By Robert Parry
Those grisly deaths and ugly tortures get whisked away as if they were just small necessities in Reagan’s larger success “winning the Cold War”--even though the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union was already winding down before Reagan arrived on the national scene.
Yet, Reagan’s Cold War obsessions helped unleash right-wing “death squads” and murderous militaries on the common people in many parts of the Third World, but nowhere worse than in Latin America.
According to a CIA source, "the social population appeared to fully support the guerrillas" and "the soldiers were forced to fire at anything that moved." The CIA cable added that "the Guatemalan authorities admitted that 'many civilians' were killed in Cocob, many of whom undoubtedly were non-combatants."
Despite the CIA account and other similar reports, Reagan permitted Guatemala's army to buy $3.2 million in military trucks and jeeps in June 1981. To permit the sale, Reagan removed the vehicles from a list of military equipment that was covered by the human rights embargo.
Confident of Reagan’s sympathies, the Guatemalan government continued its political repression without apology.
The Historical Clarification Commission, an independent human rights body, estimated that the Guatemalan conflict claimed the lives of some 200,000 people with the most savage bloodletting occurring in the 1980s.
Based on a review of about 20 percent of the dead, the panel blamed the army for 93 percent of the killings and leftist guerrillas for three percent. Four percent were listed as unresolved.
The report documented that in the 1980s, the army committed 626 massacres against Mayan villages. "The massacres that eliminated entire Mayan villages … are neither perfidious allegations nor figments of the imagination, but an authentic chapter in Guatemala's history," the commission concluded.
The army "completely exterminated Mayan communities, destroyed their livestock and crops," the report said. In the northern highlands, the report termed the slaughter "genocide."
Besides carrying out murder and "disappearances," the army routinely engaged in torture and rape. "The rape of women, during torture or before being murdered, was a common practice" by the military and paramilitary forces, the report found.
The report added that the "government of the United States, through various agencies including the CIA, provided direct and indirect support for some [of these] state operations." The report concluded that the U.S. government also gave money and training to a Guatemalan military that committed "acts of genocide" against the Mayans.
A recent poll said today's increasingly conservative Americans think Reagan is the best president ever. They probably think highly of George W. Bush, whose death toll is also in the hundreds of thousands, too. Meanwhile, there's no love for George Washington (strong central government), Abraham Lincoln (government support for blacks), or Theodore Roosevelt (government regulation of industry).
For more on the subject, see Rob's Reply to Reagan.