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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

It's a system, George.

On March 24, 1976, the Argentine military overthrew the elected government of Isabel Perón, in a coup that was at least tacitly supported by the US. This coup began the seven years of the Argentine 'Dirty War,' during which the right-wing military dictatorship ran a witchhunt against 'radicals', 'communists', 'terrorists', and 'Jews' — literally grabbing people off the streets or out of their homes. Those desaparacidos [disappeared ones] were tortured and, commonly, murdered by their captors. It's estimated that between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed during the Dirty War, but no one really knows.


Did this man disappear?

Argentine soldiers frisking a civilian
at a checkpoint in Buenos Aires in 1977.
[Archive photo: AFP]


The brutal policies of the dictatorship eventually turned the nation against its military rulers. In a last-ditch effort to keep themselves in power, the generals attacked the Malvinas [Falkland Islands], a UK possession, thinking that a successful war would turn things around politically. They had over-reached, however, and the quick UK victory over the Argentine forces occupying the Malvinas led to the end of the military regime. Since then, successive Argentine governments have grappled with the legacy of the Dirty War, both in terms of trying to find out what really happened during those years and in terms of bringing the perpetrators of the Dirty War to justice.

On the 30th anniversary of Argentina's coup, Chilean writer and critic Ariel Dorfman offers some advice to Dubya regarding his own Dirty War:

For starters, given that Bush obdurately claims that the United States has been called upon by God to spread "democracy" around the globe, he could use a good history lesson and examine how his country propped up the terrorist regime in Argentina. Bush's father, who was the director of the CIA at the time of the coup in 1976, could tell his son a thing or two about the American role in supporting that dictatorship and some other tyrannies all through the twentieth century. More crucial to Bush Junior, however, and more urgent, would be to examine how the Argentine military, in the years since their country returned to democracy, have slowly and painfully dealt with their massive human rights violations.

That torture and exile, those executions and vast maltreatment, has been recognized, first by the army of Argentina in 1995, then by its navy in 2004 and a few days ago by its air force, as horrors for which the institutions themselves need to be held responsible. Not a few "bad apples". Not "excesses". Not a solitary dog trainer who happened to wake up one morning and decide to unleash his pets on cowering prisoners. Not a sergeant who decided one day to hood his wards and waterboard them, apply electricity to their genitals, make an inmate drink his own urine.

The armed forces in Argentina have proclaimed that everything that was done as part of their own "war on terror" was systemic. Systemic.. The decision to torture came from the top. Systemic. The decision to "take the gloves off" (no more Mr Nice Guy, right?) was created and encouraged by the highest authorities, was deemed inevitable by those who wanted to pacify a recalcitrant population, scare them into submission, demand that the soldiers on the ground extract more information, more "intelligence", stop the next "terrorist" attack.

Dorfman goes on from there, and he's stirred up quite a hornet's nest in the comments about his post.

[Dorfman, incidentally, had to flee his home country, Chile, when another US-backed coup overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. The military regime that replaced Allende was guilty of atrocities like those that would occur later in Argentina, although not on such a large scale.]

Via the UK Guardian's Comment is free blog.

| | Posted by Magpie at 7:04 PM | Get permalink




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