Guatemala And War Crimes (What We’re Up Against)
By Mickey Z.
03 February, 2013
World News Trust
“The enormous gap between what U.S. leaders do in the world and what Americans think their leaders are doing is one of the great propaganda accomplishments of the dominant political mythology.” - Michael Parenti
On Jan. 28, 2013, the New York Times ran a piece by Elisabeth Malkin called “Ex-Dictator Is Ordered to Trial in Guatemalan War Crimes Case.” It began as such:
A Guatemalan judge on Monday ordered Efraín Rios Montt, the former dictator, and his intelligence chief to stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in connection with the massacres of villagers in remote highlands three decades ago. The ruling clears the way for a public trial for Mr. Rios Montt, a former general who ruled Guatemala for 17 months in 1982 and 1983 during the bloodiest period of the country’s long-running civil war. It is a stunning decision for Guatemala, where the military still wields significant power behind the scenes and the country’s elected governments have struggled to build democratic institutions.
Malkin went on to quote folks saying stuff like, “The principle function of the state and its officials is to protect its citizens” and even explain how a “United Nations truth commission determined that the military had carried out ‘acts of genocide,’ including in the Mayan-Ixil villages during the war, in which 200,000 people died.”
Nowhere in the article, of course, does Malkin mention why “the country’s elected governments have struggled to build democratic institutions” and/or the role played by the U.S. government and the corporations that fund it.
This should come as no surprise because this is how corporate propaganda works.
To follow is but one example of how the U.S. military-industrial complex works.
Fasten yer seat belts…
“A gold piece for every banana”
It was at a February 1945 conference that State Department Political Advisor Laurence Duggan called for "An Economic Charter of the Americas," complaining that "Latin Americans are convinced that the first beneficiaries of the development of a country's resources should be the people of that country."
From this patently unacceptable premise, the seeds of a 1954 coup were sown, and the U.S.-sponsored results include possibly irreversible environmental devastation and upwards of 200,000 civilians killed or "disappeared."
In a landslide victory, Jacobo Arbenz was freely and fairly elected president of Guatemala in 1951. Wishing to transform his country, Arbenz' modest reforms and his legalizing of the Communist Party were frowned upon in American business circles. The Arbenz government became the target of a U.S. public relations campaign.
Two years after Arbenz became president, Life magazine featured a piece on his "Red" land reforms, claiming that a nation just "two hours bombing time from the Panama Canal" was "openly and diligently toiling to create a Communist state."
It matters little that the USSR didn't even maintain diplomatic relations with Guatemala; the Cold War was in full effect.
Ever on the lookout for that invaluable “pretext,” the U.S. business class scored a public relations coup when Arbenz expropriated some unused land controlled by United Fruit Company. His payment offer was predictably deemed inappropriate. "If they gave a gold piece for every banana," Secretary of State John Foster Dulles clarified, "the problem would still be Communist infiltration."
The Central Intelligence Agency put Operation Success into action. Here’s how Howard Zinn described what followed: "A legally elected government was overthrown by an invasion force of mercenaries trained by the CIA at military bases in Honduras and Nicaragua and supported by four American fighter planes flown by American pilots.”
Operation Success ushered in 40 years of repression, more than 200,000 deaths, and what historian William Blum calls "indisputably one of the most inhumane chapters of the 20th century." These chapters, incidentally, could never have been written without permission from the United States and its surrogates, e.g. Israel.
"The Israelis may be seen as American proxies in Honduras and Guatemala," stated Israeli journalist, Yoav Karni in Yediot Ahronot. Also, Ha'aretz correspondent Gidon Samet has explained that the most important features of the U.S.-Israeli strategic cooperation in the 1980s were not in the Middle East, but with Central America.
"The United States needs Israel in Africa and Latin America, among other reasons, because of the government's difficulties in obtaining congressional authorization for its ambitious aid programs and naturally, for military actions," Samet wrote on Nov. 6, 1983, adding that America has "long been interested in using Israel as a pipeline for military and other aid" to Central America. Earlier that same year, Yosef Priel reported in Davar that Latin America "has become the leading market for Israeli arms exports."
