Saturday, November 19, 2005

NYT: "Federal Jury Finds Salvadoran Guilty of Crimes Against Humanity in 80's" (Julia Preston)

In a verdict that brought back a dark time in the United States' forgotten wars in Central America, a federal jury in Memphis yesterday found a former military colonel from El Salvador responsible for crimes against humanity during that country's civil war in the 1980's and ordered him to pa $6 million in damages.
The nine-member jury found that the colonel, Nicolas Carranza, had "command responsibility" for the torture of a Salvadoran who was forced to confess falsely to the 1983 killing of an American military adviser, Lt. Cmdr. Albert Schaufelberger.

The above is from Julia Preston's "Federal Jury Finds Salvadoran Guilty of Crimes Against Humanity in 80's" in this morning's New York Times and it is our spotlight story (the one you need to know about) and was selected as such by Francisco, Miguel, Shirley, Billie, Kara, Rob, Brady and Erika.

In the article, you learn that Carranza testified that he was on the CIA payroll for two decades, as "a paid informant . . . including the years that were the focus of the trial." Robert White ("American ambassador to El Salvador at the time") backs that up.

Historical perspective (not in the article). Reagan backed the Salvadoran government. When nuns were raped and murdered on December 2, 1980, like a Bully Boy spin campaign, you had attacks on the nuns as opposed to the government forces that had committed crimes against humanity. (Jeane Kirkpatrick famously accused the nuns of being "not just nuns" but "political activists!" as though, if true, that justified the rapes and murders. Heart beat away Al Haig offered that possibly there was an exchange of gun fire because . . . he entertains thoughts of pistol packing nuns apparently.)

A number of e-mails (there were 36 on this article) expressed surprise that the CIA would even be mentioned in an article by the Times. For one thing, you have US official -- an ambassador -- going on record (they do love their "official sources"). But it should also be noted that, as pointed out in Jennifer K. Harbury's Truth, Torture, and the American Way, the Times' Philip Taubman noted Carranza was "a paid CIA informant" years ago. (In May of 1984, in fact.)

The Reagan administration backed this oppressive government (and others) and did so knowingly and willingly. Which is but one reason that the week long "Is he still dead?" tribute to Ronald Reagan was so offensive. (Honestly, with that kind of build up it was as though they expected Reagan to rise from the dead on the seventh day.)

Billie called the case to our attention on November 1st and on the same day, Marcus also noted it. But the mainstream media wasn't interested in this case. (The argument might be, "We were letting the AP cover it!" Does that explain the lack of editorials as well as the lack of coverage? No.)

For more information on this case, you can check out The Center for Justice and Accountability.

From the website, we'll note the plantiffs:

Erlinda Franco is the widow of Manuel Franco, one of six pro-democracy opposition leaders of the Frente Democrático Revolucionario (Democratic Revolutionary Front, or FDR) who were abducted from a Jesuit school in San Salvador on November 27, 1980 by members of the Security Forces. They were later found murdered, and their bodies showed obvious signs of torture. The assassinations were among the most gruesome and shocking incidents carried out by the Security Forces during 1980, and led directly to the commencement of the full-scale civil war. The United Nations Commission on the Truth for El Salvador found that the FDR murders "outraged national and international public opinion and closed the door to any possibility of a negotiated solution to the political crisis at the end of 1980."
Ana Patricia Chavez is the daughter of Humberto and Guillermina Chavez, who were members of the teachers union ANDES 21 de Junio. They were murdered in cold blood by plainclothes gunmen in July 1980 in the family’s home in Ahuachapan, El Salvador. Ana Patricia was forced to watch the beating of her mother and listen to the shots that took her life. Ana Patricia now lives in California.
Francisco Calderon was a worker at a cigarette factory in September 1980 when, late one night, uniformed members of the National Police knocked on his door. As he opened the door, plainclothes gunmen grabbed him and forced him to the floor. Francisco’s father, Paco Calderon, a school principal and member of ANDES 21 de Junio, came to the door and told the men to let his son go. The men then tried to carry away Paco Calderon, and when they were unable to do so, they shot him directly in front of his son. Francisco now lives in California.
Cecilia Santos was a student at the National University and employee of the Salvadoran Ministry of Education when she was arrested in a shopping center in San Salvador in September 1980. Cecilia was held in the National Police headquarters for eight days and tortured repeatedly. She was never given adequate legal representation or a fair hearing, and remained in prison for three years. She fled to the U.S. in 1983 after being released under a general amnesty. Cecilia now lives in New York, where she is the director of the Centro Salvadoreño, an organization that encourages socioeconomic and cultural progress among Latino immigrant communities.
Daniel Alvarado was an engineering student in San Salvador in 1983. He was abducted by five men dressed in civilian clothes while he was watching a soccer game at a friend’s house. He was taken to the headquarters of the Treasury Police, where he was tortured severely. In order to stop the torture, Daniel confessed to being involved in the assassination of U.S. military advisor Albert Schaufelberger. After a polygraph examination, U.S. officials correctly concluded that Daniel was not responsible in any way for the assassination and that he had only admitted to the killing in order to stop the torture.

