1. The Craft of "Historical Engineering"
2. The Obligation of Silence
3. The Summits
4. The Media and International Opinion
5. Demolishing the Accords
The vocation of "historical engineering" is as old as history, and was recognized as a professional responsibility as the United States entered World War I. Examples are given in the text and appendices, many others in the references cited. A closer look at particular cases sheds light on how the system works. Two cases will be examined here as illustrations, drawn from a major government-media project of the 1980s: "demonizing the Sandinistas" while defending Washington's terror states.
One of the proofs that Nicaragua is a cancer causing subversion to spread through the hemisphere, as plausible as others, is that the Sandinistas supplied arms for a terrorist attack on the Palace of Justice by M-19 guerrillas in Colombia in November 1985. On January 5 and 6, 1986, the New York Times published stories on the Colombian charge against Nicaragua and Nicaragua's denial. The next day, January 7, Colombia officially accepted the Nicaraguan denial. The Colombian foreign minister stated in a news conference that "Colombia accepts Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Miguel D'Escoto's explanation and considers the incident closed." This news made it to page 81 of the Boston Globe, in the sports section. The Times did not report the fact at all; rather, its editorial the following day asserted that "Colombia's patience has since been strained by evidence -- which Nicaragua disputes -- that the Sandinistas supplied guns to terrorists who staged" the November incident. On January 15, the Times reported that "American officials have linked Nicaragua to the Terrorism in Bogota -- a charge denied by the Nicaraguan Government," and published an opinion column by Elliott Abrams repeating the charges that both Abrams and the editors knew to be without merit. These were repeated in a news column of February 26, again ignoring the fact that Colombia had officially rejected the charges and considered the incident closed. The Washington Post also failed to report Colombia's acceptance of Nicaragua's disclaimer of responsibility.2
On March 18, a Times editorial entitled "The Nicaragua Horror Show" discussed Reagan's "appeal for $100 million to help the `contras' against Nicaragua's leftist tyrants." The editorial was critical of a Reagan speech so replete with falsehoods and unsupported allegations that it elicited some discomfort. The editors urged that "Mr. Reagan should have held to [the] undeniable transgressions" of the Sandinistas; he should have asked how they can be "contained and what can the United States do to promote democracy in Nicaragua," raising it to the standards of Washington's terror states. They present a list of "the hemisphere's real grievances," namely Nicaragua's "totalitarian" domestic policies and complication of "the region's security problems" by building the biggest military airfield in Central America and a deep-water port in the Caribbean, with Soviet-bloc aid, and its support for "guerrilla comrades in El Salvador." The list of "undeniable transgressions" concludes as follows: "more than piety explains why Tomás Borge, the Interior Minister, participated in a mass for the M-19 guerrillas who shot up the Palace of Justice in Bogota, Colombia," sure proof of Sandinista complicity in the terrorist attack.
Others too were impressed by this proof of Sandinista iniquity. William Beecher, diplomatic correspondent of the Boston Globe, highlighted the attendance of Borge at the "memorial service for the M-19 guerrillas" who used "arms allegedly supplied by Nicaragua"; this is the kind of "mistake" that "serious analysts" hope will be caused by "rising military pressure" against Nicaragua, he observed, apparently forgetting that, nine days earlier, his newspaper had reported Colombia's dismissal of the allegation.3
A reader in Arizona, Dr. James Hamilton, was curious to learn the basis for the renewed charge by the Times editors, which he knew had been denied by the Colombian government. He wrote a series of letters to Times editor Max Frankel, and after receiving a dismissive form letter from foreign editor Warren Hoge, to him as well. After many attempts to obtain a response to this simple question, he finally received a letter from Hoge in mid-July. "In answer to your question about Tomás Borge," Hoge wrote, "Mr. Borge attended a mass in Managua celebrated by the Rev. Uriel Molina commemorating the first anniversary of the death of Enrique Schmidt, the Minister of Communications, who had been killed in a battle with the contras. During the service, a member of the congregation shouted for prayers for the M-19 and unfurled their flag."4 Hamilton writes: "Thus, did a memorial service for a former Sandinista cabinet member become, in the hands of an editorial writer, `a mass for the M-19 guerrillas,' permitting the Times to misrepresent Borge and imply an affiliation between the Sandinistas and the M-19, using the behavior of one individual in the church on that day as support for this contention." Some tales are just too useful to abandon.5
The remainder of the "undeniable transgressions" on the Times list fare no better, and are, in fact, of some interest with regard to the hysteria evoked in establishment circles over Nicaragua's unwillingness to follow orders and its unconscionable efforts to survive a U.S. attack.
A more important requirement has been to establish a "symmetry" between the contras and the Salvadoran guerrillas. This "symmetry" was crucial for U.S. government propaganda, hence a media staple. It is readily established by ignoring the scale and character of U.S. aid to the contras and direct involvement in their terror, and by the insistent claim that although rebels in El Salvador deny receiving support from Nicaragua, "ample evidence shows it exists, and it is questionable how long they could survive without it," as James LeMoyne reported after the Central American peace accords were signed in August 1987.6 LeMoyne presented no evidence, then or ever, to support this claim. He has yet to comment on the failure of the U.S. government, which is not entirely lacking in facilities, to provide any credible evidence since early 1981 -- and little enough then -- as was noted by the World Court, which reviewed the public materials produced by the U.S. government to establish its case, dismissing them as lacking substantive basis.7 The claim is a propaganda necessity; therefore it is true.
Times efforts to protect the required fact are illuminating. After LeMoyne's statement appeared, the media monitoring organization FAIR wrote the Times asking it to share LeMoyne's "ample evidence" with its readers. Their letter was not published, but they received a private communication from foreign editor Joseph Lelyveld acknowledging that LeMoyne had been "imprecise."8
After the September 1987 acknowledgement that the charges were "imprecise," the Times had many opportunities to correct the imprecision, and used them -- to repeat the charges that are privately acknowledged to be without merit. Thus, in his contribution to the media barrage organized in December in connection with the Sandinista defector Roger Miranda, LeMoyne announced that in response to Miranda's charges, Defense Minister Ortega "seemed indirectly to confirm the existence of Sandinista assistance to Salvadoran rebels." This is LeMoyne's rendition of Ortega's statement that the Reagan administration had no right to produce such charges given its arming of the contras. What Ortega went on to say, unreported, is that "the Salvadoran guerrillas have some resources and ways to get weapons" and they "are basically armed through their own efforts," not depending "on outside sources; they are self-sufficient." Thus Ortega's denial of Nicaraguan support for Salvadoran guerrillas is neatly converted by LeMoyne and the Times into a "confirmation" of such support.9
LeMoyne's Times colleagues also joined in the fray. Stephen Engelberg wrote that the U.S. government charge "appears to have been confirmed" by Miranda, who "said the Sandinistas were shipping the weapons to El Salvador by sea," that is, via the Gulf of Fonseca.10 The Gulf is thirty kilometers wide, heavily patrolled by U.S. naval vessels and SEAL teams and covered by a radar facility on Tiger Island in the Gulf that is able to locate and track boats not only in that area but far beyond, as discussed in World Court testimony by David MacMichael, the CIA specialist responsible for analyzing the relevant material during the period to which Engelberg refers. Despite these extensive efforts, no evidence could be produced, though Nicaragua, curiously, has no difficulty providing evidence of CIA supplies in the supposedly "symmetrical" situation. It takes a measure of self-control to refrain from ridicule at this point.
After the peace accords were finally dismantled in January 1988, George Volsky wrote that the provision of the accords calling "for all countries to deny the use of their territories to insurgents in neighboring nations...applies mainly to Nicaragua, which is said to be helping rebels in El Salvador, and to Honduras, whose territory is reportedly an important part of the United States-directed contra supply effort."11 Surely a fair summary of the available evidence on the support for irregular and insurrectionist forces outlawed by the accords.
Volsky did not explain why the same provision of the accords is inapplicable to El Salvador, which is also "reportedly" involved in the U.S. support structure for the contras, or to Costa Rica, which "has long been the base for the more liberal faction of the Nicaraguan rebels" and where "the Costa-Rican based contras" continue to operate, as we regularly learn when news reports cite a "contra source in Costa Rica," and as we would learn in greater detail if there were some interest in the facts.12
LeMoyne later warned that if in the future "the Sandinistas [are] found still to be aiding Salvadoran guerrillas," then the peace accords will collapse; he mentioned no similar problem elsewhere. As for Honduras, LeMoyne cautiously observed several months later that its support for the contras "appears to be a direct violation of the accord."13 His colleague, Times military correspondent Bernard Trainor, observed that "To this date, the amount of support provided by the Sandinistas to the Salvadoran guerrillas has never been established conclusively" -- Times jargon to express the fact that no credible evidence has been presented since a trickle of aid flowed for a few months seven years earlier, well after the U.S.-backed security forces had launched a "war of extermination and genocide against a defenseless civilian population" (Bishop Rivera y Damas, the successor of the assassinated Archbishop Romero).14
So required doctrine is established.
No less interesting is the fact that it is taken for granted by hawks and doves alike that it would have been a major crime to provide the defenseless civilian population with means to defend themselves against a war of extermination and genocide -- at least, when the war is conducted by U.S. clients, with U.S. support and, as it reached its climax, direct organization and participation. To have provided victims of Pol Pot with arms to defend themselves, had this been possible, would have been considered a sign of true nobility. It is enlightening that such simple observations as these, and their obvious import, are next to unintelligible.
In late 1988, LeMoyne completed his four-year assignment as New York Times correspondent in El Salvador, and took the occasion to publish a comprehensive analysis of aid to the Salvadoran guerrillas.15 Fifteen months had passed since he had written, shortly after the signing of the peace accords, of the "ample evidence" that Nicaraguan aid to the guerrillas in El Salvador was so extensive that "it is questionable how long they could survive without it." Fourteen months had passed since the foreign editor of the Times had agreed that the "ample evidence" did not exist, and nine months since he had instructed LeMoyne to devote an entire article to the actual evidence, such as it may be (see note 8). The results of this nine-month inquiry merit a careful look.
Gone completely is the "ample evidence" of the aid from Nicaragua on which the Salvadoran guerrillas relied for their very existence. LeMoyne makes no reference to his claims of the past, or to the request that he produce his "ample evidence," or to the contribution his unsubstantiated allegations made to the project of "demonizing the Sandinistas," protecting the murderous U.S. clients, and undercutting the peace accords.
It turns out now that the evidence is "largely circumstantial and is open to differing interpretations." It is not "ample," but is rather "limited evidence," of which nothing credible is provided. Furthermore, this "limited evidence" indicates that shipments "are small and probably sporadic," not the large-scale aid that kept the Salvadoran guerrillas alive according to the version of August 1987 and since -- conclusions that will hardly surprise those who have been studying U.S. government propaganda on the matter during the past years. The "limited evidence" has to do with transshipments from the Soviet bloc, primarily Cuba, he asserts -- again without evidence. Reading on, we find that there seems to be at least as much evidence of direct arms transfers from the contras to the Salvadoran guerrillas, and of Honduran army involvement in transshipment of arms to them. This also comes as no surprise to those who have taken the trouble to read government propaganda instead of simply reporting the press release; thus a State Department background paper of 1984 presented testimony of a Sandinista defector, who provided no credible evidence of Sandinista arms supply but did allege that arms were coming from Mexico and Guatemala16 (it is also likely, but not investigated, that when the U.S. proxies broke for the border in February 1988 after their thrice-daily supply flights were curtailed, they began selling their arms to corrupt Honduran officers, who sell them in turn to Salvadoran guerrillas, a matter to which we return directly). The major Sandinista contribution to the Salvadoran guerrillas, LeMoyne now informs the reader, is a "safe haven" in Nicaragua for offices, logistics, and communications, and the opportunity to travel through Nicaragua to other countries. The same is true of many other countries outside of the United States or its dependencies; and all states of the region, including Costa Rica, have always afforded such support -- indeed far more -- to the U.S. proxy forces attacking Nicaragua.
The careful reader will therefore discover that the whole charade of many years has collapsed. As was always obvious, the tales of "symmetry" hardly merit ridicule. The fraud was successfully maintained as long as support for the contras was an important and viable policy option; then it was necessary to present the U.S. proxy forces as authentic guerrillas, thus to insist upon the "symmetry" between the contras attacking Nicaragua and the indigenous guerrillas in El Salvador, both dependent on outside aid for survival. By late 1988, the contra option was losing its residual appeal, in part because it was no longer needed as a means to achieve the goal of maximizing civilian suffering and discontent in Nicaragua and reducing the country to ruin, in part because it was proving impossible to keep the proxy forces in the field. The tale can therefore be allowed to fade -- without, however, any acknowledgement of what came before. That is to be removed from history, and surely will be.
The rules of the game are that established power sets the terms of debate. The government-media system produces claims about Sandinista aid to the Salvadoran guerrillas and reiterates them insistently, in full knowledge that they are groundless, as long as they are needed for the cause. Occasionally a skeptic is allowed to intrude with the observation that the evidence is meager indeed. The question of Salvadoran aid to the U.S.-run contra forces, however, is off the agenda and is not investigated even though there is no doubt about the use of El Salvador to attack Nicaragua through 1986, and the same sources that told the truth then, but were ignored, allege that the process continues, and are ignored (see p. 92). As long as it was serviceable, the absurd "symmetry" thesis was maintained, and the doctrine of crucial outside sustenance now put aside can be resurrected whenever it may be needed, the basis having been laid in general consciousness despite the quiet retraction.17 Mainstream discussion is closed to the thought that Nicaragua and other governments -- and individuals, were this possible -- should send aid to people trying to defend themselves from the rampaging armies and death squads of a military regime implanted by a foreign power. A closer look at the forbidden question would yield some interesting conclusions about the prevailing moral and intellectual climate, but it would stray so far from the consensus of power that it is unthinkable.
We may note finally that not all defectors enjoy the royal treatment accorded to the Sandinista defector Miranda, critically timed in the final phase of the government-media campaign to demolish the unwanted peace accords. In the use of Miranda, the media barrage began with two long front-page articles in the Washington Post (Dec. 13, 1987) and continued for weeks as the media relayed State Department propaganda based upon his testimony, with its ominous warning that Nicaragua might attempt to defend the national territory from CIA supply flights to the U.S. proxy forces; the allegation that Nicaragua was thumbing its nose at the impotent U.S. Navy by merrily sending arms to El Salvador, undetected, via the Gulf of Fonseca; and the report that the Sandinistas were planning to reduce their regular military forces and provide light arms to citizens for defense against a possible U.S. invasion, a report transmuted by the independent media into a threat to "overwhelm and terrorize" their neighbors.18
Compare, in contrast, the media reaction to the defection of Horacio Arce, Chief of Intelligence of the FDN (the main contra force) from 1985. After receiving asylum in the Mexican Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Arce left for Mexico City in November 1988, then for Managua under the government amnesty program. While in Mexico City, he was interviewed and had a number of interesting things to say.
The contra Chief of Intelligence provided details of support for the contras by the Pentagon in violation of congressional restrictions, including training by U.S. military instructors through 1986 at a U.S. air base in a southern state, a semi-secret base with 17 airstrips, which they reached in Hercules C-130 transports without passing through immigration or customs, of course. The trainers were from Fort Bragg. After the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas war, the contras in Honduras lost their Argentine trainers and advisers, but in the U.S. base where they were being illegally trained (including Arce himself), the instructors included a specialist in psychological warfare from Chile, so the links to the neo-fascist states of the U.S. orbit remained.
Arce was also among those trained at the Ilopango air base near San Salvador by Salvadoran and U.S. instructors. In Honduras, they were trained directly by the Honduran military, who had been providing the essential training and logistics from 1980 and also provided pilots for supply flights into Nicaragua. Honduran immigration authorities also assisted, helping the contras gain access to refugee camps for recruitment, sometimes by force. Miskito recruits were trained separately, by a Japanese officer. Most of the supervisors of training and aid were of Hispanic origin -- Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, South Americans, and some Spaniards. The arms were mainly from Israel, as "everyone knows," much of it captured in the 1982 Lebanon war. "Cubans in the CIA are all over the place," also deeply involved in the extensive corruption. Part of the contra financing came from drug trafficking.
The United States is a global power and is thus capable of constructing elaborate systems of terror and corruption, making use of its client and mercenary states and longstanding relations with international terrorism and criminal syndicates.
U.S. Embassy officials in Tegucigalpa, Arce continues, provided the contras with intelligence information and other aid. His contacts at the U.S. Embassy included "Robert McHorn of the CIA or Alexander Zunnerman who ostensibly is with AID but is CIA also." Arce was also in direct contact with the Tegucigalpa AID warehouse on the premises of the Electropura company. AID has admittedly served as a front for CIA terrorist operations in the past, particularly in Laos during the "clandestine war."
Arce himself had fled Nicaragua with his father, a major in Somoza's National Guard, on the day of the Sandinista victory, July 19, 1979. In 1980, he was recruited for the contras, adopting the nom de guerre "Mercenario" ("mercenary"). By January 1981, the operation had become "something serious and something big." He went on to reach the rank of comandante, becoming intelligence chief after the former chief, Ricardo Lau, was dismissed (and possibly murdered by the contras, Arce believes). Lau had become an embarrassment in early 1985 when former Salvadoran intelligence chief Roberto Santivañez implicated him in arranging the assassination of Archbishop Romero and in having played a "key role" in organizing and training death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala, as well as in political killings in Honduras. He was "a thief among thieves," Arce reports.
Not all the contras "are rented," El Mercenario continues; some have loyalties to their chiefs. They are, however, well paid by regional standards. Without a family, Arce's salary was about $500 a month.
The Honduran armed forces "participate in every operation that takes place close to the border," while also providing intelligence "on military and non-military targets in Nicaragua." The latter service is particularly important, Arce continues, because "We attack a lot of schools, health centers, and those sort of things. We have tried to make it so that the Nicaraguan government cannot provide social services for the peasants, cannot develop its project...that's the idea." Evidently, their U.S. training was successful in getting the basic idea across.
Arce also discussed the vast corruption in the contra organization from commander Enrique Bermúdez on down, and their sales of U.S. arms and supplies, "much of it...probably ending up in the hands of the guerrillas of El Salvador." In cooperation with Honduran officers, who take a cut for themselves, contras are selling assault rifles and radiocommunications equipment to the FMLN in El Salvador -- who therefore may be receiving aid from Nicaraguans after all, James LeMoyne and the Times will be happy to hear.19
Arce had far more of significance to report than Miranda, and had a more important role within the contra organization than Miranda did in Nicaragua. Furthermore, as we have seen, the contras were favored with enormous publicity, generally receiving more than the government. But in this case, there was no way to deform the testimony into a weapon for the campaign of "demonizing the Sandinistas" and mobilizing support for the terror states; on the contrary, the message was all wrong. Editors made their choices accordingly.
As discussed earlier, a doctrine commonly held is that "we tend to flagellate ourselves as Americans about various aspects of our own policies and actions we disapprove of." The reality is rather different.
The prevailing pattern is one of indignant outrage over enemy crimes with much self-congratulatory appeal to high principle, combined with a remarkable ability "not to see" in the case of crimes for which we bear responsibility. In the West, there is an ample literature -- much of it fraudulent -- scornfully denouncing apologists or alleged apologists for the Soviet Union and Third World victims of U.S. intervention, but little about the behavior that is the norm: silence and apologetics about the crimes of one's own state and its clients, when a willingness simply to face the facts might make a substantial difference in limiting or terminating these abuses. This is standard procedure elsewhere as well. In the Soviet sphere, dissidents are condemned as apologists for Western crimes that are bitterly denounced by right-thinking commissars, exactly the pattern mimicked here.
