Utterances.net edited by Jalel Harchaoui.
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The military junta was 'forced' to kill indigenous Indians in the 1980s
An argument used in defense of Guatemala's General Ríos Montt
by Jalel Harchaoui.
Thirty years after the genocide operations of Cold War Guatemala, it is still maintained that the killing was in fact the rebels’ fault—not the Washington-backed military junta’s.
An argument used in defense of Guatemala\'s General Ríos Montt

General Ríos Montt and President Reagan.

Between 1969 and 1996, as part of its effort to combat socialism in Central America, the U.S. sponsored a military assault on Guatemala’s populace. During that 36-year period, 200,000 people were murdered—mostly landless peasants.

In the early 1980s, that effort took on a genocidal turn thanks to a Ronald Reagan-backed escalation, under General Efrain Ríos Montt, the Guatemalan dictator in 1982-83.

General Ríos Montt had been trained in the U.S. At a 04-Dec-82 summit in Honduras, Reagan hailed the Guatemalan dictator as “a man of great personal integrity and commitment.” Through 1982-83, Washington fed Montt “millions [of dollars of aid] first in jeeps and trucks, and then helicopter and plane parts” while reports indicated that “genocide was accumulating bodies in the ditches and gullies of Guatemala” (Benjy Hansen-Bundy, 15-Apr-13). Because they were the poorest sector of the population, the victims of the Reagan-sponsored atrocities were mainly the Ixil Maya.

In May 2013, a Guatemalan court found the former president guilty of the genocide of 1,771 indigenous people.

Three decades after the fact, it is interesting to see just which line of argument the Wall Street Journal utilizes to deny Montt’s crime against humanity ever occurred. (Needless to say, the newspaper’s editorial team thinks that the court’s verdict is unjust; it speaks of a Leftist “revenge,” a conspiracy essentially).

According to the business daily, the dictatorship’s military didn’t want to carry out massacres at all—they were forced. Op-ed writer Mary O’Grady explains on 19-May-13 that it was the socialist guerrillas who “use[d] the civilians”. The armed rebels fighting the military dictatorship had a strategy which relied on “embedding guerrillas among isolated populations” on “Ixil lands.” As a result, the dictatorship’s “army, bent on rooting out the terror, [had to] follow” and, unfortunately, the local peasant population “was forced to take sides or be caught in the crossfire. That’s why so many died.” In other words, the deadly violence by the military dictatorship against the nation’s underprivileged was not a political choice; it was ineluctable. It was the socialist rebels’ fault.

O’Grady recognizes that “some army units [...] did engage indeed engage in massacres, village burning and the destruction of crops” when the dictatorship’s “army thought that the local population supported the [socialist] guerrilla [politically]. But it was in no way a policy of the state.” Bottom line: the bulk of the carnage was the doing of the Leftists, not that of the army who physically conducted it.

The ordinary citizen may not learn much as years and decades go by. But ruling groups do. They recall the past and learn from it. Those in positions of power are organized; they have consciousness; they memorize the doctrinal techniques that proved effective in the past; they make sure to retain a know-how. They are cognizant of what’s worked before; and they’ll know how to do it next time.

And of course, at every instance, those old patterns are always presented as brand-new.

~ Jalel Harchaoui.