Zach e-mails to note Robert Parry's "Woodward & Washington's 'Tipping Point'" (Consortium News):

In my book, Secrecy & Privilege, I track how the Washington press corps changed from the Watergate/Vietnam era of the 1970s, when journalists took some pride in challenging the powerful, to the Iraq War, when many national news outlets cowered and fawned before a White House that equated skepticism with disloyalty.
This gradual but unmistakable shift in the ethos of Washington journalism marked a hard-fought victory for conservatives who invested billions of dollars over the past three decades in building a media/political machine for gaining as much control as possible of the information flowing through the nation’s capital to the American people.
Journalists who bucked the trend confronted ugly attacks from right-wing media "watchdogs," almost inevitable betrayal by news executives, and dashed careers. Journalists who played along were rewarded with fame, money and access.
Today, no journalist personifies this transformation more than Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward, who made his name unraveling Richard Nixon's Watergate cover-up but now has been caught misleading the public while protecting the Bush administration’s cover-up of a scheme to smear an Iraq War critic.
Yet the entanglements of the Washington Post's most famous journalist -- and the New York Times star reporter Judith Miller -- in advancing propaganda themes from George W. Bush’s White House also have tugged Washington’s Establishment to the edge of what might become a historic tipping point.
Because of the investigation into the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame, the incestuous relationship between big media and the Bush administration has been stripped bare as never before. The exposure has reached a stage where the American people might finally realize that the reality of Washington is much different than they were led to believe.
While conservatives will still complain about the "liberal media," it's now clear that the supposed flagships of that "liberal media" -- the Washington Post and the New York Times -- mostly were sailing in Bush's press armada. That alignment made sense because the most effective way to protect one’s career was to keep out of the Right's line of fire.
However, in the wake of the news media's humiliation over Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction, some outlets have begun to chart more independent courses. Millions of Americans also are furious that the press did so little to prevent the nation from being misled into a disastrous war in Iraq that has killed more than 2,000 U.S. soldiers.
Whether the recent trend toward more press skepticism will harden into real independence may depend heavily on the outcome of the debate over the Iraq War and particularly the issue that tripped up Woodward and Miller, the outing of Plame.

We're including Parry in this entry not just because his article's worth highlighting but also because Parry has documented the abuses and war crimes in Central America. There's a link to Secrecy & Privilege at the start of his article but his book Lost History focuses even more on that period. And, disclosure, I've never purchased a book by Parry. I've never had to. Rebecca gives out books by him to everyone she knows. While she is correct that I mass gifted the hardcover version of Backlash (by Susan Faludi) one year, it's equally true that if you're on Rebecca's list, you will get books by Robert Parry. (And they are great gifts. As is Susan Faludi's Backlash.)

While we're talking books, Danny Schechter has many worthy of note (disclosure, I know Danny), but we'll cite The Death of Media: And The Fight To Save Democracy and When News Lies: Media Complicity and the Iraq War. A year ago, we made a Christmas list here ("we" being myself and some friends who were over -- it was the second day of this site) and if you've got some ideas for books that would make good holiday gifts, e-mail and next weekend I'll try to have something up.

Remember, Susan Sarandon on The Laura Flanders Show today.

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