One illustrative example is, of course, Guatemala. In 1981, shortly after Israel agreed to provide military aid to this oppressive regime, a Guatemalan officer had a feature article published in the army's Staff College review.
In that article, the officer praised Adolf Hitler, National Socialism, and the Final Solution -- quoting extensively from Mein Kampf and chalking up Hitler's anti-Semitism to the "discovery" that communism was part of a "Jewish conspiracy." Despite such seemingly incompatible ideology, Israel's estimated military assistance to Guatemala in 1982 was $90 million.
What type of policies did the Guatemalan government pursue with the help they received from a nation populated with thousands of Holocaust survivors? This question brings to mind an excerpt from Jennifer Harbury’s book, Bridge of Courage. One member of the Guatemalan resistance Harbury interviewed was Lorena and her story provides a good example of what happens in a U.S. client state.
Lorena's lover, a compañero named Daniel, was out with a small unit to engage Guatemalan soldiers when he was hit by enemy fire. Lorena tells what happened next:
"The other compañeros ran to where Daniel had fallen and found him dying there, quiet but very clear-minded. He refused to let them try and bandage him up, telling them to first go and find the others who had a chance of surviving. Then he gave away the things in his pack, the food, the blanket, his small book. He was writing a note, shaken but determined, when they left him. The note was for me, but I never received it."
When Lorena learned of Daniel's injuries, she and a comrade named Roberto ran to find him. "Roberto and I arrived, breathless, at the place where he had left Daniel," Lorena said, "but at first we could see nothing."
When Roberto tried to shield her from looking in one particular direction, Lorena broke away to see. "Daniel was not there," she said. "His body had vanished, with his pack, his boots, his book, and the note for me. There on the ground lay only his brain, bloody and intact."
Lorena concluded: "The soldiers had found Daniel first."
As another resistance fighter in Bridge of Courage explained: "Don't talk to me about Gandhi; he wouldn't have survived a week here."
Similar stories can be culled from countries throughout the region, but apparently have had little effect on the foreign policy of the United States or Israel. For example, when Israel faced an international arms embargo after the 1967 war, a plan to divert Belgian and Swiss arms to the Holy Land was implemented.
These weapons were supposedly destined for Bolivia where they would be transported by a company managed by none other than Klaus Barbie… as in "The Butcher of Lyon."
Any moral reservations of such an arrangement are dismissed with a vague "national security" excuse that should sound familiar to any American. "The welfare of our people and the state supersedes all other considerations," pronounced Michael Schur, director of Ta'as, the Israeli state military industry, in the Aug. 23, 1983 Ha'aretz. "If the state has decided in favor of export, my conscience is clear."
One Jewish figure that might be expected to find fault with such policy is Elie Wiesel. An episode from mid-1985, documented by Yoav Karni in Ha'aretz, should put to rest any exalted expectations of the revered moralist.
When Wiesel received a letter from a Nobel Prize laureate documenting Israel's contributions to the atrocities in Guatemala, suggesting that he use his considerable influence to put a stop to Israel's practice of arming neo-Nazis, Wiesel "sighed" and admitted to Karni that he did not reply to that particular letter.
"I usually answer at once," he explained, "but what can I answer to him?"
One is left to only wonder how Wiesel's silent sigh might have been received if it was in response to a letter not about Jewish complicity in the murder of Guatemalans but instead about the function of Auschwitz during the 1940s.
“The real winner was Hitler”
As you read today about the alleged pursuit of justice in Guatemala, I ask you to consider some words from former Guatemalan president Juan Jose Arévalo whose term gave that country a 10-year respite from military rule, during which time he provoked U.S. ire by modeling his government "in many ways after the Roosevelt New Deal.”
Arévalo stepped down in 1951 to be replaced by his ill-fated successor and kindred spirit, the aforementioned Arbenz. Here is what Arévalo had to say about the aftermath of a certain world war commonly described as "good":
"The arms of the Third Reich were broken and conquered … but in the ideological dialogue … the real winner was Hitler."
Never forget, comrades: This is what we're up against.
NYC Event Note: Mickey Z. will be part of a Feb. 9 panel called: “Game Over For the Environment: Keystone XL, Spectra and Direct Action.”
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