Remembering Jesse Helms

Former Senator Jesse Helms, friend of the likes of Roberto D’Aubisson (the founder of El Salvadoran death squads, murderer of Oscar Romero, spiritual inspiration for the rape-murder of the Maryknoll nuns) and Argentine junta head Leopoldo Galtieri, defender of Jim Crow and South African apartheid, and general philistine, is dead. In the Telegraph:

A fervent anti-Communist, his closest known foreign associate was Roberto d’Aubuisson, the leader of the El Salvadorean Right and the man identified by the State Department as responsible for the assassination of archbishop Oscar Romero while he was saying Mass.

Helms had also supported Pinochet in Chile and had been the only senator to back the Argentine junta against Britain during the Falklands war. He once advocated the invasion of Cuba and was one of the few American conservatives to back the white apartheid regimes in Southern Africa.

Helms was also known for his strong personal animosity towards President Clinton. He had been particularly incensed by Clinton’s decision – one of his first on becoming President in 1992 – to remove the ban on homosexuals in the military.

Following his election as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Helms was asked by a journalist whether Clinton was fit to be commander-in-chief of the armed forces. “No,” he replied, “I don’t and neither do the people of the armed forces.”

Two days later he compounded the damage by saying – on the anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination – that “Clinton better watch out if he comes down here (North Carolina). He’d better have his bodyguard.”