"The United States," said Ronald Reagan, "is engaged in a war on terrorism, a war for freedom"
In his 'secret war' against Central America what is striking is the relentless lying.
A department of lying was set up under Reagan with the coy name, 'office of public diplomacy'.
Its purpose was to dispense 'white' and 'black' propaganda — lies — and to smear journalists who told the truth.
Almost everything Reagan himself said on the subject was false.
Time and again, he warned Americans of an 'imminent threat' from the tiny impoverished nations that occupy the isthmus between the two continents of the western hemisphere.
"Central America is too close and its strategic stakes are too high for us to ignore the danger of governments seizing power with military ties to the Soviet Union," Ronald Reagan said.
Nicaragua was "a Soviet base" and "communism is about to take over the Caribbean".
A bird flies during the transit of Venus.
Observed in Wakkanai, a town at the northernmost tip of Japan, on Tuesday, June 8, 2004.
      The United States, said Ronald Reagan, "is engaged in a war on terrorism, a war for freedom"
How familiar it all sounds.
Merely replace Soviet Union and communism with al-Qaeda, and you are up to date.
And it was all a fantasy.
The Soviet Union had no bases in or designs on Central America; on the contrary, the Soviets were adamant in turning down appeals for their aid.
The comic strips of "missile storage depots" that American officials presented to the United Nations were precursors to the lies told by Colin Powell in his infamous promotion of Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction at the Security Council in 2003.
Whereas Powell’s lies paved the way for the invasion of Iraq and the violent death of at least 100,000 people, Reagan’s lies disguised his onslaught on Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.
By the end of his two terms, 300,000 people were dead.
In Guatemala, his proxies – armed and tutored in torture by the CIA – were described by the UN as perpetrators of genocide.
There is one major difference today.
That is the level of awareness among people everywhere of the true purpose of Bush and Blair’s "war on terror" and the scale and diversity of the popular resistance to it.
In Reagan’s day, the notion that presidents and prime ministers lied as deliberate, calculated acts was considered exotic.
       John Pilger    www.johnpilger.com    30 August 2006     
It was in 1982 that Reagan removed Iraq from the list of states supporting terror so that aid could flow to his friend in Baghdad.
Rumsfeld then visited Baghdad to confirm the arrangements.
Judging by reports and commentary, it would be impolite to mention any of these facts, let alone to suggest that some others might be standing alongside Saddam before the bar of justice.
It's a Different World Now
To make the world a better place like dreamers often will
We left our bed of roses to push that rock up hill
The way we went about our task proved destined for to fail
Just who we thought we were .. don't ask .. there's no way you can tell
It's a Different World.     From, "Fate's Right Hand"     Rodney Crowell
(CBS/AP)   July 9, 2004
In April alone, U.S. forces killed as many as 4,000 people, the military official said, including Sunni and Shia resistance fighting under the banner of a cleric.
It's a different world now...to say the least
The sun comes up from in the west and sets down in the east
The stars are out there shining but where we can not say
It's a different world now like night and day
“The Legacy of Ronald Reagan”
El Salvador 2006
Even before CAFTA, El Salvador was completely dominated economically by the United States.
For example, the profitable national electric company was privatized, and rates soared as service declined.
The telecommunications companies have been sold to Spanish multinationals.
The ports have been sold.
The sole refinery of the country was sold to ESSO, Texaco, and Shell.
The Central Reserve Bank of El Salvador is in Washington, DC. The currency of El Salvador became "dollarized" in 2003, which was necessary for the banks to control the exchange rate due to the huge debt in dollars.
Dollars are imported by the banks at 6% cost to the bank, and lent in El Salvador at 25%.
The storm in which we fly
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO.      President George W. Bush likened the U.S.-led wars on terror and in Iraq to the Second World War and the Cold War.
"The war on terror is civilization's fight.     And, as in the struggles of the last century, civilized nations are waging this fight together," Bush told U.S. Air Force graduates on Wednesday.
"This is the great challenge of our time, the storm in which we fly," he said.
Bush was giving the commencement speech at the graduation ceremony of an Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
But while he was addressing U.S. cadets, Bush's speech was also aimed at an international audience increasingly skeptical about the U.S.-led war on terror and its avowed goal to bring democracy to the Middle East.
"The enemies of freedom are opposed by a great and growing alliance," Bush claimed, invoking the Allied struggle against Nazism and Communism in the last century.
"Nations that won the Cold War, nations once behind an Iron Curtain, and nations on every continent see this threat clearly," he said.
His remarks came on the eve of the president's European trip to gather support for U.S. plans in Iraq.
CBC News     June 3, 2004
El Salvador 2006
In short, El Salvador is a broken country.
Murder rates are the highest in the hemisphere.
Poverty is institutionalized.
The environment is degraded badly.
The political climate is polarized.
The economy is predatory in its avarice.
And the average person is trying to get out.
An hour and a half's drive from where Bush stood, the US military ran the notorious School of the Americas from 1946 to 1984, a sinister educational institution that, if it had a motto, might have been "We do torture."
It is here in Panama and, later, at the school's new location in Fort Benning, Georgia, where the roots of the current torture scandals can be found.
Some of the Panama school's graduates returned to their countries to commit the continent's greatest war crimes of the past half-century:
The murders of Archbishop Oscar Romero and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador,
The systematic theft of babies from Argentina's "disappeared" prisoners,
The massacre of 900 civilians in El Mozote in El Salvador and military coups too numerous to list here.
Suffice it to say that [Bush] choosing Panama to declare "We do not torture" is a little like dropping by a slaughterhouse to pronounce the United States a nation of vegetarians.
      Our Amnesiac Torture Debate      Naomi Klein      
      The Nation      December 9, 2005      
Monday, January 10th, 2005
Is the U.S. Organizing Salvador-Style Death Squads in Iraq?
Setting up assassination squads — Click Here
AMY GOODMAN:    The Intelligence Committee came out with a 400-page report, which never saw the light of day. I believe there were only two copies made.
Can you talk about what this Salvador option means, hearing about the Newsweek report that they might employ it in Iraq?
ALLAN NAIRN:    Well, Newsweek said that they described the Salvador option as the targeting of combatants and their sympathizers, and the key word is sympathizers.
In El Salvador and not just Salvador, but about three dozen other countries, the U.S. government, in an integrated effort involving the C.I.A., the Pentagon, and the State Department, backed the creation of military units that targeted civilian activists.
ALLAN NAIRN:    In Salvador, I interviewed many of the officers involved in running these squads.
For example, General “Chele” Medrano, who was on the C.I.A. payroll, described how they picked their targets.
He said, they targeted people who speak, and these are his words:
“…against yankee imperialism, against the oligarchy, against military men.   These people are traitors to the country.   What can the troops do, when they found them this he kill them.”
Actually, they didn't always kill them.
Often, they brought them to the headquarters of the treasury police, the national guard, the army and they tortured for them days.
One former member of the Salvadoran treasury police, Rene Hurtado, described a course that was given at army general staff headquarters where American officers gave instruction in techniques including electroshock torture.
Hurtado himself said he conducted such torture.
He said, these are his words:
“You put wires on the prisoner’s vital parts.
You place the wires between the prisoner’s teeth, on the penis, on the vagina.
The prisoners feel it more so the feet are in the water, and they are seated on iron so the blow is stronger…
When it's over, you just throw him in the alleys with a sign saying, Mano Blanco, ESA (Secret Anticommunist Army), or Maximiliano Hernandez Brigade.”
These are the names of the Salvadora death squads.
I was given a chance to see the archives of the Salvadoran National Police, the intelligence archives and you could see they have filed marked, union, student, religious.
They showed me a card file, which included surveillance reports on activists who had traveled to other countries.
These surveillance reports were given to them, according to the captain who was giving me this tour, by the C.I.A.
The whole filing system was set up for them by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Silver medal
Medrano was at one point brought to the oval office in the White House, and presented a silver medal by president Lyndon Johnson for an — he showed me the medal, inscribed on the medal — for exceptionally meritorious service.
This program actually began not just under Reagan, but during the John F. Kennedy administration.
It encompassed all of Latin America or all of the dictatorships of Latin America that were being backed the by the U.S. in the Central American region, it included Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras.
Special teletype system
A special teletype system, which at that time was the top technology, was set up for exchanging information among the intelligence services of the various participant countries, where information would be passed back and forth about, for example, labor leaders who would travel from one country to another for conferences, and then on their return, they would be picked up, tortured and assassinated.
Something on the order of 75,000 Salvadoran civilians were killed by the Salvadoran military, most of them during the 1970's.
And the majority of these were targeted by these death squad type forces.
So one point is, these were not combatants who were being killed.
These were not armed guerrillas.
They were sometimes engaged by the Salvadoran military in combat, but the death squad operations, which the Pentagon according to Newsweek is now talking about using for Iraq, these went after civilians.
AMY GOODMAN:    You talk about General Medrano, who is known as the father of these death squads, trained by the United States in El Salvador.
Again, this 20 years ago.
And I'm looking at a full-page ad that The Progressive took out in the , “Behind the Death Squads,” an exclusive report on the U.S. role in Salvador's official terror.
Can you talk about the effect of this, and how this information was made known?
ALLAN NAIRN:    Well, based on some of those interviews that I just described and also U.S. internal documents I did that article for The Progressive.
They published, I think it was May of 1984 and it was almost completely ignored by the corporate press.
There was no notice whatsoever. So then The Progressive went out and raised money from various donors, and they were able to buy a full-page ad in the Washington Post where they reprinted about a third of the article.
This got some attention in Washington.
The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee then asked me to come in, and meet with them.
So I did in a closed session and was questioned by dozens of the Intelligence Committee staff for about three or four hours about what the U.S. had done to back and create the Salvadoran death squads.
Now this was a bit curious since they were the ones, who had security clearance, who had access to the C.I.A. and Pentagon files.
They were the ones who worked with them, indeed funded them, but they were asking me, I think in part maybe to try to find out how much I knew.
What I knew is what I printed in the magazine, but I was trying to spur them to investigate. And they did.
They then launched an investigation where they say they examined more than a million internal documents.
They produced a 400 page report, which was heavily classified. They told me that only two copies of the report were produced, one was in a sealed room that only — kept on Capitol Hill, which only the Senators on the committee could read, and another at the C.I.A. headquarters.
A public report was released, which said nothing.
Some of the Senators told me that the classified — they told me a little bit about the classified report.
They said they had verified that in fact, yes, the U.S. had set up these death squads in Salvador and also that U.S. personnel had sometimes been on the premises during torture sessions and had supplied questions for the prisoners being tortured.
So, this was back in 1984 and 1985 when this was coming back — coming out.
Did it surprise you that the Pentagon is actually calling this proposal, according to Newsweek, to train — it's not clear if it's C.I.A.-backed, Pentagon-backed assassination and kidnapping squads in El Salvador, that they're calling it the Salvador option.
Have they ever acknowledged it publicly?
Well, it sounds … No, they never acknowledged it publicly. That Senate report was classified.   But now it sounds like in an offhand way, it's almost — it sounds as if they're almost talking about it even in a — almost a joking way, oh yeah, we'll do to them what they did to Salvador.
It's an astonishing admission, but I think now that this is on the record, immediately, the Senate Intelligence Committee should release their classified report of 1984, and there should be a demand that the Pentagon and the C.I.A. release all internal documents they have about the Salvador option, and similar activities in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Salvador, also — there are dozens of other countries in the world where this has happened.
Recently, we had the revelations about General Pinochet and his bank account, the Riggs Bank in Washington.
He was paid millions by the U.S. as a very similar intelligence exchange system and assassination system was being set up the southern cone countries.
This admission should be pursued, and the U.S. officials who participated in creating units that killed civilians should be prosecuted for murder.   We have to enforce the murder laws.
The nuns, the American nuns it is referred to in the Newsweek piece, that were killed in El Salvador, Allan.   Can you give some background as we — as the Pentagon apparently weighs this option of the Salvador option in Iraq?
They were killed by the Salvadoran National Guard. They were pulled from their vehicle, raped, shot, dumped into a ditch, and this was a typical Salvadoran death squad operation.
This one got a lot of the attention in the press in the U.S., because victims were American.
Although at the time, U.S. officials actually tried to excuse it, Alexander Haig, I believe it was Alexander Haig spoke publicly about there being an exchange of gunfire, which implied these were pistol packing nuns who had to be brought down in combat by the Salvadoran forces.
Jean Kirkpatrick actually said, well, these were not real nuns, her suggestion being that they were activists and this somehow — she seemed to be suggesting this somehow legitimized their targeting.
That was in fact the principle behind these death squad operations.
And then the Jesuits who were killed in El Salvador, not to mention the archbishop of El Salvador Oscar Romereo.
Archbishop Romero was killed as part of the — according to later investigations, he was killed by an offshoot of the operation of Roberto D’Aubuisson who ran the ARENA party, which was one of the death squad operations or one of the smaller one, actually.
The larger came from the regular Salvadoran armed forces and police.
He also had U.S. backing.
In fact, D’Aubuisson launched his career as a major figure in Salvador by going on TV and making a speech.
He had a video role as he spoke with an illustrated death list of union people and religious figures and others who he said should be killed as traitors to the country.
And the data for the list were supplied to him by American intelligence, again according to the officers there I interviewed.
Now, one link between Salvador 20 years ago and today in Iraq is the former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, John Negroponte, who is the current ambassador to Iraq.
And I also want to get to Aceh and talk about the latest that's happening there, but in just a minute, if you could sum up that link.
Well, Negroponte was one of the people who ran the Contra operation, the central — the invasion against Nicaragua, which the world court later ruled to be an act of aggression by the Contras, which were created and funded by the U.S. government.
He also oversaw the back — the military backing for Battalion 316, which was a Honduran military death squad that specialized in torture and assassination.
And so, what it means that he is in charge of Iraq right now.   Do you think he has a part of designing this “Salvador option?”
Maybe not.   They probably have other people who are specialists in that.
He's probably handling the economic side of it, but if there are political apologies to be done, Negroponte may handle it.
The thing is that these programs, which backed the killing of foreign civilians, it's a regular part of U.S. policy.
It's ingrained in U.S. policy in dozens upon dozens of countries.
In Indonesia for example, which we are going to talk about in a minute, where the tsunami hit, the Kopassus, the Red Berets, which there specialize in torture and assassination, they have been trained by U.S. Green Berets in things like urban warfare.
This is a longstanding policy, and it's nothing new.
September 17 / 18, 2005
Demeaner of the Faith