A number of examples have been mentioned, and many have been discussed elsewhere. For evaluating U.S. political culture and the media, the cases to which a serious analyst will immediately turn, apart from the crimes of the United States itself, are those of its major clients; in recent years, El Salvador and Israel. The latter case has been a particularly illuminating one ever since Israel's display of power in 1967 elicited the adulation and awe that has persisted among American intellectuals. The apologetic literature is often little more than a parody of the Stalinist period.21
The elaborate campaigns of defamation launched against those who do not satisfy the requirements of the faithful also strike a familiar chord. The effect, as elsewhere, has been to intimidate critics and to facilitate the exercise of violence; and also to erect barriers in the way of a political settlement that has long been feasible.22
Israel can be secure that as long as it is perceived as a "strategic asset," it will remain "the symbol of human decency," as the New York Times described it while Israeli atrocities in the occupied territories reached such a level that the media briefly took serious notice. Israel can rely upon the American labor movement bureaucracy to justify whatever it does, to explain that although "in their effort to maintain order, Israeli Defense Forces have on occasion resorted to unnecessary force,...no doubt such incidents can be attributed to the inexperience of the Israeli army in riot control and other police functions, and to the frustrations of Israeli soldiers as they confront young Palestinians hurling stones and petrol bombs."23 To fully appreciate this statement and what it means, one must bear in mind that it followed one of the rare periods when the media actually gave some picture of atrocities of the kind that had been taking place for many years in the occupied territories, at a lesser but still scandalous level. John Kifner's reports in the New York Times were particularly good examples of professional journalism, consistent with his outstanding record over many years.
Apologetics of the AFL-CIO variety have served for twenty years to authorize harsh repression and endless humiliation, finally reaching the level of regular pogroms in which soldiers break into houses, smash furniture, break bones, and beat teenagers to death after dragging them from their homes; settler violence conducted with virtual impunity; and collective punishments, deportation, and systematic terror on orders of the Defense Ministry. As fashions change, leading figures in the campaign to protect state violence from scrutiny will doubtless create for themselves a different past, but the record is there for those who choose to see.
There has always been an Elie Wiesel to assure the reader that there are only some "regrettable exceptions -- immediately corrected by Israeli authorities," while he fulminates about the real crime: the condemnation of Israeli atrocities by public opinion. He tells us of the "dreamlike eyes" of the Israeli soldiers, perhaps those who had been described a few weeks earlier by reservists returning from service in the territories. They reported the "acts of humiliation and violence against Palestinian inhabitants that have become the norm, that almost no one seeks to prevent," including "shameful acts" that they personally witnessed, while the military authorities look the other way.24 Or perhaps Wiesel has in mind the soldiers who caught a ten-year-old boy, and, when he did not respond to their demand that he identify children who had thrown stones, proceeded "to mash his head in," leaving him "looking like a steak," as soldiers put it, also beating the boy's mother when she tried to protect him, only then discovering that the child was deaf, dumb, and mentally retarded. It "didn't bother" the soldiers, one participant in the beating said, and the platoon commander ordered them on to the next chore because "we don't have time for games." Or perhaps Wiesel's point is that "a picture of an Israeli soldier kicking an old Arab woman is no longer news," as the Hebrew press bitterly comments, speaking of those who accept atrocities as readily as the author of Against Silence, whose words could actually mitigate suffering and abuse if he were not committed to silence as the proper course.25 The fact that such consistent behavior over many years is treated with respect, even regarded as saintly, speaks volumes about Western culture.
Given these dispensations, Israel is free to use its phenomenal U.S. aid to send its military forces to conduct the regular operations described in the Israeli press (but rarely here) at the time when Wiesel's thoughts on "regrettable exceptions" appeared: To bar supplies from refugee camps where there is "a serious lack of food." To beat young prisoners so severely that a military doctor in the Ansar 2 detention camp refuses to admit them, one lying "battered and motionless for an hour and a half, surrounded by soldiers, without receiving any medical treatment," then "dumped" from a jeep on the way to the hospital and "brutally beaten" again "in front of dozens of soldiers" (one was allegedly censured). To break into a home and drag out a seven-year-old boy who had been hiding under his bed, then "beat him up savagely in front of his parents and the family," then to beat his father and brother too because they did not reveal the hiding place of the child, while the other children scream hysterically and "the mother cannot calm them because she is told not to move"; and to mercilessly beat children of age five and up, sometimes three or four soldiers with sticks "until his hands and legs are broken," or to spray gas directly into their eyes; these are among the horror stories that soldiers report from the miserable Jabaliya refugee camp, where the army has "succeeded in breaking them" so that "they are totally crushed, weak and tired." To rake a boy twelve to fifteen years old over barbed wire "in order to injure him" as prisoners arrive at the Dahariya prison, with no reaction by the officer observing, after vicious beatings of prisoners en route with clubs, plastic pipes, and handcuffs while their commanding officer looked on ("Israeli buses have become torture chambers," Knesset member Dedi Zucker reports, citing these and other atrocities). To rampage freely through Jericho, breaking into houses, brutally beating and humiliating residents. To "run amok" through the Amari refugee camp, "knocking down doors, breaking into houses, smashing furniture, and beating residents, including children," then beating an ambulance driver who arrived on the scene after dragging him by his hair -- an elite paratroop unit in this case, marauding with no provocation according to witnesses. To jail a prisoner "in perfect health," leaving him "paralysed and dumb," "apparently the result of severe beatings and torture...he suffered while in detention" at the Jenin interrogation center. To acquit a young Arab imprisoned for setting fire to the car of a suspected police informant when it is discovered that someone else was responsible and that his confession was extracted by torture, but without any reference by the district attorney or the court to the false "confession extracted through severe beating," or what that implies. And on, and on.26
There are other variants. The commander of an elite unit, Willy Shlap, described his first week in the El Burj refugee camp near Jabaliya. An eleven-year-old boy was found throwing a stone and taken to his house, where his father was ordered to beat him. The father slapped him but the officer screamed "Is this a beating? Beat him! Beat him!" The tension mounted and the father "became hysterical," starting to beat the child brutally, knocking him on the floor and kicking him in the ribs as hard as he could. The soldiers were apparently satisfied. When atrocities became even more severe in the summer of 1988, as Wiesel published his reflections, the Jerusalem Post reported that, according to UNRWA relief workers and doctors at clinics, the victims of the sharp increase in brutal beatings were mostly "men [sic] aged 15 to 30," but the clinics had "also treated 24 boys and five girls aged five and younger" in the past weeks, as well as many older children, such as a seven-year-old boy brought to a clinic "with a bleeding kidney, and bearing club marks." Soldiers routinely beat, kick, and club children, according to doctors and relief officials.27
In a case that actually went to trial, and therefore received considerable attention (in Israel, that is), four soldiers of an elite unit of the Givati Brigade were arrested and charged with beating an inhabitant of the Jabaliya camp to death on August 22. The case was first reported in Ha'aretz a month later. After children had thrown stones, twenty soldiers broke into a home and began to beat the father of one of the suspected stonethrowers, Hani al-Shami. He was kicked and beaten with clubs and weapons. Soldiers jumped on him from the bed while he was lying on the floor, his head bleeding from blows with clubs. His wife was also beaten up by soldiers. An officer arrived, found the severely wounded man bleeding heavily, and ordered him taken to the Military Administration offices, not to a hospital; that is routine procedure. Later, the family was informed that al-Shami was dead. Two soldiers from the same unit said "it is true that we beat them up and very strongly too, but it is better to break bones than to shoot people," echoing the Minister of Defense. "We have lost our human image," they said.28
After the arrests were announced, other atrocities of the Brigade became public: for example, the story of a journalist from the El Bureij refugee camp, hospitalized after soldiers broke into his home, forced him to kneel on hands and knees and bray like a donkey while they beat him on the testicles, stomach, and back with clubs and electric wires for half an hour and smashed his glasses, shouting "now you will be a blind donkey." Soldiers described Givati as "a brigade without law," blaming the commander and the "right-wing orientation," with many units from the Hesder Yeshivot, military-religious training schools known for their ultra-right fanaticism.29
The courts released the four soldiers charged with the murder while the trial proceeded, as briefly noted without comment in the Jerusalem Post. The Hebrew press told the story that had been omitted from the version offered to the foreign reading public. A soldier testified at the trial that "the humiliation and the beatings were because of the need to pass the time." Another added that al-Shami's protruding belly particularly amused the soldiers and was "a target for the beatings." An officer testified that he had threatened to kill al-Shami because "his groans disturbed me"; "I shouted at him that he should shut up, or I will kill him." He testified further that in the military compound to which al-Shami had been brought after the beatings, he had asked a doctor to treat al-Shami, but the doctor had refused, only giving an order to wipe the blood from his face. On that day, the witness continued, many Arabs arrived at the command post with their hands tied and eyes covered, and were brutally beaten by officers and soldiers. Asked why he had not cared for al-Shami, the witness replied that "the wounded Arab did not interest me, because they are Arabs and want to kill us." Soldiers testified that "the moment you catch a rioter you beat him...even if he doesn't resist. It is to deter him." Troops are ordered "to break their legs so they won't be able to walk and break their hands so they won't throw stones." A company commander reported "unequivocal orders to beat any suspect" so as "to put him out of action for a month or two"; it is "necessary," he testified, because jailing suspects is "like taking them to a PLO training seminar." Beatings inside houses are "a daily matter" in Gaza.
The military court accepted the defense plea, ruling that "there is a basis to the claim that the deceased was beaten up in the military stronghold by soldiers whom to our sorrow the investigation did not succeed in identifying." Furthermore, the fact that the soldiers were detained for eighty-three days brings "a correct balance between the needs of the army and the nature of their innocence and the nature of justice." We are dealing with soldiers who "did their military duty and not with criminals," the court ruled. "Nobody had denied that they had brutally beaten an unarmed Arab inside his own home, that they had broken a club or two over his head in front of his children or jumped on him in their boots," Ziva Yariv commented; but there is no legal liability because these beatings might not have been the actual cause of death, "as if there were no law banning the brutal beating of civilians, or the breaking of a club over the body of an innocent man, as if there were no law against vicious attacks or grievous bodily harm."30
The military correspondent of Ha'aretz observed that there had been a decline in the number of "exceptions" brought to trial, the reason being that "exceptions have become the norm." The Givati soldiers, like the members of an elite paratrooper unit tried for rampaging in the Kalandia refugee camp, "did not understand what the fuss is about." They had behaved no differently from soldiers in other units and had been following orders, doing exactly what is expected of them. Brutal beating of prisoners or Arab civilians in their homes or on the streets is simply part of daily life, so they were unjustly tried. Evidently, the Court agreed. The Hebrew word "harig," literally "exception," by now seems to be used to mean little other than "atrocity."31
Atrocities are regarded as quite routine by the authorities. Dr. Marcus Levin, who was called for military service in the reserves at the Ansar 2 detention camp Medical Center, reports that he was assigned to check the prisoners "before and after interrogation." Asking why they had to be checked "after interrogation," Levin was informed by the doctors in charge that "It is nothing special, sometimes there are some broken limbs. For example, yesterday they brought in a twelve-year-old boy with two broken legs" -- after interrogation. Levin, a sixteen-year army veteran, then went to the commander to tell him that "my name is Marcus Levin and not Joseph Mengele and for reasons of conscience I refuse to serve in a place that reminds me of South American dictatorships." Most, however, find their conscience untroubled, or look the other way. One doctor informed him that "in the beginning you feel like Mengele, but a few days later you become accustomed."32
The Israeli writer Dan Almagor recalled a TV film he had seen in England on the thirtieth anniversary of the outbreak of the second World War, in which several German officers who had been released from prison after serving their sentences as war criminals were asked why they had taken such care in filming the atrocities in which they participated. "We didn't film many of them for history," one officer said, but "so that there would be something to play for the children when we went home on weekends. It was very amusing for the children," who were deprived of Mickey Mouse films because of the war. Almagor was reminded of this film when he read the testimony of the Givati soldiers who described the amusement they felt over the "attractive" protruding stomach of Hani al-Shami, which provided such a fine "target for beatings." Almagor went on to describe a visit to the West Bank with a brigade educational officer, a Major, who described with pride how he beats people with a club and joined a group of other officers and enlisted men and women who were convulsed with laughter over stories told by one man from the religious ultra-right with a knitted skull cap about how he had bulldozed homes designated by the secret police, including one that was not marked but was between two that were, and had destroyed a store that was in his way when he wanted to turn the bulldozer. Almagor's bitter words brought back memories to me too, among them, an unforgettable incident forty years ago, when a horrifying Japanese documentary of the Hiroshima bombing was being shown, to much amusement, in the "combat zone" in downtown Boston, as a pornographic film. And a story in the New York Times in March 1968, right after the Tet offensive, describing with some annoyance how demonstrators had disrupted an exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science where children could "enter a helicopter for simulated firing of a machine gun at targets in a diorama of the Vietnam Central Highlands," including a peasant hut, which particularly disturbed the obnoxious peaceniks.33
"It is already impossible, it seems, to relate these stories, to ask for an explanation, to seek those responsible. Every other day there is a new story." These are the despairing words of Zvi Gilat, who has been recording the atrocities in the territories with care and dedication as the armed forces resort to ever more savage measures to suppress the Palestinian uprising. He is describing the village of Beita, which gained its notoriety because a Jewish girl was killed there in early April 1988. She was killed by a crazed Israeli guard accompanying hikers, after he had killed two villagers. The sister of one of the murdered men, three-months pregnant, was jailed for throwing a rock at the killer of her brother and kept in prison until days before her child was due to be born; the Israeli guard who had killed three people was not charged because, army spokesman Col. Raanan Gissen said, "I believe the tragic incident and its result are already a penalty." Other Beita residents have remained in prison for eight months, with no sentence, and only one family member permitted to attend the sessions of the military court. The sentencing of four villagers to three years imprisonment for allegedly throwing stones before the Jewish girl was killed by her guard merited a few words in paragraph eleven of an AP report in the Times; ten days earlier, the Times reported the sentencing of a Jewish settler to 2 1/2 years, the minimum sentence under law, for killing an Arab shepherd he found grazing sheep on land near his settlement. Beita residents were expelled from the country, houses were demolished including many not specifically marked for destruction, property was destroyed, the village was not permitted to export olive oil, its main source of income, to Europe; Israel refuses to purchase it. Two weeks before Gilat visited the village once again, a 12-year-old boy was shot in the back of his head at close range by Israeli soldiers, killed while fleeing from soldiers whom he saw when leaving his house, left to bleed on the ground for at least five hours according to witnesses. But though he has "no more strength, no more will," Gilat goes on with more and more tales of horror, cruelty, and humiliation, while senses become dulled even among those who read them, including very few of those who pay the bills.34
I cite only a tiny sample of the "regrettable exceptions" that are "no doubt" attributable to "inexperience" and "frustration," atrocities that mounted through mid-1988 as the U.S. media reduced their coverage under a barrage of criticism for their unfair treatment of defenseless Israel, if not their latent anti-Semitism. Meanwhile there were interspersed with quiet laments over Israel's tribulations, and occasional excesses, by some of those who helped create the basis for what they now fear. The atrocities go on, while the press looks the other way and those who might help mitigate them observe their vow of silence, assure us that nothing serious is happening, or warn of the problems Israel will face unless it takes some steps to recognize the human rights of Palestinians, not heretofore a matter of concern.
The horror stories in the Israeli (mainly Hebrew) press barely skim the surface. An official of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, returning from reserve service, reported that "the overwhelming majority of the severe and violent events in the territories do not reach the public at all." He estimated that about one in ten events reached the public during the escalation of violence that was becoming "a real war" -- one largely kept from the eyes of the American taxpayer who funds it, a further contribution to state terror.35
Also largely kept from those who pay the bill are the current proposals that the solution may after all lie in simply "transferring" the recalcitrant population of the occupied territories, a venerable idea now again entering center stage, with opponents often objecting, in mainstream commentary and debate, on grounds that it is unfeasible. By mid-1988, some 40 percent of Israeli Jews favored expulsion of the Arab population, while 45 percent regarded Israel as too democratic and 55 percent opposed granting equal rights to Israeli Arab citizens (contrary to much propaganda, deprivation of equal rights, such as access to most of the country's land, has always been severe). Much Zionist literature has long regarded the Palestinians as temporary visitors in the Land of Israel, perhaps recent immigrants drawn by Jewish rebuilding efforts; this has been a popular tale among American intellectuals as well. The rising ultra-orthodox religious groups, with a strong base in the United States, are hardly likely to object to the removal of people who are inferior to Jews in their essential nature; thus, in the words of the revered Rav Kook, Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi from 1921 to 1935, "the difference between the Israelite soul...and the soul of all non-Jews, at any level, is greater and deeper than the difference between the soul of a human and the soul of an animal, for between the latter [two categories] there is only a quantitative difference but between the former two there is a qualitative one."36
Those who believe that even the transfer solution would not find acceptance in some North American quarters are seriously in error. Respected figures of the social democratic left in the U.S. have long ago explained that the indigenous inhabitants of the former Palestine are "marginal to the nation" so that their problems might be "smoothed" by "helping people to leave who have to leave." Not a whisper was heard, Alexander Cockburn noted, when the Republican Party platform of 1988 "went so far as demurely to encourage the notion of transfer" with the words: "More jobs and more opportunities in adjoining countries might draw the energies of more young people into building a world for themselves rather than destroying someone else's"37 -- by struggling for their rights against a harsh military regime endorsed and funded by the United States.
