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Mon Feb 9, 2015, 04:12 PM

Did Bill O’Reilly Cover Up a War Crime in El Salvador?

Did Bill O’Reilly Cover Up a War Crime in El Salvador?
Greg Grandin on February 9, 2015 - 2:34 PM ET

Before Bill O’Reilly was, well, Bill O’Reilly, he worked for a time as a foreign correspondent for CBS Nightly News, anchored by Dan Rather. O’Reilly talks about that period of his career in two of his books, and in both mentions that in early 1982 he reported from northeastern El Salvador, just after the infamous El Mozote Massacre. “When the CBS News bureau chief asked for volunteers to check out an alleged massacre in the dangerous Morazán Territory, a mountainous region bordering Nicaragua, I willingly went.”

El Mozote is a small, hard-to-reach hamlet. The massacre took place on December 11, 1981, carried out by US-trained Atlacatl Battalion, which was not just trained but created by the United States as a rapid response unit to fight El Salvador’s fast-spreading FMLN insurgency. El Mozote was a liberation-theology village, supportive of the guerrillas. The killing was savage beyond belief: between 733 and 900 villagers were slaughtered, decapitated, impaled and burned alive.

The story of the massacre was broken on the front page of The New York Times by the journalist Raymond Bonner and in The Washington Post by Alma Guillermoprieto; both stories were published on January 27, 1982, and accompanied by photographs taken by Susan Meiselas. Bonner and Meiselas got to El Mozote, after hearing about the massacre, by walking for days in from Honduras. Guillermoprieto wrote about seeing “countless bits of bones—skulls, rib cages, femurs, a spinal column” poking “out of the rubble.” Bonner noted the “charred skulls and bones of dozens of bodies buried under burned-out roofs, beams, and shattered tiles.” Later, Mark Danner reported on the massacre in detail, first in a lengthy New Yorker essay and then in a book.

Aside from the brutality of the killing, El Mozote is distinguished by the fact that Washington moved quickly to cover it up. It was, in a way, the first massacre of the “second Cold War,” the Reagan administration’s drive to retake the third world; what My Lai was to the 1960s, El Mozote was to the 1980s (later, in 1989, Atlacatl would commit another infamous crime: the execution of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter)

In addition to describing the massacre, Danner documents the cover-up in detail: the US embassy in El Salvador immediately disputed Bonner’s and Guillermoprieto’s reporting, as did New Right organizations like Accuracy in Media. Thomas Enders, Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for inter-American Affairs, and Elliott Abrams, assistant secretary of state for human rights, denied the killing. Abrams said “it appears to be an incident that is at least being significantly misused, at the very best, by the guerrillas.” The Wall Street Journal called Bonner “overly credulous” and “out on a limb” and placed the word massacre in “scare quotes.” The Times sided with the critics, and Bonner eventually left the paper, after first being transferred to the business section.

More:
http://www.thenation.com/blog/197401/did-bill-oreilly-cover-war-crime-el-salvador#

8 replies, 1854 views

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Feb 9, 2015, 04:35 PM

1. Probably, but Fox Entertainment doesn't go after their own. n/t

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Feb 9, 2015, 05:51 PM

2. k&r. Thanks for posting. nm

 

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Feb 9, 2015, 07:39 PM

3. I cross-posted this to GD as well to bring some more attention to it

 

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Response to Electric Monk (Reply #3)

Mon Feb 9, 2015, 09:37 PM

5. Thank you for that.The more who see it, the better. The truth matters, always. n/t

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Feb 9, 2015, 07:48 PM

4. The way that horrific excuse for a man writes about his bravery makes me wanna puke

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sat Feb 14, 2015, 07:14 AM

6. White Paper on El Salvador

Last edited Sun Feb 15, 2015, 08:14 AM - Edit history (1)

Jonathan Kwitny was one of the few, and perhaps the only, mainstream reporter(s) doing any real reporting on this part of the world.

Scott Simon of NPR on the other hand seems to have fallen into the Bill O'Reilly camp here .. along with most of the other mainstream reporters. I recall at the time that it sounded as though Simon was doing mostly solid reporting from that region.

Looking back at it now though and given what we now know really went (goes) on down there it's clear that the reporting from the likes of Jonathan Kwitny was the exception.

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Response to MinM (Reply #6)

Sat Feb 14, 2015, 03:53 PM

7. It seems so hard to remember the days the Wall Street Journal had honorable reporters, doesn't it?

Your reference to Jonathan Kwitny was a big help, as well as the "White Paper on El Salvador." Amazing.

The information gives us awareness this area has not gotten a tiny fraction of the attention it actually demands in order to clean up our history regarding that tiny country run by and for oligarchs.

The entire truth is going to be known, in time.

Thank you for reminding us to look more deeply.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sat Feb 14, 2015, 03:59 PM

8. Located after reading MinM's post: Lost History (Part 1): Death, Lies and Bodywashing

Lost History (Part 1): Death, Lies and Bodywashing


WASHINGTON -- On Sunday, May 5, a solemn ceremony took place in an open grassy space at Arlington National Cemetery. A small memorial stone was unveiled to honor 21 American soldiers who died in secret combat against leftist guerrillas in El Salvador. As family members wiped tears from their eyes, Salvadoran children placed tiny American flags next to the soldiers' names, unknown casualties from the 1980s.

"For too long, we have failed to recognize the contributions, the sacrifices, of those who served with distinction under the most dangerous conditions," said former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, William G. Walker. The next day, The Washington Post focused on the human interest side of the story in a front-page piece entitled "Public Honors for Secret Combat."

But what received short-shrift amid the honors and the tears was the remarkable confirmation that for much of a decade, the Reagan-Bush administrations had conducted a secret war in which American soldiers engaged in not-infrequent combat. The 21 dead surpassed the number who died in the 1989 invasion of Panama.

Yet, the war in El Salvador was waged with hardly anyone in Congress or the national news media catching on to the U.S. combat role. Indeed, throughout the 1980s, the White House and Pentagon routinely denied that U.S. soldiers were in combat in El Salvador -- and few reporters challenged the official story.

Shortly after taking office in 1981, President Reagan dispatched 55 Green Beret trainers to El Salvador to teach the Salvadoran army better techniques for defeating a resilient band of Marxist-led guerrillas. For years, the Salvadoran military had been more adept at running death squads against civilian targets than at cornering an armed enemy in the country's mountainous terrain.

To allay public fears about another Vietnam War, however, Reagan limited the number of Green Berets to 55 and ordered them to avoid combat zones. They were to train only, not advise the Salvadorans in combat situations as Green Berets had done in Vietnam. They also were forbidden to carry M-16s. They were to have only side arms, for self-defense.

Missing the Story
All of these U.S. government pronouncements, the Arlington ceremony made clear, had been lies. But the Post story made only a passing attempt to explain why so little was known about these years of classified combat and why the government cover-ups had been so successful.

"Reports of firefights involving U.S. troops were closely held, and field commanders were told in no uncertain terms not to nominate soldiers for combat awards," the Post reported. It then quoted Joseph Stringham, a retired one-star Army general who commanded U.S. military forces in El Salvador in 1983-84.

"It had been determined this was not a combat zone, and they were going to hold the line on that," Stringham said. "I've puzzled over why. It may be something as fundamental as the bureaucracy not wanting to reverse itself."

More:
https://consortiumnews.com/archive/lost1.html

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