Posted: 09 Jan 2011 03:46 PM PST
Just before Christmas, former Argentine dictator Gen. Jorge Videla was sentenced to life in prison for the torture and murder of 31 prisoners, most of whom who were “shot while trying to escape” in the months after his 1976 military coup. Two dozen of his flunkies were given life sentences at the same time.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of crimes for which Videla was actually responsible. Though there are no accurate counts, estimates of those who “disappeared” and were presumably murdered on his watch vary from 9,000 to 30,000, in a country whose population is about a tenth that of the
Videla proudly assumed responsibility for the killings, claiming they were justified to save
Videla is now 85 years old, so a life sentence will probably not amount to much in terms of years. However, he will live out his days undergoing a peculiarly humanist method of torture, in the form of a series of additional trials about additional batches of victims.
Numbers numb; a single story chills. Monica Mignone was the pretty 24-year old daughter of Emilio Mignone, a prominent lawyer and educator who had previously held a position with the Organization of American States and was then serving as rector of the National University of Luján. Monica was no communist, but fell in a suspect class because she devoted her spare time to volunteer work with the poor in the slums of
The military coup occurred on March 24, 1976, when Gen. Videla, a deeply religious man, overthrew the democratically elected Argentine government and promised to restore “Christian morals and values.”
Shortly before dawn on the morning of May 14, 1976, five heavily armed men wearing civilian clothes but carrying army identification papers banged on the door of the Mignone home, grabbed Monica, and left. What happened to her then? Her family has never found out, despite the tireless efforts of her well-connected father to discover the truth. Although Emilio pulled every string in the Church and government on her behalf, he went to his grave 22 years later without ever having discovered a shred of evidence as to what happened to Monica, let alone why or how. We do know that the other volunteer social workers in Monica’s group were taken as well. We also know that the 31 victims in the case decided last month were taken to a secret center in
As the number of disappearances mounted, mothers and grandmothers of the disappeared began protesting every Thursday in the Plaza de Mayo. The military response was straightforward: the leader of the mothers’ group and nine other women were themselves kidnapped from their homes, never to be heard from again. The mothers in fact were violating an official decree prohibiting “comment or reference to themes related to subversive activities, the appearance of bodies and the deaths of subversive elements and/or members of the armed forces or security forces in these happenings, unless they are reported by an official, responsible source. This includes kidnappings or disappearances.”
Monica was indeed a terrorist, at least as the junta defined it. Gen. Videla explained that a terrorist is “not only someone with a gun or bomb, but also anyone who encourages their use by ideas incompatible with Western Christian civilization.” Gen. Roberto Viola defined terrorism as “any concealed or open, insidious or violent action that attempts to change or destroy a people’s moral criteria and way of life, for the purpose of seizing power or imposing from a position of power a new way of life based on a different ordering of human values.” Gen. Iberico Saint-Jean laid out the plan: “First we kill all the subversives; then we will kill their collaborators; then their sympathizers; then … those who remain indifferent; and finally we will kill the timid.” Since it took nearly two months to get around to Monica Mignone, she probably fell in the “sympathizer” category.
The regime destroyed not only people but books, often whole libraries at a time; as a colonel later explained, “What is really subverting the system are ideas.” On April 29, 1976, Jorge Eduardo Gorleri, later made a general, ordered a huge book-burning in
Complicity of the Church
The fact that a military dictatorship behaved badly is not earthshaking news. What’s interesting about
A few months before the military coup was launched, in a homily delivered in the presence of the army chief of staff, Bishop Victorio Bonamin asked aloud, “May not Christ some day want the armed forces to go beyond their normal function?” A priest at the
On the eve of the coup, Videla and other plotters received the blessing of the Archbishop of Paraná, Adolfo Tortolo, who also served as vicar of the armed forces. The day of the takeover itself, the military leaders had a lengthy meeting with the leaders of the bishop’s conference. As he emerged from that meeting, Archbishop Tortolo stated that although “the church has its own specific mission . . . there are circumstances in which it cannot refrain from participating even when it is a matter of problems related to the specific order of the state.” He urged Argentinians to “cooperate in a positive way” with the new government.
Monica’s father knew Archbishop Tortolo, and repeatedly pleaded for his help. He got nothing but an icy stare. After thousands had disappeared, Tortolo told the press that “I have no knowledge, I have no reliable proof, of human rights being violated in our country” and praised the military regime, saying that the armed forces were simply “carrying out their duty.” The vicar for the army, Bishop Bonamin, characterized the campaign as a defense of “morality, human dignity, and ultimately a struggle to defend God … Therefore, I pray for divine protection over this ‘dirty war’ in which we are engaged.” He told a university audience in December, 1977 that the world was divided into “atheistic materialism and Christian humanism.” Though he denied any knowledge of individual cases, he proclaimed that “If I could speak with the government, I would tell it that we must remain firm in the positions we’re taking: foreign accusations about disappearances should be ignored.”
Next week: The Church, torture, and “letting bygones be bygones.”
Posted: 09 Jan 2011 02:12 PM PST
Both the left and right are blaming each other for Saturday’s shooting spree at political event in
Unless you have been under a rock for the last 24 hours, or don’t pay attention to
Fourteen were wounded, and six killed. The deceased include 9-year-old Christina Taylor-Green; Chief Judge John Roll of the
It has been widely reported that Loughner listed among his favorite books Marx’s Communist Manifesto. HE MUST BE A LIBERAL!
He also listed Mein Kampf, and ranted on YouTube about the need for the
Yes, this little psycho has something for everyone. And everyone is picking the something that suits their bias!
Predictably, the left went after perennial (and in my opinion, usually deserving) target Sarah Palin:
On the other side of the political spectrum, Ron Futrell of Tea Party Nation is using this tragedy as an opportunity to demonize Keith Olbermann.
While I don’t see much value in Futrell’s suggested action, I do agree with his closing sentiment:
Selfish rhetoric to fulfill one’s own political agenda! Who would do such a thing? Only a depraved, vile scumbag, right?
How about Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation?
Yes, you got that right. Phillips searched high and low to find an anonymous blog commenter to hold up as an example of the Evil and Murderous Liberal Left. Leftists, I mean. Crazy leftists, with whom there can be no civil discourse.
Phillips’ closing? A drive back toward civility, perhaps?
Yes, a liberal. That makes sense! Phillips just told us that they are evil and murderous, of COURSE he was a liberal! And we can flip the page so Futrell can tell us the sort of liberal Loughner is:
That doesn’t sound like much of a liberal to me. Nor does it sound like a Tea Party Christian. Sounds like a paranoid nut!
Fox News has obtained a memo from the Department of Homeland Security which may shed a little more light on the sort of liberal Loughner is:
So it appears, on the surface at least, that Loughner was targeting Giffords, not the judge, and targeted Giffords because she was the first Jewish female elected to such high office.
Is this the end?
Doubt it. I’m sure we’ll be hearing HE WAS A LIBERAL vs. HE WAS A TEA PARTIER for weeks to come.
Is Phillips right? Are we seeing the end of civil discourse? (Frankly, I thought we saw it before the 2008 election.)
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