In preparation for the Reagan-Gorbachev meetings at the Washington summit of December 1987, the news was carefully shaped to ensure that only proper thoughts would reach the public. Excluded were the overwhelming votes at the United Nations opposing the escalated arms race advocated by the United States in virtual isolation, definitely not a useful message at the moment when all attention was to be focused on Reagan's achievements in bringing about world peace. It was not only world opinion that had to be scrupulously censored from the independent media. The domestic peace movement is no less unworthy. In a summary of media coverage, the monitoring organization FAIR observed that "only rightwing critics of the INF Treaty were considered newsworthy." A sharp critique of the Reagan administration for reckless nuclear deployment by Republican Senator Mark Hatfield was "blacked out of the national media," as was SANE/Freeze, America's largest peace group. Its press conference on the peace movement's role in laying the basis for the INF agreement was ignored, but another the same day called by the Anti-Appeasement Alliance, where Reagan was denounced as a "Kremlin idiot," "became a big news story." Secretary of State George Shultz's denunciation of the peace movement and his call for them "to admit that they were wrong" was reported, but, SANE/Freeze peace secretary Brigid Shea comments, "We aren't even given one inch to tell our side of the story." Soviet charges about U.S. attempts to undermine the ABM treaty in its pursuit of Star Wars were dismissed as "doctrinaire" and "hostile" in TV news reports, which offered a "summit wrap-up" featuring Richard Perle, criticizing the INF Treaty from the hard right, and the hawkish Democrat Sam Nunn playing dove (Tom Brokaw, NBC). As usual, there is a debate, but within proper limits.39
The official agenda for the summit included Reagan's role as a peacemaker and his passion for human rights. The task for the media, then, was to emphasize these two notable features of the president's achievements. Proper filtering enabled the first requirement to be satisfied. The second was met with no less aplomb. As Gorbachev stepped onto American soil at the Washington airport before the TV cameras, CBS anchorman Dan Rather commented that Gorbachev will focus on arms reduction, but "Reagan will press the Soviet Union on broader issues such as human rights, Afghanistan, and Nicaragua."40 Few were so gauche as to raise questions about Reagan's stellar human rights record (in Central America, for example), though not everyone went as far as Dan Rather, often denounced for his "ultraliberalism," in interpreting what has happened to Nicaragua as a Soviet transgression.41
In a front-page news story in the New York Times, Philip Taubman observed from Moscow that despite his promise, Gorbachev still has a good deal to learn. He continues to "articulate the orthodox Soviet view of life in the United States: A ruling class, dominated by a military-industrial complex, controls the Government and exploits the vast majority of Americans, creating a society of economic inequity and injustice." This "ideologically slanted" view is inconsistent with the "more sophisticated outlook of Soviet analysts and senior colleagues who are familiar with the United States," and therefore understand how remote this conception is from reality. The same issue of the Times includes an article by Adam Walinsky entitled "What It's Like to Be in Hell," describing the reality of life in the Chicago slums in this society free from economic inequity, injustice, and exploitation.42
The Moscow summit in June 1988 received similar treatment. With rare exceptions, commentary ranged from admiration of Reagan's courageous defense of human rights (in the Soviet Union) to criticism of his weakness for caving in to the Russians and his curious conversion to Leninism. Reagan's meeting with Soviet dissidents was featured; he is a man who "believes very firmly in a few simple principles, and his missionary work for human rights and the American way taps into his most basic values," the New York Times reported. In his "finest oratorical hour," the editors added, his speech to Moscow students "extended the President's persistent, laudable expressions of concern for human rights," a concern revealed, perhaps, by his fervent admiration for the genocidal killers in the Guatemalan military command and his organization of state terror in El Salvador, not to speak of his gentle treatment of the poor at home.43
A press conference at the Church Center near the United Nations called by a Human Rights Coalition fared differently. The national media ignored the plea for attention to human rights violations in the United States and countries dependent on U.S. aid, presented by the legal director of the ACLU, representatives of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the American Indian Movement, prison rights groups, and others.44
Some elements of the foreign press were more reluctant to adopt Washington's agenda. The Toronto Globe and Mail editors observed that just as Reagan "felt it necessary to lecture the Soviet Union on human rights" at the summit, the New York Times published some of the "shocking revelations" on the torturers whom the U.S. arms and advises in Honduras and the CIA's preference for inhuman methods that leave no visible trace, though the Times story refrained from citing the BBC report six months earlier that U.S. personnel were present at the meeting where the U.S.-trained death squad Battalion 316 ordered that an American priest, Father James Carney, be killed by throwing him from a helicopter.45 The U.S. role in Honduras and its "quiet go-ahead" for the "dirty war" in Argentina are "not a proud record of respect for human dignity and freedom," the Globe and Mail editors observed, selecting some of the lesser examples that illustrate the point.
Note that the New York Times was quite capable of publishing this account while -- unlike its Canadian counterpart -- it perceived no conflict here with Reagan's "laudable expressions of concern for human rights," in the Soviet bloc.
The New Statesman in London added that "any claim which the American President makes to moral superiority must be accounted the most macabre of hypocrisies," noting the support of this "tribune of human rights" for state terrorists in El Salvador and Guatemala and for the "bloody terrorist campaign" against defenseless civilians in Nicaragua. The editors also commented on the "obvious irony" of Reagan's presentation to Gorbachev of a video-cassette of the film Friendly Persuasion, the only film in Hollywood history to be released with no screenplay credit because the scriptwriter was blacklisted in the days when Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild- Allied Artists, kicking "subversives" out of the union during the McCarthy witchhunt and later assuring us that "there was no such thing as a Hollywood blacklist." "The western media played Reagan's themes [in Moscow] for all they were worth," the editors observe; "the western media know their place." They are right with regard to the United States, where one would have to search far to find a similar discordant note.46
The U.N. votes at the time of the December 1987 Washington summit, and the treatment of them noted in the text, illustrate a more general pattern. In recent years, the United States has been far in the lead in vetoing Security Council resolutions. From 1967 through 1981, the United States vetoed seven resolutions condemning Israeli practices in southern Lebanon, affirming Palestinian rights, and deploring Israel's changing of the status of Jerusalem and its establishment of settlements in the occupied territories. Each time, the United States was alone in opposition. There were thirteen additional vetoes by the Reagan administration on similar issues, the U.S. standing alone.48 The United States has also been alone or in a small minority in opposing or vetoing U.N. resolutions on South Africa, arms issues, and other matters.
These votes are often not reported or only marginally noted. The occasional reports are commonly of the kind one might find in a state-controlled press, as examples already cited illustrate. To mention another, in November 1988 the General Assembly voted 130 to 2 (the United States and Israel) for a resolution that "condemns" Israel for "killing and wounding defenseless Palestinians" in the suppression of the Palestinian uprising and "strongly deplores" its disregard for earlier Security Council resolutions condemning its actions in the occupied territories. This was reported in the New York Times. The first three paragraphs stated the basic facts. The rest of the article (ten paragraphs) was devoted to the U.S. and Israeli positions, to the abstainers, and to the "relatively poor showing" of the Arab states on earlier resolutions. From supporters of the resolution, all we hear is reservations of those who found it "unbalanced."49
The isolation of the United States has aroused some concern. In 1984, the New York Times Magazine devoted a major story to the topic by its U.N. correspondent Richard Bernstein.50 He observes that "there are many voices" asking "in tones of skepticism and anguish" whether there is any value to the United Nations at all. "There is a growing sense," he continues, "that the United Nations has become repetitive, rhetorical, extremist and antidemocratic, a place where the United States is attacked with apparent impunity even by countries with which it maintains cordial bilateral relations." "There can be little doubt that, over the years, the United Nations has come to be dominated by what might be called a third-world ideology" -- that is, by the views of the majority of its members -- and that its attacks on the United States are "excessive and one-sided."
This judgment holds despite the annual U.N. condemnations of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the regular U.N. reports on its human rights violations there, and the Security Council vote condemning the Soviet downing of KAL 007 over Soviet territory. The downing by the U.S. Navy of an Iranian civilian plane over Iranian territorial waters with 290 lives lost elicited no such reaction, and the U.S. attack against South Vietnam, later all of Indochina, was neither condemned nor subjected to inquiry; in fact, Shirley Hazzard observes, "throughout these years, the war in Vietnam was never discussed in the United Nations."51
Continuing his review of the decline of the United Nations, Bernstein observes that both the Security Council and the General Assembly condemned the U.S. invasion of Grenada, including most NATO countries and other U.S. allies. Even the efforts of U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, "perhaps the most dazzling intellect at the world body" (a comment that must have elicited a few chuckles there), have been unavailing in stemming the tide of "prefabricated jargon about racism, colonialism and fascism" and "ritualistic" attacks on the United States in place of the "reasoned debate" in the good old days when there was "an automatic majority" to support the U.S. positions. "The question," Bernstein concludes,
is not why American policy has diverged from that of other member states, but why the world's most powerful democracy has failed to win support for its views among the participants in United Nations debates. The answer seems to lie in two underlying factors. The first and dominant one is the very structure and political culture that have evolved at the world body, tending in the process to isolate the United States and to portray it as a kind of ideological villain. The other factor is American failure to play the game of multilateral diplomacy with sufficient skill.
The question, in short, is why the world is out of step, and the answer plainly does not lie in the policies of the United States, which are praiseworthy as a matter of definition, so that argument to establish the point would be superfluous.
A different view was expressed by Senator William Fulbright in 1972, when he had become quite disaffected with U.S. policies: "Having controlled the United Nations for many years as tightly and as easily as a big-city boss controls his party machine," Fulbright remarked, "we had got used to the idea that the United Nations was a place where we could work our will." In his History of the United Nations, Evan Luard observes that:
No doubt, if they had been in a majority, the communist states would have behaved in much the same way. The conduct of the West...was none the less an abuse of power. And it was an abuse that those same [Western] members were to regret more than most when the balance of power changed again and a different majority assumed control of the organization,
leading to "rage, but not, as yet, regret," as Shirley Hazzard comments, reviewing Luard's study.52
Hazzard goes on to describe how, with the complicity of Secretary General Trygvie Lie, the United States undermined the creation of an "independent international civil service" at the U.N. that "would impartially provide exposure and propose correctives to maintain the precepts to which governments nominally subscribed at San Francisco" when the U.N. was founded. She is referring to the U.S. insistence that the FBI be permitted to conduct a "witchhunt" to control selection of staff, opening "the floodgates...to political appointments" and hopelessly compromising the organization.
In her own study of "the Self-Destruction of the United Nations," Hazzard describes the witchhunt in detail, revealing how "the majority of the `international' United Nations Secretariat work force" was made subject to FBI screening and approval in a secret agreement with the State Department for which the only apparent partial precedent was an edict of Mussolini's concerning the League of Nations Secretariat. This secret agreement was "a landmark in United Nations affairs and the ascertainable point at which the international Secretariat delivered itself conclusively, in its earliest years, into the hands of national interest...in direct violation of the United Nations Charter." She observes that had a similar compact been discovered with the Soviet Union, "the international outcry would have been such as, in all probability, to bring down the United Nations itself"; in this case, exposure passed in silence, in accordance with the usual conventions. The U.N. submitted in fear of losing U.S. appropriations. "The United States concept of the `international'," Hazzard concludes, "was -- as it continues to be -- at best a sort of benign unilateralism through which American policies would work uncontested for everybody's benefit."53
This judgment explains the attitude of articulate U.S. opinion and the media towards the U.N. over the years. When the U.N. was a docile instrument of the United States, there was much indignation over Soviet negativism while distinguished social scientists reflected upon its sources in Russian culture and child-rearing practices. As the organization fell under "the tyranny of the majority" -- otherwise called "democracy" -- attitudes shifted to the current "skepticism and anguish," with equally profound musings on the cultural failings of the benighted majority.
The same attitudes are expressed towards other international organizations. When Latin American delegates, at a meeting of the Organization of American States, refused to bend to the U.S. will over the ham-handed efforts of the Reaganites to unseat General Noriega in Panama after he had outlived his usefulness, Times correspondent Elaine Sciolino observed sadly that "over the years, the O.A.S. has lost much of its authority as the conscience of Latin America" (Feb. 29, 1988) -- in translation, it no longer follows U.S. orders.
Throughout, it is presupposed, beyond question, that what the United States does and stands for is right and good; if others fail to recognize this moral rectitude, plainly they are at fault. The naiveté is not without a certain childlike appeal -- which quickly fades, however, when we recognize how it is converted into an instrument for inflicting suffering and pain.
As the world's richest and most powerful state, the United States continues to wield the lash. The Times reports that the O.A.S. "is likely to suspend its aid program for the rest of the year because of the worst financial crisis in its history." Half of the $20 million shortfall for 1988 results from a cut in the U.S. contribution; two-thirds of the $46 million in outstanding dues is owed by the United States, as of November 1988. "It's so serious that the essence of the organization is in danger," the Secretary General stated. O.A.S. officials warn that the fiscal crisis will cause curtailment of all development programs, adding that "the dispute grows out of sharply conflicting visions of the organization's role in the hemisphere," with the United States opposed to development programs that are favored by their beneficiaries. The drug program too "will be inoperative by the end of the year," the head of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission of the O.A.S. reported, while the Reagan administration lambasted the Latin American countries for their failure to control the flow of drugs to the United States. The U.S. cuts came against the background of criticism of the O.A.S. by administration officials and some members of Congress "for declining to take a more aggressive role against Nicaragua" and General Noriega.54 A congressman explains that "we were not satisfied that we were getting a dollar's worth of performance for the American taxpayer." Reagan administration bully-boy tactics actually succeeded in creating hemisphere-wide support for the much-despised Noriega, in annoyance over blatant U.S. interventionism after the sudden turn against him.
The United Nations is facing the same problems now that it no longer has the wit to function as an organ of U.S. power. The United States is by far the largest debtor, owing $412 million as of September 1987; the next largest debtor was Brazil, owing $16 million. The Soviet Union had by then announced that it would pay all of its outstanding debts. In earlier years, when the U.S.S.R. was the culprit, the United States had backed a request to the World Court for a ruling on debt payment and had endorsed the Court ruling that all members must pay their debts. But now the grounds have shifted, and debt payment is no longer a solemn obligation. Unreported is the fact that according to the U.S. mission at the United Nations, the U.N. operation "funnels $400 million to $700 million per year into the U.S. and New York economies."55
The institutions of world order do not fare well in the media in other cases as well, when they serve unwanted ends. Efforts to resolve border tensions provide one striking illustration. These are rarely reported when the agent is an enemy state, particularly a victim of U.S. attack. Nicaraguan proposals for border monitoring are a case in point. To cite one additional example, in March 1988, during the Nicaraguan strike against the contras that apparently spilled a few kilometers into contra-held areas of Honduras, there was much indignant commentary about Sandinista aggression and their threat to peaceful Honduras. Nicaragua requested that a U.N. observer force monitor the Nicaragua-Honduras border -- which would have put to rest these fears, had they been serious in the first place. Honduras rejected Nicaragua's call for U.N. observers, the U.N. spokesman told reporters. Nicaragua also asked the International Court of Justice to inquire into alleged Honduran armed incursions. There appears to have been no mention of these facts in the New York Times, which preferred to report that three months earlier Honduran Foreign Minister Carlos López Contreras had proposed monitoring of the border.56
Given the policies it advocates in the Third World, the United States often finds itself politically weak though militarily strong, as commonly conceded on all sides in internal documents. The result is regular opposition to diplomacy and political settlement. Since the facts do not conform to the required image, considerable talent in historical engineering is required.58 The problem has been a persistent one during the Central American conflicts of recent years.
The United States systematically blocked all efforts to use peaceful means to resolve what Times correspondent Shirley Christian calls "our Nicaraguan agony," describing our suffering in the course of our "basically idealistic efforts to deal with the situation," in which, "on balance, we may have had the best intentions of all the players."59 The United States succeeded in blocking the Contadora initiatives, eliminating any recourse to the World Court and United Nations as required by international law and the supreme law of the land, and evading repeated Nicaraguan efforts to satisfy legitimate interests of the Central American countries -- even the alleged U.S. security concerns, ludicrous as they are. The U.S. attempted to block the Arias proposals in 1987, succeeding through July with the cooperation of Salvadoran president Duarte. (See
The Reagan-Wright proposals of August 5 were a final effort to sabotage any meaningful agreement that might result from the planned meeting of Central American presidents the next day. But this proved "an incredible tactical error," a Guatemalan diplomat observed, arousing "the nationalistic instincts of the Costa Rican and Guatemalan delegations," which felt "insulted" by these strong-arm methods.60 On August 7, to the dismay of the U.S. administration, the Central American presidents agreed on the Esquipulas II Accord, "inspired by the visionary and permanent desire of the Contadora and the [Latin American] Support Groups."61
The unexpected August 7 agreement compelled the media to backtrack quickly from their advocacy of the Reagan-Wright plan as a forthcoming gesture for peace. On August 6, James LeMoyne had reported falsely that apart from Nicaragua, which risked isolation for its intransigence, the Central American presidents "were gratified" by the Reagan-Wright proposal -- which Guatemala and Costa Rica dismissed with considerable irritation as an "insult." A day later, Washington now being isolated by the peace agreement of the Central American presidents, LeMoyne presented their accord as sharing "the central intent of Mr. Reagan's plan, which is to demand internal political changes in Nicaragua"; the Esquipulas Accord made no mention of Nicaragua, but was rather designed to apply simultaneously and comparably to all the Central American countries. The media proceeded to construct an interpretation which gave the United States the credit for having driven Nicaragua to negotiations by the use of force and the Reagan-Wright initiative. The purpose, apart from serving to conceal the consistent U.S. opposition to a peaceful settlement, was to legimitate state violence and thus prepare the ground for its renewal when needed, here or elsewhere.62
Some were unable to conceal their dismay with the developments. Former New York Times executive editor A.M. Rosenthal, whose regular columns since his retirement provide much insight into the thinking that animated the Times during his tenure, denounced "the pro-Sandinistas in press and politics" -- a group that one might detect with a sufficiently powerful microscope -- for their failure to stand by the Reagan-Wright plan after the Esquipulas Accord was signed. He assured the reader that the Central American presidents were "astonished" by this failure to pursue the proposal, which in Rosenthal's world they welcomed, while in the real world they had rejected it with contempt. Opponents of the Reagan-Wright plan, he wrote, are helping to kill "the peace proposals for Nicaragua" -- that is, the Reagan-Wright plan, which, unlike the Esquipulas Accord, applied only to Nicaragua and therefore alone qualifies as a peace proposal for an American jingoist. Extolling the reliance on violence, Rosenthal wrote that "Secretary Shultz and Howard Baker, believing that the Sandinistas had been hurt severely enough to make negotiations feasible, got the President to agree." But now "the pro-Sandinistas in this country" are undercutting the Shultz-Baker achievements by advocacy of the Esquipulas Accord, and even "acted as if it were a damnable sin to suggest that the United States should not immediately destroy the contras, whose existence brought about the opportunity for negotiations."63
Most, however, preferred less crude means to convert the peace agreement to the basic structure of the Reagan-Wright plan. The Esquipulas Accord set in motion a U.S. government campaign to dismantle it and maintain the option of further attacks against Nicaragua accompanied with such state terror as might be required to keep the "fledgling democracies" in line. The enthusiastic cooperation of the media ensured the success of this endeavor. The desired result was achieved by January 1988, in a brilliantly executed government-media operation.
As discussed in chapter 4, the first task was to eliminate the provisions applying to the United States, namely, the one "indispensable element" for peace: the termination of any form of aid for indigenous guerrillas or the contras. U.S. aid for the contras attacking Nicaragua from Honduras and Costa Rica was already criminal, even in the technical legal sense, but the Esquipulas Accord raised a new barrier. By August 1987, supply flights to the contras had reached a level of one a day, in addition to the constant surveillance required to assure that barely defended targets can be safely attacked. The U.S. responded to the call for termination of such aid by escalating it. Supply flights doubled in September and virtually tripled in the following months. In late August, the CIA attempted to bribe Miskito leaders to reject Nicaraguan attempts at peaceful reconciliation and continue the war.64
These flagrant violations of the "indispensable element" for peace undermined the basis for the Esquipulas Accord. To assess the role of the media, we therefore ask how they dealt with these crucial facts. I will continue to keep largely to the New York Times, the most important newspaper and the one that provides the quasi-official record for history; the pattern elsewhere is generally similar.65
I was unable to find a single phrase in the Times referring to the bribes, the rapid U.S. escalation of supply and surveillance flights, or their success in escalating terrorist attacks against civilians.
The Esquipulas Accord designated the three-month period from August 7 to early November for initial steps to realize its terms, and the period from August 7 to mid-January as the first phase, after which the International Verification and Monitoring Commission (CIVS) was to present its report on what had been achieved. During the first three-month period, Times Nicaragua correspondent Stephen Kinzer had forty-one articles dealing with Nicaragua. The crucial events just described were omitted entirely. In fact, there were only two references even to the existence of supply and surveillance flights.66 On September 23, Kinzer mentioned that "Thousands of contras inside Nicaragua now receive their supplies principally from clandestine airdrops run by the Central Intelligence Agency." On October 15, he wrote that "Planes that fly into Nicaragua at night to drop supplies to contras take off from Honduras." In later months, there are a few scattered references to these flights.67
In short, we find total suppression of the most critical facts concerning the fate of the accords, not to speak of the flagrant violation of international law and the dramatic proof of the artificial character of the implanted proxy army -- a conclusion never drawn, as far as I can determine. The record provides impressive evidence of the dedication of the media to state propaganda and violence.
