Thursday, March 20, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 12: Force and Opinion Segment 5/20
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The Archbishop had put his finger on the very problem that must be overcome, whatever euphemisms and tortured argument are used to conceal that fundamental fact. Accordingly, his request for a "guarantee" that the U.S. government "will not intervene directly or indirectly, with military, economic, diplomatic or other pressure, in determining the destiny of the Salvadoran people" was denied with the promise that aid to the military junta would be reassessed should evidence of "misuse develop." The Archbishop was assassinated, and the security forces turned to the task of demolishing the people's organizations by savage atrocities, beginning with the Rio Sumpul massacre, concealed by the loyal media.

It also comes as no surprise that the Human Rights Administration should see no "misuse developing" as the atrocities mounted, except briefly, when American churchwomen were raped, tortured, and murdered, so that a cover-up had to be arranged. Or that the media and intellectual opinion should largely disregard the assassination of the Archbishop (which did not even merit an editorial in the New York Times), conceal the complicity of the armed forces and the civilian government established by the U.S. as a cover for their necessary work, suppress reports on the growing state terror by Church and human rights groups and a congressional delegation, and even pretend that "There is no real argument that most of the estimated 10,000 political fatalities in 1980 were victims of government forces or irregulars associated with them" (Washington Post).22

When a job is to be done, we must set to it without sentimentality. Human rights concerns are fine when they can be used as an ideological weapon to undermine enemies or to restore popular faith in the nobility of the state. But they are not to interfere with serious matters, such as dispersing and crushing the rascal multitude forming associations against the interests of the men of best quality.

The same dedicated commitment to necessary terror was revealed a decade later, in March 1990, when the Archbishop's assassination was commemorated in El Salvador in an impressive three-day ceremony. "The poor, the humble and the devout flocked by the thousands" to honor his memory at a Mass in the cathedral where he was murdered, the wire services reported, filling the plaza and the streets outside after a march led by 16 bishops, three from the United States. Archbishop Romero was formally proposed for sainthood by the Salvadoran Church -- the first such case since Thomas a Becket was assassinated at the altar over 800 years ago. Americas Watch published a report on the shameful decade, symbolically bounded by "these two events -- the murder of Archbishop Romero in 1980 and the slaying of the Jesuits in 1989" -- which offer "harsh testimony about who really rules El Salvador and how little they have changed," people for whom "priest-killing is still a preferred option" because they "simply will not hear the cries for change and justice in a society that has had too little of either." In his homily, Romero's successor, Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas, said that "For being the voice of those without voice, he was violently silenced."23

The victims remain without voice, and the Archbishop remains silenced as well. No high-ranking official of the Cristiani government or his ARENA party attended the Mass, not even their leader Roberto d'Aubuisson, assumed to be responsible for the assassination in coordination with the U.S.-backed security forces. The U.S. government was also notable for its absence. The ceremony in El Salvador passed with scarcely a notice in the country that funds and trains the assassins; commemorations at home also escaped the attention of the national press.24

There should be no further embarrassment, however -- assuming that there is any now. This will be the last public religious homage to Romero for decades, because Church doctrine prohibits homage for candidates for sainthood. Revulsion at the assassination of Thomas a Becket compelled King Henry II, who was held to be indirectly responsible, to do penance at the shrine. One will wait a long time for a proper reenactment, another sign of the progress of civilization.

The threat of popular organization to privilege is real enough in itself. Worse still, "the rot may spread," in the terminology of political elites; there may be a demonstration effect of independent development in a form that attends to the people's sores. As noted earlier, internal documents and even the public record reveal that a driving concern of U.S. planners has been the fear that the "virus" might spread, "infecting" regions beyond.

This concern breaks no new ground. European statesmen had feared that the American revolution might "lend new strength to the apostles of sedition" (Metternich), and might spread "the contagion and the invasion of vicious principles" such as "the pernicious doctrines of republicanism and popular self-rule," one of the Czar's diplomats warned. A century later, the cast of characters was reversed. Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of State Robert Lansing feared that if the Bolshevik disease were to spread, it would leave the "ignorant and incapable mass of humanity dominant in the earth"; the Bolsheviks, he continued, were appealing "to the proletariat of all countries, to the ignorant and mentally deficient, who by their numbers are urged to become masters,... a very real danger in view of the process of social unrest throughout the world." Again it is democracy that is the awesome threat. When soldiers and workers councils made a brief appearance in Germany, Wilson feared that they would inspire dangerous thoughts among "the American negro [soldiers] returning from abroad." Already, he had heard, negro laundresses were demanding more than the going wage, saying that "money is as much mine as it is yours." Businessmen might have to adjust to having workers on their boards of directors, he feared, among other disasters, if the Bolshevik virus were not exterminated.

Go to the next segment.

22 James R. Brockman, America, March 24, 1990. On the atrocities of 1980 and the media suppression, see Towards a New Cold War, introduction; Turning the Tide. On the Romero assassination and the U.S. reaction, ibid., 102ff.; Manufacturing Consent, 48ff.

23 Douglas Grant Mine, AP, March 23, 24; Americas Watch, A Year of Reckoning, March 1990.

24 I saw one notice of the anniversary, in the religion pages of the Boston Globe, by Richard Higgins, who is writing a book about Romero: "Religion Notebook," BG, March 24, 1990, p. 27. KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.

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