SOA GRADUATES ON PARADE
(1) US-maintained state terror becomes routine after impoverished citizens turn to guerrilla fighting instead of voting, for some strange reason, after the military steals five straight elections.
(2) Under orders of an SOA graduate, and with prior knowledge of the US Embassy, Archbishop Oscar Romero is shot through the heart while saying mass, shortly after begging Carter to stop arming the death squads.
(3) Emboldened by increased Reagan "aid", SOA graduates slaughter the thousand inhabitants of El Mozote, except for one mother hiding in the bushes who hears her children scream for her as they are bayoneted.
(4) The killing continues throughout the 1980s and to this day, including the murder by SOA graduates of six (American) Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter, on November 16th, 1989.
The gory details …
For nearly all of its postcolonial history, El Salvador’s government has been in the hands of military dictatorships, and its economy has been controlled by 14 coffee and industrial families.
"Fifty years of lies, fifty years of injustice, fifty years of frustration. This is a history of people starving to death, living in misery. For fifty years the same people had all the power, all the money, all the jobs, all the education, all the opportunities." — US-backed President Jose Napoleon Duarte explaining why El Salvador has guerrillas, interview with New York Times reporter Raymond Bonner, 1980
"[US policy in Latin America is designed to] maintain the Iberoamerican countries in a condition of direct dependence upon the international political decisions most beneficial to the United States, both at the hemisphere and world levels. Thus they preach to us of democracy while everywhere they support dictatorships." — Duarte speech, 1969
The military rulers steal the presidential elections in 1967, 1972, and 1977, as well as the intervening legislative ones, with ballot-counting fraud, gross physical intimidation of candidates, voters, and poll watchers. At a mass demonstration against the 1977 fraud, government "security" forces open fire, killing hundreds. Top opposition leaders are exiled, and many supporters are arrested, tortured and murdered.
Salvadoreans, frustrated by the futility of achieving social change through elections, resort to other means. While some limit themselves to more militant demonstrations, strikes, and occupations of sites, an increasing number turn to acts of urban guerrilla warfare such as assassination of individuals seen as part of the repressive machinery, bombings, ransom kidnappings. The government and its paramilitary right-wing vigilante groups—self-named "death squads"—counter with a campaign centered upon leaders of labor unions, peasant organizations and political parties, as well as priests and lay religious workers. — The Progressive, 5/84
"In El Salvador, American aid was used for police training in the 1950’s and 1960’s and many officers in the three branches of the police later became leaders of the right wing death squads that killed tens of thousands of people in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s." — New York Times, 10/22/87
In October 1979, junior military officers oust the military dictator in a bloodless coup, but the Carter administration pressures them to put senior military officers in key positions. Duarte, who in the 1970s had become a CIA informer, is installed as junta president. The resulting "reformist" government kills more people in its first month than in the previous nine months. E.g., a demonstration march by a coalition of popular organizations is first sprayed with DDT by cropduster planes along the route of the march; then when the demonstrators reach San Salvador's central plaza, snipers fire at them from surrounding government buildings; at least 21 dead and 120 seriously wounded. — The Guardian (London), 1/24/80
The US urges and directs a (largely cosmetic) land-reform program. "The troops came and told the workers the land was theirs now. They could elect their own leaders and run it themselves. The peasants couldn't believe their ears, but they held elections that very night. The next morning the troops came back and I watched as they shot every one of the elected leaders." — an officer of the Instituto Salvadoreno de Transformacion Agraria, established to oversee the land-reform program. "During the first days of the reform—to cite one case—5 directors and 2 presidents of new campesino organizations were assassinated and I am informed that this repressive practice continues to increase." — Jorge Alberto Villacorta, Assistant Minister of Agriculture, in his resignation letter of March, 1980
The assassination of Archbishop Romero …
Within months, almost all the civilian members resign in disgust, with even moderates and liberals announcing support for guerrilla groups as a last-ditch measure. (Note for "international communist conspiracy" theorists: the Salvadoran Communist Party also supported the new government, contributing the Minister of Labor, "because we believe it is going to comply with its promises and open the possibility of democratizing the country". The party was the last group on the left to join the guerrilla forces.) — Armstrong and Shenk, El Salvador: The Face of Revolution; Dunkerley, The Long War.
"Be Patriotic—Kill a Priest" — death squad slogan.
In March 1980, during a general strike the government kills 54 people in the capital alone. A week later, the Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, an outspoken critic of the government's human rights violations, who had called upon President Carter, "Christian to Christian", to cease providing military aid, is assassinated. In his last sermon, he addresses the security forces with these words:
I want to make a special appeal to soldiers, national guardsmen, and policemen: Brothers, each one of you is one of us. We are the same people. The campesinos you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear the words of a man telling you to kill, remember instead the words of God: "Thou shalt not kill". No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. … In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people who have suffered so much and whose laments cry out to heaven, I beseech you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression!
