Thursday, March 20, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 12: Force and Opinion Segment 15/20
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The objective remained the same: "eliminating all significant opposition and protest." The "dirty war has at no time stopped being an essential ingredient in the socio-political project that the United States is trying to achieve in El Salvador," even after "formal democracy" was introduced "to legitimize the war" in Western eyes. These methods succeeded in "the dismantling of the popular mass organizations," as "the very existence of organizations unsympathetic to the government became impossible, and those militants who were not exterminated had to flee to the countryside or to go underground, or, choked with terror, abandon the struggle." By "weakening the support bases of the revolutionary movement in all sectors of the population,...there is no doubt that the dirty war was successful -- a macabre success to be sure, but successful none the less."61

Throughout the decade, and well after "democracy" was established, the Salvadoran Church and Human Rights groups continued to describe how the security forces of the "fledgling democracy," with the full knowledge and cooperation of their U.S. sponsors, imposed upon Salvadoran society a regime of "terror and panic, a result of the persistent violation of basic human rights," marked by "collective intimidation and generalized fear, on the one hand, and on the other the internalized acceptance of the terror because of the daily and frequent use of violent means." "In general, society accepts the frequent appearance of tortured bodies, because basic rights, the right to life, has absolutely no overriding value for society" (Socorro Juridico, December 1985). The last comment also applies to the supervisors, as underscored by Secretary of State George Shultz a few months later in one of his lamentations on terrorism, a talk delivered just as the U.S. was carrying out the terror bombing of Libya, killing many civilians to much applause at home. In El Salvador, he declared, "the results are something all Americans can be proud of" -- at least, all Americans who enjoy the sight of tortured bodies, starving children, terror and panic, and generalized fear.62

In a paper on mass media and public opinion in El Salvador which he was to deliver at an International Congress in December 1989, the month after he was assassinated, Mart¡n-Baró wrote that the U.S. counterinsurgency project "emphasized merely the formal dimensions of democracy," and that the mass media must be understood as a mechanism of "psychological warfare." The small independent journals in El Salvador, mainstream and pro-business but still too undisciplined for the rulers, had been taken care of by the security forces a decade earlier in the usual efficacious manner -- kidnapping, assassination, and physical destruction, events considered here too insignificant even to report. As for public opinion, Mart¡n-Baró's unread paper reports a study showing that among workers, the lower-middle class, and the poor, less than 20% feel free to express their opinions in public, a figure that rose to 40% for the rich -- another tribute to the salutary efficacy of terror, and another result that "all Americans can be proud of."63

The continuity of U.S. policy is well-illustrated by the record of the Atlacatl Battalion, "whose soldiers professionally obeyed orders from their officers to kill the Jesuits in cold blood," Americas Watch observed on the tenth anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Romero, proceeding to review some of the achievements of this elite unit, "created, trained and equipped by the United States." It was formed in March 1981, when 15 specialists in counterinsurgency were sent to El Salvador from the U.S. Army School of Special Forces. From the start, the Battalion "was engaged in the murder of large numbers of civilians." A professor at the U.S. Army School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, described its soldiers as "particularly ferocious": "We've always had a hard time getting [them] to take prisoners instead of ears." In December 1981, the Battalion took part in an operation in which hundreds of civilians were killed in an orgy of murder, rape, and burning, over 1000 according to the Church legal aid office. Later it was involved in the bombing of villages and the murder of hundreds of civilians by shooting, drowning, and other methods, the vast majority being women, children, and the elderly. This has been the systematic pattern of special warfare in El Salvador since the first major military operation in May 1980, when 600 civilians were murdered and mutilated at the Rio Sumpul in a joint operation of the Salvadoran and Honduran armies, a slaughter revealed by Church sources, human rights investigators, and the foreign press, but not the U.S. media, which also have their psychological warfare function.64

The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights alleged in a letter to Defense Secretary Cheney that the killers of the Jesuits were trained by U.S. Special Forces up to three days before the assassinations. Father Jon de Cortina, Dean of Engineering at the Jesuit University in El Salvador where the priests were murdered, alleged further that the U.S. military instructors were the same U.S. soldiers who were trapped in a San Salvador hotel a few days later, in a highly publicized incident. In earlier years, some of the Atlacatl Battalion's worst massacres occurred when it was fresh from U.S. training.65

The nature of Salvadoran army training was described by a deserter who received political asylum in Texas in July 1990 after the immigration Judge rejected a State Department request that he be denied asylum and sent back to El Salvador. In this "fledgling democracy" the wealthy are immune from conscription; rather, teen-agers are rounded up in sweeps in slums and refugee camps. According to this deserter, whose name was withheld by the court for obvious reasons, conscripts were made to kill dogs and vultures by biting their throats and twisting off their heads, and had to watch as soldiers tortured and killed suspected dissidents, tearing out their fingernails, cutting off their heads, cutting a body to pieces "as though it was a toy and they played with the arms for entertainment," or starving and torturing them to death. Recruits were told that they would be assigned the same tasks, and that torturing people and animals "makes you more of a man and gives you more courage."66

In another recent case, an admitted member of a Salvadoran death squad associated with the Atlacatl Battalion, César Vielman Joya Mart¡nez, testified on his first-hand experience in state terror, providing detailed information about the murder operations with the complicity of U.S. intelligence advisers and the government to the highest level, including evidence highly relevant to the murder of the Jesuit priests. His testimony is corroborated by an associate who also defected, in allegations to a Mexican rights commission. After an initial pretense that it would investigate Mart¡nez's story, the Bush administration proceeded to make every effort to silence him, and ship him back to probable death in El Salvador, despite the pleas of human rights organizations and Congress that he be protected and that his testimony be heard. The treatment of the main witness to the assassination of the Jesuits was similar.67

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61 Mart¡n-Baró, "From Dirty War to Psychological War," paper presented at the 21st Congress of the Interamerican Psychological Society, Havana, 1987; reprinted in Adrianne Aron, ed., Flight, Exile, and Return, CHRICA, 1988.

62 Socorro Juridico, which operated under the jurisdiction of the San Salvador Archdiocese, paper presented at an International Seminar on Torture in Latin America in Buenos Aires. Shultz, address of April 14, 1986. See Necessary Illusions, 69f., for further details.

63 Mart¡n-Baró, "Mass Media and Public Opinion in El Salvador," excerpts in Interamerican Public Opinion Report, Jan. 1990. On the destruction of the Salvadoran media, and the reaction here, see Necessary Illusions, 41-2.

64 Americas Watch, A Year of Reckoning. On the Rio Sumpul massacre, see Towards a New Cold War, Turning the Tide.

65 Lawyers Committee, letter of April 20 to Defense Secretary Richard Cheney; El Salvador on Line (Washington), April 30; Alexander Cockburn, Nation, May 14, 1990. Father de Cortina, Cape Codder (Orleans, Mass.), May 1, 1990.

66 Robert Kahn, Pacific News Service, July 9-13; Mary Cabezas, Guardian (London), Aug. 1, 1990.

67 COHA News and Analysis, June 21; Andrew Blake, BG, July 12, March 16; Lawrence Ross, San Francisco Chronicle, July 12; Alexander Cockburn and Richard McKerrow, In These Times, Aug. 1, 1990. Mart¡nez's testimony of August 18, 1989, detailing the workings of the death squads in which he participated, is available from the Marin Interfaith Task Force on Central America, 25 Buena Vista, Mill Valley CA 94941. On the initial reaction to Mart¡nez's revelations, before the assassination of the Jesuits, see chapter 10, p. 292f. His case is pending at the time of writing. 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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