Twenty years ago we had a similar situation in El Salvador. We had — guerrilla insurgency controlled roughly a third of the country, 75,000 people dead, and we held free elections. I was there as an observer on behalf of the Congress.
The human drive for freedom, the determination of these people to vote, was unbelievable. And the terrorists would come in and shoot up polling places; as soon as they left, the voters would come back and get in line and would not be denied the right to vote.
And today El Salvador is a whale of a lot better because we held free elections.
The power of that concept is enormous. And it will apply in Afghanistan, and it will apply as well in Iraq.
Of course, the U.N. Truth Commission on El Salvador had more to say on the subject, their conclusions were, in short, that the civilian government was incapable of reigning in the extremely right-wing military leadership, who had not only control of their own troops—but extensive links, to the point of shared rosters—with the paramilitary death squads running around the country doing things like assassinating the Catholic archbishop, raping nuns, etc. They were doing all this to terrorize the populace away from supporting the left-wing guerrilla organization, FMLN, which was also doing evil at the time. However, whereas the “external support” for the FMLN was from a variety of individuals and support groups, and two third-world nations (i.e. Cuba and Nicaragua), the Salvadoran military received extensive support, training, and arms from the U.S. defense apparatus, and the police received training in counter-insurgency warfare from the CIA and FBI.
So now, the Army just happens to discover a massive torture operation run by the Iraqi police.
Gee, I wonder what ever became of those debates in the Pentagon about whether or not to pursue a “Salvadoran option.” Guess we know now, huh.
So now the question becomes, why aren’t the U.N. and the I.C.C. filing war crimes charges against Bush, Rumsfeld, and the top military leadership? Obviously, I know why they aren’t doing that: because the U.S. government is the superpower, and confronting the U.S. government is a gamble few countries are willing to make on their own. Nevertheless, that is the question everyone should be asking.
Putting this President and his advisors on trial for (and convicting him of) war crimes for the same things that Reagan got away with might actually be the indication to both ourselves and the rest of the species that the U.S. is not stumbling it’s way into the apocalypse. It may also prevent a repeat of the Vietnam anmesia (at least among would-be Presidents), which has strikingly affected so many members of the last generation.
Some readers have probably noted that both Billmon and Crooks & Liars have commented on this issue. I knew of both before posting this, and posted without referencing theirs anyways. I did this firstly because I had started this post Saturday afternoon, set it aside to get hammered, and their posts went in the intervening time period. The second reason was because I didn’t read theirs until I had published this, so I couldn’t have plagerized it. The Newsweek link is the same because that was the first item in Google when I searched Sunday afternoon.
One distinct difference between myself and Billmon, particularly, is that I don’t believe the U.S. Army takeover of the torture facility was an act of official policy. It’s entirely possible, of course, that this is a scam, to demonstrate that the U.S. is actually fighting torture (while it commits it elsewhere), but if that were the case, the media talking points would’ve been prepared in advance, and a flurry of media activity about the U.S. actually fighting torture would’ve been what was seen on television and reported elsewhere. That was not the case: the takeover was heralded in the media with a whimper, not a bang. Thus, I think it was an act in spite of official policy, not the result of it.