Helms Foreign Policy Adviser John Carbaugh, 60

Aides Jim Lucier, left, and John Carbaugh flank Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who used them in pushing U.S. foreign policy to the right. Helms said of Mr. Carbaugh,
Aides Jim Lucier, left, and John Carbaugh flank Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who used them in pushing U.S. foreign policy to the right. Helms said of Mr. Carbaugh, "Every now and then I have to rein him in a bit." (1979 Photo By Margaret Thomas -- The Washington Post)
By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 24, 2006

John Carbaugh, 60, once an adviser to Sen. Jesse Helms and a leading member of the senator's "shadow State Department" that actively promoted foreign policies with a highly anti-communist edge, died March 19 at the Cleveland Clinic. He had a brain aneurysm and a staph infection.

Although little known to the public, Mr. Carbaugh had considerable clout on Capitol Hill while working for Helms (R-N.C.) as a foreign policy adviser from 1974 to 1982. Now retired, Helms was a powerful member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was often angry with the direction of U.S. foreign policy when it appeared to differ from his stark anti-communism.

Mr. Carbaugh and other aides were often dispatched to report back to Helms about a country's political situation. Latin America became a focal point, with Mr. Carbaugh once saying President Jimmy Carter was carrying on a "dangerous flirtation" with leftist regimes there.

Mr. Carbaugh conveyed political support to right-leaning dictators and candidates, many with severely criticized human rights records, such as Roberto D'Aubuisson in El Salvador and Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua.

Journalist Roy Gutman wrote in the 1988 book "Banana Diplomacy" that Mr. Carbaugh influenced the Republican Party platform toward supporting the "contra" guerrillas fighting the Marxist Sandinista rulers in Nicaragua.

"I have no apologies for what we did because we were fighting totalitarianism and communism," Mr. Carbaugh later told a North Carolina reporter. "Helms was very useful to the U.S. government because as a so-called right-winger, when he said something, the conservatives in Latin America or South Africa listened to him."

Speaking about Mr. Carbaugh, Helms once told the New York Times: "Every now and then I have to rein him in a bit, but I'd rather have someone creative and an activist on my staff than someone who sits around waiting for instructions. He has some influence, and he makes life tough for some people. But I'm proud of him for it. That's part of the game."

In perhaps his most audacious move, Mr. Carbaugh and another aide traveled to England in 1979 during negotiations to settle the civil strife in the British colony of Rhodesia, soon to become Zimbabwe.

There was a minor uproar at the State Department when Helms's employees reportedly passed word to outgoing Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith to "hang on" and not surrender many rights of the white community.

According to news reports, Mr. Carbaugh and an associate said the United States would lift sanctions against Rhodesia regardless of the outcome at the London talks. This was said to have complicated diplomatic negotiations and led Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to protest the aides' interference.

In 1982, Mr. Carbaugh quietly left Helms's office amid media attention about funding for the political trips abroad. Many were subsidized by tax-exempt conservative institutes of which he and Helms were officers. One group, the Institute of American Relations, was heavily funded by the oil heir Nelson Bunker Hunt.

Mr. Carbaugh served on several Reagan-era presidential task forces and, until his death, had a lucrative business offering strategic advice to foreign trading companies, particularly in Japan.

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