Fat Steve's Blatherings

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The St. Onge/Monaco Dialogue continues: the U.S. and Latin America, Chile Especially


        Jerry Monaco of New York has been leaving long, thoughtful, rather impassioned comments on this blog.  You can find the previous ones here, here, and here.  My response to that last contribution ran so long, I've decided to break it up by subject.  Of course, this neat separation won't last, but I expect that, and don't mind it.

        All blockquoted material is from Jerry's previous comments, unless otherwise noted.


        As you say, the Latin American situation is not directly relevant to our original subject, CIA secret prisons.  But it's worth going over, as it illustrates the difference between the ways we think about issues of national security.

        You wrote:
        The reason I thought that the National Security States in Latin America were relevant is because we installed them in the first place and because they ran secret prisons where thousands of people disappeared.  We weren't fighting Marxists in the cases of Brazil and Argentina, we were opposing governments that sought "independent development outside of the U.S. economic system," or so the liberal Kennedy administration documents say.

        I expect you give the U.S. too much credit/blame here.  Latin Americans have managed to create a lot of dictatorships on their own over the years.

        I wasn't quite eight when John F. Kennedy was inaugurated, and my parents were Nixon supporters.  I've never paid a lot of attention to JFK's policies in Latin America.  You say the people we opposed in Brazil and Argentina weren't Marxists.  Maybe, but the phrase "sought ‘independent development outside the U.S. economic system’" sounds a lot like the way the Marxists have typically described their activities — 'we reject the tyranny of the market, dominated by the capitalist countries, and wish to develop independently of it, for the benefit of the workers and peasants.'  After which they usually began slaughtering said workers and peasants, along with the middle class, the upper class, non-Communist intellectuals, political opponents, religious people who didn't preach that Marxism was God's truth and will, and various random passersby.  In short, your quote doesn't reassure me.

        As I said, I'm not particularly familiar with Argentina and Brazil of forty-plus years ago.  But if I did get outraged about it, it would be because people were murdered, tortured, etc.  The fact that they were murdered or tortured by a government that was friendly to the U.S., even one installed by the U.S., wouldn't make me particularly more indignant.

        You say:
        I simply don't understand expressions of such callousness, by you and many of the people who consider themselves conservatives, and I am not sure where it comes from.  Such expressions are not conservative but sound to my ears bloodthirsty and, frankly, willfully blind.  I beg of you to think outside of the stock phrases and labels and try to understand what is actually happening in the world.

        I must confess to a similar lack of understanding concerning liberals.  I read, for instance, about Mao Zedong's deliberate starvation of an estimated forty two MILLION in three years, plus another thirty five MILLION murdered over four decades, for a total of seventy seven MILLION and I figure that if you are upset about the deaths of seventy nine THOUSAND murdered in Brazil in 22 years then you should be about nine hundred seventy five as upset at the deaths in Red China.  Or maybe it should only be five hundred fifty times as upset, considering the Chinese murders were over a longer period?  Or perhaps only eighty eight times as upset, considering the population differences?  If you object that you can't count human lives and suffering that way, I'd agree ("Men are not potatoes" -- Robert A. Heinlein in Starship Troopers) but I still think liberals should be at least as upset at Mao, and probably a lot more so.  In any given year, on average, the Chinese Communists killed about eighty eight times the percentage of China's population that the generals did of Brazil's population.  Instead, liberals tend to shrug at Mao's butcheries, but get endlessly upset about the far smaller atrocities south of the Rio Grande.

        And even in Latin America, only some atrocities seem to cause concern.  For instance, I've seen it asserted that the Sandinistas murdered around two thousand political prisoners in the first few months of their dictatorship, that one to three thousand more people disappeared, that over four thousand were held as political prisoners.  I've never dug into the sources for this, so I won't swear it's true, but I heard lots of stories like that during the 1980s.  And I couldn't help noticing that people upset about repression in Chile, Brazil, Argentina, etc. didn't seem to care how many Nicaraguans were killed at the hands of the Sandinista government.  People killed by the Contras were another matter, and liberals were very upset about them, though I'm told one journalist heard from the Sandinistas that four out of five of those killed by the Contras were combatants.  I can't understand an apparent point of view that says murder is only a bad thing when done by the U.S. government, or those friendly to it.

        After doing the first draft of this, I found R. J. Rummel's figures for 'democide,' murder by government.  Rummel estimates the Sandinistas murdered about five thousand people during their time in power, while he blames the Contras for about five hundred murders.  Rummel figures the Samoza regime murdered about three hundred fifty people per year, average, while the Sandinistas were murdering about five hundred ninety per year, and the Contras maybe sixty.  The Sandinista improvement over Samoza isn't obvious, and the Sandinistas were attacking their neighbors as well.

        I also pulled some figures from the table, murder rates.  Out of every hundred thousand people in the country, how many were murdered by the government or a political movement in an average year?