The Times was not content with evasion of the supply and surveillance operations and total suppression of the escalation of U.S. aid to its forces in an effort to undermine the Esquipulas Accord. It also resorted to outright falsification. In mid-November, President Ortega attended an OAS meeting in Washington, to which the U.S. brought its CIA-funded contra civilian directorate, much to the annoyance of the Latin American delegates. Ortega denounced the sharp increase in supply flights after they had been banned by the Accord, reporting 140 supply flights from August. Contra leader Adolfo Calero dismissed this estimate as far too low, stating that "his radar is not working very well." The New York Times reported the statements by Ortega and Calero, but with an editorial adjustment. Where they spoke of supply flights, the Times news report downgraded the reference to "surveillance flights," still a violation of international law and the Accord, but a less serious one, thus apparently less unacceptable.68
A few days later, Nicaragua's U.N. Ambassador Nora Astorga reported 275 supply and surveillance flights detected from August 7 to November 3. I found no notice in the press of this not entirely trivial allegation.69
By such means, the media succeeded in serving Washington's goal of eliminating two central provisions of the Accord: "Aid halt to irregular forces or insurrectionist movements," and "Non-use of territory to attack other states." With this implicit revision of the Accord, the United States was now free to act as it wished, with the endorsement of President Arias, according to the Times version, at least.70
The Esquipulas Accord called for "an authentic pluralistic and participatory democratic process to promote social justice, respect for human rights, sovereignty, the territorial integrity of states and the right of each nation to determine, freely and without any kind of external interference, its own economic, political and social model," as well as steps to ensure "justice, freedom and democracy," freedom of expression and political action, and opening of the communication media "for all ideological groups." They also called for "dialogue with all unarmed political opposition groups within the country" and other steps to achieve national reconciliation. Furthermore, "amnesty decrees will be issued setting out the steps to guarantee the inviolability of all forms of life and liberty, material goods and the safety of the people to benefit from said decrees."
El Salvador violated the amnesty condition at once by decreeing an amnesty that freed the state security services and their associates from the unlikely prospect of prosecution for their crimes. Human rights monitors denounced the step, predicting -- accurately, as it turned out -- that it would lead to an increase in state terror. The Times, however, lauded the amnesty. With regard to Nicaragua, the Washington-media interpretation was that the amnesty must apply far more broadly than the Accord specifies. We return to these matters.
The required steps towards democracy, social justice, safeguarding of human rights, and so on, plainly could not be enacted in Washington's terror states.71 Therefore, the provisions had to be eliminated from the operative version of the Accord. The method pursued was, again, to suppress the facts and praise the terror states for their adherence to the accords that they were increasingly violating.
In September, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the O.A.S. issued a report noting a "perceptible decline in the observance of human rights" in Guatemala, expressing concern over "the resumption of methods and systems for eliminating persons in mass and the reappearance of the dreadful death squads." The Costa Rican-based Commission for the Defense of Human Rights in Central America reported to the U.N. in November on the continuing terror by the Guatemalan security services and death squads, documenting some 175 cases of abductions, disappearances, and assassinations from August 8 to November 17, 1987, in addition to grenade attacks, a bomb thrown into a church, etc. The Guatemalan Human Rights Commission had recorded 334 extrajudicial executions and 73 disappearances in the first nine months of 1987. One of its directors reported in Washington that "the accords are being used as a smoke screen and the human rights situation is becoming much graver... [The accords have served] to allow violations with much more impunity." He added that the documented cases represent only a fraction of the abuses because most take place outside of the capital, citing also other government atrocities. The military also launched a new offensive in the mountains to try to drive the survivors of the near-genocidal campaigns of the early 1980s into "Development Pole villages" where they can be controlled by force.72
American readers were spared such facts. "During the first six months after the signing of the accords," Latin Americanist Susanne Jonas observes, "not one article on Guatemalan compliance appeared in the New York Times, and virtually none were printed in other major U.S. media." In a review of the Times, Christian Science Monitor, Miami Herald, and Wall Street Journal from October 1987 to March 1988, Alexander Cockburn found little comment on Guatemala at all, and no mention at all of the rising tide of political violence through November. As atrocities mounted further in December and January, there were two stories on Guatemala in the journals reviewed, both in the Monitor, both discussing rights abuses. The totals for October through January are over 500 dead and 160 disappeared, and two news stories. Combining the record of all papers reviewed over the entire period, Cockburn observes, "there is one critical story every 154 days on Guatemala in the US's most influential newspapers."73
In El Salvador, Tutela Legal, the human rights monitoring office of the Archdiocese of San Salvador, reported that recorded death squad killings doubled to about ten a month immediately after the accords, continuing through January; for the year, Tutela Legal's figures were 88 disappeared and 96 killed by death squads, the armed forces and civil defense, in addition to 280 killed, most presumed to be civilians, during army military operations.74 Amadeo Ramos, one of the founders of the Indian Association ANIS, reported that an Indian settlement was bombed by the army and "the bodies of several Indians were found in a remote area thrown in a ditch" in mid-November; not being Miskitos in Nicaragua, their fate was of no interest. There were many other dramatic cases, ignored or barely mentioned. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs estimated eighty-seven civilians killed or "disappeared" by death squads during the August-January phase of the accords. Chris Norton, one of the few U.S. journalists based in El Salvador, reported abroad that the real numbers are unknown because, as in Guatemala, most death squad killings "have taken place in rural areas and few of them have been reported."75
Protection of the client regime of El Salvador is a particular imperative, reaching impressive levels. The fate of the Human Rights Commission CDHES is illustrative. The murder of its president, Herbert Anaya, was reported by James LeMoyne, with due respect for the official government story that the guerrillas were responsible. Omitted from his account was testimony to the contrary by his widow Mirna Anaya and others. Mirna Anaya, a Salvadoran judge until 1987, fled the country after her husband's assassination. Her statement that the security forces were responsible and that witnesses will so testify if granted protection was available to a Canadian audience, but New York Times readers were again spared such unpleasant facts, or her speech before the Human Rights Assembly of the United Nations identifying a death squad of "members of the hacienda police and National Police" as the assassins.76
It is of little moment that a former CDHES president, Marianela Garcia Villas, had been killed by security forces on the pretext that she was a guerrilla, while other members had been murdered or "disappeared" by the security forces. Herbert Anaya had been arrested and tortured by the Treasury police in May 1986, along with other Commission members. While in prison, they continued their work, compiling sworn testimony of torture by prisoners. They succeeded in smuggling out of the prison a document with detailed evidence on the torture of 430 prisoners along with a videotape of testimony. But this was evidence about torture by U.S. agents and clients (and a U.S. military officer in uniform, in one case), not about Cuban or Russian prisons. Hence these revelations aroused no interest, and nothing appeared in the national media (see
appendix I, section 1). After Anaya was released in a prisoner exchange, he was denounced by the government and informed that he headed a list of Commission workers to be killed. Lacking the protection that might have been afforded by some media visibility, he was assassinated, probably by the security forces or their affiliates, as indicated by Archbishop Rivera y Damas in a homily at the Metropolitan Cathedral, unreported in the Times, in which he cited information that "a death squad was responsible."77
Systematically avoiding the undesirable facts about El Salvador, James LeMoyne assured his readers at the end of November that President Duarte "has gone considerably further [than the Sandinistas] in carrying out the letter of the treaty" though perhaps he too is not "particularly committed to its spirit of reconciliation," since he "is trying to split the leftist rebel alliance" -- nothing more. LeMoyne also praised Duarte for having given the rebels "free access to the press"; the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, in contrast, reports that "journalists practice self-censorship to such an extent that papers will not print statements by opposition groups critical of the government."78
LeMoyne was also impressed with Duarte's having "permitted rebel civilian leaders to come home and actively pursue their political vision," asking whether "like the rebels in El Salvador, the contras may eventually...take the risk of sending some representatives back to Nicaragua to test the Sandinistas' promise to offer genuine political freedom after eight years of single-party rule" -- though there is reason to "doubt their sincerity" and willingness to "tolerate some political opposition."79 LeMoyne is well aware that respected church leaders and intellectuals who have no connection with guerrilla movements have been forced to flee El Salvador and are unable to return for fear of assassination, while in Nicaragua the opposition have never faced anything remotely comparable to the terror of Duarte's security forces and their associates, and quite openly support the U.S. forces attacking the country, regularly identifying with them in public statements in La Prensa, publicly denouncing the government, and implicitly calling for further military aid to the contras when visiting Washington.80
As LeMoyne also knows full well, not only the pro-contra internal opposition, but even contra military leaders who decide to return to Nicaragua live and work there without concern for their lives. To cite only one of several cases, contra leader Fernando Chamorro returned to Nicaragua from Costa Rica and was named regional president of the Conservative Party, which openly supports the contras.81 Consider in contrast Col. Adolfo Majano, not a guerrilla leader but the army officer who led the reformist military coup in October 1979 and was described by the U.S. press as "the symbol of American policy in this country" because of his efforts to move towards democracy and reform.82 Majano was marginalized as the traditional repressive forces took over with U.S. government backing, and was removed from the junta in December 1980, when Duarte became president to preside over the slaughter then intensifying. He was forced to flee the mounting terror, returning after seven years in exile to test the "new democracy." Upon returning, he survived at least two assassination attempts by suspected death squads. A third occurred on August 25, 1988, when his car came under fire from two gunmen in a San Salvador shopping center and two bodyguards were killed. "This criminal attempt was aimed at myself and there is no doubt that it was carried out by the death squads," Majano said. The Archbishop agreed, stating in the Sunday mass three days later that the killings had been carried out by "the sinister death squads."83 The assassination attempt took place immediately after a series of murders by security forces and presumed death squads. One suspects that similar events in Managua might have made the New York Times. Instead, we find philosophical reflections on the freedom and openness of El Salvador as compared with the brutal repression under the Sandinistas.
LeMoyne's zeal in applauding the encouraging developments in El Salvador as contrasted with repressive Nicaragua was sometimes excessive even by Times standards. Thus he reported the plans of the "rebel civilian officials" Rubén Zamora and Guillermo Ungo to return to El Salvador, where they hoped to survive by wearing bullet-proof vests, constantly changing residence, and carefully restricting their movements. "The two men's planned return," Le-Moyne stated, "is in sharp contrast to the situation in neighboring Nicaragua, where the ruling Sandinistas have said they will jail any rebel leader who tries to return to carry out political activities." Five days earlier, Stephen Kinzer had reported President Ortega's statement that "any contras who stop fighting," including contra leader Adolfo Calero and military commander Enrique Bermúdez, "would be allowed to participate fully in Nicaraguan political life." He quoted Ortega as saying:
A cease-fire is the immediate objective, but if the contras accept it, they can join political dialogue with other parties in Nicaragua. If Calero and Bermúdez accept this, they will be free to walk the streets of Managua, hold demonstrations and join the conservative party or whichever party they choose. No one will have to sign anything. By disarming, they will automatically receive amnesty.84
Unreported are the facts about Fernando Chamorro, Adolfo Majano, Horacio Arce, and others, or the Salvadoran government reaction when guerrilla commander Mario Aguiñada Carranza announced his intention to return to the country to take part in its political life. The government announced that it would bar his entry, and the army added that he would be captured and tried in the courts for his crimes.85 The situation in the two countries is precisely the opposite of what LeMoyne conveys, as he can hardly fail to know.
Comparison of Zamora and Ungo with Bermúdez and Calero is a bit odd to begin with. Both Zamora (a left Christian Democrat86) and Ungo (a social democrat who shared the 1972 ticket with Duarte) fled from El Salvador in fear for their lives as their associates and relatives were assassinated. Among the victims was Rubén Zamora's brother, the Christian Democrat Attorney-General Mario Zamora. Two weeks after his associate was assassinated by a death squad, Duarte joined the junta, where he proceeded to legitimize the slaughter. Zamora and Ungo have maintained a political association with the Salvadoran guerrillas, most of whom were also driven to the hills by state terror. In contrast, Bermúdez is the contra military commander, formerly an officer of Somoza's National Guard; and Calero, at the right wing of the CIA-run "civilian directorate," is an avowed advocate of terror who had been excluded from visiting Costa Rica on these grounds. Furthermore, there is no comparison between the indigenous guerrillas in El Salvador and the U.S. proxy forces attacking Nicaragua. A closer comparison to Zamora and Ungo would be the internal opposition in Nicaragua, who have always been free to take part in political life if they choose, and face harassment but not state terror of the Washington-Duarte style. No hint of these truisms will be found in the Times, or, to my knowledge, elsewhere in the mainstream, with the rarest of exceptions.
The official story throughout has been that Duarte represents the "moderate center," unable to control the "violence by both ultrarightists and by the Marxist guerrillas" (James LeMoyne); an accompanying photo shows New York Mayor Edward Koch being greeted by Duarte's Defense Minister, General Vides Casanova, who presided over much of the slaughter. A Times editorial noted the Anaya assassination -- as a proof of Duarte's "courage" in "defying" the death squads. Buried in a news story, the same day, is the fact that the killers were using sophisticated weapons available only to the "right-wing death squads" -- that is, the assassination squads of Duarte's security forces.87
Honduras made virtually no pretense of observing the Esquipulas Accord. The human rights violations that had become a serious problem as the United States converted it into a military base in the 1980s increased further after the Accord was signed. Ramón Custodio, president of the Commission for Defense of Human Rights in Central America and the Honduran Human Rights Commission (CODEH), reported in late October 1987 that killings by the security forces are becoming "more blatant," citing examples. As the first three-month period of the Accord passed, he stated at an international news conference that the worsening human rights situation deteriorated further in Honduras after the Accord was signed, and in El Salvador and Guatemala as well. These and other reports on growing human rights violations after the signing of the Accord were published in Canada and Mexico, but omitted from the Times through the August-January period.88
CODEH reported 263 judicial executions in Honduras in 1987, 144 more than in 1986, attributing 107 to the security forces, along with an increase in torture and illegal arrests. Honduran journalist Manuel Torres Calderón reported that economic decline in this U.S. dependency had "forced the state to intervene in the economy even more heavily than its much maligned neighbor, Nicaragua." Capital flight had reached such a level that "money leaves the country as fast as it comes in," a Honduran banker observed. Half the population has no access to health services and more than a million Hondurans live in overcrowded shantytowns, despite extensive U.S. aid and no guerrilla threat or foreign attack. Neither the increasing human rights violations nor the impact of U.S.-influenced economic management were on the media agenda.89
Also largely off the agenda is the hostility towards the contras in Honduras, not only among the thousands of peasants expelled from their homes in "contraland" in the south. Wire services reported that the conservative newspaper La Prensa, "which publishes several contra-inspired pages of information on Nicaragua, said an opinion poll carried out before the latest [March 1988] crisis erupted showed that 88.5 percent of Hondurans wanted the contras expelled." Such facts received little notice. Similarly, the media have been unable to discover the protest of the National Union of Campesinos in Honduras over contra recruitment among impoverished Honduran peasants with bribes of $500, an enormous sum by their standards, published in the major Honduran daily El Tiempo. Such facts, though plainly important and newsworthy, must be suppressed, because they are not conducive to the portrayal of the sturdy peasants of Nicaragua organizing to resist Sandinista depredations.90
Growing Honduran concerns over loss of national independence and integrity under U.S. influence have also not been a popular topic. As discussed earlier, the March 1988 Nicaraguan operations against the contras elicited irate denunciations of Sandinista aggressiveness and threat to Honduras in the U.S. media and Congress; also a bipartisan proposal for $48 million in aid, including arms, to the beleaguered freedom fighters so unfairly attacked. When the United States sent an airlift to "defend Honduras" against Sandinista aggression, there was much jingoist fanfare at home, and a reaction in Honduras that received somewhat less attention. Honduran journalists condemned the U.S. "invasion." El Tiempo denounced the government call for -- or acquiescence in -- the dispatch of U.S. troops as "not only illegal but shameful. It is telling the world that the state of Honduras does not exist." The journal described the U.S. troops as an "occupation force," while the Christian Democratic Party "said that the U.S. soldiers should fly home immediately" and its leader Rubén Palma "told reporters that Honduran President José Azcona had acted illegally in calling in foreign troops without parliament's authorization."91
One could learn little about such matters from the New York Times,92 and not much elsewhere. Media reporting that departed from the U.S. government agenda would have allayed the widespread shock when Hondurans attacked the U.S. Embassy a few weeks later while police stood by, in an explosion of anti-U.S. sentiment.
Apart from the barriers to U.S. terror, overcome with media complicity as discussed earlier, two central features of the Esquipulas Accord were intolerable to Washington: the role given to international monitors, the CIVS, and the "symmetry" condition on which the agreements were based, requiring steps in parallel by all Central American countries. The former condition was unacceptable because it interferes with the U.S. ability to violate the Accord as it wishes; the latter, for the same reason, and because Washington's terror states cannot possibly live up to the provisions on democratization and human rights. The task of the media, then, was to eliminate these two unwanted principles. The agreement as revised by Washington must be focused solely on Nicaragua, with the international monitors dismissed. By these means, the unwanted Esquipulas Accord could be brought into line with the Reagan-Wright plan rejected by the Central American presidents in August.
The problem of international monitoring became serious in January 1988, when the CIVS was to present its findings to the Central American presidents after studying the five countries. Plainly, this was the central diplomatic event of the month; equally plainly, it was unacceptable, particularly when the Commission presented its conclusions. The CIVS singled out the United States for condemnation because of its continued assistance "to the irregular forces operating against the government of Nicaragua," thus violating "an indispensable requirement for the success of the peace efforts and of this Procedure as a whole." A CIVS official informed the press that Latin American representatives were "shocked by the attitudes of patent fear" expressed by trade unionists and opposition figures in El Salvador and Guatemala. He added that the CIVS could not provide details about compliance because of objections from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala -- a clear indication of what the report would have said, had it not been blocked by the United States and its clients. The report praised Nicaragua's "concrete steps" towards democratization despite the difficulties it faced.
The facts were reported by several journals, but eliminated from the New York Times, where James LeMoyne, in a dispatch focusing on denunciations of Nicaragua, dismissed the CIVS report in one sentence, stating only that its meeting ended "with little agreement" (the report was adopted unanimously). The condemnation of the United States was briefly noted in an article on another topic nine days later by Stephen Kinzer, who added that "the commission fell out of favor in some circles when it reported that Nicaragua had taken `concrete steps toward the beginning of a democratic process'"; like the O.A.S., the CIVS had thus "lost much of its authority as the conscience of Latin America."93
The Commission was disbanded under U.S. pressure, enabling the United States to pursue its terrorist exercises unhampered and permitting Duarte to continue to serve as a front man for repression and murder.
The "symmetry" problem was overcome by focusing virtually all coverage on Nicaragua, along with the constant pretense that whatever may appear in the text of the Esquipulas Accord, "there is no doubt that [the treaty's] main provisions are principally directed at Nicaragua and will affect Nicaragua more than any of the other nations that signed the accord" (James LeMoyne). That is quite true under the conditions dictated by Washington and observed by the press, though the conclusion has no basis in the text. As LeMoyne explained further, the Sandinistas are "in a somewhat exposed position" because they, and they alone, "are under close scrutiny for their efforts to carry out the Central American peace treaty."94 Again true, on the tacit assumption that the Free Press must follow the marching orders that issue from Washington. His colleague Stephen Kinzer offered the same analysis, as did the media fairly generally.
