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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."


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