It began as a far-reaching war against a vague enemy. Any questions about the war were considered unpatriotic and dissenters risked being violently repressed by the government. The government helped the economic elite profit at the expense of the poor. When the regime was losing its grip on power, it turned to a conventional military war that became a disaster. This synopsis describes the Dirty War of 1976-1983 in Argentina…and the current US "War on Terror."
The Dirty War in Argentina is a complex story that can be viewed through a variety of lenses. During the six months I recently spent in Argentina, I found that the more I learned about the Dirty War, the more I was learning about the "War on Terror." To say that the current state of repression in the US is exactly like the Dirty War would be an insult to the 30,000 people who were disappeared and tortured in Argentina. The similarities between the two "wars," however, can indicate in what direction the US may be headed and how progressives can steer the country in another direction.
The Dirty War has its roots in the anti-communist sentiments generated by the US during the Cold War. After the Cuban Revolution of the 1950s, governments throughout Latin America began cracking down on leftist groups including student organizations and unions. Fearing the spread of communism, the US government actively supported this repression by training Latin American soldiers in torture techniques at the School of the Americas and refusing to criticize or sanction human rights violations committed by right-wing governments. Under the military dictatorship in Argentina of 1966-1973, some leftist groups responded to the absolute ban on political activity with armed resistance.
In 1973, the people of Argentina democratically elected Juan Peron, but when he died the following year his wife took power and her leadership was dominated by the military. On March 24, 1976, the Argentine military overthrew President Isabel Peron and remained in power until 1983. The military began its rule by restructuring the government. The local police departments were put under military control. The General Commander of the Army was placed in charge of executing military operations necessary to "neutralize and annihilate" subversive elements. The "Process of National Reorganization" announced by the military re-established the death penalty, outlawed unions and political organizations, and established military jurisdiction over civilians.
The military government detained, tortured, disappeared and killed anyone who was suspected of being subversive, including student leaders, critical journalists, and union leaders. Squads made of members of the armed forces and local police departments kidnapped suspected "subversives" from their homes, workplaces and even the streets. There were 14,000 political prisoners. Another 30,000 people were kidnapped by government agents. Because their bodies were never located and the military and police would deny that these people were in their custody, these 30,000 are considered "disappeared." Over 500 children were taken from detained parents and raised by families of members of the military. Many activists chose to flee the country. Thus, among other things, the government effectively eliminated a generation of leftist leaders.
Twenty years later, the students of the School of the Americas have become the teachers. In the current "War on Terror" Bush is using lessons learned from the Dirty War. The US government is using tactics like those used by the Argentine dictatorship, namely, waging a vast war against a vaguely defined enemy and creating a culture of fear. Likewise, the US government is using those tactics to achieve the same goals that the Argentine military dictatorship had: to consolidate state power, to suppress dissent and to mobilize economic resources to benefit the elite.
The above excerpt is from Renate Lunn's "Five Lessons Bush Learned from Argentina’s Dirty War and Five Lessons for the Rest of Us" (Toward Freedom) and was noted by Brandon who dubs it "a history lesson we need to learn."
Kayla notes Emad Mekay's "WTO-SPECIAL:Subsidies Concession Largely Symbolic, Groups Say" (IPS):
"It is very clear that if this document is going to determine the future course of the WTO, the majority of people in the world would be worse off," said Lori Wallach of the U.S.-based Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.
The final text sets 2013 as the deadline for dismantling controversial multi-billion-dollar export subsidies given by the European Union and countries like the United States every year. However, a number of economic rights groups, including ActionAid, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development and the World Development Movement, quickly challenged the final text of the meeting and criticised the focus on the EU's offer to commit to 2013.
The international environmental group Greenpeace described the much trumpeted EU export subsidies deadline as "only a symbolic gesture, creating the illusion that the developed countries have given something in return for the concessions they have extracted from the developing countries." Watchdog organisations say the impact of the new deadline will be minimal since the meeting failed to commit the United States, Japan or the European Union to end their generous domestic farm support, running into billions of dollars annually. These subsidies disadvantage local farmers in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and Asia by forcing commodity prices down.
"This watered-down text leaves out the most important issues for the WTO to address -- agricultural dumping, creating employment, and promoting development," said Sophia Murphy of the U.S-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
The United States successfully resisted slashing its domestic support to cotton producers, a setback for Brazil and four West African cotton exporters which had hoped the meetings here would commit the United States, the world's largest producer and exporter of cotton, to eliminate several aspects of its support programme.
Polly notes the BBC's "Israel's Sharon suffers a stroke." (I think the headline says it all. For those who don't have time or the desire to use the link, other reports say it's a minor stroke and Ariel Sharon is expected to recover.)
Lynda e-mails to note "EU threat to axe Palestinian aid" (Al Jazeera):
The European Union has joined the United States in threats to withhold aid if Hamas participates in a Palestinian government.
Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, has said tens of millions of dollars of aid to the Palestinian Authority could be halted if the Islamist group wins elections next month and fails to renounce violence.Hamas has swept municipal elections in several West Bank cities last week, reflecting Palestinian dissatisfaction with the ruling Fatah party.The strong showing has raised the possibility that Hamas could win the Palestinian parliamentary elections on 25 January.
Pru's highlight comes last. As noted before Ireland, though not reported by the New York Times, has some serious issues with privatization and so-called free markets. Here's Unjum Mirza's "Workers' walkout in Ireland--action like this could stop Blair" (The Socialist Worker):
I was part of a delegation of British trade unionists who joined the 100,000 people marching in Dublin on Friday of last week. We were there to support workers occupying two Irish Ferries ships in Welsh ports.
There was a real sense of unity. Every section of the Irish trade union movement was there. Public sector workers united with private sector workers in solidarity with striking workers and in defence of migrant workers' rights.
The Irish Ferries dispute is a warning of what Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's neo-liberal vision for workers in Britain is about. Across Europe the proposed Bolkestein directive will allow the bosses to employ workers in Britain on the worst safety regulations and least labour protection they can find in Europe.
Our government attacks pension rights, demanding that we work longer and harder to pay for our retirement. The lack of money for our pensions is in stark contrast to the bottomless pit that exists to fund the occupation of Iraq.
The scale of New Labour's assault needs the sort of response we have seen in Ireland. Mass protests and strikes would stop Brown and Blair in their tracks. Irish workers have shown that pressure can force the union leaders to take a stand and that it is possible to mobilise massive numbers into action.
We need the same determination from our union movement here.We have the power to win.
The following should be read alongside this article: » Ireland fights against the free marketeers
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