Gen. Videla, Kissinger’s 'Operation Condor' Buddy, Dies
Bill Van Auken writes in “Argentina’s General Videla and the ‘war on terror’”:
Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla died May 17 at the age of 87 as the result of injuries suffered from a fall in a prison shower. He was remembered as the head of a savage military dictatorship that between 1976 and 1983 murdered and “disappeared” some 30,000 Argentine workers, socialist militants, teachers, students and others perceived as “subversives,” while torturing at least 100,000 others. In his own country, newspapers that once backed his rule condemned him as a dictator and practitioner of state terror.
He was, after all, a pioneer in the “war on terrorism,” writing the textbook on methods of extra-constitutional rule, repression and state violence that have been largely embraced by ruling circles in Washington and elsewhere. Undoubtedly, there are those engaged in this line of work today who see him as something of a visionary.
Three days before his death the ex-dictator was a defendant in Argentine court testifying on charges relating to OPERATION CONDOR. According to Van Auken, Operation Condor was “a joint endeavor by Latin America’s ruling dictatorships of the 1970s to hunt down and murder one another’s opponents, wherever they might be found.” Van Auken reveals that Videla claimed “memory loss” while on the stand.
Operation Condor involved the combined efforts of military regimes in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, with indispensable logistical support and military aid from the Pentagon and the CIA.
It resulted in the abduction and murder of a number of individuals seen as opponents of the dictatorial regimes. This included the Washington, DC car bomb killing of Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean foreign minister in the Allende government, the assassinations of former Bolivian president Juan José Torres and former Uruguayan deputies Héctor Gutiérrez and Zelmar Michelini in Buenos Aires, and the assassinations of former Brazilian presidents Joao Goulart and Juscelino Kubitschek, whose deaths were made to appear, respectively, as a heart attack and a car accident.
It is horrifying to grasp how enabled and supported his violent regime, as well as so many others, were and are by Washington. More and more evidence has come to light about U.S. political, economic and military support and training to dictatorships.
All of the Condor regimes were staffed by senior military personnel who had been trained at the Army’s School of the Americas in Panama and other US military facilities, and all of them had US military advisers, received substantial US military aid, and hosted well-staffed CIA stations.
Previously secret State Department documents make it clear that Washington understood Videla’s intentions from the beginning and fully supported them. One of these documents records an exchange between then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and his assistant secretary of state for Latin America, William Rogers, two days after Videla seized power.
Rogers told Kissinger that Washington must “expect a fair amount of repression, probably a good deal of blood, in Argentina before too long. I think they’re going to have to come down not only on the terrorists but on the dissidents of trade unions and their parties.”
While Rogers suggested delaying official recognition of the junta out of public relations concerns, Kissinger ordered full US support. “Whatever chance they have,” he stressed, “they will need a little encouragement from us.”
Among those involved in implementing this policy in 1976 were Richard Cheney, then the White House chief of staff, and Donald Rumsfeld, who was defense secretary. Twenty five years later, both would reemerge as principal architects of the US “global war on terror.”
With Washington’s blessing, Videla and his fellow officers set about what they dubbed the “process of national reorganization,” or el proceso.
It is also important to keep in mind that the label “subversive” was applied to terrorized ordinary citizens fighting for their human, civil and working rights.
Fully 40 percent of the junta’s victims were militant workers and union members. Torture centers were set up inside some of the country’s major factories, including a Ford auto plant. The Peronist union bureaucracy collaborated in this extermination campaign, helping to form death squads even before the military took power.
A network of clandestine prisons was set up, including the notorious dungeons of ESMA (the Navy School of Mechanics), the army’s Campo de Mayo, and scores of others scattered across the country. There, detainees were subjected to vicious forms of torture, including beatings, electric shocks, prolonged submersion in foul water, forced denial of sleep, extreme temperature and noise, attacks by trained dogs, simulated executions and sexual torture and humiliation.
Virtually all of these methods came into common usage at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and CIA “black sites” across the globe a quarter of a century later.
After being subjected to torture, the great majority of the victims were murdered, many of them drugged, loaded onto military aircraft and dropped naked to drown in the Rio de la Plata or the Atlantic Ocean.
Reading Van Auken’s description of what Videla’s repression did to the Argentinian citizenry, especially regarding its early stages, one can’t help but relate it to what is happening to our own citizenry under our present and previous governance:
Among its first steps was the suspension of basic democratic rights, including habeas corpus guarantees against imprisonment without charges or trials. The dictatorship outlawed unions and political parties and disbanded the legislature. Strikes and protests were turned into grave crimes against “national security.”
“The repression had definite class and economic aims. The dictatorship managed to cut wages in half within its first year, reducing workers’ share of the national income from 48.5 percent to only 29 percent. Universal health care was abolished in favor of for-profit insurance companies, and other forms of social assistance were eliminated or drastically curtailed. In essence, the junta oversaw a vast transfer of social wealth from Argentine working people to the country’s ruling class, the transnational corporations and international finance capital.
Again, it would be profoundly naive of us ordinary Americans not to connect the dots between the erosion of our constitutional, economic and social rights in the United States under Bush and now Obama and what befell our Latin American citizen neighbors, so savagely repressed, tortured, imprisoned, executed, economically/physically terrorized, etc., by sadistic, sociopathic leaders such as Argentina’s General Videla who were and/or are so generously and pragmatically supported by the United States establishment.
Argentina’s General Videla, other similar global dictators and Washington were and/or are all so strongly cronied with and beholding to a sociopathic, profits-uber-people financial elite.
[cross-posted on open salon]