Rev. Pat Robertson and Gen. Rios Montt

By Nikolas Kozloff
While Pat Robertson's recent remarks on the Christian Broadcast Network's The 700 Club that the United States should "take out" Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez certainly caught the media spotlight, the statement by the evangelical minister was only the latest episode in a long and troubled story.
Since the 1970s Robertson has loyally served hawkish U.S. foreign policy objectives in Latin America and played a particularly pernicious role in the region.
Christian organizations nation wide would do well to heed the history and to rigorously challenge Robertson on his record.
Profitable business deals
As a young man, Robertson dreamed about profitable business deals in Latin America.  After graduating from college, he briefly worked for the W.R. Grace & Co. in New York.  Robertson was specifically assigned to Grace's Foreign Service School to analyze South American economic conditions in South America.  There, Robertson collaborated with the company's chief executives of the company.
According to one of Robertson's biographers, "during the months he worked with the Grace company he viewed Latin America as the 'land of opportunity' where he would find some way to enrich himself.  Though Robertson left the company after only about nine months, he later achieved his dream by extending Christian televangelism to Central America.  By the 1980s, Pat Robertson's program "The 700 Club," reached 3.1 million viewers in Guatemala.
Robertson took a personal interest in the strife torn Central American nation, developing warm ties to General Efrain Rios Montt, a born again evangelical Christian.
When Rios Montt took power in a military coup d'etat in March of 1982, Robertson immediately flew to Guatemala, meeting with the incoming president a scant five days after he came to power.
Later, Robertson aired an interview with Rios Montt on "The 700 Club" and extolled the new military government.
Robertson's visit came at a particularly sensitive time.  Guatemala's dirt poor indigenous peoples, who made up half the country's population, were suffering greatly at the hands of the U.S. funded military.
Taken over Indian lands
The armed forces had taken over Indian lands that seemed fertile for cattle exporting or a promising site to drill for oil.
Those Indians who dared to resist were massacred.
Rios Montt, a staunch anti-Communist supported by U.S. president Reagan, was determined to wipe out the Marxist URNG, the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union rebels.
However, according to Amnesty International, thousands of people with no connection to the armed struggle were killed by the regime.
Not surprisingly, many Indians turned to armed resistance.
To deal with the ever worsening situation, Rios Montt proposed a so called "guns and beans" campaign.
Rios Montt explained the plan very succinctly: "If you are with us, we'll feed you, if not, we'll kill you."
For Robertson, however, Rios Montt's extermination policy was of little account.
Astonishingly, the televangelist wrote "I found [Rios Montt] to be a man of humility impeccable personal integrity, and a deep faith in Jesus Christ."
Protestant sects allied to the Guatemalan military
One reason that Rios Montt may have appealed to Robertson was the dictator's dislike of Catholic priests.
In the 1980s, they had become an obstacle to the expansion of evangelical Protestantism.
Working within indigenous communities, Catholic priests had been driven out or murdered.
Protestant sects, on the other hand, allied to the Guatemalan military.
The importance of obedience, the value of inequality
They preached individual conversion, the importance of obedience to military and political authority, the merits of capitalism, and the value of inequality.
Rios Montt's own Church of the Word went so far as to define priests and nuns as the enemy.
According to Walter LaFeber, a historian of Central America, three priests were killed within a thirty-six month period in just one province.
With the Catholic Church out of the way, Rios Montt conducted a scorched earth policy.
His forces massacred as many as 15,000 Indians.
Whole villages were leveled and the army set up "Civilian Self-Defense Patrols" which forced 900,000 villagers to "voluntarily" aid police in tracking down suspects.
Similar to concentration camps
Rios Montt created "model" villages, similar to concentration camps, which housed Indian refugees.
However, when 40,000 survivors sought safety in Mexico, Guatemalan helicopters machine gunned the camps.
Rios Montt justified the genocidal policy by claiming that the Indians were suspected of cooperating with the URNG, the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union, or "might" cooperate in future.
Amnesty International noted that extra judicial killings carried out the by the military "were done in terrible ways: people of all ages were not only shot to death, they were burned alive, hacked to death, disemboweled, drowned, beheaded.  Small children were smashed against rocks or bayoneted to death."
Far from denouncing such practices, Robertson rushed to defend Rios Montt.
"Little by little the miracle began to unfold," he wrote of the regime.  "The country was stabilized.  Democratic processes, never a reality in Guatemala, began to be put into place."
Robertson also praised Rios Montt for eliminating death squads, despite recent estimates that tens of thousands were killed by death squads in the second half of 1982 and throughout 1983.
Held fundraising for Guatemalan military and 'model villages'
Most damning of all, even as Rios Montt was carrying out the extermination of the Mayan population, Robertson held a fundraising telethon for the Guatemalan military.
The televangelist urged donations for International Love Lift, Rios Montt's relief program linked to Gospel Outreach, the dictator's U.S. church.
Meanwhile, Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network reportedly sponsored a campaign to provide money as well as agricultural and medical technicians to aid in the design of Rios Montt's first model villages.
Rios Montt was ultimately overthrown in another military coup d'etat in August 1983.
Unfortunately, Robertson's involvement in Guatemalan politics did not discredit his career.
He also led efforts to back the Nicaraguan contras in the 1980s, who sought to overthrow the Sandinista regime.
More recently, he has been an important backer of President Bush and currently commands a captive audience of one million U.S. television viewers.
Judging from his recent remarks, Robertson has not chosen to re-evaluate his hawkish views.
The latest target drawing Robertson's fire is Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Unlike General Rios Montt, who came to power in a military coup, Chavez enjoys significant popular support.
He has won two presidential elections, in 1998 and 2000, defeated an opposition led recall referendum in August 2004 and according to recent polls, has an approval rating of 70%.
Not surprisingly, he is favored to win re-election in 2006.
But to Robertson, the will of the Venezuelan people is of no account.
Chavez, unlike Rios Montt, has not been compliant with U.S. interests.
Questions Free Trade Agreement of the Americas
Not only has Chavez had the audaciousness to criticize the U.S. war in Iraq, but he also questions the fairness of Bush initiatives like the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas.
The world's fifth largest oil producer, Venezuela has significant political and economic clout in the region, and Chavez has poured oil proceeds into health and education programs.
To the ire of Robertson, Chavez has pursued an independent course by providing oil to Cuba.
In exchange, the island nation has sent thousands of doctors who have assisted the Venezuelan poor.
Unfortunately for Bush and the Christian right, Chavez has not been easily dislodged from power.
Though the U.S. provided material assistance to Venezuelan opposition figures seeking to topple Chavez, a coup d'etat in April of 2002 proved a miserable failure when popular protest led to Chavez's reinstatement.
Since that time, Chavez has consolidated power and has become a hemispheric leader.
Robertson's attack surely will not alter the political equation in Venezuela.
Though the televangelist has a presence in Venezuela, broadcasting in Spanish over Venezuelan station Televen, Venezuelan Protestants only number 2% of the population and are by and large a working class Chavez constituency.
Nevertheless, Robertson's remark has cast a pall over U.S.-Venezuelan relations, which had in recent months already hit a record low.
Trickle of criticism of Robertson needs to turn into a torrent
Though some Protestant ministers have criticized Robertson, arguing that the televangelist has demeaned the faith, this trickle needs to turn into a torrent.
By all reckoning, Robertson's career should have been destroyed as a result of his support for genocidal dictator Rios Montt.
Now, Protestants nation-wide have the opportunity to voice their dissent over Robertson's most recent outburst.
Hopefully, they will act soon or Robertson will continue to make un-Christian statements that contribute to ill will between the United States and its neighbors.
Nikolas Kozloff received his doctorate in Latin American history from Oxford University in 2002.  His book, South America In Revolt: Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and The Politics of Hemispheric Unity, St. Martin's Press.    Amazon
And yet when covering the Bush announcement, not a single mainstream news outlet mentioned the sordid history of its location.
How could they?
To do so would require something totally absent from the current debate: an admission that the embrace of torture by US officials long predates the Bush Administration and has in fact been integral to US foreign policy since the Vietnam War.
      Our Amnesiac Torture Debate      
      Naomi Klein      
      The Nation      December 9, 2005      
       The elections of Hugo Chávez        
Fr. Miguel D'Escoto Speaks From Nicaragua — www.democracynow.org   June 8, 2004:
AMY GOODMAN:   The 8 years Reagan was in office represented one of the most bloody eras in the history of the Western hemisphere, as Washington funneled money, weapons and other supplies to right wing death squads.
And the death toll was staggering — more than 70,000 political killings in El Salvador, more than 100,000 in Guatemala, 30,000 killed in the contra war in Nicaragua.
In Washington, the forces carrying out the violence were called "freedom fighters."
This is how Ronald Reagan described the Contras in Nicaragua:   "They are our brothers, these freedom fighters and we owe them our help.
They are the moral equal of our founding fathers."
We go to Managua, Nicaragua to speak with Fr. Miguel D'Escoto, a Catholic priest who was Nicaragua's Foreign Minister under the Sandinista government in the 1980s.
FATHER MIGUEL D'ESCOTO:   First of all, let me start out by saying that, of course, Reagan is now dead.
And I, for one, would like to say only nice things about him.
I'm not insensitive to the feelings of many U.S. people mourning president Reagan, but as I pray that god in his infinite mercy and goodness forgive him for having been the butcher of my people, for having been responsible for the deaths of some 50,000 Nicaraguans, we cannot, we should not ever forget the crimes he committed in the name of what he falsely labeled freedom and democracy.
More perhaps than any other U.S. President, Reagan convinced many around the world that the U.S. is a fraud, a big lie.
Self-determination of peoples
Not only was it [US policy] not democratic, but in fact the greatest enemy of the right of self-determination of peoples.
Nicaragua 2007
Despite persistent threats by US
Daniel Ortega was elected
Now social assistance program called 'Zero Hunger'
To help the poorest inhabitants
Reagan, as you mentioned just a few minutes ago, was known as the great communicator, and I believe that that is true only if one believes that to be a great communicator means to be a good liar.
That he was for sure.
He could proclaim the biggest lies without even as much as blinking an eyelash.
Hearing him talk about how we were supposedly persecuting Jews and burning down non-existent synagogues, I was led to believe really, that Reagan was possessed by demons.
Frankly, I do believe Reagan at that time — as much as Bush today — was indeed possessed by the demons of manifest destiny.
Of course, as I say this, I'm quite aware that to the people of say for example, Project for a New American Century, that is counted as a big plus.
Reagan international outlaw
Because of Reagan and his spiritual heir George W. Bush, the World today is far less safe and secure as it has ever been.
