The Obama Administration has made a name for itself by apologizing for a variety of American political decisions for which it was not responsible. It is much harder to apologize for your own mistake than to apologize for what other people did in other times. But an apology is in order. Secretary of State Clinton, who plans to meet with former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya on behalf of President Obama, should apologize to him and to current Honduran President Roberto Micheletti.
We suggest something like this.
"On behalf of the President of the United States and myself, I apologize for having jumped to the conclusion that events in Honduras last week constituted a military coup. We should have taken the time to understand the legal and constitutional issues in play in Tegucigalpa and should not have pre-judged the outcome. Our knee-jerk decision to stand with Hugo Chávez, Daniel Ortega and Raúl Castro was based on our political proclivity, not on an informed understanding of the issue at hand.
"Former President Zelaya, we apologize for giving you false hope that the United States would support your return to the presidency. Having now read Article 239 of the Honduran constitution ["No citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions..."] we understand that you had ceased to be the legal president before your arrest.
"President Micheletti, we apologize for making your legitimate, temporary assumption of the presidency more difficult than it should have been. We will work with the OAS to restore Honduras's good name.
"To the Honduran Supreme Court, attorney general, parliament, Council on Human Rights and Catholic Church, we apologize for undermining your legal and moral authority.
"General Velasquez, we apologize for failing to note that you were fired for properly refusing to carry out an illegal order from then-President Zelaya to distribute ballots for a referendum deemed illegal by the supreme court and the attorney general. To the Honduran military, we apologize for the unfounded assumption that you carried out a military coup. It has become clear that you were enforcing a legal warrant for the arrest of former President Zelaya, and it is equally clear that at no time did the military attempt to rule the country. It was our prejudice against Latin American military establishments that led us to say that you had behaved outside the law. You did not.
"To the Honduran people, we apologize for encouraging supporters of former President Zelaya to take to the streets in an attempt to force the reversal of the legal actions of the Honduran government. Our mistake no doubt contributed to the deaths of two Honduran citizens, and for this we are most sorry. We further apologize to the Honduran people for thinking the worst of the institutions of your government and for treating a democratic friend and good neighbor like a banana republic.
"And with our apology is our promise to do better in the future."