Low  Best High Estimates
      1        1        3  United States, mostly the Klan
      2       2        2  Nicaragua, the Contras
      1        2     46  Cuba, Batista
      2       3        4  Brazil, the generals
      1        6      19  Chile, Pinochet
      8      11      22  Argentina, the dirty war
     11     32      53  Nicaragua, Somoza

     15     20      27  Nicaragua, Sandinistas
     13     28      54  Cuba, Castro

        Notice that the thugs my side backs seem to murder a lot fewer people, generally speaking, than the Communist thugs who were trying to replace them.  That's why I'd take the generals over the commies -- my chance of getting murdered would generally be about a half to a tenth as large

        You wrote:
        Allende was the elected president of Chili.  He won the election.  Chili was a democracy for more than a hundred years and there was no question that the election was as free and fair as any U.S. election.  His program was to institute a Swedish style welfare state.  Our government opposed those reforms because Allende had promised to nationalize the coal mines, the energy companies, and the utilities.  He promised compensation but U.S. businesses were opposed to Allende's program.  He himself was a Socialist, a member of a Socialist Party no different than the Labor Party in Britain at that time.

        That didn't agree with what I remembered, so I googled a little.  According to this webpage, by someone who seems quite sympathetic to Allende, there were coups in Chile in the 1920s and '30s.  Allende received 36.6% of the votes cast in the 1970 election, and was, if I recall correctly, installed by the Chilean Congress, who didn't have to do so under the Chilean Constitution — a somewhat dubious 'election win,' in my arrogant opinion.  Allende's government nationalized businesses without compensation, saying they'd made "excess profits" that were greater than their book value, so they weren't owed anything (by the way, standard accounting operates on the quaint theory that there's no such thing as inflation, and thus book value invariably understates the present value of the original investments).  None of this sounds particularly like the Sweden of the 1960s, where most industry was in private hands, or the British Labour Party.

        The site on Chile goes on to suggest that Allende intended to nationalize all large industry.  "Much" of the private sector was to be taken over by the state, after first "squeezing" the owners.  While they were doing this, the Chilean government apparently expected to get loans from the U.S. and the World Bank, in line with Lenin's wisecrack that the capitalists would compete to sell the Communists the rope they'd be hanged with.  Faced with a lack of support from those he was trying to rob, the economy began to crumble.  "Spontaneous" nationalizations were going on, which some people in Allende's coalition allegedly wanted to "slow down the pace of."  Stop and think about that a moment — if "nationalization" was happening spontaneously, how could the Allende govt. slow it down?  And who was compensating the "nationalized" for the theft of their property?

        Anyway, in 1972, there was a big debate among Allende supporters about the future course.  According to the site, some wanted to "rebuild" their alliance with the middle class, and win "a more solid" electoral majority.  (Allende's government, by the way, didn't have a majority in the Chilean Congress, the site says.  I wonder how they were able to carry out their plans without one?  Could it be Allende was breaking the law?)  Others just wanted to seize the land and factories, repudiate foreign debt, and implement rationing, hoping this would build support for changes that would be "largely constitutional and legal" (my emphasis).  There was also the MIR, which proposed "the left should prepare for a direct seizure of power."  Again, this doesn't sound like democratic socialism, a la Sweden and Britain.  It does rather sound like a Marxist dictatorship struggling to be born.

        And what did I stumble across, after writing the first draft of the above?  A review of a book I haven't read yet, entitled The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin.  In case you've forgotten, Mitrokhin was the KGB's chief archivist, and he smuggled huge amounts of secret KGB documents out of the Soviet Union.  The ones in this book cover Soviet subversion in the '60s and '70s.  Whadda ya know, they were supporting Allende, at least according to the review.

        So I suggest your view of Allende as a nice guy who wanted to do marvelous things for the citizens of Chile is born more out of loathing for the U.S., and out of a desire to see those the United States government opposes as good guys, than out of any real evidence.

        If you go here, you can find a different view of Chile under Allende from The New Australian, one I've encountered before [note, I've edited out some extraneous press bashing]:
        Pinochet and the other generals only agreed to act when they had irrefutable proof that communists were moving to take over Chile.  Allende had welcomed about 14,000 left-wing foreign agitators and organizers into the country with the purpose of undermining any opposition to his Marxist agenda.  **
(Footnote text: The Left has made much of those foreigners who were killed during the Chilean coup but make no mention of how many were actively engaged in trying to destroy Chilean democracy and replace it with a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship.)
They included hardline Spanish and Portuguese communists, Soviet and Czech experts in subversion and North Korean specialists in weapons training and terrorism.  Then there were the Cuban DGI agents who Allende invited to organize the nation's security along the lines of Castro's secret police.  [This was written, by the way, seven years ago, before Mitrokhin's book of this year confirmed KGB support of Allende.  To me, at least, it suggests the author has some good sources, and should be listened to with respect. — St. O.]  The situation became so bad that shortly before the coup Chile's Supreme Court and Parliament ruled that the Allende's Government was repeatedly violating the constitution. . . . Regis Debray, well-known French Marxist and a mate of Castro's had a conversation with Allende in early August 1973, part of which he related in the French left-wing Nouvel Observateur:

        "We [Allende] all knew that it was merely a tactical matter of winning time to organize, to arrange, and to coordinate the military formations of the parties that made up the Popular Unity Government.  It was a race against the clock." . . .