Reagan in fact was an international outlaw.
He came to the Presidency of the United States shortly after Samosa — a Dictator that the U.S. had imposed over Nicaragua for practically half a century — had been deposed by Nicaraguan Nationalists under the leadership of the Sandinista Liberation Front.
To Reagan Nicaragua had to be re-conquered.
He blamed Carter for having lost Nicaragua, as if Nicaragua ever belonged to anyone else other than the Nicaraguan people.
That was then the beginning of this war that Reagan invented, and mounted and financed and directed, the Contra War.
About which he continually lied to the People.
Helping the United States people to be the most ignorant people around the world.
I said ignorant, I don't say not intelligent.
But the most ignorant people around the world about what the United States does abroad.
People don't even begin to see — if they did, they would rebel.
And so, he lied to the people — as Bush lies to the people today and as they push on, thinking that the United States is above every law, human or divine.
The World Court
And we took the United States, Reagan's United States, his government to court, the World Court.
Nicaragua 2007
Despite persistent threats by US
Daniel Ortega was elected
Now farmer walks in his land while new social assistance program called 'Zero Hunger' is designed to help the poorest inhabitants
I was Foreign Minister at that time here in Nicaragua.
I was responsible for that.
And the United States government received the harshest sentence, the harshest condemnation ever in the history of world justice.
In spite of the fact that the United States since the early 1920's has been proclaiming to the world that one of the proofs of its moral superiority as compared to other countries around the world is the fact that it abides by the international law and was obedient to the world court.
The United States was brought to the world court by Nicaragua and received the condemnation that the United States failed to heed the sentence.
They still owe Nicaragua by now must be between $20,000 [million] and $30,000 million.  [$20-30 Billion]
At the time when we left government that the damages caused by that Reagan war was over $17 billion.
And this according to very moderate estimators of damage:
People from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America, people from Harvard University and from Oxford and from the University of Paris.
This is the team that was pulled together to estimate the damage.
The United States was ordered to pay for the damage.
Bush [Bush Senior] never even wanted to talk to me about it.
I said, "Well, let's have a meeting so that you comply with your sentence of the court."
He said to me in two different letters that there was nothing to talk about.
So, Reagan did damage to Nicaragua beyond the imaginations of the people who are hearing me now.
The ripple effects of that; criminal murderous interventions in my country will go on for what, 50 years or more.
        "Reagan Was the Butcher of My People:"        
        Fr. Miguel D'Escoto Speaks From Nicaragua        
        To watch video click here        
Bush Has Resurrected "The Most Extremist, Arrogant, Violent and Dangerous Elements" of Reagan's White House
Interview with Noam Chomsky, Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology — www.democracynow.org  — June 8, 2004
AMY GOODMAN:  The network and newspaper coverage of the death of Ronald Reagan has brought forth a chorus of praise from Democrats and Republicans alike.   Much of the reporting and commentary, under the guise of respecting the dead, has represented a dramatic rewriting of the history of the Reagan years in office.
Looking back at the Reagan presidency doesn't mean we actually have to look back.   Many of the same people who populated his administration are in the George W. Bush administration as well:  James Baker, Elliot Abrams, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, John Poindexter, John Negroponte, just to name a few.
We asked leading dissident Noam Chomsky to reflect on the policies of Reagan's administration during his 8 years in power and Reagan's influence on the current Bush Administration.
Noam Chomsky, can you talk about this, the people that are now running the administration are some of the very people who ran the Reagan administration more than 20 years ago?
NOAM CHOMSKY:  That's quite true.
The Reagan administration is either the same people or their immediate mentors for the most part.
I think one can say that the current administration is a selection of the more extremist and arrogant and violent and dangerous elements of the Reagan administration.
So on things like — I mean, that is true on domestic and international policy they are, both in the Reagan years and now, they are committed to dismantling the components of the government that serve the general population — social security, public schools and so on and so forth, but in a more extreme fashion now.
Partly because they think they have achieved a sort of higher stage from which to launch the attack, and internationally it's pretty obvious.
In fact, many of the older Reaganites and Bush, number one people have been concerned, even appalled by the extremism of the current administration in the international domain.
That's why there was unprecedented elite criticism of the national security strategy and the implementation in Iraq — narrow criticism, but significant.
So, yes, they're there, in fact some of the examples are remarkable, including the ones that you mentioned.
And very timely they picked Negroponte, who of course has just been appointed, the new ambassador to Iraq where he will head the biggest diplomatic mission in the world.
The pretense is that we need this huge diplomatic mission to transfer full sovereignty to Iraqis and that's so close to self-contradiction that you have to admire commentators who sort of pretend not to notice what it means, also to overlook, consciously, what his role was in the Reagan administration.
He also provided — he was an ambassador in the Reagan years, ambassador to Honduras where he presided over the biggest C.I.A. station in the world, and the second largest embassy in Latin America.
Not because Honduras was of any particular significance to the U.S., but because he was responsible for supervising the bases from which the U.S. mercenary army was attacking in Nicaragua, and which ended up practically destroying it.
By now, Nicaragua is lucky to survive a few generations.
That was one part of the massive international terrorist campaign that the Reaganites carried out in the 1980's under the pretense they were fighting a war on terror.
They declared a war on terror in 1981 with pretty much the same rhetoric that they used when they re-declared it in September 2001.
It was a murderous terrorist war.
It devastated Central America, had horrendous effects elsewhere in the world.
In the case of Nicaragua, it was so extreme that they were condemned by the World Court, by two supporting Security Council Resolutions that the U.S. had to veto, after which, of course, they rejected the court judgment and then escalated the war to the point where finally the effects were extraordinary.
By the analysis of their own specialists, the per capita deaths in Nicaragua would be comparable to about 2.5 million in the United States, which as they have pointed out is greater than the total number of casualties in all U.S. wars, including the Civil War and all wars in the 20th century, and what's left of the society is a wreck.
Since the U.S. took over again, it's gone even more downhill.
Now the second poorest in the hemisphere after Haiti and not coincidentally, the second major target of U.S. intervention in the 20th century after Haiti, which is first.
The recent health administration statistics show that about 60% of children under two are suffering from severe anemia caused by malnutrition and probable brain damage.
Costa Rica, the United States is trying to — doing enough low-level work so that they can send back some remittances to keep the families alive.
It's a real victory.
You can understand why Colin Powell and others are so proud of it.
But Negroponte was charge of it in the first half the decade directly, and in the second half more indirectly in the State Department and National Security staff where he was Powell's adviser.
And now he is — he is supposed to undertake the same role and similar role in Iraq.
He was called in Nicaragua "The Proconsul," and the "Wall Street Journal" was honest enough to run an article in which they headlined "Modern Proconsul" on which they mentioned his background in Nicaragua without going into it much and said, yes he will be the proconsul of Iraq.
Now, that's a direct continuity, but there's a lot more than that.   What you mentioned is correct.   Elliot Abrams is an extreme case.
I mean, he's now the head of the Middle East section of the National Security Council.
He was — as you know, he was sentenced for lying to Congress.
He got a presidential pardon, but he was one of the most — he was in charge in the State Department of the Central American atrocities, and on the Middle East, he is way out at the extreme end of the spectrum.
This does reflect the — in a way the continuity of policies, but also the shift towards extremism within that continuity.
      Iraq death squads — Badr, White Toyota Land Cruisers      
      Glock pistols, Interior Ministry memo      
      Salvador Option      
It's not only apologists for torture who ignore this history when they blame abuses on "a few bad apples" — so too do many of torture's most prominent opponents.
Apparently forgetting everything they once knew about US cold war misadventures, a startling number have begun to subscribe to an antihistorical narrative in which the idea of torturing prisoners first occurred to US officials on September 11, 2001, at which point the interrogation methods used in Guantánamo apparently emerged, fully formed, from the sadistic recesses of Dick Cheney's and Donald Rumsfeld's brains.
Up until that moment, we are told, America fought its enemies while keeping its humanity intact.
      Our Amnesiac Torture Debate      
      Naomi Klein      
      The Nation      December 9, 2005      
                     Nicaraguan contra cocaine drug war and the CIA      
Bush Has Resurrected "The Most Extremist, Arrogant, Violent and Dangerous Elements" of Reagan's White House
Interview with Noam Chomsky, Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology — www.democracynow.org  — June 8, 2004
AMY GOODMAN:  There was a very little critical comment about President Reagan this weekend on his death perhaps explained by his death, what happens when a person dies, and what people say or perhaps also because there is a kind of rewriting of history that has been going on.
US Terror State
But one of the few people who were quoted in the mainstream media was the Mexican foreign minister, Jorge — the former Mexican Jorge Castenada, whose father served as foreign minister as well in 1979 to 1982 who said Reagan was extremely unpopular in Mexico when he was president because of his policies in Central America, and what was viewed in Mexico as a Mexico-bashing campaign over drug trafficking.
Reagan's involvement in Nicaragua and El Salvador, viewed in Mexico, he said was unwarranted meddling that was "interventionist, rooted in cold war rivalries and disrespectful of international law."
Castenada conditioned, "not only were his policies viewed negatively, but he pressured Mexico enormously to change its foreign policies."
NOAM CHOMSKY:  That's correct.
Casteneda is being diplomatic.
He's understating with regard to the international law and with regard to the intervention.
It was - it ended up with a couple hundred thousand people being killed and four countries ruined.
And even in the world — the US — the people now in office in Washington have the unique honor of being the only ones in the world who have been condemned by the World Court for international terrorism.
That's a little more than what he said, but that's what he's aiming at.
The unpopularity continues.
Nicaragua 2007
Village of Tintorero in Barquisimeto
Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Bolivian President Evo Morales
Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage
The latest figures show that this George Bush, number two, latest Latin American figures, among Latin American elites, the ones who tend to be more supportive of the United States, I think it was about close to 90% opposition throughout the hemisphere and approximately, if I remember, 98% opposition to him in Mexico.
But to be accurate, we should say that this goes way back.
So, John F. Kennedy was — tried very hard to get Mexico to line up in his anti-Cuba crusade.
