Saturday, March 1, 2008

"Silence Is Health"

Argentina's neo-Nazi generals were shown the door in 1983, yet their crimes have largely gone unpunished. The legacy of these terrible years have been consigned to history's proverbial "memory hole;" and this is precisely where the perpetrators and their enablers--in Argentina and the United States--hope they will remain.

When former police commander Miguel Etchecolatz was sentenced to life in prison in May 2007, the man whose testimony was acknowledged as key to the prosecution's case, Jorge Julio Lopez, a 76-year-old bricklayer imprisoned and tortured three decades earlier, didn't hear the judge's stinging rebuke before this state terrorist was led away. Why?

Just days before sentence was passed Jorge Julio Lopez had been disappeared.

Etchecolatz was no ordinary killer. As the Commissioner General of Police for the province of Buenos Aires, he was the right hand man of Police Chief Ramón Camps. In his capacity as General Director of Investigations for the Buenos Aires Police, Etchecolatz was responsible for the more than 21 clandestine detention camps "hidden in plain sight" across Buenos Aires.

Before his conviction, Etchecolatz was a prolific author who wrote books defending the repression and was the vice president of ANIDAR (a fascist group formed by retired military men, ex-torturers and neo-nazis). In other words, a respectable citizen.

While Etchecolatz was one of the innumerable "little Eichmanns," a gray, insignificant bureaucrat who might just as easily have been a bank manager or personnel director in any medium-sized firm, what of his boss, the notorious Nazi and anti-Semite General Ramón Camps? A man who played a recording to the international press in which Jacobo Timerman, the publisher of the left-leaning Argentine daily La Opinión, was forced to confess to being a Jew while under torture? What kind of individual justified the theft of newborns from their imprisoned mothers shortly before having them murdered "because subversive parents will raise subversive children"?

As Buenos Aires Provincial Chief of Police, Camps once bragged he was responsible for 5000 disappearances. Before kicking the bucket in 1994, Camps wrote xenophobic and anti-Semitic articles for the far-right Catholic magazine Cabildo, but never spent a day in prison. He put things in their proper perspective, however, and gave the devil his due:

France and the United States were the great disseminators of antisubversive doctrine. They both, but particularly the United States, organized centers to instruct in the fight against subversion. They sent advisors, teachers. They distributed a huge amount of bibliography. ... It is important to clarify that the French optic was more correct than the North American; the former had a global concept; the latter were exclusively military. ... All that was fine until we "reached adulthood," and applied our own doctrine, which enabled us to triumph against subversion. [Marguerite Feitlowitz, A Lexicon of Terror, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 11-12]

Torture and political genocide as a rite of passage.

As historian Michael McClintock reports, Camps' allusion to the distribution of "a huge amount of bibliography" by U.S. military advisors reflects the fact that American counterinsurgency and counterterrorism doctrines trace their genesis to the scorched earth practices of the Third Reich:

Even as revelations of German war crimes were coming out at trials at Nuremberg, American special warfare strategists were studying the tactics of German occupation forces during World War II. ... The premise here--that an iron-clad distinction can be drawn between "the people," who won't be harmed if they keep their noses clean, and the partisans/bandits, who are seen as aliens beyond the pale, meriting whatever fate befalls them--would eventually be incorporated into American counterinsurgency doctrine. (Instruments of Statecraft, New York: Pantheon Books, 1992, pp. 59, 63)

While sentiments such as those expressed by General Camps are shocking even today amidst the grisly revelations of Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, the perverse U.S. doctrine of "preemptive war," which is to say, naked aggression against largely defenseless societies such as Iraq and Afghanistan, considered ripe for plunder precisely because of their defenselessness are viewed as "normal" by American chattering classes. This penchant for state gangsterism by predatory elites does fit a discernible pattern, however, one wholly embraced by the "skinheads in nice suits," to borrow Günter Grass' apt description of those who rule the roost in the West.

Nearly three decades ago Danish journalist Henrik Krüger observed,

International Fascista was a crucial first step toward fulfilling the dream not only of [SS Col. Otto] Skorzeny, but also of his close friends in Madrid exile, José Lopez Rega, Juan Peron's grey eminence, and Prince Justo Valerio Borghese, the Italian Fascist money man who had been rescued from execution at the hands of the World War II Italian resistance by future CIA counterintelligence whiz James J. Angleton. They, and other Nazi and Fascist powers throughout Europe and Latin America, envisioned a new world order built on a Fascist Iron Circle linking Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima, La Paz, Brasilia and Montevideo. [Henrik Krüger, The Great Heroin Coup: Drugs, Intelligence & International Fascism, Boston: South End Press, 1980, p. 210]

Krüger, describing the ideological glue binding together practitioners of "national security" in all its sterile guises, recognized that criminal networks and fascist hit men were not tangential players in the global struggle for power and geostrategic advantage over political-economic rivals, but central actors in a process one can only describe as the return of the (political) repressed: totalitarianism as the preferred discourse of the American deep state.

This had certain ramifications for future moves to consolidate state power and corporate profits, both in the United States and internationally. In the hands of a sociopathic ruling class, the "greater good" became an instrument of conquest, a mere accessory as unreal as the "fraternity" found in gated communities or shopping malls, global green zones, "secure" silent spaces beneath the ubiquitous gaze of CTV cameras monitored by privatized guardians of the new "order."

