Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How Is the US Implicated in Argentina's "Years of Lead"?

Carlos Alonso, from the series "Manos Anónimas"

I have been mediating on the terrifying images created by artists in Argentina, relating to the period of state repression and terror 40 years ago, known as the "Years of Lead (Años de Plomo)" or "dirty war (guerra sucia)."

The images can be viewed on the website of La Voz.

Luis Felipe “Yuyo” Noé,
La Memoria (Memory)
I have a clear memory of learning about the abuses in Argentina by reading books available in the early '80s like Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number by Jacobo Timerman (1981) and The Return of Eva Perón and the Killings in Trinidad by V. S. Naipaul (1980).

At the time, I found the situation described to be fascinating and deplorable, and scary. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't look deep enough to see the connection with my own country and society. I certainly never imagined "that kind of thing" could happen here.

Fast forward to the years after 9/11. "The dark side" -- Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, torture and police shootings and drone assassinations, mass surveillance and mass incarceration -- has come to define the US.

How did this happen?

The second half of the 20th century saw massive human rights violations in countries throughout Central America and South America, committed principally by governments and government-sanctioned paramilitaries. The United States government encouraged and enabled this through arms shipments, training, and other forms of support.

In the case of Argentina, it is said that the US government, in the person of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, "green lighted" the abuses of the '70s.

Everyone should form a picture of Argentina's "Years of Lead," and explore for themselves how the US contributed to that awful time.

Juan Delfini, En Cautiverio (In Captivity)
Drawing published in “Los Swat, el hospital y la muerte” by Víctor Lavagno (1990).
(See LA Times, "Torture Called Specialty at Argentine Hospital")

Related posts

It is perhaps the signal achievement of the film "Beneath the Blindfold" that it portrays four different survivors, each of whose experience of torture was distinct from that of any of the others, and each of whom has an otherwise unique personality, and yet each makes clear that they share a long-lasting trauma. One leaves the film with a deeply-felt sense of the lasting trauma caused by torture of any kind.

(See The Revelations of "Beneath the Blindfold" )

Can there be any doubt that Obama and his administration, who think it is their right to wage war in secret, kill anyone they want to, and destroy whole societies, took their cues from Kissinger and Nixon and their "Imperial (and criminal) Presidency"?

(See No Statute of Limitations for War Crimes (Henry Kissinger in Chicago) )

Perhaps, like me, you will read a sentence like, "In 2001, many people came to her neighbourhood looking for a new home, fleeing from the Naya River where the paramilitaries had massacred and displaced the Afro-Colombian communities," and wonder what it refers to.

(See COLOMBIA: Where did the violence come from?)

Millions of people have learned what force-feeding is really about by watching this video of Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) voluntarily undergoing force-feeding using the methods employed at Guantanamo.

(See GUANTANAMO: "Is that who we are?" )

In a composition suggestive of a yin-yang symbol, a woman in a burka (but wearing audacious red glitter platform heels) is surrounded by genie-ish tableaus of the many male obsessions/pastimes that some of us rail about frequently -- sexualized pop singers, professional sports -- as well as some that we probably should rail about more (such as patriarchy in religion and political violence).

(See VIOLENCE: " . . . and the women must live with the consequences . . . " )