A famous comment by a Mexican foreign minister when Kennedy tried to convince him that Cuba was to join in the terrorist war against Cuba and the economic embargo strangulation, in fact on the grounds that Cuba was a threat to the security of the hemisphere, the Mexican ambassador said he had to decline.
The prime minister [said he] had to decline because if he tried to tell people in Mexico that Cuba was a security threat, 40 million Mexicans would die laughing.
Which is approximately the right answer.
Here not so.
The one point on which I think Casteneda's comment that you quote is really misleading is when he refers to cold war thinking and rivalries.
There were no Russians in Latin America.
In fact, the U.S. was trying very hard to bring them in.
Take, say, Nicaragua, when the terrorist war against Nicaragua really took off.
US Terror State
Nicaragua tried to get military aid to defend itself
Nicaragua tried to get some military aid to defend itself.
And they went first to European countries, France, others.
The Reagan administration put extreme pressure on them [the europeans] not to send military aid because they were desperately eager for Nicaragua to get military aid from Russia or indirectly through Cuba.
So they could then present it as a cold war issue.
Nicaragua didn't fall into the trap as Guatemala had in 1954, basically the same scenario.
So, they didn't get jet planes from Russia to defend their airspace against the U.S. attacks.
They had every right to do it, but [and] the responsibility to do it, but they understood the consequences.
So, the Reagan administration had to float constant stories about how Nicaragua was getting MIG jets from Russia in order to try to create a cold war conflict.
Actually it's very revealing to see the reaction here to those stories.
Of course, Nicaragua had every right to do it.
The C.I.A. had complete control over Nicaragua's airspace and was using it.
It was using it to send communications to the [Contra] guerrilla army, which was — guerrilla is a funny word for it, computers and helicopters and so on — to send them instructions so that they could follow the U.S. command orders to avoid the Sandinista army, the Nicaraguan army and to attack what are called soft targets, undefended civilian targets.
It's [If] a country that doesn't have a right to defend its airspace to protect that, I don't know what you can say.
Nicaragua 2007
President Daniel Ortega speaks to army soldier during ceremony held to mark end of army operation to clean from polution the 'Piedra Colorada' water reservoir in Camuapa
So obviously, they are a right to do it, but they didn't.
They allowed the U.S. to have control of the airspace and to attack — to use it to attack undefended targets.
AMY GOODMAN:  Noam Chomsky, you have written about the U.S. as being only country in the world to be convicted in the World Court of terrorism.
And this had to do with the bombing of the Nicaraguan harbor, which took place under Reagan.   Can you talk about that?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah. That, too, is a little misleading.
Nicaragua was hoping to end the confrontation through legal means, through diplomatic means.
AMY GOODMAN:  I mean the mining of the harbor.
NOAM CHOMSKY:  Yes, the mining of the harbors.
They decided to — they asked a legal team headed by a very distinguished American international lawyer, A. Chayes, professor of law at Harvard who had long government service, and that legal team decided to construct an extremely narrow case.
So, they kept to matters that were totally uncontroversial — as the U.S. conceded like the mining of the harbors — but it was only a toothpick on a mountain.
Nicaragua picked narrowest point in hope they could get judgment from World Court which would lead United States to back off from whole international terrorist campaign
They picked the narrowest point in the hope that they could get a judgment from the World Court, which would lead the United States to back off from the whole international terrorist campaign, and they did win a judgment from the court, which ordered the U.S. to terminate any actions, any violent actions against Nicaragua, which went way beyond mining of the harbors.
That was the least of it.
US Terror State
So, yes, that was the narrow content of the court decision, although, if you read the decision, the court decision that goes well beyond.
They're all conscious of the much wider terrorist campaign, but the Harvard — the Chayes run — legal team didn't bring it up for good reasons.
Because they didn't want any controversy at the court hearings about the facts.
There was no controversy about that, since it was conceded.
However, it should be read as a much broader indictment, and a very important one.
I mean, the term that was used by the court was "unlawful use of force," which is the technical term for the informal notion, international terrorism.
There's no legal definition of international terrorism in the international domain.
So I bet it was in effect a condemnation of international terrorism over a much broader domain.
However, we should bare in mind, it's important for us, that horrible as the Nicaragua war was, it wasn't the worst.
Guatemala and El Salvador were worse.
I suggest that in Nicaragua, the reason was that in Nicaragua, the population at least had an army to defend it.
In El Salvador and Guatemala, the terrorist forces attacking the population were the army and the other security forces.
There was no one to bring a case to the World Court — that can be brought by governments — not by peasants being slaughtered.
AMY GOODMAN:  Professor Chomsky, I wouldn't want to end this discussion without talking about the Reagan years and Africa, particularly southern Africa.
NOAM CHOMSKY:  Well, the official policy was called "constructive engagement."
Nicaragua 2007
President Daniel Ortega inaugurates new social assistance program called 'Zero Hunger'' to help poverty caused by decades of US backed elite control
I recall it during the 1980s, by then there was enormous pressure to end all support for the apartheid government.
Congress passed legislation barring trade and aid.
The Reagan administration found ways to evade the congressional legislation, and in fact trade with South Africa increased in the latter part of the decade.
This is incidentally the period when Collin Powell moved to the position of national security adviser.
The U.S. was strongly supporting the apartheid regime directly and then indirectly through allies.
Israel was helping get around the embargo.
Rather as in Central America where the clandestine terror made use of other states that served as — that helped the administration get around congressional legislation.
In the case of South Africa, just look at the rough figures.
In Angola and Mozambique, the neighboring countries, in those countries alone, the South African depredations killed about million-and-a-half people and led to some $60 billion in damage during the period of constructive engagement with the U.S. support.
It was a horror story.
US Terror State
The principal propagator of this narrative is Senator John McCain.
Writing recently in Newsweek on the need for a ban on torture, McCain says that when he was a prisoner of war in Hanoi, he held fast to the knowledge "that we were different from our enemies...that we, if the roles were reversed, would not disgrace ourselves by committing or approving such mistreatment of them."
It is a stunning historical distortion.
By the time McCain was taken captive, the CIA had already launched the Phoenix program and, as McCoy writes, "its agents were operating forty interrogation centers in South Vietnam that killed more than twenty thousand suspects and tortured thousands more," a claim he backs up with pages of quotes from press reports as well as Congressional and Senate probes.
      Our Amnesiac Torture Debate      Naomi Klein      
      The Nation      December 9, 2005      
South Africa
AMY GOODMAN:  Throughout his presidency, Reagan supported the apartheid government in South Africa and even labeled Nelson Mandela's African National Congress a notorious terrorist organization.
We speak with South African activist Father Michael Lapsley who lost his hands, one eye and was burned severely in an assassination attempt under the De Klerk government.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela recently announced that he was retiring from public life.
Apartheid South Africa
And Mandela will not be among the foreign dignitaries attending services for Ronald Reagan.
After all, Mandela was languishing in a South African prison throughout the duration of Reagan's presidency.
But this history has been effectively re-written in the US.
The dominant view is that the US was on the right side in South Africa, that it opposed apartheid.
But nothing could be further from the truth, particularly when Reagan was president.
Reagan labeled Mandela's African National Congress a notorious terrorist organization, while continuing Washington's support for the apartheid regime.
In 1981, Reagan explained to CBS that he was loyal to the South African regime because it was "a country that has stood by us in every war we've ever fought, a country that, strategically, is essential to the free world in its production of minerals."
But even as the majority of the American people came to oppose South Africa's apartheid regime, Reagan stood by his friend.
African American leaders and organizations pressured Congress to take action and ultimately it passed sanctions against South Africa.
True to form, Reagan vetoed the bill.
But to Reagan's shame, Congress overrode the veto.
Today, we are going to look at Reagan's support for apartheid South Africa with one of the victim's of that regime - Father Michael Lapsley.
In 1990, three months after the release of Nelson Mandela, the De Klerk Government sent Father Lapsley a package containing two magazines.
Inside one of them was a highly sophisticated bomb.
When Lapsley opened the magazine, the explosion brought down ceilings in the house and blew a hole in the floors and shattered windows.
It also blew off both of the priest's hands, blew out one of his eyes and burned him severely.
He flew in from South Africa last night and now joins us in our firehouse studio.
Apartheid South Africa
Torture has left his hand deformed
Father Michael Lapsley:  Thank you Amy.  Great to be here again.
Amy Goodman:  How did you survive?  Most people did not think you were alive after you opened that magazine.
Michael Lapsley:  Well, I think it was a miracle to survive.   Clearly it was a bomb that was supposed to kill not simply to damage.   I suppose that in a way it was my faith saw me through, and somehow I even experienced God being with me in that experience of being bombed.
But of course it was a long journey personally coming to terms with having no hands.
Amy Goodman:  I wanted to talk to you about those years as we wrap up our week, remembering the dead, as we look at the history of the Reagan years.   And then to end by talking about restorative justice, and issue that you take around the world.   Can you talk about those years:  1981 to 1989 in South Africa.
Michael Lapsley:  Yes, I think it's good to think about what South Africa was like inside the country as well as what was happening in the front line states at that time.
During those years there were two states of emergency.   Vast numbers of people were imprisoned.   It was during those years - and this is a salient point for people in this country at this time - torture became normative, became a principle weapon used by the Apartheid regime.
Against people, particularly against black children during that period.
It was also a period where there were a vast number of people on death row in South Africa.   Every Thursday up to seven people at a time were executed.
But it was also a time when the Apartheid regime was on a rampage against the front-line states.   Attacking Botswana, Lesuto, [Lesotho as called inside the country], Mozambique, Zimbabwe.   There were a number of massacres of refugees that took place.   It was also a time of civil war in Angola and it was the Reagan administration that was supporting Unita bandits in Angola and fermenting war.
And it was Reagan and Thatcher who were giving succour to the Apartheid regime
And it was very clear to the people of South Africa during those years that whilst there were a vast number of ordinary people in the United States, particularly Africa Americans who stood with us, the Reagan administration was on the side of Apartheid, and it was Reagan and Thatcher who were giving succour to the Apartheid regime.
Apartheid South Africa
Funeral ceremony for those killed by police
