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ENGL 2311

What should be the parameters for human rights in identifying an enemy?

In this day and age it is easy for most to get caught up in the gung-ho mentality of fighting terrorism at any cost and by any means necessary to ensure liberty and safety. Unfortunately, this zealous drive for a sense of security has blindly led many to elect representatives that do not serve the interests of the represented and to demonize anyone who dares ask questions or demand answers when they should be given. The course of human history should not be determined by a small minority in power who ³know´ best, and the reigns of control over lives, resources, and nations should not simply be handed over to the unchecked, unquestioned hands of tyrants behind closed doors. The day that a populace subscribes to a paradigm in which sustaining a routine becomes more important than the welfare of mankind as a whole is the day when global compartmentalization has succeeded and true control over the entire planet becomes a plausible enterprise. Having grown up in the dirt-street-villas of Argentina, I repeatedly heard about the impact of the ³milicos´ on the nation and the following is a synopsis of the events. After the death of three-term, controversial Argentine president Juan Peron, his wife took office but was not a strong political leader. This allowed for a military coup in 1976 in which a junta, or committee of military leaders governed the nation. Isabela Martinez de Peron was kept in protective custody while a seven year-long campaign by the junta sought to quench opposition of its own citizens by any means necessary. During the junta¶s reign, many Argentine citizens, including critics of the government or anyone with strong political views, were kidnapped. The death toll resulting from this regime is said to range anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 people. The ³disappeared´, as they are known, were taken to secret government detention centers and the crimes committed against them include torture, rape, and murder. These historical events are known as the ³dirty war´ which was a term coined by the junta itself, and in trials held in 1985 many militant leaders defended their case claiming that the dirty war that used multiple methods such as large-

scale torture and rape was necessary to ³maintain social order´ due to the fact that the nation was in ³civil war.´ As global public opinion and civil rights groups grew in their disapproval for these acts, the junta decided to redeem themselves and gain support from the people by launching a war in 1982 that would regain control over the Islas Malvinas, or Falkland Islands. Originally, the Argentine people rallied behind the government but as time passed this plan backfired as large protests were held against the war, which lasted only 74 days and left 750 Argentine and 255 British soldiers dead, along with 11,400 prisoners of war held by the British military (Encyclopedia Britannica). During the war, Argentine media hoped to boost morale by having many publications report false information about the status of the war. Several magazines posted fake pictures of British ships in flames and gave false eye-witness reports that the Argentine were winning. Madres de Plaza de Mayo, an organization of women who became political activists after having lost their children during the dirty war, were threatened to death by ordinary citizens in pro-war hysteria. Three British reporters who had come to Argentina to cover the opposing side of the issue were put in prison until the end of the conflict (Wikipedia). The United Kingdom regaining control of the islands marked the death of the junta who then retracted their ban of opposing political parties and gave control back to civilians when Raul Alfonsin was elected president in 1983.(Global Security). Head of the junta, Jorge Rafael Videla, and his navy commander, Admiral Massera, were both found on homicide and other charges and were sentenced to life in jail. Three others, including militant successor of Videla as president, were given lesser charges and all others were acquitted ( While the human rights violations perpetrated by the junta caused US President James Carter to withdraw military aid to Argentina, declassified documents obtained by the National Security Archive in 2003 prove that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and other high-ranking US officials told Argentine militants to hurry up and finish the dirty war while US aid was still flowing. In one of the documents, Ambassador Robert Hill states, ³When (Argentine Foreign Minister Guzzetti) had seen Kissinger in Santiago, the latter had said he 'hoped the Argentine Govt could get the terrorist problem under control as quickly as possible.' Guzzetti said that he had reported this to President Videla and to the cabinet, and that their impression had been that the USG's overriding concern was not human

rights but rather that Government of Argentina 'get it over quickly.'" The following are excerpts from a memorandum of conversation between Kissinger and Guzzetti, "¶Foreign Minister Guzzetti: The terrorist organizations have been dismantled. If this direction continues, by the end of the year the danger will have been set aside. There will always be isolated attempts, of course« µ The Secretary: µLook, our basic attitude is that we would like you to succeed. I have an old-fashioned view that friends ought to be supported. What is not understood in the United States is that you have a civil war. We read about human rights problems but not the context. The quicker you succeed the better.¶"

Security Archive).

