By Thomas Riggins
22 March, 2007
March 9 The New York Times ran an obituary on Rufina Amaya who died
at 64 in El Salvador, of a stroke, the previous Tuesday. We should all
remember the ordeal experienced by Ms. Amaya at the hands of troops
specifically trained by U.S. Special Forces.
We read in the papers today
that the U.S. plans on the “Salvadorization” of the Iraqi
counterinsurgency as a way to bring about an American victory. In fact,
The New York Times Magazine in a 2005 article (May 01) revealed that
the Iraqi counterinsurgency was being advised by an American who led
the Special Forces in El Salvador in the 1980s.
What can Iraqi civilians
expect to face? Well, here is the story of Rufina Amaya and her village,
El Mozote, and what happened to her and it at the hands of the American
trained troops. This information is all publicly available on the internet
(Wikepedia, articles from the The New Yorker, New York Times and Washington
Post, among others).
The Atlacatl Brigade was
the first “Rapid Deployment Infantry Brigade” in the Salvadorian
army. It was trained by the U.S. and was supposed to destroy the peasant
liberation movement fighting for bread and land against the Salvadorian
oligarchy and its American supporters (the FMLN).
On the night of December
10, 1981 the Atlacatl Brigade took over the remote village of El Mozote.
The Brigade thought that FMLN members might sometimes be getting food
and shelter in the village, but they had no proof.
On the morning of the 11th
the Brigade decided to put its training to work and make an example
of the people of El Mozote. They decided to kill the entire population
of the village (about 900 people including peasants from the countryside
who came to stay in El Mozote out of fear of the Atlacatl Brigade in
the field. The population was unarmed. The men were separated from the
women and children and publicly executed, many were beheaded (not an
Iraqi invention). Then all the girls and women 12 years old and up were
killed, many were first raped. Finally all the children under 12 and
the babies were taken into the village church and then shot and bayonetted.
The next day, the 12th, the
Brigade went to the nearby village of Los Toriles where they lined up
the population and shot them down. Back at El Mozote there was one survivor,
Rufina Amaya, who had been able to hide. She heard her own small children
screaming in fear as they were killed by the U.S. trained counterinsugency
She lived to tell the world
what had happened. The U.S. of course defended the Atlacatl Brigade.
The Reagan administration played down the reports that were published
in The Washington Post and New York Times. Elliott Abrams, the same
Elliott Abrams that now works for the Bush administration, told the
Congress that the reports of the killings were not believable.
The bulk of the mass media
followed the Reagan line. Time magazine suggested that if there were
dead children we should remember that children can support our enemies
the guerillas. No one was ever punished and the Atlacatl Brigade continued
in the field carrying out its mission which culminated in 1989 with
the murder of six Jesuit priests their cook and her daughter.
Peace accords were signed
between the government and the rebels in 1992 and a general amnesty
was proclaimed. However, a 2000 court ruling stripped the amnesty protections
from the sort of massacres that were perpetuated by the Atlacatl Brigade
but so far no one has been brought to justice.
Rufina Amaya has died. She
will no longer awaken in the night to the screams of her children. The
Special Forces have moved on to train the Iraqi counterinsurgency. Elliott
Abrams has moved on to serve another president who wages wars against
other third world peoples. It will be Iraqi mothers now who will face
U.S. trained forces.
Thomas Riggins is the book
review editor for Political Affairs and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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