Many of the features of contemporary U.S. society--crony capitalism; corporate looting on a grand scale; surveillance as a normative value; the myriad mechanisms and flexible instruments favored by financial "insiders;" social dislocation; alienation; "private" pleasures apathetically consumed by atomized masses; reified celebrity "culture;" not to mention the intellectual bankruptcy of fundamentalist religions of all stripes--were rolled out in Latin America's Southern Cone during the 1970s, a new product line prefiguring 21st century American life. As Naomi Klein points out:

The imperative was reflected in the dominant metaphors used by the military regimes in Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina: those fascist standbys of cleaning, scrubbing, uprooting and curing. In Brazil, the junta's roundups of leftists were code-named Operação Limpeza, Operation Cleanup. On the fifth day of the coup, Pinochet referred to Allende and his cabinet as "that filth that was going to ruin the country." One month later he pledged to "extirpate the root of evil from Chile," to bring about a "moral cleansing" of the nation, "purified of vices"--an echo of the Third Reich author Alfred Rosenberg's call for "a merciless cleansing with an iron broom." (The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007, p. 104)

That the Argentine military claimed to act on behalf of "the highest interests of the nation" and was working to prevent "the dissolution of Argentine society...and the disappearance of the Fatherland as a state," found its echo in Milton Friedman's Chicago School "that has harnessed the full force of the U.S. military machine in the service of a corporate agenda," according to Klein's analysis.

For the military regime, dissent in all its forms but particularly anticapitalist alternatives to the "market," were a betrayal of "organic" belief systems that threatened the physical and spiritual survival of the nation.

"Subversion," according to the logic advanced here, posed an existential threat not merely to the plundering elites who had looted the Argentine national economy but to the "people" as a whole. The national security doctrine of the Generals was driven by a far-right Nationalist-Catholic corporatist ideology which held that all civil authority must be subordinated "to the natural order and to natural law." For the General Staff and their henchmen "subversion and revolution must not be allowed to undermine the natural moral order of society because they are undermining the order of Creation" itself.

Anticipating arguments advanced by neoconservative theoreticians decades later as the U.S. wages a new "war on terror," V Army Corps Commander General Acdel Vilas wrote,

In reality, the only total, integral warfare is cultural warfare. ... We do not confront an opponent who fights to defend a flag, a nation, or its borders. He who attacks us doesn't do any of that. He is, simply put, part of an army of ideologues whose headquarters could be in Europe, America or Asia. He lacks a national identity. He is the product of a counterculture with a well-defined objective: to destroy the foundations of Western civilization of which we Argentines naturally form part. ... What we create in the individual is his mind. ... The fight isn't one to conquer terrain, physically, but to conquer minds. Not to take advantageous physical positions but to mold mental structures in his favor. (Martin Edwin Andersen, Dossier Secreto: Argentina's Desaparecido's and the Myth of the "Dirty War," Boulder: Westview Press, 1993, p. 195)

For practitioners of "cultural warfare," "national security" morphed into a totalitarian world-view akin to the National Socialism of Hitler's Third Reich where all is permitted those who defend the "integrity" of the state's "natural order." This led Argentine Foreign Minister, Admiral Cesar Augosto Guzzetti to baldly declare:

There is no right-wing subversion or terrorism as such. The body of society is affected by a disease that corrodes the entrails and forms antibodies. These antibodies cannot be regarded in the same way as the microbe itself. The action of the antibody will disappear as the government controls and destroys the guerrillas. (Stella Calloni, "The Horror Archives of Operation Condor," Washington, D.C. CovertAction Quarterly, Number 50, Fall 1994, p. 10)

Or, as General Iberico St. Jean expressed more candidly in 1977 at the height of the slaughter, "First we will kill the subversives; then we will kill their collaborators; then their sympathizers; then those who are indifferent."

Are there echoes of this fascist mindset to be found in contemporary American life? Compare the ravings of the Admiral and the General to those of American Enterprise Institute "resident scholar," Michael Ledeen. According to the Boston Globe,

"To be an effective leader, the most prudent method is to ensure that your people are afraid of you," Ledeen wrote in "Machiavelli on Modern Leadership." "To instill that fear, you must demonstrate that those who attack you will not survive." ... In a 1999 article in the scholarly journal Society, he warned of dire consequences if Clinton were not impeached. "New leaders with an iron will are required to root out the corruption and either reestablish a virtuous state, or to institute a new one, ..." he wrote. "If we bask in false security and drop our guard, the rot spreads, corrupting the entire society. Once that happens, only violent and extremely unpleasant methods can bring us back to virtue." (Jeet Heer and David Wagner, "Man of the World: Michael Ledeen's adventures in history," October 10, 2004)

Is this not the paradigm employed by corporations and their lap dogs across the American landscape?

Argentine journalist Uki Goñi observed two years before the General's "dirty war" coup,

On the broad Nueve Julio Avenue that divides Buenos Aires in half -- 'the widest avenue in the world,' according to some Argentines -- stands a giant white obelisk that is the city's most conspicuous landmark. In 1974, the landmark lost its virginity in the strangest of ways. A revolving billboard was suspended around the Obelisco, snugly encircling the huge white phallus. Round and round the ring turned, inscribed with an Orwellian message in bold blue letters on a plain white background: 'Silence Is Health.' (The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Perón's Argentina, London: Granta, 2002, p. xxvii)

Silence Is Health ... The watchwords of fascists everywhere.

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