        The generals had no illusions about what was in store for them and their country if Allende succeeded.  They struck first, Allende was killed along with any possibility of installing Marxist -Leninist dictatorship on Chile.  This was literally a life-or-death struggle and Allende's totalitarian intentions created it.  In short it, was self-defence.  That there were excesses and thousands killed is to be deplored.  On the other hand, communist dictatorships killed over a 100 million of their citizens.  Given the murderous history of communist states . . . what else where the generals to do?. . .

        Allende trampled on Chile's democratic traditions, attacked its constitution and wrecked its economy.  Now it's democratic traditions have been restored and its constitution is respected, making it a model for other Latin American states, except totalitarian Cuba.  The Australian pompously opined that the price was too high.  What was the alternative?

        Gee, sounds like a different country, doesn't it?  Again, I swear to the truth of this, it suggests there was more to the story than the simple tale of good Allende-vs.-evil Nixon & Kissinger that you tell.

        And the above information is what determines my answer the questions you ask when you say:
        And so what? If we don't like the government that gives us the right to overthrow them?  More than 50,000 people were murdered by the Pinochet government and in the first years they did so with our assistance.  Some of my friends from college moved back to Chili and were themselves caught up in the terror.  (Not much different from the kind of terror you read in history books from Robespierre or Hitler in his first few years.  This is what you support?)  One of my friends was first raped repeatedly, tortured, and then thrown from an airplane over the Atlantic ocean by an Argentine military plane (made in U.S.A.) doing a favor for the Pinochet government.  (This is what you support?)  The Pinochet government was a terrorist state that the U.S. government, the Nixon-Kissinger gang, helped into power.  This was massive terrorism on a grand scale that our tax dollars supported.

        I'll assume that everything you say in the immediately above is true, for the sake of argument (though I must note, Rummel's best estimate for the people murdered by Pinochet's govt. is ten thousand with thirty thousand as the maximum), and answer your questions.  Yes, under the circumstances, and assuming Allende was aiming to install a Communist regime, I support that.  We were engaged in a war with the Soviet Union, now deceased (WHOOPEE!  Fuck your mother, Vladimir Ilych, we beat you!), and we needed to stop the Communists from taking over Chile.  I would wish that it could have been done without rape, torture, and mass murder.  I wish we could have stopped Hitler without the Red Army gang raping every woman in Central Europe, outside a portion of Yugoslavia.  But you have to play the hand you're dealt.  With the choice of Hitler or Stalin taking over Central Europe, I choose Stalin -- Joe was less of a danger to us and the world.  With Allende-the-Marxist or Pinochet-the-semi-Fascist running Chile, I'll take Pinochet -- Augusto was out of power in fourteen years, Salvador and his successors might well have lasted longer and killed more people.  Castro certainly has.

        And yes, when a revolutionary movement comes along that wishes to conquer the world and destroy our way of life (and also exterminate a good many of us), we have the right to defend ourselves.  When foreign governments cooperate with this revolutionary movement, we have the right to overthrow them.  They've decided on the rule that if you don't like a country's way of life, you can interfere in it, and having started the game, they have no cause to complain when they lose.

        I do not support any government or group that deliberately targets civilians.

        Well, you seemed to support Allende and the Sandinistas, who certainly seem to have targeted civilians, so I'm not sure how to take that.  But pass it by.  I don't like deliberately targeting civilians myself, but during World War II, Churchill deliberately targeted German civilians, and we deliberately targeted Japanese civilians.  In Interrogations: THE NAZI ELITE IN ALLIED HANDS, 1945, by Richard Overy, I believe there's an account of Herman Goering's evaluation on the war.  He said that the bombing campaign was, indirectly, the decisive factor in Germany's defeat.  Not only did the bombing do a lot of damage that interfered with war production, the German air defense effort consumed huge Luftwaffe resources.  The fighters and flak units devoted to shooting our bombers weren't available to stop the Red Army, and as a result the Werhmacht was pushed back on the eastern front.

        So, while we murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians in air bombardments, our opponents murdered tens of millions.  I wish there'd been a better way, but after examining the alternatives, I don't see much room for improvement.

        'It's a hard old world, babe.  Things are tough all over.'  Sometimes, all courses lead to horrible destinations.  R. J. Rummel estimates that governments around the world murdered two hundred twelve million people in the twentieth century.  You'd be hard pressed to get my side's murders much over twelve or thirteen million, and for that you have to include the ten or so million murdered by the Kuomintang regime, at a time when our support of them was mostly verbal.  In the war against totalitarianism, the other side was around fourteen to sixty times as horrible as us.  I really don't understand your indifference to the other side's murders, and obsession over my sides.

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  • If you can only admit that you are first responsible for the crimes that you commit and not the crimes that someone else committs then we maybe be able to begin a conversation. I would then point out where you are wrong in facts and in history.

    You write for instance: "The fact that they were murdered or tortured by a government that was friendly to the U.S., even one installed by the U.S., wouldn't make me particularly more indignant."


    "I must confess to a similar lack of understanding concerning liberals. "I read, for instance, about Mao Zedong's deliberate starvation of an estimated forty two MILLION in three years, plus another thirty five MILLION murdered over four decades, for a total of seventy seven MILLION and I figure that if you are upset about the deaths of seventy nine THOUSAND murdered in Brazil in 22 years then you should be about nine hundred seventy five as upset at the deaths in Red China."