And in a sense prolonging our struggle.   More people had to die in South Africa because of the support that came from Western government, particularly from Washington and London at that period.
Amy Goodman:  Ummm.   What about this quote from former President Reagan talking about the Apartheid regime as quote "A country that stood by us in every war we've ever fought.   A country that strategically is essential to the free world and its production of minerals."
Michael Lapsley:  I think the interesting thing about that comment is that is focuses upon profit.   It doesn't focus on what happens to people.
And of course, remembering that regime that Reagan was supporting, was a regime in which the majority of the people were voteless.   The majority of the people had no legitimate way of removing an illegitimate regime.
Amy Goodman:  This was a time in the United States in its policy towards South Africa when the term was coined "constructive engagement."
Michael Lapsley:  And it was constructive for death.    That's the real point.   It was not constructive with the people of South Africa, who were living and dying for basic fundamental human rights.   Rights that people all over the world take for granted.
That we had to die in great numbers to achieve.   Simply the right to go to the poles to choose a government for ourselves.
Amy Goodman:  What difference did it make what role the US played within South Africa or in the front-line states?
Michael Lapsley:  Well, the African National Congress of South Africa, leading the struggle in South Africa, was saying to the world:  "We will free South Africa.   We ask the world to be in solidarity with us."
So the role the international community had to play was to shorten that struggle.   To mean that we would die less.   And so in a way the support, the economic support to Apartheid, meant the struggle lasted longer.   It took us longer to achieve those fundamental rights.   To achieve democratic freedoms.
Amy Goodman:  You focus on restorative justice.  Before I talk about that, have you even learned who it was that put this, was it plastique?  in the magazine.
Michael Lapsley:  It was some kind of substance certainly that caused that explosion.   I don't know who individually was responsible.   I know that deKlerk was politically and morally responsible
Apartheid South Africa
Passbook required if black
Amy Goodman:  Where were you when this happened?
Michael Lapsley:  I was in Harare, Zimbabwe.   The point was the death squads, even though negotiations were about to begin, they were still in operation.   And the Apartheid regime said, "We will talk."   But they were still killing at night and so it was in that context that this letter bomb went off.
And it's also worth saying that "Yes, I was a militant of the African National Congress."   But you know the only automatic weapon I have ever used in my life is the one I am using now, my tongue.   And the regime in their stupidity took away my hands, which I didn't need to shoot, and left my weapon working reasonably well.
Amy Goodman:  How long did it take you to recover?
Michael Lapsley:  I was in hospital for about seven months.   That's the physical journey, but there's another kind of journey of coming to terms with having no hands.   But I was very fortunate in that my pain, and what happened to me, was acknowledged and recognized by people around the world.    That enabled me to travel a journey from victim to survivor to victor.
And that's in a way why I do the work I do now.   To seek to walk beside others who have not had their pain acknowledged. And I think one of the very wonderful things you are doing in this program today is not simply acknowledging Reagan.   Every body is doing that, but you are acknowledging the poor of the world who suffered under Reagan.
And this great knowledge of what happened to unemployed, poor, homeless, African American, Hispanic people, but by this very program we are moving from knowledge to acknowledgment.   I think that it itself is one step on the journey to healing.
Acknowledging what happened to the ordinary people in those years, and lifting up their stories, their pain, but also their faith and endurance and hope and commitment.   In giving it its rightful place at this time.
Amy Goodman:  We spent the week…we spoke with Noam Chomsky about Central America policy, Allan Nairn about what happened in Guatemala, the investigative journalist, about the more than hundred thousand Guatemalans who died during this period of the eighties with the US supporting the success of military regimes.   We spoke with Fr. Miguel D'Escoto a former Foreign Minister of Nicaragua about the thousands of Nicaraguans who died with the US supporting the Contras.   We talked about El Salvador, the tens of thousands of Salvadorian civilians who died there.
Apartheid South Africa
Death by police
Michael Lapsley:  That's part of the acknowledgment.   That's part of the journey to healing.   Those stories are not forgotten, but the individual lives are recognized.
Amy Goodman:  You are part of the whole truth and reconciliation process in South Africa led by Bishop Tutu.   Did you testify before the commission?
Michael Lapsley:  Yes, I gave evidence to the commission, and whilst I have told my story many times, speaking to the commission was a very particular moral significance, because in a way I felt that my own story was becoming an indelible part of that great patchwork of the journey of the people of South Africa.   And, in a way I would say, although I lost hands that I will always grieve for, the greatest privilege of my life was to be a part of perhaps the greatest struggle of the twentieth century, of the struggle against Apartheid.
Amy Goodman:  What do you mean by 'Restorative Justice?'
Michael Lapsley:  Well it's interesting, when we say the word justice, in most countries, especially the United States, people mean retribution, or in fact sometimes they mean revenge.   Restorative Justice asks a different kind of question.   It doesn't say, 'How can the State punish the offender?'   It says, 'How can we restore the relationships that have been broken?'   And of course a country where you have two million of your citizens in prison?  that's retributive justice at its worst.   And of course the rampant use of the death penalty.
Restorative Justice seeks to restore relationships that have been broken.   It seeks to provide opportunities where victim and offender can meet each other, and people can explore the journey they need to travel to make it up to those who have..
So for example if I were to meet the person who sent me the letter bomb, and they asked for my forgiveness, I would be happy to forgive them.   And I would prefer that they spent their lives, for example working in a hospital, rather than be locked up in prison, but I might say to them, of course, you would also be willing to help assist me with my needs for the rest of my life as a form of restorative justice.   A form of making it up in the ways that are possible.
So that is what I think I mean by restorative justice, which is a justice that gives hope, where often retributive justice simply continues cycles where victims become victimizers.
Amy Goodman:  Steve Biko, the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement, who on another September 11th, September 11, 1977 was being beaten to death by US backed Apartheid forces, died in the early hours of September 12th, 1977, his family did not support just the idea of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and that if people came forward and they revealed what they had done, who was involved in Steve Biko's death, that that would be enough.   That they should not be granted amnesty.
Michael Lapsley:  Of course I know Nkosinathi Biko, Steve Biko's son.
They were not opposed to the truth commission.   They supported the truth commission, but they had very specific opposition to amnesty because they said it would violate their right to a form of justice.
The response of our constitutional court was to say however, if there were reparations it would be a form or restorative justice, and that was in fact what won the day.
Amnesty is a bitter pill to swallow, but the alternative to amnesty, in the South African context, was an escalating civil war that would have taken millions of lives.
So we did make a compromise, but it is a compromise that opened a democratic space for us to know struggle to a way to a more just society.
Amy Goodman:  We have been speaking with Father Michael Lapsley, Director of The Institute of Healing of Memories.
If people want to get in touch with you where can they write.
Father Michael Lapsley:  The triple w. Healing of memories, one word
Apartheid South Africa
Passbook required if black
Amy Goodman:  Thank you very much Father Michael Lapsley.
        Allied with Apartheid:         
        Reagan Supported Racist South African Government        
        To watch video click here        
And it was Reagan and Thatcher who were giving succour to the Apartheid regime
Following are excerpts from the eulogy of the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, as transcribed by Federal News Service:
We have lost a great president, a great American and a great man, and I have lost a dear friend.
In his lifetime, Ronald Reagan was such a cheerful and invigorating presence that it was easy to forget what daunting historic tasks he set himself. He sought to mend America's wounded spirit, to restore the strength of the free world and to free the slaves of communism.
These were causes hard to accomplish and heavy with risk. Yet they were pursued with almost a lightness of spirit. His politics had a freshness and optimism that won converts from every class and every nation, and ultimately from the very heart of the evil empire.
Yet his humor often had a purpose beyond humor. In the terrible hours after the attempt on his life, his easy jokes gave reassurances to an anxious world. They were truly grace under pressure.
And perhaps they signified grace of a deeper kind.
Ronnie himself certainly believed that he had been given back his life for a purpose.
As he told a priest after his recovery, "Whatever time I've got left now belongs to the big fellow upstairs."
And surely it is hard to deny that Ronald Reagan's life was providential.
Others prophesied the decline of the West; he inspired America and its allies with renewed faith in their mission of freedom. Others saw only limits to growth; he transformed a stagnant economy into an engine of opportunity. Others hoped at best for an uneasy cohabitation with the Soviet Union; he won the Cold War not only without firing a shot, but also by inviting enemies out of their fortress and turning them into friends.
I can't imagine how any diplomat or any dramatist could improve on his words to Mikhail Gorbachev at the Geneva summit: "Let me tell you why it is we distrust you."
We live today in the world that Ronald Reagan began to reshape with those words.
As prime minister, I worked closely with Ronald Reagan for eight of the most important years of all our lives. We talked regularly both before and after his presidency, and I've had time and cause to reflect on what made him a great president.
Ronald Reagan knew his own mind. He had firm principles and, I believe, right ones. He expounded them clearly. He acted upon them decisively.
When his allies came under Soviet or domestic pressure, they could look confidently to Washington for firm leadership. And when his enemies tested American resolve, they soon discovered that his resolve was firm and unyielding.
Yet his ideas, so clear, were never simplistic. He saw the many sides of truth. Yes, he warned that the Soviet Union had an insatiable drive for military power and territorial expansion. But he also sensed it was being eaten away by systemic failures impossible to reform.
Yes, he did not shrink from denouncing Moscow's evil empire. But he realized that a man of goodwill might nonetheless emerge from within its dark corridors.
And when a man of goodwill did emerge from the ruins, President Reagan stepped forward to shake his hand and to offer sincere cooperation. Nothing was more typical of Ronald Reagan than that large-hearted magnanimity. And nothing was more American.
Ronald Reagan's life was rich, not only in public achievement, but also in private happiness. Indeed, his public achievements were rooted in his private happiness.
The great turning point of his life was his meeting and marriage with Nancy. We share her grief today, but we also share her pride and the grief and pride of Ronnie's children.
For the final years of his life, Ronnie's mind was clouded by illness. That cloud has now lifted.
We here still move in twilight, but we have one beacon to guide us that Ronald Reagan never had; we have his example.
Washington Post  Saturday, June 12, 2004

