Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Bueno y muerto: the born-again butcher

The obituary page of The Massachusetts Spy

By Luke Reschuss
Obituary Editor

Almost lost in the torrent of news about the descent of the United States into corrupt autocracy was the passing of one of yesterday's most loathsome dictators, former Guatemalan supremo and convicted practitioner of genocide Efrain Rios Montt, dead not a minute too soon at 91.

Notwithstanding the general prescription to say nothing but good of the dead, The New York Times was moved in his obituary to note:
In the panoply of commanders who turned much of Central America into a killing field in the 1980s, General Ríos Montt was one of the most murderous. He was convicted in 2013 of trying to exterminate the Ixil ethnic group, a Mayan Indian community whose villages were wiped out by his forces.

In fairness, it was a fast league of bloodthirsty Central American dictators and plutocrats in the 1980's; just ask the dead churchwomen of El Salvador.

But lest you think that Montt was nothing more than a butcher, he had a talent for making friends in high places, mostly high places in the American white conservative movement.  As the Times recalls, “President Ronald Reagan was General Ríos Montt’s most prominent admirer. After meeting him in 1982, Mr. Reagan said the general was 'getting a bum rap on human rights.'”

He also was fast friends with those great moral authorities, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who like
Montt, were evangelical Protestants with permanently demagnetized ethical compasses:
An evangelical Christian and part-time lay preacher, Gen. Rios Montt befriended televangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Robertson extolled the Guatemalan leader, the lone Protestant head of state in Latin America, as the only alternative to “the oppression of corrupt oligarchies and the tyranny of Russian-backed Communist totalitarianism.” To his fiercest critics, the general was known as “the born-again butcher.”  (The Washington Post, 4/1/18)
St. Ronald of Bitburg (like Jerry and Pat) never met a Latin American dictator he didn't like as long as the Generalissimo in question asserted that he was a fearless foe of Communism, which, in Reagan's uncluttered mind, was raging through Central America, kinda like Gen. Montt's death squads.

Pat Robertson's good buddy did wonders for
the casket business
Montt's crimes against humanity were known at the time, as demonstrated by a May 8, 1983 piece in the Times describing a report by Americas Watch that “accused the Guatemalan Army of systematically murdering Indians.”  The story went on to note that despite the massacres the State Department, under the enlightened supervision of criminal Elliott Abrams, had approved resumption of arms shipments to the murderers.

If you missed the story, that's understandable.  It ran on page 12, in the space that, had it been a World War II issue of the Times, would have been used to describe reports of massacres of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Another reason you might have missed it was that it was surrounded by much bigger stories about another one of St. Ronald's Central American charnel houses, El Salvador.  One, by Stephen Kinzer, described the plight of several hundred thousand Salvadoran refugees forced to leave their homes by the American-backed Salvadoran Army, which had quite a few massacres of its own on its record.

You may ask: why even bother with this obscure Central American killmonger?  After all, there's a large and capable full-time staff at his new abode who will take good care of him for eternity.

We recall Montt because he was so deeply enmeshed in generations of Republican hypocrisy in Central America, in which no ally was too sadistic or loathsome for St. Ronald and his disciples as long as they could give ol' Ron some fruity line of bulls*** about how they were fighting the good fight against Communism.

The story begins not later than 1954, when Allen Dulles's CIA, under the benign superintendence of then-President Eisenhower, overthrew a democratic Socialist in Guatemala who dared to tamper with the imperial possessions of the United Fruit Company.  It continued with unflinching GOP support for the bloodthirsty war criminals in the Salvadoran Army and the Nicaraguan contras.

And it continues today, as these failed states cope with the sequelae of generations of American-backed misrule.  How long ago was it that President U Bum recognized the rigged election of a Honduran rightist dictator on the grounds that he was a friend of ours, by which presumably U Bum means he will help bail out the next busto Trump/Kushner project and screw Honduran migrants?  Who can remember as far back as December 22, 2017?

Montt may be dead, but the legacy of the generations of Republican-backed gangsters in uniform calls out to all of us from the bloody killing fields of Central America.  Can you hear them?  Are they saying “Winning?”

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