    In other words you feel a greater moral responsibility for crimes committed by other people than for crimes committed by you and your agents. A statement like this I find near to incomprehensible. If you mean this statement I also find that we have no moral common ground. Do you even see what you are doing in this case? I am trying not to be either insulting or condescending but I don't see how a person can think this way and act upon such thoughts without a long and intense indoctrination into a system of illusions.

    I see in this statement an inability to apprehend the meaning of moral responsibility. You - we - are responsible for the crimes that we commit, plan and foster. Crimes committed by other people are secondary responsibilities, if our responsibility at all. We can try to prevent crimes committed by others after we ourselves have stopped committing those crimes ourselves. But in order to have most effect in the world we first deal with the crimes that we commit before deciding that we will stop the crimes of others.

    For the sake of argument, let us say that I accept everything that you say in this post. (And if you don't answer me here I will let all else stand, because there is no use having a conversation where there is no moral common ground.)

    Here is a hypothetical: Let us say that there is a man on the other side of town who has committed 20 murders and plans to commit 10 more . This man hasn't been caught yet. But I am a man who has committed two murders and plan to commit one more. Which of these murders am I morally responsible for? The answer should be obvious. I am morally responsible for the murders that I commit and plan to commit.

    Now if I happen to be a person who expresses moral outrage about the man across town committing murders and yet I still plan to cover up and commit my own murders, what would that make me?

    The moral values are not much different here.

    March 31st, 2004 marked the 40th anniversary of the Brazilian coup d'etat. This coup d'etat was supported by the U.S., funded by the U.S., and made by Generals trained in the U.S. "I think we ought to take every step that we can, be prepared to do everything that we need to do," President Johnson instructed his aides regarding preparations for a coup in Brazil on March 31, 1964. The U.S. laid the plans for the coup and followed through with support to the terror regime for years after.

    Goulart was an elected president and whether he was a "leftist" or some other kind of fruit it matters not. He was not murdering people and torturing priests and nuns and union organizers. And he was democratically elected. The people that we put into power and trained and supported were murderers, torturers, and dictators. The reason we put them into power were simple. They were good for American business. End of story.

    The fact is that it is through the agency of our government indefensible murders occurred in Brazil. It is not through our agency that Mao murdered his people. Trying to divert attention from crimes and atrocities that we are responsible for by pointing to crimes and atrocities that others are responsible for is simply the usual way systems of intellectual and moral illusions are maintained by people who don't want to look themselves in the mirror. Whether those systems of intellectual and moral illusions are called "Bolshevik" or "liberal" or "patriotic" is all the same to me. If they are used to justify murder, torture, domination, and taking the fruits of labor of others then it is simply the usual justification for power.

    I would like to add one point on something substantive only because I have been reading the economist Amartya Sen's "Poverty and Famines." His figures and analysis of the famines are a little different than yours but I don't need to contest those figures. I would like to point out that the usual way of thinking operates with you in this case. Atrocities by official enemies are broadcast while atrocities committed by friends and allies are dismissed or not talked about at all. Sen points out several things in his analysis of Mao's famines. He states that famines usually don't occur on massive scales in systems with a modicum of free press and democracy because a feedback system of reportage usually prevents them. But he also points out several other things that are never talked about in the liberal press in relation to this subject. There were forty million killed by famine in India under British rule in the late nineteenth century. There were five to ten million killed by famine in India during the period of British Occupation leading up to World War Two. As soon as the British stopped occupying India the famines stopped. This is what Sen calls democratic benefits to social welfare. He also points out that the areas in China under British domination before World War II suffered famines equal to the per population rates to Mao's China but spread over a longer period of years. Let me repeat the famines in India stopped as soon as the British left, i.e. as soon as some bit of democracy was introduced. Imperial domination and dictatorship in areas of the world with a low level of communication always fosters these brutal famines. They have happened in smaller scales in U.S. domains also.

    So my question to you is why do you know about Mao's famines but you don't seem to know about the British caused famines that were of equal proportion? My conclusion is that when you are caught in the web of a system of illusions that allows you to see the "evil" of the enemy" but does not allow you to see your own moral responsibility or the moral responsibility of your friends, much of history simply disappears down the memory hole.

    Or take, once again the difference between the Kurds in Turkey and the Kurds in Iraq. In fact the difference is not all that great. During the period that we were supporting Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran he was also using the chemical weapons which we helped him make to gas his own people. No one in the current administration gave a damn then. When Saddam Hussein became the official enemy his atrocities then became an excuse. But during the period of the 80s and 90s, according to the official statistics of the Turkish government some 400,00 Kurds in Turkey were uprooted and put into concentration camps. Some 30,000 Kurds were killed by the Turkish government. This was done with U.S. guns, U.S. supplies, U.S. planning, U.S. approval. If we want to stop atrocities against the Kurds then the first thing we should have done is stop supporting atrocities against the Kurds. It is only a joke that Iraq was invaded to stop him from killing his own people and once again in order to believe this people have to be highly indoctrinated into the idea that what the authority says is true.

    What I am arguing for is for you to see our government and its actions clearly without the usual delusions of the liberal intellectuals.