The issue of considering the proper context that Kissinger talks about is extremely important when dealing with military conflict and resolving insurgency, however, it is crucial that we not allow idealistic policies such as ³defeating terrorism´ to destroy the lives of countless innocent people that pose no threat to anyone, as has been the case under direction of the State sometimes deliberately, and sometimes simply as collateral damage. Of course the argument is always present that during war, there will be innocent casualties, but it should be of utmost concern that thorough measures be taken to prevent them. Such controversial matters can be exemplified in the Israeli Defense Forces¶ (IDF) use of white phosphorus in the Palestinian territories. White phosphorus, a material which causes burns upon contact and potentially death by inhalation or ingestion, has been widely used by American and British forces in war via bombs, artillery, mortars and short-range missiles. Although it is legal for armies to use this weapon against military adversaries, many international agreements including the Geneva Convention forbid the use of white phosphorus against civilians. While the Pentagon openly states that WP is used against enemy combatants, Israel is known to use American-given WP in Palestinian residential neighborhoods because Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization according to the US, Israel, and 3 other nations, operates in civilian areas. In a tactical war where violent enemies hide amidst civilians in mosques, schools, hospitals, etc., potential IDF methods include air strikes, sending in soldiers, or WP,

which can serve as a smoke screen (Joniversity). Statements submitted by Amnesty International to the UN Human Rights Council bring up Israel¶s use of WP during Operation ³Cast Lead´, and their research concludes that the ³Israeli Forces continued to employ tactics and weapons that resulted in growing numbers of civilian casualties for the entire duration of the military offensive. This was despite Israeli officials knowing from the first days of the military offensive that civilians were being killed and wounded in significant numbers.´ (AI) A similar scenario recently generated much commotion due to a video released by WikiLeaks, an organization which makes public documents that are considered sensitive, classified, or that are otherwise kept secret from the public. The video, shot in Baghdad in 2007, is footage shot from a US Apache helicopter that shows several people walking around the street with camera equipment, which was mistaken for AK47s and RPGs. The soldiers on board the Apache sinisterly laughed and sought any reason to engage with the men on the ground, as the audio reveals a pilot saying, ³All you gotta do is pick up a weapon.´ Although no shots were fired by the men on the ground, the first wave of fire kills several, and a van later stopped to pick up the wounded leading to a second wave of helicopter fire killing the people in the van and critically injuring two children inside. Twelve people were killed including two journalists employed by Reuters. ³In the aftermath the US military claimed that some AK-47s and a grenade launcher had been found at the scene. (Defense analyst Pierre) Sprey comments that, in the course of the subsequent cover-up, the weapons may well have been planted, LAPD style. According to Reuters their men had been working on a story about weight lifting when they heard about a military raid in the neighborhood, and decided to drive there to check it out. Local witnesses say there was no fire fight anywhere near where they were gunned down by the Apaches.´ Since the initial response from the US government was to keep this occurrence as far away from public knowledge as possible, further explanation had to be given once WikiLeaks brought the video to light. ³U.S. military denied that any error had taken place, its version of events faithfully cited by the New York Times under the headline µ2 Iraqi Journalists Killed as U.S. Forces Clash With Militias¶:

³According to the [U.S. military¶s] statement, American troops were conducting a raid when they were hit by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The American troops called in reinforcements and attack helicopters. In the ensuing fight, the statement said, the two Reuters employees and nine [sic] insurgents were killed.´ (Cockburn) It is clearly shown in the footage that this was not the case. Once again we are presented with the issue of identifying the enemy and the subsequent loss of innocent, civilian life due to what is euphemistically regarded as miscalculations and operational errors. Patrick Tillman was a professional American football player who, after the September 11 attacks, turned down a $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals and put his new marriage in hiatus to enlist with the Army due to his strong feelings for the cause of defending the United States. His family was told by the Army that in 2004 he was killed by friendly fire in an epic, Hollywood style scenario in which ³his convoy had been ambushed and he had charged up a hill, forcing the enemy to withdraw and saving the lives of his fellow Rangers.´ Five weeks later Army investigations determined that Tillman had been killed due to friendly fire and had known so from the very beginning, but had kept the family in the dark. Medical examiners concluded Tillman had been shot in the head three times from 10 yards away, and the coroner refused to sign the autopsy for months because his examination did not match up with the scenario described by the Army¶s original story. His uniform was burnt, which is against Army protocol, and the eyewitness statements that earned him a Silver Star were altered. When Secretary of the Army Pete Green was asked who had altered the statements, his reply was, ³Well, that's one of the questions that we will never completely answer.´ According to the Associated Press, "Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments." When discussing the topic with MSNBC¶s Keith Olbermann¶s Countdown, General Wesley Clark said, ³If there's even a hint that there was something like a homicide or a murder in this case, it should've been fully investigated and proved or disproved«´ and that the decisions that his case shouldn¶t be investigated, but instead just given the Silver Star and claimed as a war hero came from ³all the way to the top, because Pat Tillman

