Injustice: Part 3 – Whose Demons?

The Kirchners and their Orwellian supporters are trying to rewrite history with a one-sided “truth”. It proves convenient for them as it justifies their undermining of the Argentinian constitution and it deflects from their embezzlement and corruption scandals. Being a socialist, it hurts me to see what they do. They destroy the left and make us look like idiots who cannot deal with our past, owning up to our mistakes. They are doing the simplest thing: blame the others. How can we move forward if we do not understand our actions of the past? How can we progress into a future which should be a better place for all, if we deny our past? For me, the Kirchners are more successful at destroying the left ideology than the Junta ever managed. The heads behind Operation Condor wanted to get rid of socialist ideas, yet the populist, corrupt “left” will actually succeed.

This part will focus on common myths that have been created. In dealing with the past in Argentina, there used to be the theory of two demons, changed to a demons and angel story and I will argue there were no demons nor angels. I will also follow the argument that there Argentina was at the verge of a civil war, if not even at war and would have potentially been a failed state if nothing would have changed in the 1970s. None of this justifies any of the actions of either side, however, we have similar situations in today’s world where different world views clash with each other and sadly brutality continues to rule. I think it is important to not blame, as either side have their reasons and it is more important to listen to the other side and understand them – it is people against people after all. We need to have a dialogue instead of victimising, blaming and killing each other – or locking up who we do not like, as is done today.

Numbers do not make it a genocide

Genocide is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”[1]

I am aware why there is the desire of parts of Argentinian society that want to call the crimes of the Junta a genocide. It is considered as the worst crime humanity can commit and therefore international law is more important than national law and retrospective law can be applied (only in this case). However, the definition of the UN convention on genocide is very clear and very specific and a genocide clearly was not committed and hence any reference to a genocide is wrong in any trial and also in any news coverage when writing about the trials. There are dangers with this as well as it undermines the horrible crime of genocide and even trivialises it. I am not saying that the crimes committed in Argentina were harmless, but they were not genocidal and hence national law has to be followed and retrospective application of law is therefore unconstitutional.

However, there is clever, populist propaganda going on with the labelling of the crimes of the Junta as genocidal. The Kirchneristas purposefully tagged the crimes as genocide (as do some historians etc, but not the official UN commission which has the final say). There were reasons why political persecution is not included in the genocide definition. Genocide is a clearly defined crime and even the origin of the word consists of the Greek prefix genos, meaning race or tribe, and the Latin suffix cide, meaning killing. By labelling any crime, group against group, government against civilians etc as a genocide, it loses its actual meaning and simply bears a labelling option to seek attention. But also, it undermines the UN as a power and it enables anyone to call whatever they want about anything they like. A genocide requires the intend or the actual killing of a group of people – in part or entirely – based on their nationality, ethnicity and/or religion. These three components imply some very important considerations as they not only refer to physical and biological existence, but also to a rich history and heritage that is being destroyed. This has evolved over hundreds or even thousands of years and is part of the cultural heritage of mankind on this planet. It is not only the physical killing and the biological destruction that play a part but also the culture and history associated with this group. By fighting a political group, the biological and cultural aspect are not fulfilled. Therefore, political killings cannot be described as a genocide. It goes beyond ideology and political ideas. Political views come and go over time and they do not bear the same heritage as other forms of culture (and I am a very political person). As a natural scientist, genocide goes far beyond political killings and destroys evolution and the history of homo sapiens and it is therefore the worst crime humans can commit against humans.

Here in Argentina, there is no need to describe the crimes as genocide and it appears to be an attention seeking exercise. The crimes of the last Junta (but also of the guerrilla, which is commonly ignored in this debate) speak for themselves, so why attach labels that are incorrect? It is a way to get more attention from the media and after a while it is part of the truth – true or not, and to revengefully punish people. It discredits the victims of genocides as well as the victims of the Junta – it is all geared towards media attention no matter what the crime is and also to undermine the rights of the prosecuted in terms of retrospective law application. It is wrong to label the killings of the Junta as a genocide and therefore it is also incorrect to try the men on it. The crimes may resemble each other but they are different. There is a reason why genocide is the “crime of crimes”[2].

For the record, in Argentina, there has been a genocide, when Patagonia was conquered and the land was taken from the original inhabitants and given to white settlers, whilst killing and displacing the original people, destroying them as a people along with their history and heritage. This is a classic example when people who owned the land were considered inferior due to their ethnicity which for me personally plays an important role in the crime of genocide. However, only the crimes of the Junta are remembered or commemorated not the actual genocide that was committed. And even the form of crime is taken away from the victims of the conquest of the desert and are used to label the crimes of the Junta. I am not saying that what happened in the 1970s and 1980s was acceptable, but it is not justifiable to call it a genocide under any circumstance. I do not want to mention numbers as to me 1 person killed by a state or by anti-state fighters is one too many. But you see often on the streets of Buenos Aires the graffiti 30000 make it a genocide. Well, it does not.

Socialist Argentina?

Recently there was a video that may have been a little bit over the top and indirectly described the guerrilla members as terrorists – one man’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter; the definition is all about perspective. However, the description of the left as being naïve victims is equally wrong. They were proactively seeking to change society in Argentina, and by the means of the 1960s and 1970s that included the potential of revolution and warfare. Guerrilla movements are not naïve, innocent movements where people sit together and dream about a ‘better’ world[3]. The members are trained on weapons and how to fight. Their vision was to overthrow the government and create a new society[4]. Whereas this is appealing to some parts of society, it is also a threat to other parts of society and it is not surprising that they fought back. In Argentina, large parts of society supported the military when they first came to power to restore ‘normality’ after years of chaos[5]. This part of history cannot be denied and it must be told. Or simply put, Argentina did not want to be socialist.

The willingness of the Montoneros and ERPistas to fight was shown often enough. They killed and kidnapped people[6], asked for enormous ransoms, fought on the streets, planted bombs and were very organised, with attacks on military barracks for weapons[7]. This indicates that they were well structured, paramilitary groups that were aware of what they were doing and willing to go all the way. These are not signs of some innocent kids fantasising about a better world. The members of the Montoneros and ERP were well aware of what guerrilla warfare meant and were willing to go all the way, no matter what the losses. However, they made huge mistakes – they underestimated the enemy and the lack of interest in society for their cause. The biggest mistake in a revolution or war.

I do not understand why this side is ignored or falsified. It was how the Third World revolutionaries thought and fought at that time of our history – whether it was in Africa, Asia or Latin America. Some were more successful than others, some countries had decades of civil war and in some countries, they lost before they could get as far. Looking back, which is always easier, they should have gone the political way instead as Argentina in the past or now has no potential for a revolution. This would have saved a lot of people’s lives in the years to come. Their role must be seen and connected to the military brutality, as they paved the way to the coup d’état and to what followed. Through their actions, the military can rightly say they fought a war as this is what the left wanted too. They wanted to fight and defeat the military[8]. Therefore they are in part responsible for the coup d’état and what followed. They were also aware that the military would go all the way – this was already shown in neighbouring countries like Chile and Uruguay. However, they were not aware that they had learned from them too and to go ahead more quietly. The Argentinian armed forces had actually understood the aim of the guerrilla.

Despite Argentina not being ideal for many reasons for starting and winning through guerrilla warfare, there are examples of even small groups, if everything is understood and calculated correctly – with a bit of luck and international support – winning. The classic example is Cuba and hence the fear of the military and selected parts of society can be understood. They were not willing to risk it for Argentina, especially through the connection of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. In terms of brutality of the left, Peru provides a scary example and the country too was very close to a takeover by the Sendero Luminoso – a group renowned for their brutality which is in the same league as the Latin American military. Anyone potentially disagreeing with them was killed and some killings were committed just to set an example of what will happen if they do not follow[9]. A tactic sadly used by many – guerrillas, paramilitary and state forces across all of Latin America.

The left was not harmless and they were well aware of the sacrifices they, their supporters and also innocent civilians would have to give for their cause. Anyone who ever considered joining a revolutionary movement, anywhere in the world, will have to admit to this or they are not committed to the cause. Part of the idea is that the government starts oppressing and even killing members of society, leading to an uprising against the state and the forces that represent it – police and armed forces. The Montoneros and ERP wanted to achieve this and clearly took the risks required for this to happen. Therefore, they are certainly not innocent as it is told. The left needs to live up to past mistakes and learn from them. It must accept that they cannot force society to change if it does not want to.

Instead of denying its wrong doing and its past mistake, the left should search for new ways and solutions that do not involve populist propaganda and denialism. Constructive approaches are needed. In Argentina, their mistakes and crimes must be part of its narrative of the history. It is wrong to only blame one side and not deal with the whys. It does not mean what happened was correct but the whys are the important part. Why did the many people get on with life and not seem to care? The dangers of a one-sided history are clear. It does not allow for prevention of such evils from either side to happen again.

Liberalism after the Cold War

It is also important to put the Junta and Operation Condor into context. During the Cold War, the threat conceived to the Western free world was socialism. They were the terrorists of the time for governments. Many countries, including the USA and the UK, amongst many others, would do unacceptable deals with the “devil”, just to keep socialism out. This included support of apartheid, financing counter-revolutionary fighters that were extremely brutal and training selected military personnel to torture and kill. This must not be forgotten at any time. The real guilt is somewhere else (time and place) and not alone with the Argentinian armed forces, and especially not with the lower ranks who were just pawns in this game – just as the young people who thought they could win a revolution.

Today we live in a liberal world order where everyone and everything is accepted – only to some degree of course. It needs to fit into the minds of the liberal elite. Liberalism is an interesting concept and for me it represents the dictatorship of western values. It is based on Hegelian concepts as Marxism is and likewise focuses on economy, which lots of people try to overlook. Liberal values are used to justify policies – here in Argentina during the Kirchner years, despite being populist, the liberal idea of human rights was put to the top of the agenda (as we saw earlier only for Argentina and not HR when it came to trade with other countries) but liberal institutions like the IMF and free trade were condemned. Why not embrace the whole thing and do it properly then? This liberal hypocrisy of the Kirchneristas, which is very widespread, annoys me, but relates to being a pick and choose society. We only follow what is convenient for our own interpretation of our world order and we forget the parts that other members of society use and instead blame them for when we do not get what we want.

During the Cold War, the liberal institutions and ideas were already established, however, the problems were different and realpolitik was the preferred approach by countries. And the Junta must be seen in that context. We cannot walk away from that fact and compare it to today’s standards, but we can create a future and focus on that. The liberal West feared the idea of a socialist controlled world and was willing to fight back at any cost, like it is fighting Islamic terrorism today. The means have not changed over time and it is the same story as no one has learned from the past of the Cold War. During Operation Condor, a very similar war was fought. It was the defence of some parts of society against a different view of others and the brutality on all sides was enormous. However, we must learn from the past and analyse it properly. It cannot be done by locking away intermediate and junior officers, putting them on show trials and changing history. This reminds me more of a witch hunt. It has to be dealt with in a constructive, communicative way with reconciliation. It is the only way to deal with ideological clashes. Both sides need to learn from each other and face their fears and wrong understandings. Revenge gets society nowhere. It keeps us stuck in the past and does not allow a fairer future to evolve. If the Kirchners and other parts of society would focus on the future instead of the past, they would not have any power and it therefore shows that it is after all, just a power game.

Footnotes and References

[1] www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/adviser/pdf/osapg_analysis_framework.pdf

[2] Personally, I only see one other crime as bad and that is ecocide as that involves other species the right to live on top of human beings. But that is a crime of the future with the continuation of climate change and we all contribute to it.

[3] VS Naipaul even questions if they had a good enough cause in his essays on Argentina, e.g. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1992/01/30/argentina-living-with-cruelty/

[4] And at apparently any cost as the following quote from the Naipaul article shows: “A Peronist trade union leader, sitting in his well-appointed office, said in the soft and reasoned way for which he was known, “A world without torture is an ideal world.” Torture was going to continue; but there was good torture and bad torture. Bad torture was what was done by the enemies of the people; good torture was what, when their turn came, the enemies of the people got from the protectors of the people.

[5] Again, I will refer to the account of Naipaul, in the previous footnote. However, I have heard from enough people from the left and the right about the chaos that existed and the daily fighting in the streets and all the bombs.

[6] It was the same in Germany in the 1970s – they killed the drivers and kept the rich for ransom. Strange socialism where the lower class is not worth to keep alive. Argentina had some of the highest ransoms paid in the history of kidnapping. Yet hardly any of the money was for the poor – the organisations kept them. There is only one reason, that is to buy weapons, training and to pay the staff. ISIS trade with oil for similar reasons.

[7] As late as 1989,  the ERP attacked La Tablada barracks, which raises many questions regarding their agenda.

[8]Simply put the guerrilla wanted “To destroy the army” taken again from http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1992/01/30/argentina-living-with-cruelty/

[9] They brutally murdered thousands of innocent people – if anyone is interested google it yourself.

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