    Personal Note: I am only a liberal in the sense that say Voltaire, von Humboldt, Hume, Adam Smith, Bertrand Russell were liberals. I don't think there are very many liberals like this around these days.

    What you don't realize is that, for me, it is the people that you call liberals, that have helped to create the way of thinking that you are engaging in. Your way of thinking may stand on our the "right" of our current spectrum, but in fact it is the kind of thinking inculcated by the people around Woodrow Wilson and further promoted by the foreign policy liberals around Roosevelt and Kennedy. Please don't identify me with these liberals.

    If you want references to U.S. involvement in the Brazilian coup primary documents can be found at the National Security Archives http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB118/
    But this tells little of our intense involvement in making sure a people suffer for the good of Ford and G.M. and U.S. agribusiness.

    Finally, I am not sure what the death by starvation was in Brazil after the period of the generals. But given Sen's convincing analysis I would be willing to bet that it was higher under the Generals than it would have been if we had not overthrown a democratic regime. Such extra deaths, what ever they are, then are some part of our moral responsibility. But as I see to make your point about Mao you talk about famines when compared to murder and torture. The relevant comparison would be famine compared to famine as above.

    Jerry Monaco

    By Anonymous monacojerry, at 1:05 PM  

  • Another thing - just because I am opposed to the murders committed by and at the behest of my government does not mean that I "support" any government or state. I could answer what you have to say about Allende in Chile and Sandinista Nicaragua but you will not be able to comprehend my answers unless this very basic moral distinction is made: The crimes and murders that we commit we are morally responsible for. The dictators that we put into power we are morally responsible for. The crimes that we support, the economic suffering that we cause we are morally responsible for. If these same crimes are committed by our enemies without our help then we are not morally responsible for committing those crimes. We may try to stop them but we first must stop the crimes we commit. Unless this distinction is understood nothing that I may say about Nicaragua can be understood. The fact that there is no support for your conclusions on Nicaragua will not make a difference one way or another because you want to justify or ignore the atrocities we are responsible for by focusing on atrocities that others are responsible for.

    By Blogger Jerry Monaco, at 2:58 PM  

  • After rereading your post again I have decided that there is no need to reply. Your post on Chile reminds me of the people in the U.S. state department who supported Italian Fascism and then Hitler because he could bring the "Communists" in line. By Communists they also meant the Social Democrats.

    Any serious look at Allende's program would show you that he was simply a popular front social democrat who accepted support from the local communist party. But I still don't see what it matters? If it is good and correct for the U.S. to sponsor tha assassination of Allende, simply because we disagree with his economic policies, then it is good and correct for anybody who disagrees with the U.S. to do the same thing here. I don't believe that it is, but you seem to want to keep to typical double standards.

    Yes he was elected with a little more than one third of the popular vote but that was with something like 90% of the electorate turning out. That means a greater percentage of the electorate voted for Allende than the electorate that elected Clinton or Bush. But what does it matter? It was a freely elected government that did not terrorize its people. It was replaced by a fascist type government that did terrorize its people. All else is rationalization. The fact is that you seem to support terrorism and murder when it benefits U.S. businesses or national interests and only oppose it if it hurts U.S. businesses or national interests.

    You seem to know very little about the structure of Sweden's economy and how it got that way, or for that matter all economies that were allowed to developed independently withing a self-contained national markets, such as England and Germany in the 19th Century. If the Chilean people wanted to make sure that their major industries were not dominated by businesses outside of Chile then that is their concern, just like it was the concern of the British when they nationalized major industries after World War II. Just like it was the concern of the U.S. polity when it created the Airline Industry, the computer industry, the pharmaceutical industry through massive state subsidization after
    World War II.

    By Blogger Jerry Monaco, at 3:50 PM  

  • On repression in El Salvador and Guatemala versus that in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, see for example, Americas Watch, Human Rights in Nicaragua 1986, New York: Americas Watch Committee, February 1987, chs. 1, 2 and 6. An excerpt (pp. 140-141, 158-159):

    "One illustration of the Reagan Administration's employment of human rights rhetoric in its war against the Sandinistas is a joint State Department-Defense Department document that was distributed to those who attended the White House ceremony on December 10, 1986 marking International Human Rights Day. Printed on glossy paper with a silver cover and with four color illustrations (a format that stands out in contrast to U.S. government documents on human rights in other parts of the world) it is titled "The Challenge to Democracy in Central America." At page 28, it cites the following statement approvingly: "In the American continent, there is no regime more barbaric and bloody, no regime that violates human rights in a manner more constant and permanent, than the Sandinista regime." Whatever the sins of the Sandinistas -- and they are real -- this is nonsense. . . .

    "Between 40,000 and 50,000 Salvadoran civilians were murdered by government forces and death squads allied to them during the 1980s. A similar number died during [the U.S. client] Somoza's last year or so in Nicaragua, mostly in indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population by the National Guard. The number of civilian noncombatants killed by the armed forces in Guatemala during the 1980s cannot be known, but it is probably the highest in the hemisphere. . . . As to Nicaragua, taking into account all of the civilian noncombatant deaths attributable to government forces in the more than seven years since the Sandinistas consolidated power, it is difficult to count a total of more than 300 . . . of which the largest number of victims were Miskito Indians on the Atlantic Coast in 1981 and 1982. . . .