The next day he becomes the 11th priest murdered in the nation in 3 years.
He is assassinated by order of the prominent leader of the country’s right wing, Roberto D’Aubuisson, a graduate of the School of the Americas as were two of the three officers involved directly in the killing. Official blame does not come until 1987, although the CIA knows the facts within one year of the assassination. D’Aubuisson is granted immunity.
"You Germans are very intelligent. You realized that the Jews were responsible for the spread of communism, and you began to kill them." — D’Aubuisson
At the funeral of the martyred Archbishop—who had been a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize the year before, 23 members of the US House of Representatives being among his nominators—a bomb is thrown amongst the mourners in the plaza, followed by rifle and automatic fire, all emanating from the National Palace and some of the office buildings flanking the plaza, just as in January. At least 40 people are reported killed and hundreds injured. — The Guardian (London), 3/20/80
In his final days as president, Carter increases military aid to El Salvador to $10 million, and sends additional American advisors. — New York Times, 1/18/81. Once out of office, he says "I think the government in Salvador is one of the bloodthirstiest in [the] hemisphere now." — The Guardian (London), 7/20/83
Under Reagan and Bush, US military aid to El Salvador reaches (by conservative estimates) $6 billion, not counting aid routed through Israel, and the cost of training Salvadoran military personnel by the thousands at the School of the Americas. The Salvadoran armed forces and other "security" forces jump from approximately 7,000 men in 1979 to 33,000 men by 1983, and to 53,000 men by 1986. — New York Times, 2/12/85, 8/19/86
Of the 22,400 men in the Salvadoran Army in 1983, about 4,100 had been trained in the US. — Newsweek, 3/14/83
The El Mozote massacre …
In December 1981, government troops massacre the people of the village of El Mozote. Nearly 1,000 persons are killed, mostly the elderly, women and children. This is one of the most repulsive and cruelest massacres of the 20th century carried out by ground troops face-to-face with their victims—people hacked to death by machetes, many beheaded, a child thrown in the air and caught on a bayonet, an orgy of rapes of very young girls before they were killed … "If we don't kill them [the children] now, they’ll just grow up to be guerrillas." — an army officer to a reluctant soldier ... anti-communism at its zenith. — New York Times, 1/27/82; full details a decade later in The New Yorker, 12/6/93
Ten of the twelve officers directing the massacre are graduates of the School of the Americas.
"Mama, they are killing us" — 9-year-old son of Rufina Amaya, sole survivor of the El Mozote massacre, who from the bushes witnesses her four children bayoneted to death at the hands of SOA graduates
"[The El Salvador government is] making a concerted and significant effort to comply with internationally recognized human rights [and it is] achieving substantial control over all elements of its own armed forces, so as to bring to an end the indiscriminate torture and murder of Salvadorean citizens by these forces." — Reagan to Congress, two days after initial reports of the El Mozote massacre. The US State Department denies and covers up the massacre for nearly a decade.
Earlier the same month, the New York Times publishes an interview with a deserter from the Salvadoran Army who describes a class where severe methods of torture are demonstrated on teenage prisoners. He states that eight US military advisers, apparently Green Berets, are present. Watching "will make you feel more like a man," a Salvadoran officer apprised the recruits, adding that they should "not feel pity of anyone" but only "hate for those who are enemies of our country." — New York Times, 1/11/82
"I belonged to a squad of twelve. We devoted ourselves to torture, and to finding people whom we were told were guerrillas. I was trained in Panama for nine months by the [unintelligible] of the United States for anti-guerrilla warfare. Part of the time we were instructed about torture." — former member of the National Guard, interviewed on British TV in 1986
The US provides continual air power and pilots for reconnaissance, bombing, strafing, and napalming… villages destroyed, a nation of refugees created. — New York Times, 3/30/84
The guerillas have no air power until November 1990, when they use a Soviet-made surface-to-air missile for the first time. [Note to "international communist conspiracy" theorists: don’t get excited. The world arms traffic is wide open and fluid. In neighboring Honduras, years before, the US-supported contras were also using Soviet-made missiles to shoot down Soviet-made helicopters of Nicaragua. — The Guardian (London), 12/7/85. And the Salvadoran guerrillas were also using US, Israeli, Belgian, and German weapons. — US State Department report, 2/23/81]
"[When the rebels] capture a town, they treat the civilians well, paying for food and holding destruction to a minimum. And they have begun to free most of the government troops they capture, which helps to persuade other soldiers to surrender rather than fight to the death." — Newsweek, 3/14/83, international edition
America’s puppet, and the Jesuit murders …
Out of a total population of less than 5 million, Duarte’s juntas sponsor over 30,000 murders in 1980-1983 alone (roughly equivalent to the death of 1.25 million Americans). – Americas Watch estimate
11/84 Playboy interview question to newly-elected President Duarte: "Do the American military advisers also tell you how to run the war?"