                 Nicaragua 2005 —        

        widespread misery        

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El Salvador
Reagan Was Behind "One Of The Most Intensive Campaigns Of Mass Murder In Recent History"
Journalist and activist Allen Nairn who has won a number of awards for his reporting in Central America, from El Salvador to Guatemala, discusses Reagan’s foreign policy couched as a war against communism.
AMY GOODMAN:  [democracynow.org]    As we turn now to Allan Nairn, journalist and activist, won a number of awards for his reporting in Central America from El Salvador to Guatemala, wrote for the "New Republic,"  "The Nation,"  "The Progressive."   Allan, we are now hearing in the United States a great deal about Reagan foreign policy couched as a war against communism.   Can you respond to that and talk specifically about Guatemala and El Salvador?

ALLAN NAIRN:  Well, communism was the excuse for what Reagan did in Central America, but the victims were not Communists.

The victims were priests and peasants and labor leaders and residents and student leaders and academics and journalists and others who especially in the late 1970's both in Guatemala and Salvador had coalesced into strong popular movements.

The thing they were responding to was the fact that in both those countries, hundreds of thousands of people every year were dying unnecessarily from malnutrition, from diarrhea, from malaria; people were living on hillsides trying to eke out a living on corn crops that could only feed a family for three or four months because the plot was so small because the larger owners had all the good land.

People tried to find a peaceful solution to this preventable death mainly of children.

In many villages in Guatemala and El Salvador half of the kids would die through peaceful means.

Through strikes on the plantations where they would ask for an extra 40 cents a day in wages, strikes in places like the Coca-Cola plant in Guatemala, calls for enforcement of the real minimum wage.

The response to this by the militaries of El Salvador and Guatemala in both cases backed by the Reagan administration, the response was death squads.

In Guatemala they had names like the Malablanca, the White Hand, the S.R., the Secret Anti-Communist army.

They would often pass out leaflets listing the names of the people they intended to execute.

Sometimes they were illustrated with the photos.

They complied.

They would follow up.

They would roam the streets and in vans would come into houses in the middle of night wearing hoods.

They would drag people away, and in the next few days their mutilated bodies would turn up by the roadside often with the genitals removed, stuffed in the mouth, hands severed.

This was effective.

It worked.

The popular movements in both Salvador and Guatemala were crushed.

And in response, many of the survivors went to the hills.

They joined up with the very small, until that time, guerrilla groups, several of which had a Communist ideology and were backed by Cuba, and they tried to fight that way.

When they did that, that was seen by Reagan and his people, Alexander Hague, the Secretary of State, Jean Kirkpatrick, Elliot Abrams, the Human Rights and Latin American chief, John Negroponte, the ambassador to Honduras, this was seen as a strategic success because it made it that much easier politically for the U.S. to justify what it was doing.

They can say, see, we're fighting Communists.   We're fighting an armed insurgency.   That's why we're backing these governments.

What they backed was really one of the most intensive campaigns of mass murder in recent history.

In Guatemala during Reagan's time, about 200,000 civilians were massacred.

A couple of thousand of armed guerrillas were killed in combat.

In Salvador, probably on the order of 70,000 civilians massacred, again a couple of them [thousand] were armed guerillas killed in combat.

        Journalist Allan Nairn:         

        Reagan Was Behind "One Of The Most Intensive Campaigns Of Mass Murder In Recent History"        

        To watch video click here        

Guatemala Death Squads

<Page 1 of 53 pages of an army log smuggled out of the Guatemalan army’s intelligence files.

Harper's Magazine, June 1999, gives details in English:

Codes appear throughout the document.  Meza Soberanis was executed on February 7, 1984 five months after his abduction. Code 300 and date indicates this.

Codes were used by the military to maintain a veneer of deniability in case their records ever came to light.

Meza Soberanis's body was never found.

His 23-year-old sister Mayra, a psychology student at the University of San Carlos, was abducted on September 8, 1983.

The few who escaped, such as Alvaro Sosa Ramos (no 87 of the victims in the 53 pages discovered) are consistent in their descriptions of the ordeal.

Victims were taken to interrogation centers on military bases, in police stations, or safehouses and tortured.

Sosa Ramos described his experience to human rights advocates in Canada.  They reported he was: "brutally beaten, whipped, deprived or water, tortured with electric shocks, and hung by his feet for long periods of time.   He could hear the screams of others being tortured nearby."

For more on Guatemalan death squad activity

<Harper's magazine, June 1999:

Given the brutality of the torture applied to the disappeared, it is not surprising that many of them provided information, both real and fabricated, about colleagues, friends, even family members.

Indeed the document is replete with 'betrayals.'

In February, [1999] when Guatemala's Historical Clarification Commission released its report on the conflict, it emphasized the role of the United States in backing the security forces and their "criminal counterinsurgency."

US involvement began in 1954, thirty years before these abductions, when fear about Communist influence on the democratically elected government of President Jacono Arbens prompted a CIA-engineered coup.

In 1977, reports of atrocities convinced the Carter Administration to suspend military aid, but Ronald Reagan's commitment to "roll back" Communism in Central America led to its resumption.

In a secret State Department report submitted to Congress in February 1984, exactly one month before the capture of Juan de Diós Samayoa Valásquez, the administration argued that Guatemala's human rights situation had improved, and that renewed security assistance "could act as a catalyst for futher improvement."

The death list tells a different story: In January 1984 alone, 25 of those listed here were kidnapped, 13 killed and 7 passed on to toher units for futher interrogation.

Even Reagan's conservative ambassador to Guatemala took notice.

Two days before the State Department report was issued, Ambassador Frederic Chapin sent a cable to Washington decrying the "horrible human rights realities in Guatamala."

Chapin wrote that "we must come to some resolution in policy terms.  Either we can overlook the record and emphasize the strategic concept or we can pursue a higher moral path. We simply cannot flip flop back and forth between the two possible positions."

In 1990, George Bush [George Bush Senior] again cut military aid after a U.S. citizen was murdered by Guatemalan soldiers, though covert aid by the CIA continued.

Only after the war ended did the United States acknowlege the damage it had done.

In March, President Clinton surprised his hosts and the audiance at Guatermala's National Palace of Culture by publicly expressing regret for four decades of U.S. support for "military forces or intelligence units which engaged in violent and widespread repression."

Thousands more pages presumably lie buried in the army's secret archives.  

Mass murderers from the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge to the Guatemalan military, seem to require careful recordkeeping as a way to dehumanize their victims, transforming them into instruments of a greater ideological project.


Created as part of the 1996 peace accord that ended Guatemala's civil war, UN's independent Historical Clarification Commission issued a nine-volume report called "Guatemala: Memory Of Silence."

Its 272 staff members interviewed combatants on both sides of the conflict, gathered news reports and eyewitness accounts from across the country, and extensively examined declassified U.S. government documents.

The UN's Commission concludes that for decades, [except for the period when Jimmy Carter was in office] the United States knowingly gave money, training, and other vital support to a military regime that committed atrocities as a matter of policy, and even "acts of genocide" against the Mayan people.

The Commission examined 42,275 separate human rights violations — torture, executions, systematic rape, and so on, including 626 documented incidents the Commission could only describe as "massacres."

93% were committed by U.S.-supported government paramilitary forces. 4% cannot be attributed with certainty.   3% were committed by rebels.

As Amnesty International and other independent observers reported for years, the vast majority of victims were non-combatant civilians.

Merely trying to form an opposition political party was reason enough to be killed.   So was being a trade unionist, a student or professor, a journalist, a church official, a child or elderly person from the same village as a suspected rebel, a doctor who merely treated another victim, or even a widow of one of the disappeared simply asking for the body.

But most of the casualties were Mayan Indians.   Since the rebels didn't have the military strength to be able to hold cities, they hid in rural areas populated primarily by Mayans.   So the Guatemalan government simply slaughtered entire villages, engaging in "the massive extermination of defenseless Mayan communities."

200,000 people died.

Does it somehow lessen the horrors of today to admit that this is not the first time the US government has used torture to wipe out its political opponents

— that it has operated secret prisons before, that it has actively supported regimes that tried to erase the left by dropping students out of airplanes?

That, at home, photographs of lynchings were traded and sold as trophies and warnings?

Many seem to think so.

On November 8 Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott made the astonishing claim to the House of Representatives that "America has never had a question about its moral integrity, until now."

Molly Ivins, expressing her shock that the United States is running a prison gulag, wrote that "it's just this one administration...and even at that, it seems to be mostly Vice President Dick Cheney."

And in the November issue of Harper's, William Pfaff argues that what truly sets the Bush Administration apart from its predecessors is "its installation of torture as integral to American military and clandestine operations."

Pfaff acknowledges that long before Abu Ghraib, there were those who claimed that the School of the Americas was a "torture school," but he says that he was "inclined to doubt that it was really so."

Perhaps it's time for Pfaff to have a look at the SOA textbooks coaching illegal torture techniques, all readily available in both Spanish and English, as well as the hair-raising list of SOA grads.

      Our Amnesiac Torture Debate      Naomi Klein      
      The Nation      December 9, 2005      

Other cultures deal with a legacy of torture by declaring "Never again!"

Why do so many Americans insist on dealing with the current torture crisis by crying "Never Before"?

I suspect it has to do with a sincere desire to convey the seriousness of this Administration's crimes.

And the Bush Administration's open embrace of torture is indeed unprecedented -- but let's be clear about what is unprecedented about it: not the torture but the openness.

Past administrations tactfully kept their "black ops" secret; the crimes were sanctioned but they were practiced in the shadows, officially denied and condemned.

The Bush Administration has broken this deal: Post-9/11, it demanded the right to torture without shame, legitimized by new definitions and new laws.

      Our Amnesiac Torture Debate      Naomi Klein      
      The Nation      December 9, 2005      
Journalist Alan Nairn's conversation with Amy Goodman:

When Reagan was running for president against Carter in 1980 his campaign and foreign policy team actually sent emissaries to Guatemala.

They met with the military chiefs and the heads of CASIF, which was the Guatemalan chambers of commerce, agriculture, industry and finance, the convening body.

They told them, according to the discussions that I had with the people that they met with, that once Reagan came to office, they would have a freer hand.

They had been getting some criticism from the State Departments of Ford and then Carter and the U.S. Congress to its credit had brought correct and direct U.S. arms sales to Guatemala to a halt.

So, with approval from National Security Adviser to President Carter, Israel stepped in to fill the gap and was selling automatic rifles and Uzi submachine guns and transport planes and military goods to Guatemala, but they had to do it indirectly.

The U.S. was — it was [more} difficult for the Guatemalan army.

Reagan's campaign emissaries told the death squad chieftains and the oligarchy and the military, don't worry, when we come in, you'll get a free hand.

That's basically what happened.