    "[Furthermore], Americas Watch knows of two cases of [Nicaraguan] political prisoners in the sense in which that term is used in the United States . . . [one of these] had been arrested for evading the military draft. . . . He was subsequently released without charges and is not presently serving in the military. . . . Also at this time, Amnesty International has no currently adopted "prisoner of conscience" in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas."

    The true nature of the U.S.-client regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala should be fully appreciated. See for example, Reverend Daniel Santiago [Catholic priest working in El Salvador], "The Aesthetics of Terror, The Hermeneutics of Death," America [Jesuit journal], Vol. 162, No. 11, March 24, 1990, pp. 292-295. An excerpt:

    "I have heard Tonita tell her story at least a dozen times. She has recounted the horror for each delegation of North Americans who visited the refugee camp on the outskirts of San Salvador. With so many tellings, Tonita's testimony has acquired a repetitive quality. When translated and transcribed, it is somewhat unbelievable. What is convincing, however, is not the story itself, but Tonita's visceral reaction to each telling. Her tears are not the stage tears of an actress; the lines of pain that cross her wrinkled face have not been enhanced with makeup. Tonita's story is quite believable and that is the problem.

    "Tonita is a peasant from Santa Lucia, a rural village near the volcano of San Vicente in El Salvador. One day, two years ago, at 11:00 A.M., Tonita left her one-room home to carry lunch to her husband, Chepe, and their two teen-age sons who were cutting firewood on the volcano. She left her three smallest children -- an 18-month-old daughter, a 3-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter -- in the care of her sister and mother. . . . Entering the house [on her return], Tonita was greeted by the grisly spectacle of a feast macabre. Seated around a small table in the middle of her house were her mother, sister and three children. The decapitated heads of all five had been placed in front of each torso, their hands arranged on top, as if each body was stroking its own head. This had proven to be difficult in the case of the youngest daughter. The difficulty had been overcome by nailing the hands onto the head. The hammer had been left on the table. The floor and table were awash with blood. In the very center of the table was a large plastic bowl filled with blood; the air hung heavy with its sweet, cloying smell. Tonita's neighbors had fled when the Salvadoran National Guard began their killing. The Guardia had not tried to stop the people from fleeing and, indeed, they encouraged it. One neighbor, Doña Laura, returned for Tonita and found her standing in the doorway, moaning and staring at her decapitated mother, sister and children. . . .

    "This is only one tableau of many. Other scènes macabres have been created by the armed forces in their 10-year exhibition of horror and death. People are not just killed by death squads in El Salvador -- they are decapitated and then their heads are placed on pikes and used to dot the landscape. Men are not just disemboweled by the Salvadoran Treasury Police; their severed genitalia are stuffed into their mouths. Salvadoran women are not just raped by the National Guard; their wombs are cut from their bodies and used to cover their faces. It is not enough to kill children; they are dragged over barbed wire until the flesh falls from their bones while parents are forced to watch. . . . There is a purpose to all of this. One embraces a certain style in order to achieve a certain effect. Stories of atrocities committed by Government security troops spread by word of mouth. It is the attention to detail that captures people's imagination and leaves them shaking. But these stories are not fairy tales. The stories are punctuated with the hard evidence of corpses, mutilated flesh, splattered brains and eyewitnesses. Sadomasochistic killing creates terror in El Salvador. Terror creates passivity in the face of oppression. A passive population is easy to control. Why the need to control the peasants? Somebody has to pick the coffee and cotton and cut the sugar cane."

    Craig W. Nelson and Kenneth I. Taylor, Witness to Genocide: The Present Situation of Indians in Guatemala, London: Survival International, 1983 (collection of depositions taken in Mexico of refugees from Guatemala). An excerpt (p. 19):

    "[A mother of two children, who fled her village as it was burned down with many killed by the Guatemalan army, reports]: "In July, 1982, soldiers flew into the area by helicopter. First they went to [the name is redacted to avoid possible retributions], a nearby town, and killed five people, burned the town, and threw people, including women and children, into the flames. . . . Children's throats were cut, and women were hit with machetes. . . ."

    "[A man reports that he] watched as the soldiers killed fifteen people, including women, with machetes. They set fire to the houses, and sometimes opened the doors of huts and threw hand grenades inside. In all, fifty people in his village were killed. Soldiers also killed forty-nine people in the nearby town of [name redacted], which they burned as well. Two of those killed were his uncles. From a kilometer away, he saw women from the village who were hung by their feet without clothes and left.

    Elizabeth Hanley, "Tales of Terror from El Salvador," In These Times, April 17, 1985, p. 16 (recounting stories of Salvadoran women in a refugee camp in Honduras). An excerpt:

    "When the National Guard came to [the] village in U.S.-supplied helicopters, they chopped all the children to bits and threw them to the village pigs. "The soldiers laughed all the while," Luisa told me. "What were they trying to kill?" she asked, still able to cry two years later. . . .