was a political symbol used by the administration when it suited their purposes.´ In a frighteningly similar way that the junta tried to generate chauvinism by creating a foreign foe that the citizens could rally against, September the eleventh was a clear example of how fear was used to manufacture a threat in order to prop up a war based on resources. Argentina¶s widely read magazine Gente published on its cover the supersized headline ³We¶re winning!´ during fascist occupation when Argentine forces were being decimated without a struggle; the cry for wolf echoed in the northern hemisphere decades later and stirred pro-war sentiment with the clarion call of ³WMDs!´ Military intervention in Iraq was spurred by what was described as a direct threat to all free nations. Saddam Hussein was said to have given aid to the Afghani Taliban, largely blamed for the September 11 attacks. Theoretically, there should be serious analysis of a situation before launching multi-billion dollar wars with more deaths than anyone will ever fully document, however, all US government officials needed to begin a reign of military occupation lasting to this day was a red herring parroted by a controlled media system. September the 11th, 2001 is still a topic of heated debated among people who still acknowledge the fact that there is more to history than clear-cut, pre-digested propaganda. Many questions are still unanswered but what is certain is that the mainstream news had a very concrete explanation of what had happened and who the perpetrators were. Their storyline was ready to be sold to the afraid and ready-toact public as media outlets reported on the collapse of World Trade Center building 7 even before its collapse. The fact that no other steel framed building in history had ever collapsed due to fire, the fact that the hole left in the Pentagon was no bigger than 16 feet in diameter (much smaller than the width of a Boeing 757), the fact that there were no plane parts or corpses found at the scene in Pennsylvania, the fact that the Twin Towers collapsed in a demolition manner with no obstruction, the fact that thermate was found and documented in video and satellite images at the site, the fact that NORAD was told to stand down and not shoot the planes down by Dick Cheney, the fact that the majority of the authors of the 9/11 official Commission Report believe further investigations should be held-- are all offensively ignored by a

government all too willing to reap the benefits of a counter-attack on the third-world masterminds of a plot so convoluted that it makes the best Hollywood movie seem far-fetched. I interviewed Alex X from Brave New Books to get his thoughts on some of the issues discussed in this paper: ³Roig: What are your thoughts on the War on Terrorism? Alex: Terrorism is a behavior, so a war that¶s based on a human activity cannot ever be won. The only thing that can be done is to take safeguarding measures and if terrorism does occur, put the criminals involved through the court system« Roig: Who should be considered a terrorist? Alex: The definition is using fear, threats, violence for political gain; so I think that¶s rather broad and people even within the US government would be covered. For example, Hal Turner, the racist radio pundit who actively called for violence on air was an FBI operative/informant. Roig: What measures can be taken to prevent terrorism? Alex: An informed public, justice through the legal system. There are some things that will always exist«terrorism, like crime or poverty are, at least under our current system, always going to be a factor to recognize. If people- foolishly attempt to eradicate a behavior such as terrorism altogether, there will be the danger of going in the direction that this nation is heading towards which makes everyone a precriminal. In order to solve a problem you have to look at what why the problem exists and how that cause can be resolved.´ During the interview he also brought up Gary Webb, an investigative journalist who was researching drug trafficking and the CIA¶s involvement when his ³suicide´ of multiple shots to the head put his projects and research to rest. One of Webb¶s primary sources is Ricky Ross, who was

Maintaining a consistent level of impartiality is one of the most difficult tasks a human being can accomplish, but it is imperative that we do so, for logic and reason are great allies of compassion and consideration. Emotion lends itself all too often among cultures of the world to manipulation and control, making it the biggest co-conspirator of injustice. Passion and empathy, when founded in reason, can be the solution to suffering if it ever were to be applied voluntarily on a mass scale. The truth is many people are willfully ignorant and will continue to be so until it hits home; all an optimist can do is hope that by the time the world is ready for change, it will still have the ability.

Works Cited

Alexander Cockburn. ³The Cover-Ups That Exploded´. CounterPunch Diary. April 10, 2010.

³Argentina 1800-1999´. OnWar n.d. April 19, 2010

³Argentina Dirty War 1976 ± 1983´ Global n.d. April 20, 2010 Edited by Carlos Osorio, Assisted by Kathleen Costar. ³KISSINGER TO ARGENTINES ON DIRTY WAR: THE QUICKER YOU SUCCEED THE BETTER´ National Security Archive. Posted December 4, 2003. Electronic Briefing Book No. 104. Read the front page story, "Transcript: U.S. OK'd 'dirty war' by Daniel A. Grech in the 4 December 2003 Miami Herald. The National Security Arc hive ³Falkland Islands War´ (2010). Encyclopædia Britannica. n.d. Retrieved April 19, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: ³Falklands War´ Wikipedia n.d. Retrived April 20, 2010.

Joniversity. ³White Phosphorus Use by Israel´ April 5, 2010. Accessed April 15, 2010. Personal Interview. 20 April 2010. Alex, X. Interviewed by Simon Roig. Brave New Books Austin, TX.

³Latest Israeli response to Gaza investigations totally inadequate´ Amnesty International. 2 February 2010.