One of the people that went down on behalf of president Reagan was Vernon Walters, who was his special emissary to Guatemala.

The ruler of Guatemala was General Lucas Garcia.   Under his reign, the military focused its attacks on unions and on peasant groups, and also on the Catholic Church, which they saw as a subversive force because it was telling the poor that they also were humans in the sight of God, that they had rights and they had the right to ask for more.

On two occasions, they actually — the military death squads actually went in and abducted the entire labor leadership of Guatemala which was holding conventions.

They picked them all up.

They disappeared never to be seen again.

[US special emissary] Walters went down, met publicly with General Lucas and embraced him and said, we love your devotion to peace, liberty and constitutional institutions.

About a year-and-a-half later, when General Lucas was replaced by General Luis Mans, who took power in a coup, the strategy shifted.

Mans shifted to the countryside, the Mayan highlands of the northwest where the indigenous population were, and [what you might say] especially old and brave, and they were more impoverished than the people of the cities, and they had risen against the armies.

They sent the army sweeping through the villages of the highlands and actually saw military documents where they estimated that 662 rural villages were, in other words, annihilated.

They would go into the villages.

They would gather everyone in the square.

They would tell them that the army had arrived, that they were only — that their only hope for survival was to come to the good to renounce those who were against the army.

Then they would read from lists compiled by the military intelligence of people who were supposedly giving food to the guerrillas or working with the priests or working with organizers, and then they would execute them in front of the other villagers.

They would shoot them in the head with their Uzis.

They would make their neighbors — dig a pit into which the bodies were thrown and then they would often grab several people from the crowd, shoot them at random, often the children.

Then as they left, they would burn the homes, slaughter the farm animals and they did this day after day after day.

On some days, three and four and five villages would be taken out in this manner.

They would leave behind these burning hulks, decapitated bodies, often hundreds slaughtered at a time.

For more on Guatemalan death squad activity

Despite all the talk of outsourced torture, the Bush Administration's real innovation has been its in-sourcing, with prisoners being abused by US citizens in US-run prisons and transported to third countries in US planes.

It is this departure from clandestine etiquette, more than the actual crimes, that has so much of the military and intelligence community up in arms: By daring to torture unapologetically and out in the open, Bush has robbed everyone of plausible deniability.

For those nervously wondering if it is time to start using alarmist words like totalitarianism, this shift is of huge significance.

When torture is covertly practiced but officially and legally repudiated, there is still the hope that if atrocities are exposed, justice could prevail.

When torture is pseudo-legal and when those responsible merely deny that it is torture, what dies is what Hannah Arendt called "the juridical person in man."

Soon enough, victims no longer bother to search for justice, so sure are they of the futility (and danger) of that quest.

This impunity is a mass version of what happens inside the torture chamber, when prisoners are told they can scream all they want because no one can hear them and no one is going to save them.

      Our Amnesiac Torture Debate      Naomi Klein      
      The Nation      December 9, 2005      
Journalist Alan Nairn's conversation with Amy Goodman:

Then in the midst of this campaign, Reagan personally went to Central America, met with General Luis Mans and said that Guatemala was getting a bum rap on human rights.

There was a similar story in neighboring El Salvador.

As with Guatemala, the U.S. policy of backing terror and backing an oligarchy which lived high while many thousands of children died from hunger, the U.S. policy of backing them went back a long way.

In Guatemala in 1954, Eisenhower had sent them the C.I.A. to overthrow the democratically-elected government and put the army in power.

Likewise in Salvador, a sophisticated military death squad apparatus had been built up under a program launched under JFK, the Kennedy Administration which actually sent in C.I.A. and State Department and Green Beret people to set up a communications system.

At that time a radio teletype, which was the technology of the day, which linked the intelligence services of Guatemala, Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras.

And they would exchange across borders information they had gathered on subversives, information they had gathered with C.I.A. assistance in files that they...I have actually been shown some of the files in Salvador by the officers explaining how the C.I.A. technicians had shown them how to put them together and maintain them.

This was before the advent and wide use of computers.

They did it with paper.

But they managed to find their victims.

Through the 1960's and 1970's, they carried out many assassinations.

But when Reagan came in, it became larger scale. It became more systematic.

In Latin America the revelations of US torture in Iraq have not been met with shock and disbelief but with powerful déjà vu and reawakened fears.

Hector Mondragon, a Colombian activist who was tortured in the 1970s by an officer trained at the School of the Americas, wrote:
"It was hard to see the photos of the torture in Iraq because I too was tortured.

I saw myself naked with my feet fastened together and my hands tied behind my back.

I saw my own head covered with a cloth bag.

I remembered my feelings — the humiliation, pain."
Dianna Ortiz, an American nun who was brutally tortured in a Guatemalan jail, said:
"I could not even stand to look at those photographs...

so many of the things in the photographs had also been done to me.

I was tortured with a frightening dog and also rats.

And they were always filming."
Ortiz has testified that the men who raped her and burned her with cigarettes more than 100 times deferred to a man who spoke Spanish with an American accent whom they called "Boss."

It is one of many stories told by prisoners in Latin America of mysterious English-speaking men walking in and out of their torture cells, proposing questions, offering tips.

Several of these cases are documented in Jennifer Harbury's powerful new book, Truth, Torture, and the American Way.

      Our Amnesiac Torture Debate      Naomi Klein      
      The Nation      December 9, 2005      
Journalist Alan Nairn's conversation with Amy Goodman:

Reagan's chief foreign policy thinker, Jean Kirkpatrick, who became his advisor to the UN actually by some accounts got her job in the Administration, first came to the attention of Reagan and his inner circle when she wrote an essay for the American Enterprise Institute in which she explicitly praised the operations of the Salvador ran death squads.

This is the essay in which she put forward her idea that the U.S. should be backing authoritarian governments like those of Guatemala and Salvador.

She referred to the Martinez Brigades, which was one of the death squads in Salvador, which was named off an old Salvadoran General [who] had staged a massacre of tens of thousands of peasants as U.S. naval warships hovered offshore.
The Hobbes Problem
[As Kirkpatrick wrote in a published article, "The problem confronting El Salvador is Thomas Hobbes's problem: How to establish order and authority in a society where there is none. "

She spells out her draconian views on the solution in an unpublished 1980 paper for the American Enterprise Institute, "The Hobbes Problem: Order, Authority and Legitimacy in Central America":

"Order, as John Stuart Mill emphasizes, is the "preservation of all existing goods."...heroes are people who make a special contribution to highly valued goods.

Hernandez Martmez is such a hero.

General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez who governed El Salvador from 1931 to 1944, was minister of war in the cabinet of President Arturo Araujo when there occurred widespread uprisings said to be the work of Communist agitators.

General Hernandez Martinez then staged a coup and ruthlessly suppressed the disorders — wiping out all those who participated, hunting down their leaders.

It is sometimes said that 30,000 persons lost their lives in this process.

To many Salvadorans the violence of this repression seems less important than that of the fact of restored order and the thirteen years of civil peace that ensued.

The traditional death squads that pursue revolutionary activities and leaders in contemporary El Salvador call themselves Hernandez Martinez Brigades, seeking thereby to place themselves in El Salvador's political tradition and communicate their purposes."

No wonder Kirkpatrick is considered a heroine by the Nicaraguan contras.

The "Jeane Kirkpatrick Task Force" is the only contra unit named for a foreigner.

"The men chose the name themselves," reports contra leader Adolfo Calero.   "They listen to the Voice of America and they admire Mrs. Kirkpatrick for her courage."]

Journalist Alan Nairn's conversation with Amy Goodman:

Kirkpatrick said that the modern day death squads who carried on in his name, invoked his name because he was seen as a civic hero by the Salvadoran people.

Kirkpatrick was saying that these death squads were admired by the people because they restored a civic order.

By putting forth the theory, she gained attention of the administration and became a driver of the foreign policy, and under Reagan, the U.S. not only gave extensive covert backing, as was done in Guatemala, but also overt.

They sent in Green Berets, U.S. Army troops who openly assisted the Salvadoran military, National Guard and Treasury Police.

Some of the countries that were mauled by US-sponsored torture regimes have tried to repair their social fabric through truth commissions and war crimes trials.

In most cases, justice has been elusive, but past abuses have been entered into the official record and entire societies have asked themselves questions not only about individual responsibility but collective complicity.

The United States, though an active participant in these "dirty wars," has gone through no parallel process of national soul-searching.

The result is that the memory of US complicity in far-away crimes remains fragile, living on in old newspaper articles, out-of-print books and tenacious grassroots initiatives like the annual protests outside the School of the Americas (which has been renamed but remains largely unchanged).

The terrible irony of the anti-historicism of the current torture debate is that in the name of eradicating future abuses, these past crimes are being erased from the record.

Every time Americans repeat the fairy tale about their pre-Cheney innocence, these already hazy memories fade even further.

The hard evidence still exists, of course, carefully archived in the tens of thousands of declassified documents available from the National Security Archive.

But inside US collective memory, the disappeared are being disappeared all over again.

      Our Amnesiac Torture Debate      Naomi Klein      
      The Nation      December 9, 2005      
Journalist Alan Nairn's conversation with Amy Goodman:

At one point, there was a — at the time there was a famous incident in which a group of American nuns and church workers were waylaid on a road, abducted by elements of the troops of the Salvadoran National Guard.

They were raped and murdered.

Afterward, Alexander Hague, Reagan's Secretary of State, suggested that they had died in an exchange of gunfire, that these were pistol-packing nuns who apparently got what they deserved.

Jean Kirkpatrick said that, well these were not real nuns.

She suggested that they were up to some — they were up to no good, perhaps helping the poor of El Salvador.

One of the people who in the mid 1980's from 1984 to 1986 actually ran the U.S. military operation in El Salvador, Colonel James Steel, who is currently in Baghdad.

He is the counselor for Iraqi security forces to Bremer.

He's in charge of putting together and training the Iraqi security forces.

Elliot Abrams, who was really second only to Kirkpatrick as an ideologue and planner of the Central American massacres is now running Middle East policy at the National Security Council for the Bush Administration.

Friday, 9 July, 2004
El Salvador's suffering lingers on
The BBC's Mike Lanchin
By Mike Lanchin
BBC, San Salvador

Although 22 years have passed since her two siblings disappeared at the height of El Salvador's civil war, Suyapa Serrano still clings to the hope they might still be alive.

"We have searched and searched, but there has been no trace of them, none at all — but they could still be somewhere," says the 42-year-old Salvadoran.

"Each time a missing child is found from that time, I feel a mixture of happiness and sadness — happiness for the lucky relative, sadness for our family," she adds.
Suyapa Serrano
Suyapa was separated from her sisters as they were fleeing

Since the 12-year civil war between the US-backed army and left-wing guerrillas ended in 1992, about 270 youngsters who were separated from their families during the conflict have been reunited with relatives.

Some were located with adoptive parents in El Salvador, others with families in Europe and North America.

But over 700 more are still believed to be missing.

"During the war there were many scorched-earth operations carried out by the Salvadoran army," explains Father Jon Cortina, director of the San Salvador-based Association in Search of Missing Children.