Duarte: "This is the problem, no? The root of this problem is that the aid is given under such conditions that its use is really decided by the Americans and not by us. Decisions like how many planes or helicopters we buy, how we spend our money, how many trucks we need, how many bullets and of what caliber, how many pairs of boots and where our priorities should be—all of that ... And all the money is spent over there. We never even see a penny of it, because everything arrives here already paid for."
In July 1987, a Salvadoran woman named Yanira Corea who had received threatening phone calls and letters is kidnapped outside the Los Angeles office of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). Two men, speaking with what she describes as Salvadoran accents, force her at knifepoint into a van, interrogate her about her political activities and colleagues, cut her hands with a knife, burn her fingers with cigarettes, sexually assault her with a stick, then rape her. A month earlier, she had narrowly escaped being abducted, along with her three-year-old son. Other activists have their cars smashed or vandalized. — Los Angeles Times, 7/11/87
For several years under the Reagan administration, the FBI conducts a nationwide investigation of CISPES. During this period, some of the organization's offices are broken into with nothing of value taken except files. "It is imperative at this time to formulate some plan of attack against CISPES." — FBI teletype later made public, Los Angeles Times, 1/28/88
On November 16, 1989, one of the most shocking atrocities in this war of shocking atrocities occurred. Six Jesuit priests at the University of Central America in San Salvador are shot to death in cold blood at their campus residence, along with their housekeeper and her young daughter. A witness, whom the killers fail to observe, Lucia Barrera de Cerna, says she saw five armed men in uniform carry out the murders. The Salvadoran military—whom the Roman Catholic order had often criticized for human rights violations—are the immediate and logical suspects. Because of an extraordinary outcry against the crime, in the United States and internationally, including the creation of a special congressional task force, two months later nine officers and enlisted men are arrested—a platoon from the Atlacatl Battalion, seven of whom have only two days before the murders participated in combat training exercises supervised by the U.S. Special Forces (Green Berets) in El Salvador. Nine teen of twenty-six officers cited in the murder are SOA graduates. Bush administration officials grossly hinder investigation of the case.
A major offensive launched by the guerrillas in late 1989—in which they "brought the war home" to wealthy neighborhoods and Americans in the capital—had made clear to Washington and its Salvadoran allies, once again, finally, that the war was unwinnable.
"[I]f necessary, [the civil war in El Salvador] can be resolved the way it was in the Persian Gulf." — US General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, El Diario de Hoy (San Salvador) 4/9/91
In early 1992, the war comes to an official end when a United Nations commission, after a year-and-a-half effort, finally gets the warring sides to agree to a cease fire and a peace agreement. The US taxpayer had been duped into paying several billion dollars to kill over 75,000 civilians.
Reagan explains …
In 1994, the ruling Arena party (of recently-deceased Roberto D’Aubuisson) is officially credited with 641,000 votes, to 326,000 votes for the former guerrilla groups’ FMLN party. Nearly 1,000,000 eligible voters in poor districts are denied the vote—voting cards fail to arrive, birth certificates destroyed in the war, polling stations too distant and Arena-controlled bus companies on slowdown, defective voter-registration lists, military intimidation (e.g., helicopter flights over poor areas), etc.
The United States supports the murderous government of El Salvador, says President Ronald Reagan, because it is trying "to halt the infiltration into the Americas, by terrorists and by outside interference, and those who aren't just aiming at El Salvador but, I think, are aiming at the whole of Central and possibly later South America and, I'm sure, eventually North America." — New York Times, 3/7/81
Despite American patrol boats in the Gulf of Fonseca (which separates El Salvador from Nicaragua), AWAC surveillance planes in the skies over the Caribbean, and an abundance of aerial photographs, despite a large US radar installation in Honduras manned by 50 American military technicians, the finest electronic monitoring equipment modern technology had to offer, and all the informers that CIA money could buy, Reagan could not support its case that the fires of the Salvadoran revolution were stoked by Nicaraguan and Cuban coals; nor by the Soviet Union, Vietnam, the PLO, Ethiopia, or any of the other countries indicted at one time or another as important suppliers of military aid. — New York Times, 7/30/82, 4/16/83, 7/31/83; Time, 3/22/82
But Reagan did have some evidence to offer. He saw the hand of foreign masters pulling strings in the fact that demonstrators in Canada carried "the same signs" as demonstrators in the United States: "U. S. Out of El Salvador." — Covert Action Information Bulletin, 3/82