The Media Alliance in San Francisco studied press samples during two periods of peak coverage of the peace plan (August 5 through September 15, 1987; January 5 through February 7, 1988). The New York Times devoted ten times as many stories to Nicaragua as to all the other countries combined in the first period, and eleven times as many in the second. Other media sampled had similar proportions.95 Efforts to gain mainstream coverage for these reports failed.
The quality of coverage also differed radically. Thus a rock-throwing incident in Nicaragua on January 23 received front-page coverage in the Washington Post and prominent attention elsewhere, with the Times warning that the incident would "strengthen the argument" of the Reagan administration that Nicaragua is not complying with the peace plan. Similarly, extensive coverage was given to the January 16 detention of four members of the Nicaraguan opposition who had met with contras and the January 19 arrest of five opposition members, all released unharmed after several hours of questioning (in the Times, nineteen paragraphs and a headline across the page in the first case, and a front-page above-the-fold story in the second); months later, Roy Gutman, referring to this incident, observed in the Washington Post that "No government ordinarily allows a legal political party to negotiate a joint program with armed forces seeking the overthrow of that government." In contrast, the murder in Honduras of a human rights leader and a Christian Democratic Party leader on January 15 received 160 words in an unheadlined story, and no conclusions were drawn about compliance with the Accord. The disruption of a "Mothers of Political Prisoners" gathering by civilian Sandinista supporters warranted a major Times story and photo on January 23; the disruption of a "Mothers of Political Prisoners and the Disappeared" march by the Salvadoran riot police on December 21 was ignored.96 The examples are typical, and again readily explained in terms of a propaganda model.
The readers of the Toronto Globe and Mail and the wire services could learn that in a one-week period in January, while compliance with the Accord was front-page news, ten people were found murdered in El Salvador in death squad style with signs of torture, including two women who had been hanged from a tree by their hair with their breasts cut off and their faces painted red. Later in the month, there were more killings, with the tortured bodies found in a traditional death squad dump. Foreign diplomats and Church leaders blamed the Salvadoran armed forces. Auxiliary Archbishop Rosa Chávez stated in his February 7 homily that "According to information compiled by our office [Tutela Legal], the captors [of two tortured and murdered laborers] were men in plain clothes and uniformed soldiers of the 1st Artillery Brigade's counter-insurgency section" (an elite U.S.-trained unit).97 The readers of the New York Times were spared these facts, just as the Times had no interest in a televised mass on January 3 in which Archbishop Rivera y Damas once again denounced "the practice of torture used against many Salvadorans by the death squads," stating that bishops in several provinces reported increased death squad murders and calling for an end to assassinations and torture.98
A few weeks later, as Duarte's security services and their associates extended their grim work while the Times obligingly looked the other way, the House of Representatives passed a resolution commending El Salvador's progress towards democracy. The proposed resolution stated that El Salvador has achieved a system "which respects human liberties," but liberal representative Ted Weiss of New York succeeded in having it changed to say only that the country has "sought to" establish such a system. "Give them a little credit for trying, Ted," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dante Fascell. In December, as the terror was mounting after the signing of the Esquipulas Accord, the House of Representatives had overwhelmingly passed an amendment specifying a long list of "Actions Which Should Be Undertaken" to satisfy the high ideals of Congress -- in Nicaragua. Representative Weiss sought to introduce a few changes, applying the conditions to "all countries in Central America" instead of only Nicaragua. This proposal was rejected by a large majority. Congress and the media share the same agenda.99
In subsequent months, state terror in El Salvador escalated, rarely reported. James LeMoyne was much exercised over guerrilla terror, devoting stories to the topic with such headlines as "Salvador Rebels Kill 12 in Raid on Town," "Guerrillas in Salvador Step Up Pre-election Terrorism," and "Salvador Rebels Target Civilians, Killing 3," repeatedly referring to the same alleged atrocities.100 Terror by U.S. clients does not pass entirely unnoticed. Thus, he concludes one story with the words: "Such rebel violence has been reflected in a rise in political killings," its source unnamed. In a "review of the week" column, he describes a guerrilla shift to "terrorist tactics," then adds that "increasingly, the guerrillas and their sympathizers are also the targets of violence." Another report focuses on guerrilla terror, noting also that "the army appears to be returning to killing suspected leftists as an answer to sharply stepped-up guerrilla assassinations, bombings and other attacks."101 The message is that the U.S.-installed government may not be perfect, but its deficiencies are a response to guerrilla atrocities. Readers familiar with such journalistic practice can try to read between the lines, and may surmise that the government is perhaps not judiciously observing its commitment to human rights under the accords. But they will learn little about the matter from this source. They may to turn to the foreign press to read, in the mainstream, that Europeans "want to see progress towards civilised politics not just in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, but also in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, which lamentably continue to be bywords for barbarity."102
We should again observe that these devices to conceal atrocities provide a shield behind which the state terrorists can continue their work. The contribution of disciplined journalists to murder, torture, and general misery is not small.
The media campaign, only barely sampled here,103 succeeded in demolishing what remained of the Esquipulas Accord by January. With the CIVS abolished under U.S. pressure, Ortega agreed to go far beyond the terms of the forgotten accords, abandoning the simultaneity condition entirely. The "genius of the Arias plan," the Times editors explained, "is that it provides a means for Nicaragua to accommodate to neighbors without appearing to truckle to Washington," not the simultaneity requirement that was recognized to be the "genius" of the plan when it was signed.104 They may well be correct about what Arias had in mind, to judge by the references and quotes; but if so, that would simply show that he had no more interest in the implementation of the Esquipulas Accord than the New York Times.
Recognizing that the powerful make the rules, Ortega agreed that Nicaragua alone would enact the provisions of the accords, even calling for an international commission, including members of both U.S. political parties, to monitor Nicaragua's adherence alone.105 The media reported that Ortega now promises to "comply with" the accords -- that is, the version fashioned in Washington, which bears little resemblance to the text -- while warning that his promises plainly cannot be trusted. No one else's promises were relevant, now that the accords had been consigned to oblivion. Citing unnamed "officials," LeMoyne portrayed Nicaragua as the villain of the piece, "the country most widely accused of bad faith," now "pressed to the wall by the other four Central American leaders" to implement the peace treaty. Readers could again turn to the foreign press to read that "Nicaragua has done more to comply with the terms of the Central American peace plan than any of the other five signatories, with the exception of Costa Rica," the judgment of the editors of the Globe and Mail, plainly accurate, but hidden by the U.S. media barrage with only an occasional glimpse of the unacceptable facts.106
Even critics were swept up in the propaganda campaign. Thus a Nation editorial (January 30) stated that Ortega "has made significant concessions to the Central American peace plan," namely, by agreeing to abandon it in conformity to U.S. demands. The terror states were now exempt, along with their sponsor.
Throughout this period, there was a simple algorithm to determine which features of the peace plan count. Violations by the United States and the "fledgling democracies" are off the agenda, as is any requirement to which Nicaragua conformed. For example, a central feature of the accords was establishment of a National Reconciliation Commission. Nicaragua alone complied in a meaningful way, selecting its severest critic, Cardinal Obando, to head the Commission. Duarte, in contrast, selected U.S. presidential candidate Alvaro Magaña as the head of the Commission, which did nothing. In the second U.S. dependency, Honduras, there was barely a show of forming a Commission, though it was not entirely inactive. We learn from the Honduran press that the National Reconciliation Commission was supervising the distribution of U.S. supplies to the contras and thus "helping to subvert" the March 1988 cease-fire.107
In accord with the algorithm just presented, the provisions of the Accord with regard to the National Reconciliation Commissions disappeared. Similarly, there is no utility to the unreported conclusion of the U.N. refugee commission (UNHCR) that repatriation of refugees has been more successful in Nicaragua than elsewhere because of the "excellent disposition of the Sandinista government."108 Off the agenda, then, is the "sense of urgency" with which the Central American presidents committed themselves to the task of refugee repatriation in the Esquipulas Accord. The pattern is close to exceptionless.
Pursuing this procedure, the media, early on, reduced the Central American agreements to "two key points" (Stephen Kinzer): (1) Will Nicaragua offer an amnesty to what the U.S. government and the media call "political prisoners"?109; (2) Will Nicaragua agree to negotiate with the contra civilian directorate?
With regard to the first point, few readers would have been aware that in early November, 1987 the CIVS determined that amnesty provisions were to go into effect when the aggression against Nicaragua ceases, and even a real media addict would not have learned that a few weeks later in November, the Nicaraguan National Assembly decreed a complete amnesty and revoked the state of emergency, both laws to "go into effect on the date that the [CIVS certifies] compliance with" the commitments of the accords to terminate the attack against Nicaragua. These laws were formulated in terms of the simultaneity condition of the accords, which Nicaragua, in its naiveté, believed to be operative.110 Thus, by November, Nicaragua had largely complied with the accords as they are actually written. It was alone in this regard apart from Costa Rica, as remained the case.
The U.S. government version of the accords was, however, quite different from that of the CIVS and the text. We can find it in State Department propaganda, or indirectly, in news reports in the New York Times, where Stephen Kinzer describes the contents of the accords as follows: "Under its provisions, no country in the region would be permitted to assist the contras once the Sandinistas establish full political freedom."111 According to this useful version, as long as Nicaragua falls short of a Scandinavian democracy in peacetime, the United States is entitled to maintain its proxy army in the field attacking Nicaragua. Since the accords do not single out Nicaragua for special treatment, it also follows that on the Times-State Department version of the accords, they entitle the Soviet Union to send arms and supplies to the guerrillas in El Salvador with several flights a day from Cuba until a radical restructuring of Washington's terror state has been completed. This consequence, however, is unmentioned.
As noted earlier, El Salvador also declared an amnesty, though in a form that expressly violated the terms of the Esquipulas Accord. The New York Times lauded the decree as the Duarte government's "most concrete step toward complying with the regional peace accord," contrasting this forthcoming move with the refusal of the Sandinistas to comply apart from "tentative" and grudging steps112 -- steps that met the conditions of the Accord, as we have just seen, though the Times never reported the facts. The Toronto Globe and Mail chose different words, describing the Salvadoran edict as "an amnesty for the military and the death squads." This noble gesture was bitterly condemned by human rights groups, not only because it freed the assassins of tens of thousands of people from prosecution (hardly likely in any event, with the government under effective military control), but also, as María Julia Hernández of Tutela Legal observed after several more months of atrocities, because "it made the military feel secure that there would be no prosecutions for human rights" violations in the future. The amnesty "chiefly benefited the military-linked death squads," the Globe and Mail commented accurately.113
With regard to the second "key point," negotiations, the accords did not call for discussions with CIA-created front organizations of the classic Communist Party style. That the contra directorate is exactly that had long been known, and is documented in detail in an important (and unmentionable) monograph by Edgar Chamorro, who was selected by the CIA to serve as spokesman for the front created for the benefit of "enemy territory" at home.114 In a memo released during the Iran-contra hearings, Robert Owen, Oliver North's liaison with the contras, described the civilian front as "a name only," "a creation of the United States government (USG) to garner support from Congress"; power lies in the hands of the Somozist-run FDN, headed by Adolfo Calero, who "is a creation of the USG and so he is the horse we chose to ride," though he is surrounded by people who are "liars and greed- and power-motivated" for whom the war is "a business" as they hope for the marines to restore them to the power they lost.115
Nevertheless, applying the algorithm for interpreting the accords, the media took their key feature to be negotiations between the Sandinistas and Washington's PR creation. The New York Times even went so far as to describe the Nicaraguan government and the contras as "the two factions" who must negotiate and reach a settlement, a difficult task because the government "faction" insists upon "an end to all outside support for the contras" -- as the Esquipulas Accord stipulates, a fact unmentioned.116 Another journalist, surveying the problems of the region, describes the contenders for power in Nicaragua as "the two hostile bands"; in El Salvador, in contrast, the civil war pits "the U.S.-supported government" against the "Marxist guerrillas."117 Appropriate use of language has its role to play, alongside of careful selection, distortion, and outright falsehood.
The insistence on wide-ranging negotiations with the contra directorate was another part of the longstanding effort to establish the fiction that the proxy army is an indigenous force, comparable to the guerrillas in El Salvador who were largely mobilized by U.S.-backed state terror, have always fought within their country, receive little if any military aid from abroad, have nothing like the extraordinary intelligence and support system provided by the contras' superpower sponsor,118 and face a military force that, on paper at least, is considerably more powerful than the army of Nicaragua. It is necessary to suppress the astonishing inability of the U.S. to construct a guerrilla army in Nicaragua despite support vastly exceeding anything available to authentic guerrillas, U.S. dominance of the media over much of the country through powerful radio stations, recruitment of mercenaries in Honduras and elsewhere, an economy that has collapsed as a result of U.S. economic warfare and terror, and denial, thanks to U.S. ideological warfare, of the right to employ the domestic measures regularly adopted by Western democracies under far less threatening circumstances. With a fraction of the outside support lavished on the U.S. proxy forces, the Salvadoran guerrillas would have quickly overthrown the U.S.-installed government, and one might suspect that a guerrilla movement could be successfully established in U.S. border regions with a comparable effort by some unimaginable superpower. This failure of the U.S. effort to organize a guerrilla force within Nicaragua or even one that could be sustained from abroad without unprecedented outside support and direction is most remarkable, and very informative, for anyone prepared to think about what it means. Therefore, the facts and their meaning must be scrupulously suppressed, as they are.
The U.S. foreign aid budget for fiscal 1989 contained $2 million to support opposition political groups and media in Nicaragua, the Congressional Quarterly (CQ) reported (June 25, 1988), some of which openly identify with the contra attack. None of these "democratic groups in Nicaragua," as CQ calls them, has the support of more than 3 percent of the population; combined, they have the support of 9 percent, less than one-third the support for the Sandinistas. These are among the results of polls taken under the auspices of the Centro Interamericano de Investigaciones in Mexico and the Jesuit University (UCA) in Managua. As for President Ortega himself, 42 percent ranked him "good/excellent" and 29 percent "fair." For comparison, in an UCA poll in El Salvador that received little notice, 6 percent of the respondents supported Duarte's Christian Democrats and 10 percent supported ARENA, while 75 percent stated that no party represented them.119
Other interesting results of the Salvadoran poll were that 95 percent preferred economic and humanitarian aid over any kind of military aid, 4 percent blamed "guerrilla or communist subversion" for the crisis, and only 13 percent rated Duarte as "good" or "excellent." Recall that only 10 percent of the population see any signs of a democratic process in El Salvador.120 Another contrast between El Salvador and Nicaragua was that in the former, pollsters have found that
certain political questions had to be carefully couched in non-incriminating language. A significant number of Salvadorans told us that they do not discuss politics -- period -- not even with their closest friends or relatives. By contrast, in our survey in Nicaragua in June, interviewers judged that 77 percent of some 1,129 respondents in Managua answered poll questions without apparent fear or distrust,
and the interviewers reported that "their biggest problem in the field was the delay caused when respondents amplified their answers," giving explanations of their responses for or against the Sandinista regime. In polls in Honduras in November 1987, 65 percent of respondents "said they believed Hondurans were afraid of expressing their political opinions in public" and "interviewers judged that only 38 percent of their respondents answered questions without fear or distrust."121 The difference in climate between Nicaragua and El Salvador has always been obvious, though the media have succeeded in conveying the opposite impression.
Other unreported information on public opinion in El Salvador provides a good deal of insight into U.S. policy and the real concerns of the media. In 1988, the Archbishop of San Salvador organized a national debate to consider the problems facing the country. Over sixty organizations took part, "representing the private sector, professional associations, educational and cultural bodies, labor organizations, humanitarian groups, the displaced, religious institutions and others."122 There was near-unanimous (95-100 percent) agreement on "the failure of the Reagan Administration's project for El Salvador"; support for negotiated settlement; increasing concern over human rights violations and impoverishment of the majority "while a few have become richer"; identification of the "root cause" of the conflict not in "international communist aggression" but rather "structural injustice, manifested in the unjust concentration of wealth" in land, industry, and commerce and "exhaustion of the capitalist, dependent agro-export model as part of an unjust structure of international commerce."
The same proportions (95-100 percent) condemned:
- The "subordination of political power to economic power"
- The "direct, permanent interference by the military in the operation of the state and the society in support of the oligarchy and dominant sectors, and thus in support of North American interests" as the country is "subjugated to the interests of international capital"
- "Mortgaging the national sovereignty and self-determination and the enormous interference of the U.S. in El Salvador's national affairs"
- Foreign military aid
- The "strong opposition by the United States" and its Salvadoran right wing and military allies to the Esquipulas Accord, to which El Salvador should be pressured to conform
- The Amnesty Law which exculpated "those charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity."
Furthermore, 88 percent see "serious restrictions on the democratic process" and regard "Christian Democracy as a cover while North American interference became more intensified"; attribute principal responsibility for the armed conflict to "foreign intervention, especially that of the U.S."; and describe the armed struggle as a response to "the impossibility of any genuine form of popular participation." Most called for recognition of the FMLN guerrillas as a "representative political force" that emerged in response to violence and injustice (55-59 percent). The highly touted elections were described by 81 percent as "the fundamental instrument of the U.S. counterinsurgency project, legitimizing the war and neutralizing the popular movement."
The document has much to say about "the U.S. counterinsurgency project" and the likely prospects for this tortured country. It was ignored in the United States, as were the polls.
The lack of attention to public opinion in El Salvador provides interesting lessons about U.S. political culture and the societal function of the media. The United States has unleashed an enormous military and repressive apparatus in El Salvador and has poured huge sums of money into the country. If these efforts had even a remote relation to the needs and concerns of Salvadorans, then, quite obviously, their opinions would be front-page news in the U.S. media and the subject of extensive commentary. What we discover, however, is that there is not the slightest interest in their opinions. It would be misleading to say that the information is suppressed; rather, the irrelevance of the people subject to our will is as elementary as the rules of arithmetic; to consider what they think would be as absurd as to try to discover the attitudes of chickens or donkeys.
The conclusion is clear: U.S. planners, and the educated elites that comment and articulate positions on international affairs, care not a whit about the needs and concerns of the people of El Salvador. Their sole concern is the preservation of their own privilege and power. The rhetoric of "benevolence," "good intentions" that misfired, and so on, is mere deception, possibly comforting self-deception as well. The attitudes and opinions of Salvadorans are not only ignored, as of zero significance, but also happen to be diametrically opposed to those of their professed benefactors in Washington, New York, Cambridge, and elsewhere. This is a matter of no concern, not even a level of concern that would lead to attention to the facts. The disdain for subject peoples is merely a background fact, like the air we breathe.
New York Times correspondents regularly allege that polls are illegal in Nicaragua, citing no evidence and not reporting the statement of the respected Jesuit priest who is rector of UCA (which would normally be responsible for polling) that polls are permitted but that facilities are lacking; plausible, given the circumstances. The Interamerican report (see note 119) assumes that polls have been permitted since 1984, that the August 1987 accords further legitimize polls, and that "the present poll put that general understanding to the test." The poll was not reported in the Times. I noted little mention elsewhere, and that unreliable (see chapter 3, note 47).