    "Like [her], all of the women still had tears to cry as they told stories of sons, brothers and husbands gathered into a circle and set on fire after their legs had been broken; or of trees heavy with women hanging from their wrists, all with breasts cut off and facial skin peeled back, all slowly bleeding to death. A frenzy went with each telling, as though women had yet to find a place inside themselves to contain it. Now, to my right one of the women was rocking another. Everyone was trembling.

    Representative Gerry Studds, Central America, 1981, Report to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, 97th Congress, 1st Session, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, March 1981. An excerpt (pp. 26-29):
    January 17-18, 1981 -- Conversations with refugees from El Salvador (conducted in areas along the Honduras-El Salvador border):

    "The conversations . . . were tape recorded and are summarized in detail below. They describe what appears to be a systematic campaign conducted by the security forces of El Salvador to deny any rural base for guerrilla operations in the north. By terrorizing and depopulating villages in the region, they have sought to isolate the guerrillas and create problems of logistics and food supply. This strategy was summarized by one military commander, who told the Boston Globe: "The subversives like to say that they are the fish and the people are the ocean. What we have done in the north is to dry up the ocean so we can catch the fish easily." The Salvadoran method of "drying up the ocean" involves, according to those who have fled from its violence, a combination of murder, torture, rape, the burning of crops in order to create starvation conditions, and a program of general terrorism and harassment. . . .
    The following is an outline of the statements made by refugees to the [delegation led by Representative Barbara Mikulski], as summarized on the scene by the translator accompanying the group:'

    "Interview -- Woman No. 1: "This woman fled in November 1980, and while she was then forced to flee, she was one of the last people from her village to flee. She was 9 months pregnant. She had her little baby, which she is holding in her arms right now, in the mountains on her way out to Honduras. The Army was setting up guns, heavy cannon artillery on the hills around their village, bombing the villages and forcing the people away. . . . If people were caught in the village, they would kill them. Women and children alike. She said that with pregnant women, they would cut open the stomachs and take the babies out. She said she was very afraid because she had seen the result of what a guard had done to a friend of hers. She had been pregnant and they took the child out after they cut open her stomach. And where she lived they did not leave one house standing. They burned all of them. . . ."
    Interview -- Woman No. 2: Maria: "She say that she would like to tell us the following: That many of her family were killed, so many were killed that she doesn't even remember their names. . . . About 7 months ago they killed one of her family and the child was an infant and is now in a hospital in a nearby town close to death. The army threw the baby in the river when they found them, and they took them into the woods and later they were found. She personally saw children around the age of 8 being raped, and then they would take their bayonets and make mincemeat of them. With their guns they would shoot at their faces. . . ."

    Question: "These were army troops or guards?"

    Answer: "Troops. Army."

    Question: "Did the left ever do these things?"

    Answer: "No. No, they haven't done any of those kinds of things . . . but the army would cut people up and put soap and coffee in their stomachs as a mocking. They would slit the stomach of a pregnant woman and take the child out, as if they were taking eggs out of an iguana. That is what I saw. That is what I have to say. . . ."

    Interview -- Man No. 2: "[United States helicopters] are up in the air and they shoot at us. And we are completely defenseless. We have our ax and machetes to clean the earth with and to cultivate the land, and that is all we have against the helicopters."

    Ms. Mikulski: "Has the left done anything against him?"

    Answer: "No, they don't kill children. We don't complain about them at all. . . ."
    Interview -- Woman No. 5: "[O]nce she saw [the army] kill six women. First they killed two women and then they burned their bodies with firewood. She said, one thing she saw was a dog carrying a new born infant in its mouth. The child was dead because it had been taken from the mother's womb after the guard slit open her stomach."

    Ms. Mikulski: "How were the other two women killed?"

    Answer: "First, they hung them and then they machinegunned them and then they threw them down to the ground. When we arrived the dogs were eating them and the birds were eating them. They didn't have any clothes on. They had decapitated one of the women. They found the head somewhere else. Another woman's arm was sliced off. We saw the killings from a hillside and then when we came back down we saw what had happened. While we were with the bodies we heard another series of gunshots and we fled again. . . . [I]t's the military that is doing this. Only the military. The popular organization isn't doing any of this."
    See also, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, "Bach and War in El Salvador,"

    Spectator (London), May 10, 1986, pp. 16-17 (quoting a Salvadoran death squad member:) "We learnt from you [i.e. Americans], we learnt from you the methods, like blowtorches in the armpits, shots in the balls"

    See Allan Nairn, "Behind the Death Squads," Progressive, May 1984, pp. 1f who documents U.S. training of, support for, and behind-the-scenes involvement in Salvadoran Death Squad activities.

    Is this what you are for? Do you even care? Or do you just want to label who ever is murdered by our tax dollars "terrorists" or "communists" or something similar and thus justify mass murder? Instead, of focusing on crimes that we have caused, you want to make up stories about the amount of Sandinista atrocities, which were real but minimal when compared with atrocities sponsored by the U.S. and the Central American terror states that the U.S. put into place.

    I did not support the Sandinista so I am not responsible for the deaths that they cause. My country supported the terror regimes in Guatemala, and El Salvador and Chile and Brazil and therefore I am responsible for the deaths that they caused.

