The Diplomat and the Killer: When four American women were m

Re: The Diplomat and the Killer: When four American women we

Postby admin » Tue May 30, 2017 4:28 am

Official Cover-up Of El Salvador Massacre Hurts Credibility Of Government
by Anthony Lewis, The New York Times
November 24, 1992

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


The civil war in El Salvador is over now, a political settlement taking hold. But the American role in El Salvador did damage to our institutions and our honor that remains unrepaired. So we are reminded by a recent turn in an appalling piece of history.

On Jan. 27, 1982, correspondents of The New York Times and The Washington Post reported from the remote Salvadoran village of El Mozote that hundreds of civilians had been massacred there. Most were women, children and old men.

Raymond Bonner of The Times wrote that he had seen the skulls and bones of dozens of people buried under burned-out peasant houses. Alma Guillermopietro wrote a similar account for The Post.

Villagers nearby said an elite battalion of government forces had carried out the massacre the previous month. The villagers had a list of 733 victims. The Salvadoran Human Rights Commission put the number of dead at 926.

Those newspaper reports evoked angry denials and denunciations. A Salvadoran military spokesman said the account of a massacre had been fabricated by ``subversives.``

The Reagan administration, already embarrassed by Salvadoran death squads, was just as bristling. A week later Thomas Enders, assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, told Congress: ``There is no evidence to confirm that (Salvadoran) government forces systematically massacred civilians ... or that the number of civilians killed even remotely approached the 733 or 926 victims cited in the press.``

Enders supposedly based his statement on an investigation by two U.S. Embassy officials in El Salvador. But he did not make their report public, and he misrepresented what they said.

The Reagan administration did not rest with disingenuous denials. It did its best to smear the reporters.

Sad to say, this effort at smearing found a voice in the press itself. The editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, ideologically committed to the Reagan administration and its view of what to do in El Salvador, ran an editorial 36 inches long headed ``The Media`s War.`` The correspondents who reported the El Mozote massacre had been ``overly credulous,`` the editorial suggested, and were taken in by a rebel ``propaganda exercise.``

``Much of the American media (in El Salvador), it would seem,`` The Journal said, ``was dominated by a style of reporting that grew out of Vietnam -- in which communist sources were given greater credence than either the U.S. government or the government it was supporting.``

The Journal editorial had a significant effect. Other newspapers worried about looking soft on communism and toned down their reporting from El Salvador.

The new turn in this story came last month, when a team of forensic archeologists digging in the ruins of El Mozote found dozens of skeletons. Most of them were of children. The archeologists said shell casings and other evidence supported the charge of a massacre by government troops.

The archeologists had to overcome strenuous resistance from the Salvadoran government to do their investigation. It was only insistence by a three-member Truth Commission set up under the peace agreement that opened the way. The Truth Commission has also had an extremely hard time getting cooperation from the U.S. government. Many U.S. documents on the El Mozote massacre are still being withheld from the commission -- and from us.

Surely the time has come for Americans, like Salvadorans, to know the truth of what was done in our name. Perhaps even Tom Enders and the other officials who covered up horrors could face the truth. And the press could learn again how essential it is to be skeptical of convenient official denials.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17884
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Diplomat and the Killer: When four American women we

Postby admin » Tue May 30, 2017 4:33 am

A Massacre in the Rear View Mirror: El Mozote at 35
by Christy Rodgers
December 13, 2016

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


In three days, from December 11-13, 1981, U.S.-trained troops in Central America’s smallest, most densely populated republic, El Salvador, rounded up and killed over a thousand unarmed civilians in the hamlet of El Mozote, in Morazán province, near the Honduran border. This massacre, I believe, still has the dubious distinction of being the largest mass killing of civilians by state forces in the Western Hemisphere in the 20th century.

Most people who know anything about the Central American civil wars in the last decades of the Cold War know that they were U.S. proxy wars, the Reagan Administration’s “line in the palms” against Soviet expansion. In Weakness and Deceit, then New York Times foreign correspondent Raymond Bonner carefully exposed the bloody fingerprints of the administration on that massacre and the years-long cover-up that followed, and was exiled from the paper for his pains.

El Salvador’s twelve-year civil war ended in a negotiated settlement, after displacing a fifth of the country’s population of five million and killing over 75,000. And after billions of U.S. tax dollars were poured in to prop up its army and political class by Carter, Reagan and Bush – El Salvador was at one time the third largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the world, after Israel and Egypt. The war was followed by fifteen years of right-wing dominated plutocratic governments that institutionalized denial, and pushed through a craven amnesty for all military and political figures implicated in war crimes, while they continued (a little more discreetly than before) looting the country. A few triggermen were prosecuted for death squad activities but by and large, the major perps walked free, some of them settling comfortably in the U.S. A lot of other Salvadorans ended up in the U.S. as well, but the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service worked diligently to ensure that none of those who had fled government repression were given political asylum.

El Salvador’s guerrilla army, the FMLN, had taken swifter, if limited, justice: in 1984, they lured the massacre’s engineer and top commander Colonel Domingo Monterrosa into a booby-trapped helicopter by letting him think he had captured the transmitter for the guerrilla radio station, Radio Venceremos. They blew him up in mid-air. A pretty good film, Trap for a Cat, made by a Venezuelan filmmaker sympathetic to the struggle tells this as a story of poetic justice, with some dramatic license.