Let us return to the fate of the Central American peace negotiations after the effective demolition of the Esquipulas Accord in January 1988. In subsequent discussion, the terms of the Accord are consistently understood in the Washington version, accepted under duress by Nicaragua: the expansive interpretation devised by Washington applies to Nicaragua alone. Thus, it is possible for news columns to assert that "other countries have done somewhat better" than Nicaragua in adhering to the accords with their requirement of "freedom for the press and opposition parties, an end to support for other countries' guerrillas and negotiations with Nicaragua's rebels," as the Boston Globe reported in August 1988; indeed, other countries cannot violate the accords, whatever the facts, under the conventions of government-media Newspeak.123
Putting aside the usual disregard for state terror in the "fledgling democracies" and Honduran support for the contras, the reference here to negotiations appears rather audacious; it was hardly a secret that Nicaragua alone had negotiated a cease-fire agreement. But one must understand the algorithm already described. When Nicaragua entered into cease-fire negotiations and reached an agreement with the contras, this "key issue" was dropped from the agenda as no longer serviceable.
It was also necessary to eliminate the inconvenient fact that El Salvador and Guatemala, in opposition to the near-unanimous will of the public,124 were refusing to negotiate with the indigenous guerrillas. The Times did not interrupt its daily lambasting of the Sandinistas in January 1988, the crucial month for dismantling the accords, to report that "According to [FDR leader Guillermo] Ungo, talks have not resumed, despite FMLN requests, because of pressure exerted on Duarte by the Reagan administration as well as from the country's security forces."125 A February 8 appeal for dialogue by Ungo was rejected by the government on grounds that it will "only dialogue with legally registered political parties"; this was reported prominently in the Mexican press, but not in the Times.126 The FMLN/FDR stated that this was Duarte's third rejection of renewed talks since November. Neither this nor Archbishop Rivera y Damas's homily hoping for a Duarte response appears to have been reported. Rather, the Washington Post editors, in a fanciful construction, condemned the guerrillas for having "rejected [Duarte's] overtures," which "went substantially beyond the obligations placed on him by the Central American peace plan." There was scant notice of subsequent rebel offers to negotiate, rejected by the government. Jeane Kirkpatrick went so far as to denounce the guerrillas for rejecting all of Duarte's "generous offers" for negotiations.127 Again, the facts turn into their opposite as they pass through the distorting prism of the media.
In Guatemala, the Bishops' conference called for renewed negotiations on January 29; the guerrillas accepted, the army refused, backed by President Cerezo. In late February, the rebels requested talks again, to be mediated by the Archbishop; the government refused. A rebel offer of negotiations in April, supported by President Arias, who offered his country as a site, was rejected by Cerezo, and a cease-fire proposal in June was dismissed by his government.128 All of this was unworthy of attention, on the principles already discussed.
The logic was explained further by George Shultz, in a letter objecting to a congressional proposal that the president be required to submit a report on Salvadoran government efforts to achieve a cease-fire before all aid can be released. Its sponsors argued that Congress would thereby be "making clear its support for a negotiated end" to the civil war in El Salvador. Shultz replied that "it is wholly inappropriate to try to pressure the elected government to negotiate or to make concessions to the guerrillas, which would not be acceptable to any democratic government." Since Nicaragua, unlike El Salvador, has not achieved democracy and lacks an elected government, it is quite proper to subject it to terror and economic warfare to pressure it to negotiate with U.S. proxies.129
A cease-fire was reached in Nicaragua on March 23, 1988; again, Nicaragua was alone in implementing an element of the accords.130 The agreement was at once undermined by congressional legislation, and the administration went still further, violating the legislation as well as the cease-fire agreement. The media went along, as discussed in the text. Further negotiations broke down in June as the contras, increasingly under hard-line leadership, followed the U.S. strategy to undermine them by constant demand escalation when agreement seemed near.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs reported that
the breakdown of the Nicaraguan talks also implemented the game plan urged several weeks ago by Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams: that the administration was urging the contras not to sign a peace agreement with the Sandinistas, but go along with a prolongation of a de facto truce, hoping that some adventitious Sandinista military action, like shooting down a contra supply plane or opening fire on a contra unit, would enable the White House to seek a resumption of lethal military aid from Congress. According to Abrams this was the very least that he was hoping for. When asked what was the most that the United States would do if given such a pretext, he responded, "We'll flatten Managua."
Further elements of the "game plan" were for U.S. intelligence agencies to step up their activities within Nicaragua, "hoping to use internal opposition forces to discredit the Sandinistas and sow discontent," and to lay the basis for further military action; what is commonly and accurately referred to, outside the media, as "the Chilean method," referring to the means employed to replace Chilean democracy by a military dictatorship. As one example, COHA cited the arrest and brief detention of fifteen opposition leaders for demonstrating outside the National Assembly building after they had rejected a request that they obtain a permit. "It is widely believed in Washington," COHA continues, "that the opposition was acting at the behest of their CIA liaison to stage the unauthorized demonstration" and court arrest as proof of Sandinista bad faith.131
Reviewing the situation a few weeks later, Stephen Kinzer reported that "Administration officials attributed the collapse of the talks to Sandinista intransigence," mentioning no other possible explanation. The Times editors added that "without the war, and the damage to Nicaragua's economy, it's arguable that Managua wouldn't have signed the regional peace plan" of August 1987. They urged the administration "to work with Central Americans" to pressure the Sandinistas to accept "specific targets and timetables," against the threat of further sanctions; no suggestions are offered for other participants in the Central American drama. A few weeks earlier, James LeMoyne had observed that "there is little doubt that the pressure of the guerrillas [in El Salvador] has been the chief stimulus for positive political change here."132 By the logic of the editors, then, we should support the indigenous guerrillas in El Salvador. Somehow, the logical consequence is not drawn.
As the first anniversary of the Esquipulas Accord approached, violations continued in the states now exempt from their terms. In El Salvador, the Church Human Rights Office documented "a startling increase" in political killings of civilians in 1988. The Archbishop, in a Sunday homily, condemned the "return to the law of the jungle" with increasing death squad violence; and Auxiliary Bishop Rosa Chávez, denouncing on national TV the killing of peasants associated with the labor union UNTS, declared that "All evidence points in only one direction -- to the Salvadoran security forces." Peasants and members of the National Association of Indigenous Salvadorans were reported murdered after torture by soldiers, including a ninety-nine-year old man and his daughter in a recently resettled village. On July 28, Rigoberto Orellana, leader of the newly founded "Movement for Bread, Land, Work and Liberty," was killed, by security forces according to spokespersons of the organization. As the anniversary of the Accord passed, killing continued. On August 21, a Swiss physician, Jurg Weiss, was detained and then killed by the National Police, shot in the face in an apparent effort to conceal his identity. He was on his way to investigate reports of the bombing of a village. The army claimed he was killed in combat, but his colleagues allege that because of his humanitarian activity, he was targeted by security forces in their campaign of repression against humanitarian and religious volunteers. The murder was condemned in a resolution of the European Parliament on "growing escalation of state terrorism" in El Salvador. On the same day two young men were found shot to death in San Salvador, bringing the number to five for the week; all five victims showed signs of torture, according to the spokesman of the Human Rights Commission CDHES, who described the killings as intended to foster "psychological terror among the population." The attempt to assassinate Col. Majano took place four days later.133
There were lesser abuses as well. The army barred the Church from providing supplies to resettled refugee villages. In rural areas, police regularly broke up political meetings (Rubén Zamora). A July 21 demonstration calling for release of an abducted trade unionist was attacked by police, who fired with automatic weapons and tear gas, leaving many wounded. On July 12, troops using tear gas, rifle butts, and clubs had attacked a march of farmers and cooperativists attempting to deliver provisions to striking electrical workers; demonstrators were detained by the police (reports ranged from 1 to 100 detained). Earlier, in efforts to disrupt a May Day rally, the army bombed the UNTS office, and Treasury Police abducted and severely beat the man who operated the sound system after the regular UNTS soundman had kept away under death threat. Many organizers and demonstrators were detained in prison, and a leader of the striking metalworkers' union who had directed chants at the rally "disappeared." In Honduras the army prevented workers from attending May Day demonstrations in Danlí, organized by the major labor union of eastern Honduras; in mid-April, police in Tegucigalpa had shot in the air and used tear gas to prevent a protest march to the U.S. Embassy, and, according to human rights workers, "disappeared" a student, Roger González, arrested as other students were jailed in connection with the April 7 attack on the U.S. consulate while police stood by. In Costa Rica protesting farmers and cooperativists were harassed and detained by the Rural Guard, in one case, tear gas and physical force were used to prevent them from presenting a petition at the city hall.134
Neither the continuing atrocities nor the lesser abuses received coverage, apart from an occasional perfunctory notice. But denunciation of Sandinista iniquity continued at a fever pitch, particularly when Nicaragua briefly approached some of the regular lesser abuses of the U.S. client states in mid-July, eliciting a new round of indignant condemnations across the political spectrum and renewed support of congressional liberals for contra aid.
In her review of the first year of the Accord in August, Julia Preston observed that little was achieved apart from Nicaragua. In Honduras, Azcona remains "another caretaker president for the powerful military"; the same is true, though unstated, in El Salvador and Guatemala. She cites an August 4 Americas Watch review of human rights, which reports that "Political murders by military and paramilitary forces continue on a wide scale in Guatemala and El Salvador and on a smaller scale in Honduras," along with several "reported in Nicaragua," Preston adds, "where they had not been common." "Nicaragua initially did far more than any other Central American country to comply" with the Accord until mid-July, ten months after it was signed; a long "initial" period, which terminated after the breakdown of the cease-fire negotiations, when Nicaragua "violently broke up a July 10 opposition rally [at Nandaime] and kept six leaders in jail during long trials, closed the Catholic radio [station] indefinitely, expelled U.S. ambassador Melton and expropriated the largest private sugar plantation in Nicaragua." The last two actions hardly qualify as violations of the Accord. Radio Católica reopened on August 18, leaving only the pro-Sandinista La Semana Cómica under government sanction, for publishing material degrading women.135
The events of mid-July -- in Nicaragua, that is -- aroused great horror. "Sandinistas will be Sandinistas," a radio commentator observed knowingly in one of the milder reactions when the police broke up the Nandaime rally, using tear gas for the first time -- after having been "pelted...with sticks and rocks," we learn in paragraph thirteen of Stephen Kinzer's report, a fact that disappeared from most later commentary.136 There were front-page stories and regular reports and editorials on the Sandinista barbarity in breaking up the rally in the standard Salvadoran style, expelling the U.S. Ambassador with charges that he had been involved in organizing the pro-contra opposition, and nationalizing a private sugar plantation alleged to be nonproductive, a front-page story in the Times; references to the use of tear gas to break up the rally and to police violence continued to appear in the press, with appropriate horror, for months. Congress was so enraged that amidst renewed calls for arms for the contras, both Houses passed impassioned condemnations of Managua's "brutal suppression of human rights" by overwhelming margins (91 to 4 in the Senate, 358 to 18 in the House), the press reported approvingly.137
Recall that the "brutal repression of human rights" by the Sandinistas only began to approach, for a brief moment, some of the lesser abuses that are normal practice among the U.S. favorites in the region, and does not even come close to the regular exercise of their "pedagogy of terror." Recall also that as Duarte's security services and their death squads escalated their terror after the Accord was signed, there was no condemnation in Congress, but rather praise for their progress towards a system "which respects human liberties."
Congressional debate over how best to punish the Sandinistas for their July transgressions was no less interesting, even apart from the stirring rhetoric about our exalted libertarian standards and the pain inflicted upon our sensitive souls by any departure from them -- in Nicaragua. The Senate passed the Byrd Amendment setting the conditions for renewed military aid to the contras.138 Speaking for his colleagues, including some of the most prominent Senate liberals, majority leader Byrd warned the Sandinistas that they "can either fully comply with the requirements for democratization that they agreed to in the Arias peace plan and move into the mainstream of harmonious democratic relations with their neighbors," or they can continue "to blatantly violate the provisions of the peace accords," repress "the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Nicaraguan people" -- and face the consequences: a "return to military pressure," that is, U.S.-sponsored international terrorism. Byrd was also concerned over the failure of the Reaganites "to press the Soviet leadership to cease and desist from its military aid program for the Government of Nicaragua," so that the only country in the region subject to foreign attack will also be the only country completely disarmed. Senator Dodd, perhaps the leading Senatorial dove with regard to Central America, was deeply impressed with these remarks and proposals and asked to "add my voice in praise of our leader," Senator Byrd. He was no less effusive in praising "the courageous leadership of President Arias, of Costa Rica; President Cerezo, of Guatemala; President Azcona, of Honduras; and President Duarte, of El Salvador, a great friend of this Congress" -- if not of the people of El Salvador, who regard him with fear and contempt and see no signs of a democratic process in the country, as shown by polls that are suppressed as useless. Senator Dodd and other sponsors of the Byrd Amendment are well aware of the achievements of the military regimes of the U.S. terror states, and of the escalation, in response to the Esquipulas Accord, of the terror for which the official "moderates" provide a democratic cover for the benefit of Congress and the media. It simply doesn't matter.
It is "fine" for Congress "to take a good roundhouse swing at the Sandinistas for reverting to dictatorial form" and to "remind them that Americans are not divided over democratic rights and wrongs," the New York Times editors commented, admonishing the Democrats "to let the Sandinistas know publicly the dangers of their bad-faith actions." The editors are not "divided over democratic rights and wrongs" in El Salvador; they have utter contempt for democratic rights in El Salvador, as their silence indicates, not to speak of their constant praise for the progress of democracy in this terror state. Stephen Kinzer, who knows Guatemala well, went so far as to quote a senior Guatemalan official on the "palpable unhappiness" of his government over the despicable behavior of the Sandinistas. "There is a liberalizing trend in the whole world, and Nicaragua is practically the only nation that is resisting it," he says, speaking for a government that is indeed liberalizing in that its murders and disappearances are down to a rate of only a few a day according to human rights groups, definitely a marked improvement over earlier years.139
The editors of the Washington Post called upon the "Central American democracies" and "Democratic critics of contra aid" to join "wholeheartedly" in condemning the Sandinista violation of "their solemnly sworn democracy pledges" as they act "very much the Communist police state, busting heads, tossing people in jail, censoring the media"; imagine what terms would apply to El Salvador or Israel for their actions at the same time, by these standards. It was surely quite proper for the American Ambassador to offer "the extra help required by the opposition," the editors continue. As the Council on Hemispheric Affairs observed, few nations would tolerate such behavior; "Washington would view foreign governmental funding of U.S. dissident entities as an unfriendly if not outright illegal act" and would not be likely to "countenance the Soviet ambassador to Washington's participation in a local leftist group's rally which called for termination of the current government," let alone participation by the German or Japanese ambassador in 1942, to take a closer analogue. It is also less than likely that an Ambassador from a hostile power engaged in hostilities against the United States would have been admitted in the first place, particularly one who had duplicated Melton's performance as he was sworn in as Ambassador in Washington, announcing that "I want to make it crystal clear what America stands for and the values of democracy and how the Sandinistas don't meet even the minimal standards." There would be "no more compromising" with the Sandinistas, according to this protegé of Elliott Abrams, architect of the terrorist attack against Nicaragua.140 But in the case of an official enemy, unique standards apply.
A few months earlier, Singapore had expelled a U.S. diplomat "on the grounds that he had improperly interfered in the domestic affairs of the country," Owen Harries writes in the right-wing journal he edits.141 "Under the Vienna Convention governing diplomatic relations, such interference is impermissible," he continues, so "the United States had no option but to comply" when Singapore charged that the diplomat had "encouraged disgruntled Singaporeans in anti-government activities." Harries is writing in defense of Singapore against charges of improper behavior and police-state repression. Singapore is a semi-fascist country that offers a favorable investment climate, so the Vienna Convention applies. Not so, however, in the case of Nicaragua, designated by the authorities as an enemy.
Commenting further, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs observes that although Melton and members of his staff were expelled "for blatant interference in Nicaraguan internal affairs, the use of the U.S. embassy to fund, direct and coordinate disruptive activities by the civil opposition in Nicaragua in harmony with the actions of the contras...continues," including almost $700,000 of U.S. government funds earmarked for opposition elements. The U.S. government "is making a clear effort to create a parallel government in Nicaragua" that might assume power under escalated attack or social collapse.142
In October 1988, Amnesty International (AI) released a document entitled El Salvador: `Death Squads' -- A Government Strategy, reporting that right-wing death squads had abducted, tortured, and killed hundreds of Salvadorans in the preceding eighteen months, often beheading the victims to spread fear.143 The so-called "death squads" are an agency of the security forces of the U.S.-installed government, serving its strategy of intimidating any potential opposition. "Victims are customarily found mutilated, decapitated, dismembered, strangled or showing marks of torture...or rape," AI reported. "The death squad style is to operate in secret but to leave mutilated bodies of victims as a means of terrifying the population." The victims include trade unionists, human rights workers, judges and jurors working on human rights abuse cases, refugees, church members, teachers, and students. "There can be no recourse to the police or military when they themselves carry out death-squad killings." The killings are carried out by plainclothes gunmen and by uniformed police and military units with the apparent acquiescence of the state: "the Salvadoran death squads are simply used to shield the government from accountability for the torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions committed in their name." Members of the death squads, some living in hiding in the United States, told AI that the squads were drawn from specially trained police units, the Treasury Police and the National Guard. Church and human rights groups estimate that about a dozen bodies bearing the marks of death squad torture and execution were turning up every month on roadsides and in body dumps in 1987, the toll quadrupling in early 1988. AI reported that the resurgence of the death squads could be traced partly to the government amnesty of a year earlier, as had been widely predicted at the time while the Times hailed El Salvador's forthcoming steps towards compliance with the peace accord.
The AI report received no notice in the New York Times. The Senate passed a resolution, 54 to 12, warning Nicaragua "that continued Sandinista violation of regional peace accords would `very likely' cause Congress to approve new military aid next year."144 We see again the familiar pattern: U.S.-backed atrocities in its client states coupled with stern warnings to Nicaragua to improve its behavior on pain of intensified U.S. terror.
Also in October 1988, the Guatemala City journal Central America Report took as its lead story the just released Amnesty International annual review of human rights for 1987.145 It reported that "some of the most serious violations of human rights are found in Central America," particularly Guatemala and El Salvador, where "kidnappings and assassinations serve as systematic mechanisms of the government against opposition from the left, the [AI] report notes"; recall that the situation deteriorated after the Esquipulas Accord, and became still more grim through 1988. The human rights situation is "less dramatic" in Nicaragua and Honduras, apart from "civilian deaths at the hands of U.S.-supported contra forces." While there have been "cases of kidnappings, tortures and extrajudicial killings in Honduras, Panama and Nicaragua, these actions have not been established as systematic government mechanisms."
