machine from piling into Iraq.

Nonetheless, I somehow felt better knowing that a holocaust survivor was serving in the US House. Though it may also be that his holocaust experiences made him too willing to go along with pre-emptive war doctrines when it would have been better for all of us to hold off.
posted by jasper411 at 9:26 AM on February 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


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posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:58 AM on February 11, 2008


He was a strong supporter of the present Iraq war as well, through 2005. So, yeah, not grieving. Also, one less superdelegate for Hillary. </ghoulish>
posted by nicwolff at 12:35 PM on February 11, 2008


Well, again, I'm not going to defend anything he did but do think that his actions may well have been informed by his own experiences when the world stood by and ignored a threat until it was too late. After reading a lot more today about him than I'd ever read previously, that's my best guess. That is all.
posted by etaoin at 12:41 PM on February 11, 2008


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posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:59 PM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


He was a strong supporter of the present Iraq war as well, through 2005. So, yeah, not grieving. Also, one less superdelegate for Hillary.

Man, I hope for your family's sake that your dad voted for Obama, you fucking ghoul.


(BTW, my favorite Tom Lantos memory is when he ran over that kid's foot with his car. No punctuation-of-mourning for you, Lantos!)
posted by 1 at 1:02 PM on February 11, 2008


Lantos introduced her to the committee while taking money and free rent from the PR agency that manufactured her lie. He was in charge of the organization that hosted her. So his only defense, the one he uses, is the currently fashionable and apparently excusable , incompetence.

Reading things like this always gives me pause. I sort of understand the rationale behind taking money as a bribe - everyone wants more money. But I cannot possibly understand the psychology of taking free rent as a bribe. In fact if someone offered me free housing in exchange for doing something legal I would try to get out of it. I would never want someone else to control where I live.

The fact that he accepted this, even if it was rent on a second home for temporary or seasonal use, tells me more than anything other single piece of evidence that Lantos decided to devote his professional life for his benefactors. He wasn't siding with them on a short term objective, he was agreeing that no matter what they wanted in the future, they could count on him, because he didn't care.

It also disturbs me how deeply these middle eastern oil kleptocracies have their claws in the U.S. government and political parties.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:31 PM on February 11, 2008


Dear old Dad won't be picking the Democratic nominee semi-single-handed this year either.
posted by nicwolff at 1:39 PM on February 11, 2008


Pastabagel, as I recall it was free rent on office space, within the H&K offices, for one of the fake caucuses that Lantos and others used to stage the Nayirah fraud.
posted by nicwolff at 1:41 PM on February 11, 2008


I liked visiting Lantos' office on the Hill largely because he brought his dog to work with him everyday, and the little dog had the run of the office, greeting people, curling up under chairs, trotting around behind Lantos' wife. The original dog died a few years ago and was replaced with a new one, which quickly learned its predecessor's habits. It was always nice to see a dog in that otherwise very stuffy environment.

He was also doing heroic work on global AIDS issues, and PEPFAR reauthorization will be a more difficult process without him.

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posted by gingerbeer at 1:51 PM on February 11, 2008


For a Holocaust survivor, his reaction to the Davidian massacre tragedy was surprising and disappointing.
posted by iconjack at 5:50 PM on February 11, 2008


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