"As part of those campaigns, children were taken by the soldiers and brought back to the barracks.  On some occasions they were seized from their families at gunpoint," he adds.

Two young sisters

Suyapa's family was among thousands that fled the army's massive counter-insurgency operation near her home in May 1982.

"We were going towards the Chichilco hill where we were stopped by the soldiers. There was lots of shooting," Suyapa recalls.
Father Jon Cortina
My impression is that the army in the first instance intended just to terrorise the population
Father Jon Cortina

Having been separated from her parents, she was left with her two young sisters - aged three and seven.

Suddenly Suyapa was faced with a terrible dilemma.

"I was hearing all that shooting and I was scared, so I told the kids, please stay here, I'm going to get away a little further, so that they don't find us all together."

When she rejoined her father after the soldiers had moved on, they both returned to the spot where she had left the two little girls.

"We couldn't find them, they weren't there," she says starkly.

"I don't feel that I am to blame — it was either them or me.  We would all have died if we had stayed together," Suyapa now says, tears welling up in her eyes.

"They were just small kids.  How can I forget them?  They were my sisters."

Father Cortina says he thinks the army's snatching of children was opportunistic.

"My impression is that the army in the first instance intended just to terrorise the population so they would leave the areas where they lived," Father Cortina says.

"Afterwards the military realised that they could have a good business selling them into adoption outside the country," he adds.

Country transformed

The cases of the missing children has become a thorn in the side of the political class in El Salvador, more than a decade since the war ended with a UN-sponsored peace deal.
Guerrilla fighters attacking San Salvador in 1989
Years of fighting lefts tens of thousands dead

More than 75,000 people died in the conflict, tens of thousands were displaced, and the economy was left in ruins.

Since then the country has been transformed by sweeping political reforms — allowing the former guerrillas to take part in elections, disbanding the security forces blamed for human rights abuses and redistributing some plots of land to poor peasant families.

"Those of us who wanted an end to repression, an end to political prisoners... freedom of expression, and free and fair elections — we feel an understandable certain degree of satisfaction with what has been obtained," says Salvador Samayoa, a former leader of the rebels, now the largest political party in congress.

But he admits that there are limitations to what has been achieved.

"I can understand that some people may feel frustrated," he says.

The impression that El Salvador is far from being a united country, despite more than a decade of peace, is reinforced by the lingering contrasts between city and countryside.

American-style capital

The capital, San Salvador, has a distinctly American feel to it — and is full of glitzy US-style shopping malls and fast-food chains.
We do not have the bullets and the bombs now, but we do have the wounds in the hearts of the people
Father Jon Cortina

And since 2001, the US dollar is the country's common currency.

Barely two hours drive outside the city, pot-holed dirt-roads are the only access to the numerous villages where the option for youngsters is to follow the family tradition of subsistence farming, or try their luck by heading illegally to the US — where more than a million Salvadorans already live.

That is not an option for many peasants, like Suyapa.

She already spent several years outside the country with her mother and father, in a Honduran refugee camp, where they sought safety after the little girls disappeared.

One of her surviving brothers was blinded by a mine explosion during the war.

"For me the war is still present — it's present in all the families that do not know the truth about what has happened," says Father Cortina, who spent much of the war as a parish priest in one of the most conflict-ridden areas of the country.

"We do not have the bullets and the bombs now, but we do have the wounds in the hearts of the people," he adds.

Mike Lanchin reported from Central America for the BBC in the 1990s.

Country profile: El Salvador
01 Jun 04 | Country profiles
Timeline: El Salvador
25 May 04 | Country profiles


This casual amnesia does a profound disservice not only to the victims of these crimes but also to the cause of trying to remove torture from the US policy arsenal once and for all.

Already there are signs that the Administration will deal with the current torture uproar by returning to the cold war model of plausible deniability.

The McCain amendment protects every "individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government."

It says nothing about torture training or buying information from the exploding industry of for-profit interrogators.

And in Iraq the dirty work is already being handed over to Iraqi death squads, trained by US commanders like Jim Steele, who prepared for the job by setting up similarly lawless units in El Salvador.

The US role in training and supervising Iraq's Interior Ministry was forgotten, moreover, when 173 prisoners were recently discovered in a Ministry dungeon, some tortured so badly that their skin was falling off.

"Look, it's a sovereign country.   The Iraqi government exists," Rumsfeld said.

He sounded just like the CIA's William Colby, who when asked in a 1971 Congressional probe about the thousands killed under Phoenix — a program he helped launch — replied that it was now "entirely a South Vietnamese program."

      Our Amnesiac Torture Debate      Naomi Klein      
      The Nation      December 9, 2005      
It continues!
Guatemala city
How can people celebrate such a mass killer!
Journalist Alan Nairn's conversation with Amy Goodman:
AMY GOODMAN: Allan Nairn, I want to thank you very much for being with us. We have 30 seconds. Last comment, as you reflect back on the 1980's in Central America?
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, I think if accurate history is written in the future this will be seen as one of the great crimes of history.
And I'm not in the U.S. now, but when I — I'm hearing about how Reagan is being celebrated, and I don't know.
I suspect that a lot of people in Central America when they hear about that, maybe feel the same way that a lot of Americans feel when they hear the stories about people in other countries wearing Osama bin Laden t-shirts.
You know, a feeling of just complete dismay and disgust.
US Terror State
How can people do that?
How can people celebrate such a mass killer?
How can people celebrate such a mass killer?
That's a complicated question.
There are various reasons why people celebrate mass killers.
One of them that especially applies in the case of the U.S. is maybe they don't know.
Maybe they don't know that he [Ronald Reagan] was a mass murderer, and that is largely the case with what happened in Central America because the way the U.S. press covered it and failed to cover it the facts never got through to the American public.
If they did, people would not stand for it.
But Reagan — one thing you have to say for Reagan, and one thing I think you also have to say for Bush now, they justly and appropriately for politics spoke in terms of good and evil.
Because a lot of politics a good and evil.
But he lied about it.
What he did was evil.
What Bush is doing now is evil when he causes the deaths of civilians.
Americans have to face the facts.
They have to look at things the way they really are, and then you can't do anything about the victims of El Salvador and Guatemala now, but you can do something about those who are still alive.
For example, I mentioned Coca-Cola and Guatemala: dozens of union organizers there were gunned down by death squads.
Almost the exact same things has happened in recent years at the Coca-Cola franchise in Colombia.
One union leader pops up and he's gunned down.
This practice is continuing and it has to stop.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you for joining us.

And that's the problem with pretending that the Bush Administration invented torture.

"If you don't understand the history and the depths of the institutional and public complicity," says McCoy, "then you can't begin to undertake meaningful reforms."

Lawmakers will respond to pressure by eliminating one small piece of the torture apparatus — closing a prison, shutting down a program, even demanding the resignation of a really bad apple like Rumsfeld.

But, McCoy says, "they will preserve the prerogative to torture."

The Center for American Progress has just launched an advertising campaign called "Torture is not US."

The hard truth is that for at least five decades it has been.

But it doesn't have to be.

      Our Amnesiac Torture Debate      Naomi Klein      
      The Nation      December 9, 2005      
AMY GOODMAN:   We speak with Charlie Liteky a former US Army chaplain, who won the congressional medal of honor for saving some 20 soldiers in Vietnam.
In 1986, he laid that medal at the Vietnam War memorial in protest of U.S. involvement in Central America.
Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas
In 1986, Vietnam veteran Charlie Liteky laid his Congressional Medal of Honor at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC.
He wrote a letter to then President Ronald Reagan saying he was returning the medal in protest of US support for right wing death squads in Central America, such as the Contras in Nicaragua.
In Vietnam, Litkey was a US Army chaplain who saved some 20 US soldiers.
During the 1980s, Liteky spent extensive time in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
He was an organizer of the first ever protest at the US Army School of the Americas, which trained many of the paramilitary leaders in Central America.
We welcome you to Democracy Now!
CHARLIE LITEKY:   Good to be here.
AMY GOODMAN:   You are a former U.S. army chaplain.   Your thoughts today about the Reagan legacy in Central America as we continue our series, "Remembering the Dead."
CHARLIE LITEKY:   Well, all of this lionization of President Reagan which is coming over the TV now on almost every channel is just nauseous to me.
I have gotten to a point where I can't even turn it on until all of the accolades are over.
As far as I am concerned, President Reagan was in the same category with a man we have in there now.
He was responsible, he was an accomplice to the death of literally thousands and thousands of people.
Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas
I don't think the public is much aware of this, you know; this is all part of history, and we seem to have a very short memory for the atrocities committed by people we hold in high esteem.
Anyway, I became aware of the fact that what was going on in Central America during the 1980's and when president Reagan was right in there from, I think [that I became aware] it was 1984 or 1985 on.
...But I went to Central America several times.
I went with a group of Vietnam veterans to El Salvador and Nicaragua and Honduras, and I came back with a changed mind.
It was a beginning of a process of metamorphosis for me to discover what our government has been involved in over the years.
So, as a result of my visit to El Salvador and Nicaragua, I decided that I no longer wanted a medal associated with a government that would be behind such things by way of policy.
Also, I wanted to draw attention to what we were doing in Central America, in the name of freedom and democracy.
        Congressional Medal of Honor Winner:        
        Reagan Was "An Accomplice to the Death of Literally Thousands and Thousands of People"        
        To watch video click here        
Diet soda approved by Reagon is poison
Excerpt from article — Aspartame (NutraSweet): Something Evil This Way Comes, by Betty Martini of Mission Possible World Health International
“Listen to Attorney James Turner who, with famed Dr. John Olney, tried to prevent aspartame’s approval.
Turner tells what it took to get a deadly poison approved.
The FDA attempted to have Searle indicted for fraud and making false statements.
Both U.S. prosecutors hired on with the defense team and the statute of limitations expired.
For 16 years, the FDA refused to allow it on the market.
When Reagan was elected, Don Rumsfeld, CEO of Searle, said he’d call in his markers to get aspartame approved.
This is documented by a UPI investigation and congressional record.
The day after Reagan took office Arthur Hayes was appointed as FDA Commissioner to get it approved.
Reagan knew it might take 30 days to get Hayes installed, so he wrote an Executive Order making the outgoing FDA Commissioner powerless to act against aspartame before he departed.
Then the FDA set up a Public Board of Inquiry (PBOI) that revoked Reagan’s petition for approval because it had not been proved safe and causes brain tumors.
Hayes overruled the PBOI and let slip the hounds of disease, disability and death on an innocent, unwarned population.
Soon he became a consultant for the NutraSweet Company’s public relations outfit on a 10-year contract at $1,000/day.
Hayes then refused to talk to the press.”
In 1981, the Reagan FDA approved aspartame in dry food and in 1983, aspartame was approved for use in soda pop.
In 1985 Rumsfeld’s Searle was acquired by Monsanto, making Rumsfeld rich and Searle Pharmaceuticals and The NutraSweet Company separate subsidiaries!
And the rest, as they say, is history.

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