A month later, the New York Times published a front-page story by Lindsey Gruson on atrocities in Guatemala.146 In the past, Gruson observes, Guatemala City had been "a free-fire zone for political extremists" who carried out extensive terror; unmentioned is the fact that the "political extremists" responsible for the overwhelming majority of the atrocities were -- and are -- the agents of the U.S.-backed government. In fact, the U.S. role in Guatemala is unmentioned in this story. Gruson describes the increase in kidnappings, torture, and murder, the worsening situation in the cities, and the "de facto military dictatorship" in the countryside (quoting Americas Watch observer Anne Manuel). The main targets in the cities are "labor leaders, union organizers and leftists." A spokesman for an independent human rights organization says that "there's a democratic facade now, nothing more. The facade hides that all the power is held by the army and that the situation is getting worse." An Americas Watch report released two weeks later accused the government of prime responsibility for the serious increase in human rights abuses, now reaching a level of about two a day, presumably a considerable underestimate, Americas Watch concludes.147
As 1988 came to a close, government atrocities mounted in the client states. Several new death squads appeared. The dean of the Law School in Santa Ana, Imelda Medrano, was murdered on December 16 after returning from a university demonstration in San Salvador where she was a principal speaker; her house had been watched for two days by men in a jeep with darkened windows, a death squad trademark. Three powerful explosions destroyed the biology building of the National University on December 22. Attackers killed one watchman; a second described a heavily armed squad of about 50 men. The University Rector accused the military of planting the bombs: "This is the response of the Armed Forces to the stepped up war and their impotence in containing it," he said. The attack took place as soldiers were surrounding the campus and only the military would have been free to operate so openly, the Rector added. The director of Tutela Legal agreed that "These are actions of people with military training, heavily armed and moving with total liberty." Five days later, a bomb destroyed the offices of the Lutheran Church, which the army views with suspicion because of its work with refugees. Privately, church officials, who had received death threats, blamed the army. The West German Ambassador, who had condemned attacks against the Lutheran Church, received a death threat and left the country. A Western diplomat observed that "I see a military hand" behind the bombings. A source with close military contacts says the army feels it can counter the guerrillas only with "selective terror."148 There was little news coverage, less concern, except for the possible threat to the Reagan project of bringing "democracy" to El Salvador.
The lesser abuses in the client states also continued. On September 13, soldiers and police attacked a student demonstration in San Salvador and broke up another in Santa Ana, while security forces surrounded the UNTS offices. Some 250 students and university workers were arrested; the rector of the university claimed that 600 students had been arrested and that the whereabouts of over 400 were unknown. "During the demonstration riot police fired volleys of shots and canisters of tear gas into the crowd of 3,000," wounding "scores of demonstrators" and apparently killing the operator of a police water cannon (Central America Report). Thirty local and foreign journalists "were ordered to the ground by security agents, who warned them not to move or take photographs" and at least ten foreign observers were detained. Sam Dillon reported in the Miami Herald that "angry riot police" had hurled tear-gas canisters at the students and workers, "firing their rifles skyward," "clubbing protestors and arresting 230." The director of Tutela Legal "said the police actions appeared designed to intimidate urban protesters at the beginning of a crucial election period." "The patience of the security corps has its limits, faced with street provocations," Defense Minister Vides Casanova told reporters: "We'll not tolerate any more violence." The day before, COHA reported, military forces had "attacked 500 demonstrators in Usulutan who were peacefully protesting the lack of government aid following heavy flooding," injuring fifteen and arresting eight.149
As before, these lesser abuses pale into significance before the government strategy of intimidation through sheer terror.
None of this elicited interest or concern, as distinct from the events at Nandaime that briefly approached some of the regular lesser abuses. These, as we have seen, aroused such horror that congressional doves were compelled to renew aid to their terrorist forces to punish the Sandinistas. Furthermore, the European allies of the United States refrained from more than token assistance after Hurricane Joan destroyed much of Nicaragua in October. The reason was their profound revulsion over the repression at Nandaime, which "many European governments view...as open defiance by the Sandinistas of the regional peace process," Julia Preston reports, noting "the current displeasure in Europe with the Sandinistas" -- though not with El Salvador and Guatemala, which continue to merit their support.150 Again we see that hypocrisy has no limits, and also that Europe is far more colonized than it likes to believe.
As noted, the lesser abuses in the client states, generally ignored, were reported by Sam Dillon in the Miami Herald. In a later article, he reviews the increasing repression throughout the region, singling out Nicaragua as the worst offender, its most serious offense being "the gassing of a peaceful rally and jailing of top political leaders" at Nandaime. He goes on to describe how the Salvadoran military attacked "large but peaceful urban protests," which "angry riot police...crushed...with tear gas, clubbings and more than 250 arrests," along with arrests of many others "in night raids on the offices of two leftist unions and peasant groups." He briefly mentions the "dramatic" increase in "political killings by the army and death squads -- as well as by guerrillas." He is plainly cognizant of the facts, but, as the facts pass through the ideological filter, large-scale slaughter, terror, and repression as a government strategy of intimidation in the U.S. client states become insignificant as compared with real but far lesser abuses in a country subjected to U.S. terror and economic warfare. Note that we are considering a reporter, and a journal, that are at least willing to report some of the facts.151
The client states continued to reject negotiations, while the U.S. government and the media railed at the Sandinistas for their failure to revitalize the negotiations stalled by the obstructionist tactics of the U.S. proxies. We learn from the Mexican press that President Cerezo "reiterated his rejection of a possible dialogue with the guerrilla army," adding that as long as the "subversives...do not give up their belligerent position, we will not open direct talks with their leaders... No dialogue can take place amidst weapons." In El Salvador, thousands of peasants, students and workers marched through the capital city to the hotel where an O.A.S. meeting was taking place to demand that the government negotiate with the guerrillas. The guerrillas had declared a unilateral truce for the duration of the meeting and "renewed a call for negotiations with the government," AP reported. President Duarte, in his address to the O.A.S. delegates, "said the guerillas' expressed desire to resume negotiations was merely `tactical'. He accused the rebels of pursuing `a strategic maneuver to destroy democracy through democracy's own liberties."152
The O.A.S. meetings were covered by Lindsey Gruson in the New York Times. Gruson referred bleakly to the "perversion" of the peace process in Central America. Predictably, only one example is cited: the Nandaime rally and the arrests of Nicaraguan peasants on suspicion of aiding the contras. These acts of repression have "undermined efforts to reinvigorate the negotiations," Gruson reports, citing U.S. diplomats. With regard to El Salvador, his only comment is that the October 1987 amnesty closed the books on earlier army assassinations; Guatemalan and Honduran abuses are unmentioned, and nothing is said about negotiations in El Salvador and Guatemala, or why they have not been "invigorated."153 In short, a selective filter designed for the needs of government propaganda, and reflecting the insignificance of terror, torture, and repression when they do not serve these ends.
Gruson also notes that no agreement could be reached on a date for the planned Central American summit, for unknown reasons. The veil is lifted by the Mexican press, which reported that the Salvadoran government cancelled the Central American summit scheduled to take place in San Salvador, pleading "lack of economic capacity." The cancellation "came only a few hours after the visit to that country of the U.S. Special Ambassador to Central America, Morris Busby," and his meeting with President Duarte. Analysts are quoted as attributing the summit difficulties to "a boycott by the U.S., in which Morris Busby will not be exempt from `chargeability' and which might have been devised as a reply to Cerezo's refusal to support belligerent action against Nicaragua." For President Cerezo, "it is vital that the presidential summit take place, observers indicate, because with this he is trying to distract attention from the violent problems of his country and to increase the international prestige that he has gained with his policies of active neutrality."154
The pattern is one that we have seen repeatedly: U.S. initiatives to obstruct a political settlement, Duarte's compliance, and the silence of the media.
The selection of issues and style of commentary illustrate the means employed to inculcate proper habits of thought. A particularly useful technique is uncritical citation of approved leadership elements. As the government and media sought to revitalize anti-Sandinista fervor in summer 1988, Stephen Kinzer reported a meeting of the United States and its four Central American allies. "All four countries disapprove of the Sandinistas and have urged them to liberalize their regime," he observed, "but they do not agree on how best to exercise such pressure." President Arias is quoted as saying that "Nicaragua has unfortunately failed us," expressing "my disappointment, my pain, my sadness," as he discussed abuses in Nicaragua with his colleagues from the terror states; about their practices he has expressed no disappointment, pain, or sadness, as least so far as the U.S. media report. President Cerezo added that he is "very distressed that the Sandinistas are not following the rules of democracy." George Shultz denounced the "Communist Government of Nicaragua -- and the Communist guerrillas of El Salvador and Guatemala" as "a destructive and destabilizing force in the region," as "the Sandinista regime continues to rely on Soviet arms and to amass a military machine far in excess of its defense needs." "Mr. Shultz and the Foreign Ministers of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica expressed `their respect for the principles of peace, democracy, security, social justice and economic development'," Kinzer reports with no comment, and no detectable shudder.155
An accompanying article from Washington describes the consensus of Senators to approve further aid to the contras, and the concern of the Democrats that it would harm "their party's image" if the Sandinistas were to repress the internal opposition or "mount a military offensive against the contras"; "the party's image" is not damaged by its support for continuing atrocities in the terror states. A few days later, senatorial doves passed legislation permitting new military aid if the treacherous Sandinistas were to attack the contras within Nicaragua or receive more military aid than Congress considers appropriate.156 AP quotes liberal Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who supports "humanitarian aid to the rebels," with a vote on arms to follow in the event of "continued flow of Soviet weaponry into Nicaragua, violations of last year's regional peace accord by the Sandinistas and any attempt by the Nicaraguan government to militarily `mop up' the rebel forces, Kerry said."157
All of this fits the standards for competent reporting. The quotes are presumably accurate, as are the descriptive statements. Lying behind the selection of facts and manner of presentation are certain unquestioned assumptions, including the following. Nicaragua alone is failing to "liberalize" and observe the Esquipulas Accord; the facts are different, but unwelcome, therefore scarcely reported. It is illegitimate for Nicaragua to defend itself from the terrorist attack of U.S. proxy forces based in Honduras by conducting military operations within its own territory, or by receiving arms from the only supplier that the United States will permit; but it is legitimate for the U.S. allies to refuse any dealings with the indigenous guerrillas (generally unreported) and to attempt to destroy them with U.S arms and advisers. The president of Costa Rica, whose business-run democracy survives on a U.S. dole, and who, if quoted accurately, cares little about continuing atrocities in the "fledgling democracies" or their gross violations of the minimal preconditions for democracy and of the peace treaty that bears his name in the media, is the arbiter of adherence to its provisions and of democratic practice. The president of the military-run state of Guatemala, which continues to terrorize and murder its citizens, though on a lesser scale than in earlier years, is in a position to condemn far less repressive and more open societies than his for failure to move towards "democracy." A U.S. official who bears major responsibility for the attack on Nicaragua, for traumatizing El Salvador, and for backing near-genocidal slaughter in Guatemala is, likewise, in a position to determine who is "destabilizing" Central America and what is an appropriate level of defense for the government subjected to U.S. armed attack. Aid to the U.S. proxy forces is "humanitarian," though international conventions, reiterated in the World Court ruling that the U.S. government rejects and the media ignore, are quite explicit in restricting the concept of "humanitarian aid" to aid to civilians, and civilians on both sides, without discrimination. It is only right and just for a "neutral agency" such as the State Department to administer such "humanitarian aid," and, if Nicaragua attempts measures of self-defense that would be normal and unquestioned in any Western democracy, it is proper for the CIA to supply its terrorist forces in the field within Nicaragua -- unless they prove an "imperfect instrument" and thus contribute to "our Nicaraguan agony."
One can imagine a different style of reporting, not adopting these presuppositions of U.S. propaganda, citing other sources (the World Court, for example), and selecting relevant facts by different criteria (human rights and needs, democracy and freedom, the rule of law, and other values that are commonly professed). But such will rarely be found in the media. The constant barrage of properly selected material, with hardly a critical word or analytic passage, firmly instills the presuppositions that lie behind it, shaping the perceptions of the audience within the framework of acceptable doctrine more effectively than the productions of any Ministry of Truth. Meanwhile the media can plead that they are only doing their duty honestly -- as they are, though not in exactly the sense they intend.
As throughout this horrifying decade, the worst human rights violators in Central America by a wide margin are the outright U.S. creations -- the government of El Salvador and the contras -- and the U.S.-supported regime of Guatemala. If the obvious significance of these facts has been discussed in the mainstream media and journals, I have not found it. The nature of these regimes is sometimes partially revealed; no conclusions are drawn concerning the U.S. role in Central America, U.S. political culture, and the moral standards of the privileged classes that construct and support these policies.
The conclusions that are drawn are quite different. New York Times diplomatic correspondent Robert Pear writes of the prospects for a "new policy of diplomacy in Central America" under the Bush administration. This hopeful new policy of President Bush and his pragmatic Secretary of State James Baker will emphasize working "more closely with Congress and with Latin American nations to put political pressure on the Sandinistas to allow elections [there having been none in Nicaragua by Washington edict], freedom of expression and other rights guaranteed under regional peace accords." To ensure that the reader understands the Party Line, Pear adds: "Nicaragua signed those accords in 1987 and 1988, but the United States and other nations say the Sandinistas have flouted many provisions." There is no hint that anything may be awry in the U.S. client states or that the actions of the United States itself might raise some questions.
The performance throughout would impress the rulers of a totalitarian state. The suffering that has resulted, and will yet ensue, is beyond measure.
1 Addendum to p. 80.
2 AP, NYT, Jan. 5; Stephen Kinzer, NYT, Jan. 6; AP, BG, Jan. 8; editorial, NYT, Jan. 8; Bernard Weinraub, NYT, Jan. 15; Abrams, Op-Ed, NYT, Jan. 15; David Shipler, NYT, Feb. 26, 1986.
3 Beecher, "Pressuring Nicaragua," Jan. 17, 1986.
4 Hamilton, ms., 1987.
5 For extensive documentation on how charges known to be false are maintained for propaganda purposes, and the interesting reaction to the exposure of these facts, see references cited in
appendix I, section 1.
6 NYT, Aug. 13, 1987.
7 For a detailed review of the major State Department allegations, see Morley and Petras, The Reagan Administration and Nicaragua.
8 Extra!, Oct.-Nov. 1987. In a letter of March 11, 1988, Lelyveld informed FAIR that he had instructed LeMoyne "to devote an entire article to what the current evidence shows on this point" (Extra!, Sept./Oct. 1988, pointing out that "six months later, no such article has appeared"). See below.
9 Humberto Ortega, FBIS-LAT-87-239, Dec. 14, 1987; LeMoyne, Dec. 20, 1987.
10 NYT, Dec. 18, 1987.
11 NYT, Jan. 18, 1988.
12 J. D. Gannon, Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 26, 1988.
13 NYT, Feb. 7, July 4, 1988; my emphasis.
1 Trainor, NYT, April 3, 1988; Rivera y Damas, Oct. 26, 1980, cited by Bonner, Weakness and Deceit, 207.
15 "Salvador Rebels: Where Do They Get the Arms?", NYT, Nov. 24, 1988. Whether by accident or not, this article appeared a month after FAIR had made public the failure of the Times to deal with the issue despite the promise of the foreign editor; see note 8.
16 See my introduction to Morley and Petras, Reagan Administration and Nicaragua.
17 Others too have put the doctrine aside. Newsweek Central America correspondent Charles Lane writes in the Wall Street Journal (always irate about Sandinista attempts to overthrow the government of El Salvador and others) that the Salvadoran guerrillas "capture or make most of their own weapons." Still, history has passed them by, he writes, in part because of the "disillusioning Sandinista experiment," a "once-promising revolution" (we now read) that "turned into an embarrassing Cuban-style economic basket case [for unstated reasons] and a U.S.-Soviet battleground" (WSJ, Dec. 23, 1988).
18 On the Miranda testimony and the media-State Department version of it, see my article in Z Magazine, March 1988; Sklar, Washington's War on Nicaragua, 383f.
19 Marcio Vargas, Mexico City, interview with Arce, Central America Information Bulletin, Dec. 21, 1988; Rubén Montedonico, El Día (Mexico City), Nov. 6, 7, 1988, reprinted in translation in Honduras Update, Nov./Dec., 1988. On Lau, see Turning the Tide, 104.
20 Addendum to p. 81.
21 For discussion of one example, see my review of Saul Bellow's To Jerusalem and Back, reprinted in Towards a New Cold War, a review that aroused such anger that it caused the suspension of the journal in which it originally appeared, so I was informed. For many more examples, see other chapters in the same book, my Peace in the Middle East? (Pantheon, 1974, chapter 5), and Fateful Triangle.
appendix V, section 4.
23 "Statement by the AFL-CIO Executive Council on Israel, Feb. 16, 1988.
24 Wiesel, Op-Ed, NYT, June 23; Reuven Padhatzur, Ha'aretz, May 16, 1988. On Wiesel's long-held doctrine that it is obligatory to maintain silence in the face of atrocities of the state one loves, and that only those in power are in a position to know so that he must refrain from comment on atrocities, see Fateful Triangle and Turning the Tide. For his reiteration of the obligation of silence at the peak of the recent repression, see his article in Yediot Ahronot, Jan. 22, 1988, where he explains: "I refuse to criticize Israel, I have always refused to do this," among other similar sentiments, familiar from apologists for other states in earlier days. It would be unfair, however, to note Wiesel's practice without reference to those who now condemn him for his silence while effacing their own much worse record over many years. On the unacceptable facts, see the references of note 21. Wiesel, at least, had the integrity to adhere to his long-held position when it became unpopular.
25 Ze'ev Sachor, "Getting Accustomed to Atrocities," April 1, 1988, Hotam, one of many items translated from the Israeli press in the 1988 Report of the Israeli League for Human Rights, Tel Aviv, which give the flavor of the pogroms organized by the Defense Ministry to teach the beasts of burden a lesson. This highly informative material is next to unknown in the United States, though it is arguably of some relevance to those who are expected to pay the bills.
26 Ha'aretz, July 15, 4; Jerusalem Post, July 6; Ya'akov Lazar, Hotam, July 15, reporting from Jabaliya; William Montalbano, Los Angeles Times, May 31, 1988, AP, May 30, on Dahariya, one of the atrocities reported by Dedi Zucker based on testimony by reservists, Yediot Ahronot, June 10; Yerushalayim, June 17, on Jericho; JP, June 24, 22, citing charges by Knesset member Ran Cohen; JP, Aug. 3, 1988, on the release of Mohammed Dari after three months in prison. For extensive documentation, see Punishing a Nation: Human Rights Violations During the Palestinian Uprising, December 1987 December 1988 (Al Haq -- Law in the Service of Man, Ramallah, December 1988).
27 Yizhar Be'er, Kol Ha'ir, Aug. 26, 1988; Joshua Brilliant, JP, Aug. 26, 1988.
28 Eitan Rabin, Ha'aretz, Sept. 23, 1988.
29 Shimon Elkavetz, Hadashot, Sept. 28; Tali Zelinger, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 29, 1988.
30 JP, Nov. 17; Ha'aretz, Dec. 2, Nov. 15, 16; Yariv, Yediot Ahronot, Nov. 18, 1988. Michal Sela, JP, Jan. 26, Feb. 3; JP, Feb. 10, 1989. See also Glenn Frankel, WP, Feb. 12; George Moffett, CSM, Feb. 15, 1989.
31 Reuven Padhatzur, Ha'aretz, Nov. 30, 1988. See also Eitan Rabin, Ha'aretz Supplement, Dec. 2, 1988, making the same points.
32 Hadaf Hayarok, supplement to Al Hamishmar, Aug. 23, 1988.
33 Almagor, Ha'ir, Dec. 16, 1988; NYT, March 18, 1968.
34 Gilat, Hadashot, Dec. 16; Gissen, Joel Brinkley, NYT, April 28; AP, NYT, Dec. 15; special, NYT, Dec. 5, 1988. Eiran Taus, Al-Hamishmar, Nov. 19; Judith Green, News from Within, Dec. 14, 1988. Green, a Jerusalem architect working with the "Beita Committee" that hopes to reconstruct the houses destroyed by the army, visited the village with a member of the U.S. consulate on the day when the child was killed, and reported this story as well as the destruction caused by rampaging soldiers in a village that was quiet, with almost no villagers on the streets when the soldiers entered with riot control equipment. See my article in Z Magazine, July 1988, for more on the background, based in part on a personal visit a week after the incident with the hikers in April, while the village was still under military siege.
