December 9, 2006

Remembering Jeane Kirkpatrick: The Nuns' Story

The passing of the neo-con dominatrix and stalwart of Reaganism brought to mind two of her typical moments: accusing the murdered nuns working on behalf of poor Salvadorans of being communist sympathizers, and siding with the bloody fascist government in Argentina against our 200-year-old closest ally, Britain, when the fascists started the Falklands war.

Kirkpatrick also was implicated in the Iran contra scandal--when Reagan provided weapons to Iran and had them channel the payments to the terrorist group known as the contras--though she was never indicted for her wise counsel on that. She supported Star Wars and the military buildup and the Reagan doctrine that resulted in so many deaths in Mozambique and Afghanistan and Cambodia and so on. She was, by almost every conceivable measure, a rampaging bully who was one of Reagan's principal tools to carry out his catatrophic foreign adventurism.

But the quintessential moment for Kirkpatrick was that nuns' story. It was 1980, just before Reagan came to power. Kirkpatrick had made her bones by writing an article in the right-wing journal Commentary differentiating between totalitarian regimes and merely authoritarian ones, those latter being our friends. This got her the U.N. delegate job, her bully pulpit from which she could excoriate third world regimes for daring to raise questions about American behavior in the world.

El Salvador was embroiled in a classic struggle of the poor v. the wealthy, with the peasant marxist movement challenging the oligopology that was, of course, backed by the U.S. The American nuns were ministering to the poor but that was too much for the death squads that Reagan and his ilk typically called freedom fighters. They murdered the nuns. Here is one account:

Shortly after 7 P.M. on December 2,1980 members of the National Guard of El Salvador arrested three American nuns and one American lay missionary as they were leaving the Comalapa International Airport. Two of the nuns, members of the Maryknoll Order, were returning from Nicaragua, and the other two women were picking them up at the airport. The four women were beaten, raped, and murdered. Their bodies were thrown in a ditch. The truth commission concluded that this atrocity was planned ahead of time, that the sergeant in charge of the actual executions was acting on orders from higher up, that the head of the National Guard, then Colonel Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, among others, had facilitated the cover up of the crime.

A few days later, Kirkpatrick said:

"I don't think the government (of El Salvador) was responsible. The nuns were not just nuns; the nuns were political activists. We ought to be a little more clear-cut about this than we usually are. They were political activists on behalf of the Frente (the guerrillas) and somebody who is using violence to oppose the Frente killed them."

This is the kind of person Kirkpatrick was--ideologically savage in every respect. Her legacy, if there is one, is mendacity in the service of empire.


Quoted text from Frederic Gareau, State Terrorism and the United States (Clarity Press, 2004).



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