Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The silence of the left on El Salvador

Back in the 1980's I wasn't as politically attuned as I am these days, but I was engaged enough to know that one of the most prominent issues on the left was US support of the military dictatorship in El Salvador. Much of that was sparked by the assassination, in 1980, of Archbishop Oscar Romero. That atrocity was followed up later that year by the brutal gang rape and murder of four American nuns (Jean Donovan, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, and Dorothy Kazel). But it was the murder of 6 Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her 15 year old daughter in 1989 that finally mobilized a world-wide reaction.

All in all, 75,000 people were were killed during El Salvador's bloody civil war. And the US - through Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George HW Bush - continued to financially support the regime that was responsible for most of these killings. According to Congressman Joe Moakley of Massachusetts (who was tasked by Speaker Foley to investigate the murder of the Jesuit priests), "El Salvador was the recipient of $6 billion in military aid from the United States in the 1980s - the second largest recipient of U.S. military aid next to Israel."

What I find interesting is that 30 years later, when President Obama visits President Mauricio Funes (who was elected as a member of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) political party) and when he pays homage at the tomb of Archbishop Romero, the current day left is completely silent.

What is even more puzzling is that all of this is taking place as similar struggles for freedom and democracy are going on in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Except that this time, the US government has committed itself to support the people of those countries rising up against oppression. And yet the silence from the left includes the fact that nowhere are these comparisons being made nor is this turn-around in US foreign policy being discussed.

Perhaps this is further indication that too many on the left don't embrace the "long game" - whether its playing out into the future or looking back at history.

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