35 Gad Lior, Yediot Ahronot, July 10, 1988.
36 For a few references to current discussion on transfer, see my article in Z Magazine, May 1988. Poll, Ha'aretz, June 8, 1988; the poll, excluding settlers and kibbutz members, found 41 percent in favor. A poll taken shortly after found 49 percent favoring "transfer" of Arabs from the occupied territories; JP, Aug. 12, 1988. Rav Kook, quoted by Eyal Kafkafi, Davar, Sept. 26, 1988. See Yehoshafat Harkabi, Israel's Fateful Hour (Harper & Row, 1988), the first readily available source to deal with these important matters.
37 Michael Walzer, "Nationalism, internationalism, and the Jews," in Irving Howe and Carl Gershman, eds., Israel, the Arabs and the Middle East (Bantam, 1972); Cockburn, Nation, Nov. 21, 1988.
38 Addendum to p. 84.
39 Extra!, Dec. 1987.
40 CBS News, 6:30 P.M., Dec. 7, 1987. The phrase in quotes is either an exact quote or a very close paraphrase; I do not have the transcript available.
41 Many did, however; see
42 NYT, Dec. 4, 1987.
43 Steven Roberts, NYT, May 31; editorial, NYT, June 1.
44 Alexander Cockburn, Nation, June 18, 1988.
45 Editorial, Globe and Mail, June 10, 1988; James LeMoyne, New York Times Magazine, June 5, 1988. With regard to Father Carney, LeMoyne notes only the report that he was executed. On the follow-up to LeMoyne's account of torture, see
appendix V, section 6.
46 New Statesman, June 3, 10, 1988. For some exceptions, see a forthright editorial in the Boston Globe, June 1, and Michael Parks, Los Angeles Times, May 28, 1988.
47 Addendum to p. 89.
48 American-Arab Affairs, Winter 1987-88.
49 Paul Lewis, NYT, Nov. 4, 1988.
50 "The U.N. versus the U.S.," NYT Magazine, Jan. 22, 1984.
51 Shirley Hazzard, Defeat of an Ideal (Atlantic Monthly Press, Little, Brown, 1973, 201). The only exceptions, she notes, were a Lao government initiative of 1959 and the Tonkin Gulf incident of 1964, when Adlai Stevenson falsely claimed that the alleged attacks on U.S. naval vessels were "a calculated, a deliberate act of military aggression against the United States."
52 Times Literary Supplement (London), Sept. 17, 1982.
53 Defeat of an Ideal, 9, 14ff., 60f., 65, 71.
54 Here named "General Ortega," in a slip of the pen; David Johnston, NYT, June 25, 1988. Lindsey Gruson, NYT, Nov. 14, 1988.
55 Paul Lewis, NYT, Oct. 16, 1987; AP, Feb. 28, 1988.
56 AP, March 22; Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 43 words; Treaster, NYT, March 27, 1988. See also Mary McGrory, Boston Globe, March 23, noting that Honduras refused to admit a U.N. observer team.
57 Addendum to p. 90.
58 For discussion of how the problem was addressed in the case of Indochina from 1950 until today, see Manufacturing Consent, chapters 5, 6. On similar problems with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict, see
appendix V, section 4.
59 New Republic, Aug. 29, 1988; my emphasis. Christian, regarded as a specialist on Nicaragua, goes on to argue that the contras are a typical Latin American guerrilla movement, "largely a Central American creation," since "aside from a few individual Americans with nebulous government ties the key players were the Argentine colonels" (transmuted into Central Americans), the Honduran military chief Gustavo Alvarez, a noted killer, "and an assortment of former Nicaraguan National Guardsmen." Plainly, "the classic pattern of guerrilla armies in Latin America," even putting aside a few notable omissions. She does not elaborate on the significance of this interesting collection of "key players." Such contributions are apparently taken seriously.
60 Michael Allen, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 10; Central America Report (Guatemala City), Aug. 14, 1987. See Culture of Terrorism, 141f., 18-19, on the events and the media reaction.
61 Here and below, I will use the Guatemalan version of the English translation; Special Document, Esquipulas II Accord, Central America Report, August 14, 1987.
62 LeMoyne, NYT, Aug. 6, 7. On the actual reaction of Presidents Cerezo and Arias, see Central America Report, Aug. 14. See Culture of Terrorism, 141f., for further details.
63 Rosenthal, NYT, Aug. 21, 1987.
64 Brian Barger, UPI, Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 22, 1987; Excelsior (Mexico City), Oct. 22, 1987. On the supply flights and other matters, see the footnoted versions of my articles in Z Magazine, January, March, 1988.
65 For some exceptions, see chapter 4, notes 34, 37.
66 Note that this review is based on the library edition of the Times. The earlier (Boston) edition sometimes differs. Thus in the last paragraph (par. 25) of an October 24 story on contra attacks, omitted in the library edition, Kinzer mentions that the contras are using Redeye missiles and other supplies provided by "clandestine" CIA flights from Honduras, which Nicaragua cannot intercept without jet fighters.
67 In a December 6 interview with a contra commander, Kinzer quotes him as saying that the contras cannot supply themselves within Nicaragua (the sharp contrast with El Salvador is unmentioned, following standard convention), and have received, intact, 52 CIA supply drops. In a report the following day, he cites a Nicaraguan government report of 82 supply flights and 21 surveillance missions from November 5 to December 5. A January 25 story notes that "clandestine night supply flights into Nicaragua are a vital lifeline for the contras," citing an American official who says that there were more than 350 such flights in 1987. A brief AP report on October 30, 1987, notes the crash of a contra supply plane in Honduras.
68 Neil Lewis, NYT, Nov. 12, 1987. Others stated the facts correctly. See references cited in note 64.
69 U.N. General Assembly, A/42/PV.67, Nov. 16, 1987. On the reporting of this U.N. session, see
70 Stephen Kinzer, NYT, Oct. 15, 1987. He claims that President Arias "said Honduras could not be expected to close contra camps and ban clandestine supply flights if the Sandinistas do not negotiate a cease-fire with the contras and issue a broad amnesty." The Esquipulas Accord set no such condition on cessation of contra aid. Neither Arias nor anyone else has held that foreign aid to the guerrillas in El Salvador and Guatemala is legitimate until the governments negotiate a cease-fire with these indigenous forces or live up to the terms of the accords. If Kinzer's statement is correct, it follows that Arias too was committed to the failure of the accords that are mislabeled "the Arias plan." There are repeated references in the Times to alleged positions of Arias which lead to the same conclusion, but it is difficult to know how much is accurate, how much wishful thinking. For more on Arias's role and the reason for his relative acceptability in the United States, see my article in Z Magazine, November 1988. For comment on his "shocking record" in "only superficially promoting his own plan" while responding to pressures from Washington and the powerful right-wing elements within Costa Rica, see Council on Hemispheric Affairs, "News and Analysis," Feb. 10, 1989.
71 Questions also arise about Costa Rica, generally regarded as exempt from the accords. Thus the Spanish-language press is firmly under right-wing control, barring access of "all ideological groups," among other questions that would arise if Costa Rican affairs were reported. See
appendix V, section 6. Also, Culture of Terrorism, 243, for one critical case.
72 COHA, Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Feb. 3, 1988; Update, Central American Historical Institute, Dec. 28, 1987; Cultural Survival, vol. 12, no. 3, 1988.
73 Jonas, San Francisco Bay Guardian; Cockburn, Anderson Valley Advertiser; both June 8, 1988.
74 Human Rights Watch (Americas Watch/Asia Watch/Helsinki Watch) and Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, Critique: Review of the Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1987, June 1988. The review particularly condemns the State Department reports on the Central American countries, and their denigration and misrepresentation of the work of the "highly respected" Tutela Legal. These have been regular features of State Department productions.
75 COHA Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Feb. 17, 1988; Latinamerica press (Peru), Nov. 19, 1987.
76 See my article in Z Magazine, March 1988, for further details; U.N. testimony, La Voz, CDHES, March 24, 1988.
77 AP, Nov. 15, 1987; the Archbishop also noted other death squad killings. On February 20, the Times ran a brief AP report noting that the Archbishop attributed the murder to death squads and that the alleged killer retracted his confession.
78 LeMoyne, NYT, Nov. 29, 1987; COHA Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Feb. 17, 1988. Access to radio and TV later became much more free, but to speak of "free access to the press" in November 1987 was outlandish, and there has never been anything corresponding to the U.S.-funded pro-contra journal La Prensa. On the media in Central America, see
appendix V, section 6.
79 NYT, Nov. 29, 1987; June 5, Feb. 22, 1988.
See appendix V, section 6.
81 Ibid. On Chamorro's return, see COHA, News and Analysis, Feb. 20, 1988.
82 See Turning the Tide, 109-10.
83 El Sol (El Salvador On Line, Center for Central American Studies, Washington), Aug. 29, 1988; Sam Dillon, "El Salvador's Violent Past Returns in Poverty, Death," Miami Herald, Sept. 6, 1988.
84 LeMoyne, NYT, Nov. 21; Stephen Kinzer, NYT, Nov. 16, 1987. LeMoyne duly noted the risks that Zamora and Ungo faced from "extreme leftists and rightists" who "enforce their views with bullets and bloodshed," concealing the fact that the major risk by far has always been the behavior of the state security services and their associates. The "terror of left and right" technique is a common literary device to conceal the terror of the "centrists" whom the U.S. supports.
85 El Norte (Mexico), July 17, 1988; Central America NewsPak.
86 His party is the Social Christian Popular Movement. For his assessment of the current situation, with no "functioning democracy" or even "a democratic opening," see COHA's Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Aug. 31, 1988.
87 LeMoyne, photo, NYT, Nov. 4, 1987; NYT, October 28, 1987.
88 For further information, see references of note 64.
89 Central America Report, July 15, 1988; Latinamerica Press (Peru), July 21, 1988, datelined Tegucigalpa.
90 Reuter and AP, Toronto Globe and Mail, March 23; Pamela Constable, Boston Globe, March 20, 1988. El Tiempo, July 14, 1987.
91 Toronto Globe and Mail, March 23, 1988. See
appendix III on the integrity of the concerns angrily expressed over the Sandinista border violation. On the aid proposal, see Susan Rasky, NYT, March 19, 1988.
92 From Tegucigalpa, Joseph Treaster reported only that "ordinary Hondurans" generally feel that with the contras out of Honduras, tensions between the two countries will end, referring to the fear in Honduras that they will "get stuck with" the contras; NYT, March 21, 27.
93 See p. 221. Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 15; Richard Boudreaux, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 14; LeMoyne, NYT, Jan. 16; Kinzer, NYT, Jan. 25, 1988.
94 NYT, Nov. 10, 1987.
95 San Francisco Bay Guardian, Jan. 6, April 20, 1988.
96 Ibid., and FAIR Questionnaire submitted to Times editors on their Central America coverage, Jan. 23, 1988. Gutman, WP, Aug. 7, 1988.
97 AP, Feb. 2, 3; Globe and Mail, Feb. 3, 1988; Amnesty International, El Salvador: `Death Squads' -- a Government Strategy (October 1988). See my article in Z Magazine, Jan. 1988, for further details.
98 Douglas Farah, WP, Jan. 4; COHA Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Jan. 20, 1988.
99 AP, Feb. 26, 23, 1988; Congressional Record, House, Dec. 8, 1987, H11037f. See Envío, Jan. 1988, for a reaction by Jesuits in Nicaragua.
100 Feb. 18; March 20; April 20, 1988. On the credibility of LeMoyne's reports of guerrilla atrocities, see
appendix V, section 4.
101 March 20; March 20, "Review of the Week"; Feb. 29, 1988. LeMoyne's successor Lindsey Gruson follows basically the same script. Thus a dispatch with the headline "Rebel Attacks on the Rise in Salvador" begins with ten paragraphs on the violence of the "Marxists committed to redistributing the nation's wealth and overthrowing the American-backed government," including attacks on army headquarters, ambushing police, and two car bombs in a wealthy neighborhood; and in paragraph eleven, we learn that human rights monitors report "a sharp increase in terrorism and massacres attributed to right-wing death squads, the army and the guerrillas" (NYT, Oct. 20, 1988).
102 Editorial, Observer (London), Feb. 7, 1988.
103 For details, see my articles in Z Magazine, January, March 1988.
104 Editorial, NYT, Jan. 31.
105 LeMoyne, NYT, Jan. 22, 1988.
106 LeMoyne, NYT, Jan. 18; Globe and Mail, Feb. 5, 1988.
107 Editorial, El Tiempo, May 5, 1988; reprinted in Hondupress, May 18.
108 Central America Report, June 17, 1988.
109 Human rights monitors have repeatedly condemned this technique of ideological warfare, but to no avail. See my article in Z Magazine, Jan. 1988, for details.
110 Reuters, NYT, Nov. 9, 1987, citing the CIVS report of November 8 and Latin American officials; Amnesty Law and Bill to suspend the State of Emergency, promulgated in November 1987, Unofficial translation, Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry, given to me in December by Foreign Minister Miguel D'Escoto, who appeared genuinely to believe that the Accord would be permitted to survive.
111 Nov. 18, 1987.
112 Lindsey Gruson, NYT, Oct. 29; LeMoyne, Nov. 29, 1987.
113 Chris Norton, Globe and Mail, Feb. 10, 1988.
114 Chamorro, Packaging the Contras.
115 Harper's, Oct. 1987.
116 Lindsey Gruson, NYT, Dec. 15, 1987.
117 Tad Szulc, Parade Magazine, Aug. 28, 1988.
118 Julia Preston notes that the Sandinistas have captured "state-of-the-art equipment, so modern that not even all U.S. units have them" (WP, Feb. 4, 1988), quite apart from the sheer mass of regular supply and the crucial assistance of U.S. aerial and naval surveillance. On the high quality of contra military and communication systems, extraordinary by the standards of the region, see Culture of Terrorism, 91. The illegal "humanitarian" aid sent to the contras in their Honduran bases provides them with a level of sustenance beyond what they could find within Nicaragua, not only food and supplies but even first class sports equipment (see Joe Gannon, Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 13, 1989). The "humanitarian" aid is presumably designed not only to maintain the terrorist forces in the field but also to draw people from Nicaragua as the economic situation worsens.
119 Interamerican's Public Opinion Series, no. 7, June 4-5, 1988, Interamerican Research Center, Los Angeles. Alert! (CISPES), March 1988.
120 See p. 16.
121 William Bollinger and David M. Lund, Latinamerica Press (Peru), Sept. 22, 1988. Bollinger is the director of the Interamerican Research Center; Lund is chair of the history department at the Universidad Autónoma in Mexico City. Both are involved in polling in Central America, including the polls they discuss.
122 Conclusions of the National Debate for Peace in El Salvador, Called by Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas, Sept. 1988. Distributed by National Agenda for Peace in El Salvador, Box 192, Cardinal Station, Washington DC 20064.
123 Katherine Ellison, Knight-Ridder Service, BG, Aug. 1, 1988. Others understand that "Nicaragua has gone further in complying with the Arias peace plan than Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador," but Nicaragua's ties to the Soviet bloc provide "a reason, if not an excuse," for ignoring the fact, and recognition of it in no way influences continuing news coverage or opinion; editorial, NYT, March 11, 1988.
124 In El Salvador at least; in Guatemala, evidence is not available. Ellison's report is unusual in at least acknowledging that Guatemala "broke off talks" with the guerrillas.
125 COHA News and Analysis, Jan. 14, 1988. The FDR is the political group allied with the FMLN guerrillas.
126 Excelsior, Feb. 9; Central America Report, Feb. 26. There were brief notices in BG, Feb. 9, 11; CSM, Feb. 10, 1988.
127 El Sol, Feb. 22; editorial WP Weekly, March 28; AP, May 13; BG, May 14; Tad Szulc, LAT, May 22, 1988.
128 Central America Report, March 4, June 24; AP, Feb. 24, March 30, 1988.
129 Congressional Quarterly, June 25, 1988.
130 To be precise, we refer now to the revised accords, modified by the dictates of the U.S. government, and relayed by the media in conformity to these dictates.
131 COHA press release, June 11, 1988.
132 Kinzer and editorial, NYT, June 25; LeMoyne, NYT, June 7, 1988.
133 COHA's Washington Report on the Hemisphere, July 20, citing Tutela Legal. Archbishop Rivera y Damas, May 29, Bishop Chávez, denouncing April 14 killings; Alert! (CISPES), July, June. El Sol, Aug. 8. Orellana, El Sol, Aug. 1; Guardian (New York), Aug. 17. El Sol, Aug. 29, 1988. European Parliament, Excelsior (Mexico), Oct. 7, 1988; Central America News Update.
134 Brook Larmer, CSM, Aug. 16. Zamora, NPR, July 19. El Sol, July 25; AP, BG, June 22, 100 words. El Sol, July 18; AP, NYT, July 14, 125 words. Joel Bleifuss, In These Times, May 18. Hondupress, May 4; editorial, El Tiempo, May 4; Hondupress, May 18, June 15; Central America Report, Nov. 18, 1988. María Verónica Frenkel, reporting on a visit to striking farmers in Costa Rica, Nicaragua Through Our Eyes (Americans working in Nicaragua), July 1988.
135 WP Weekly, Aug. 15-21; NYT, Aug. 19; COHA's Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Aug. 31, 1988.
136 NYT, July 11, 1988.
137 Robert Pear, NYT, July 15, 1988, and many further references.
138 See p. 57.
139 Editorials NYT, July 18, Aug. 7; Kinzer, NYT "Week in Review," July 17, 1988.
140 WP Weekly, July 18-24, 25-31; COHA press release, July 14; Update, Central American Historical Institute (Georgetown U., Washington), Aug. 17, 1988.
141 The National Interest, Fall 1988.
142 COHA, "News and Analysis," Sept. 8, 1988.
143 Reuter, Toronto Globe and Mail, Oct. 26; Miami Herald, Oct. 26; a briefer report appears in the Boston Globe, AP, same day. See also Americas Watch, Nightmare Revisited, September 1988.
144 Pamela Constable, BG, Oct. 27, 1988.
145 Central America Report, Oct. 14, 1988.
146 NYT, Nov. 13, 1988.
147 LAT-BG, Nov. 25, 1988.
148 Chris Norton, CSM, Jan. 13; El Sol, Jan. 9, 1989.
149 UPI, BG, Sept. 14; El Sol, Sept. 19, Central America Report, Sept. 23; Sam Dillon, MH, Sept. 20; COHA "News and Analysis," Oct. 19, 1988.
150 Preston, WP, Nov. 8, 1988.
151 Sam Dillon, MH, Oct. 1, 1988.
152 Excelsior (Mexico City), Aug. 31, Central America NewsPak. AP, Nov. 15; a few words were excerpted in the Boston Globe, noting that there had been a march for unstated purposes, Nov. 16, 1988.
153 Lindsey Gruson, NYT, Nov. 18, 1988.
154 Excelsior, Oct. 19, 21, 1988; Central America NewsPak.
155 Kinzer, NYT, Aug. 2, 1988.
156 See note 138.
157 Rasky, NYT, Aug. 2; AP, BG, Aug. 3, 1988.