In 1991, on the tenth anniversary of the massacre, I stood with a tiny group of people in the tall dry grass of the empty place that had once been the busy market town of El Mozote. A majority of its residents had been conservative evangelical Christians who had refused to support the FMLN – and so the initial story manufactured for the cover-up was that the massacre was a reprisal by the guerrillas. That story eventually sank under the weight of the facts – in no small part because there had been at least one surviving witness to the attack.

That was Rufina Amaya, widow of a smallholder who was killed in the massacre, and she was standing with our group in the susurrus grass of that depression in the barren hills where there was absolutely no structure, whole or partial, remaining to indicate the former town. She began to speak about what she had seen and heard on that day in 1981, when she hid in the bushes as the army marched in and began rounding up the townspeople.

Because what she saw and heard – including the cries of her own children as they were locked inside the town church, which would later be burned to the ground with them in it – was too much for any human to bear and remain unbroken, she spoke rapidly, almost at the edge of panic at first and then in tears, her voice shaky but never choking, never stopping for breath or reflection, just saying what had to be said, which she had already had to do a hundred times by then. She had crouched in her hiding place through the long day of screams, shouts, weeping, gunfire and blood and escaped in the dark.

I was responsible for interpreting for her to those in the group who did not speak Spanish and I remember that the only way to do it was to relinquish any intermediation between her words and mine and simply open my mind to hers as the words flowed out. I had never had to do that before, have never had to do it since and I don’t know if I could do it again.

Yet it is in such moments that phrases like “a shared humanity” lose their abstract or clichéd status. The facts can always be argued, twisted, or simply suppressed. Narratives and counter-narratives can be created in which the facts disappear in a welter of relentless polemic that is far more captivating than the facts can ever be. The only truth we will ever know is the truth we recognize in one another in situations where pretense and pretexts are stripped away – and in the living world that sustains us, whenever we can experience it without intervention. Rufina was truth that day in the dust of that whispering place where a thousand bodies were moldering invisibly under the soil.

History is mostly what’s told us by the victors. But El Salvador’s best poet – murdered, in despicable political irony, at the order of a brilliant FMLN commander who made northern Morazán, throughout the later 1980s, a guerrilla stronghold into which the Salvadoran army could no longer enter and kill at will, allowing some remarkable if inevitably limited experiments in collective autonomy to flourish at the same time (just in case you ever thought revolution was a case of stark, unmistakable distinctions between good and evil) – the revolutionary Roque Dalton, wrote a poem called “The Victim’s Turn” in which the possibility of a different history is raised:

Ahora es la hora de mi turno
Now my turn has come
el turno del ofendido por años silencioso
the victim’s turn, silent for years
a pesar de los gritos
in spite of the shouts
Callad
Be silent
Callad
Be silent
Oíd.
Hear me.


Last year, an Argentine forensic team was finally authorized to complete exhumations at the El Mozote massacre site. The team had begun digging more than twenty years before and when it actually unearthed over a hundred bodies (more than half of whom were children) its work was rapidly suspended. But the families of the murdered persisted, and at last the wheels of some kind of justice began to turn – first with a decision by the Inter-American Human Rights Court in 2012 that El Salvador’s amnesty law had limits, and a case of grave violations like El Mozote had to be investigated and produce reparations. A decision that the Salvadoran Supreme Court has now ratified: the amnesty law was annulled last year, and 22 high-ranking military officials will face trial for crimes against humanity.

But the words “never again” still ring hollow, 35 years on, as none of the institutions that permit massacres and cover-ups here, there or elsewhere have been abolished or even weakened much, despite the tireless efforts of millions to stop the past from repeating itself. One hegemonic enemy collapsed but the great game has continued, creating new enemies to order and churning out fancy new tools to do the old work of killing and distracting and covering tracks afterward. The transformative hopes of the thousands who died fighting in El Salvador – or died only because they were poor and in the way of power – were not realized. Neoliberal economics, corruption and gang wars continue to pillage it today. Still there isn’t a choice but keep driving forward while never ceasing to look backward, as if we were all a motorized version of Walter Benjamin’s Angel of History, watching the disasters pile up in the rear view mirror.

And yet it is the utmost disrespect to the survivors to relax into a distanced despair. The last time I saw Rufina Amaya was on the back roads of Morazán in the first years of peace. She was on her way to a dance. She died of cancer in 2007; she did not live to see the first government in El Salvador’s history that was even slightly to the left of outright oligarchy take power in 2009, or its president admit the state’s responsibility for the El Mozote massacre and apologize to the victims’ families in 2012. But the victory that she had already won for herself, the triumph over annihilating despair – and for her people, the survival of the truth – was an even greater one.

For further reading:

The Massacre at El Mozote by Mark Danner (Vintage, 1994)

The El Mozote Massacre by Leigh Binford (University of Arizona Press, 1996)


Christy Rodgers lives in San Francisco, where all that is solid melts into air. Her essays and reviews have appeared in CounterPunch Alternet, Upside Down World, Truthout, Dark Mountain Project, and Left Curve Magazine. Her blog is What If? Tales, Transformations, Possibilities.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 17884
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Previous

Return to News Articles

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest