On March 24 in Argentina, US president Barack Obama said to the Argentine people that he regretted the slowness of the US on human rights during the 1970's during the "Dirty War" in Argentina. During that dark time, Argentina's military was responsible for abducting, torturing, and killing tens of thousands of suspected opponents.
On April 15, Raymond Bonner wrote in The Nation that it is time the US did the same for its involvement in El Salvador's civil war and the atrocities committed by the right wing government with US backing. He writes:
In Argentina, the security forces killed some 30,000 civilians. In El Salvador, more than 75,000 lost their lives during the civil war, which lasted from 1980 until the 1992 peace agreement. The guerrillas committed atrocities, but the United Nations Truth Commission, established as part of the accord, found that more than 85 percent of the killings, kidnappings, and torture had been the work of government forces, which included paramilitaries, death squads, and army units trained by the United States.
The United States went well beyond remaining largely silent in the face of human-rights abuses in El Salvador. The State Department and White House often sought to cover up the brutality, to protect the perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes.Obama did visit El Salvador in 2011. Despite a symbolic visit to the tomb of Oscar Romero, there was no acknowledgment of the part the US played in El Salvador's tragic history.
Bonner goes on to remind his readers of some of the actions of Reagan administration officials during those years including the cozy relationship of US officials with Roberto D'Aubuisson, author of the assassination of Oscar Romero, whitewashing the murders of four US churchwomen by Salvadoran soldiers, and denial of the El Mozote massacre. Bonner knows the El Mozote story well since he was one of two US reporters who broke the story of the massacre and was then vigorously attacked by his own government for being a dupe of the guerrillas.
In Argentina, Obama announced the release of formerly classified documents about the US role in Argentina. The same action is needed to declassify additional documents from the time of El Salvador's civil war. As an example, the University of Washington Center for Human Rights, filed suit at the end of last year against the CIA seeking release of documents related to the 1981 Santa Cruz massacre in El Salvador.
Equally needed is for El Salvador's military to open its archives for review. Despite orders from the InterAmerican Court on Human Rights and statements from Mauricio Funes when he was president, the Salvadoran military has kept its records away from investigators. The historical record of individual and corporate responsibility for human rights abuses in El Salvador will only be complete when both the US and the Salvadoran military fully release their records.