    States and institutions are not moral agents, but people are moral agents and we are responsible for and can influence the states and institutions that we have created. We as moral agents are therefore responsible for what the states and institutions that we support and influence do.

    This is so elementary that it is shocking that it even has to be stated. It is an indication of the low level of our intellectual culture when such basic moral premises cannot even be understood.

    Jerry Monaco

    By Blogger Jerry Monaco, at 12:15 PM  

  • "You'd be hard pressed to get my side's murders much over twelve or thirteen million, and for that you have to include the ten or so million murdered by the Kuomintang regime, at a time when our support of them was mostly verbal. In the war against totalitarianism, the other side was around fourteen to sixty times as horrible as us. I really don't understand your indifference to the other side's murders, and obsession over my sides."

    The immorality of a statement such as this stands for itself. The moral immaturity displayed in such expressions as "my side" and the "other side" represents a totalitarian mind set. What you don't understand is that you exhibit here the exact same kind of moral double standards and habits of totalitarian thinking as the Bolsheviks, the Stalinists, the Maoists, and the Fascists. They all justified their actions in the same terms that you justify the actions of "your side." It is precisely this kind of relativistic moral thinking that I oppose. I don't want to believe that deep down you think in this way. I want to believe that basically you are trying to be conservative and decent, but that you have been misled by the pervasive irrationalism of nationalism - an irrationalism that is the modern form of religious fanaticism. So forgive me for hanging on here and hoping that I I can breakthrough the doctrines of fanatical nationalism that leads you to make such statements.

    So let me state again, as I did above, the simple moral standard:

    States and institutions are not moral agents. People are moral agents. We are responsible for the states and institutions we can change and influence in proportion to our ability to change and influence those institutions. States and institutions that are instruments of domination must be opposed (deterred and changed) to the best of our abilities in proportion to our responsibility over those institutions. We live in a society that allows the most amount of personal political freedom of any side that has ever existed. This personal and political freedom was obtained mostly by people fighting for their rights against institutions of power and domination. Because our society allows each of us so much political freedom our responsibility for what our political and economic institutions do in other countries is even greater than it would be if we lived under a dictatorship.

    This is a conservative statement.

    Your statements above exhibit that you have accepted the same delusional ideological system which justifies domination for the sake of the powerful that has been accepted by all who accept a totalitarian mind-set.

    Jerry Monaco

    By Blogger Jerry Monaco, at 4:17 PM  

  • For more accounts of the terrorism you support see the contra atrocities, recorded in Reed Brody [who was Assistant Attorney General of New York State], Contra Terror in Nicaragua -- Report of a Fact-finding Mission: September 1984-January 1985, Boston: South End, 1985.

    This book reprints 150 affidavits and 140 pages of testimony gathered in a fact-finding mission conducted in the early 1980s, the results of which were independently corroborated by the Washington Office on Latin America, a private church-supported human rights organization, and other human rights organizations. In the affidavits, a mother of two from the Nicaraguan village of Esteli reports (p. 120):

    "[F]ive of them [i.e. contras] raped me at about five in the evening . . . they had gang-raped me every day. When my vagina couldn't take it anymore, they raped me through my rectum. I calculate that in 5 days they raped me 60 times."

    A man describes a contra attack on his cooperative in April 1984 (p. 71):

    "They had already destroyed all that was the cooperative; a coffee drying machine, the two dormitories for the coffee cutters, the electricity generators, 7 cows, the plant, the food warehouse. There was one boy, about 15 years old, who was retarded and suffered from epilepsy. We had left him in a bomb shelter. When we returned . . . we saw . . . that they had cut his throat, then they cut open his stomach and left his intestines hanging out on the ground like a string. They did the same to Juan Corrales who had already died from a bullet in the fighting. They opened him up and took out his intestines and cut off his testicles."

    By Blogger Jerry Monaco, at 1:34 PM  

  • "The murder of Archbishop Romero in 1980 and the massacre of six prominent Jesuit intellectuals, their housekeeper, and her daughter in 1989 bracket a tragic and violent decade in Salvadoran history. The fact that the Jesuit murders were carried out by officers and troops from the elite Atlacatl Battalion, created, trained, and armed by the United States, makes clear that U.S. assistance is not buying human rights protection for the people of El Salvador. In both cases, and in thousands of others in the intervening years, U.S. officials clung to the notion that the military was not responsible. In the Jesuit case, they discounted reports of military involvement for two months, until the weight of the evidence made the army's role impossible to ignore. It is almost certain that the murder of Father Ignacio Ellacuría and the others was engineered at the highest level of the army, and it is absolutely certain that the high command acted repeatedly to cover up its involvement, sometimes with the collusion of U.S. Embassy officials."

    see Americas Watch, El Salvador's Decade of Terror: Human Rights Since the Assassination of Archbishop Romero, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991. pp. ix-x.

    By Blogger Jerry Monaco, at 12:15 PM  

  • Jerry:

            I find one thing in your posts I can agree with you on: we share no moral common ground.

            Under the circumstances, I see no reason to continue the discussion.

            I do thank you for helping me learn a lot, if not always what you intended.


    The House of Saud Must Be Destroyed!

    By Blogger Stephen M. St. Onge, at 2:36 PM  

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