Posted by: sean | November 21, 2005

The Salvador option

Last night, I began reading Mark Danner’s book, The Massacre at El Mozote , which descibes the brutal murder of hundreds of people in a sacristy in a small Salvadoran village by American-backed government forces fighting a dirty war against leftist rebels. As coincidence would have it, I saw (via Christopher Dickey’s blog) that the Salvadoran former colonel, Nicolas Carranza, had been found responsible for crimes against humanity in a court in Memphis. Carranza, who moved to Memphis in 1985 and then became an American citizen, was the Vice Minister of Defense in El Salvador from 1979 to 1981 and then head of the Treasury Police in 1983. The latter was reputed to be the most violent of the country’s security forces.

For more information on the Salvadoran civil war, see the report by the Truth Commission.

The massacre in El Mozote is interesting to me in and of itself, but it does have some relevance to the situation in Iraq. Earlier this year, Christopher Dickey briefly explored the prospect of employing the “Salvador Option” in Iraq. Presumably, these dirty war tactics would entail not only assassination and kidnapping, but also torture. The recent discovery of the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s secret interrogation center — where many Sunnis were apparently tortured, perhaps by members of the Shia paramilitary forces of the Sadr Brigade, who have reportedly become deeply embedded in the Ministry — should bring up questions about torture carried out by the US and its allies in Iraq.

We have known for a long time what US proxy forces did in Central America, so why should we be suprised when the same thing happens in Iraq, particularly since the Bush administration was reported to have been debating the “Salvador option” only 10 months ago?

In any case, those who are committing torture in Iraq, be they American or Iraqi, should take note of Carranza’s trial, because, as Hissène Habré and Joseph Kony will find out soon enough, they are not above the law.


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