In his book, The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War, Mark Danner offers a comprehensive analysis and information about the events that took place in early 1980 that represented the biggest massacre in the history of the modern Latin America. The case offers an excellent examination of the wartime episode when the reporters are mandated to test their powers of observation and verification. As Danner puts it, the Massacre was caused by the outright denial of the historical truth by some of the important representatives of the two governments that included the President of the United States. In December 1981, more than 750 civilians were killed in El Mozote, El Salvador, and the surrounding hamlets.
Throughout his book, Danner collects the basic facts concerning the Massacre but also dedicates a specific attention to the diplomatic and media culture of the war in El Salvador at that particular time. It is an important story because Danner relates the causes of the Massacre to the atrocities done by the government of the United States at the overseas. The US refused to notice the widespread human right abuses that were being perpetrated by the Salvadoran military. In this case, America under the leadership of the President Ronald Reagan was determined to spread the myth and allegations that Salvadoran government was actually tackling and ending the violent activities of the Salvadoran rights. In its actuality, this myth was crucial, based on the fact that the Congress had sworn to cease the provision of the financial support for the government of the El Salvador unless it could prove its abilities and efforts towards the improvement of the human rights throughout the nation.
The government of the United States was accused to have been involved in the killing in several ways. Notably, El Salvador was at the height of the civil war in 1981, and this event raged throughout its all parts. At the time of the war, other nations such as the Cuba and Nicaragua supported the guerrilla war tactics in El Salvador and were organized by the Farabundo Marti National fighting Liberation Front (FMLN). This group was tremendously determined to overthrow the regime power in the nation. In this sense, the El Salvador government also strategically put itself into a position ready to repel any attack that would emanate from the revolution. However, the United States was observed to directly participate in the massacre by providing financial assistance, weapons and the specialized trained that focused on counterinsurgency combat techniques.
On December 10, 1981, the specialized unit of the Atlacatl Rapid Deployment Infantry Battalion (BIRI), the Third Infantry Brigade and the San Francisco Gotera Command Training Centre arrived at the El Mozote village. The main purpose of this mission was to counter the guerrilla action and presence in the northern part of the El Salvador, specifically near the hills of El Mozote. The regimes guerrilla training camp was thought to be strategically located in this part of the nation. In reality, the governments troops had been involved battles with the guerrilla for several days that preceded the occupation of the village. In this sense, the majority of the combats and attacks involved the American-trained and equipped soldiers, who were made of the heart of the infamous Atlacatl Battalion.
It is important to recognize that the El Mozote was a typical rural village that was made up of the small homes surrounding a modest square at the center. The church further faced the square, and it was the primary gathering point of the villagers. It also emerged to be a significant pride of the inhabitants of the village. Upon their arrival in the village, the soldiers realized that the population if the El Mozote village mainly comprised of the peasants from the areas that surrounded the village. Ideally, this where the refugees were escaped fled their regions while escaping and avoiding the ongoing clashes between the governments military forces and the guerrillas. In operation, the soldiers rapidly assumed that the villagers and the refugees were the militia adherents and ultimately decided to deal with them in the harshest possible ways. In its actuality, some of the peasants that the forces encountered in the El Mozote village were involved in the ongoing conflicts as the victims and not the guerrilla sympathizers. This number primarily comprised of the women and children.
Darner acknowledges that after the arrival at the village, the residents were commanded to leave their homes and gather at the square, and were divided into women, children, and men. They were later put under guard in various structures that included the church and the convent house. In the following day of December 11, the specialized military forces reassembled the villagers in the square front where they were asked questions, tortured and finally slaughtered by the soldiers. When all men had been murdered, the troops began massacring the women and children, and this occurred through shooting them to death. These actions not enough, they entire village was set on fire, but the some of the survivors managed to flee and provide their testimonies regarding what they witnessed in the massacre. Mark Danner work is based on a real-life event that occurred in El Salvador. If this work were fictional, then the bad guys would be the military forces who launched an attack on the innocent villagers at the El Mozote. The good guys, on the other hand, would be the villagers who were executed for the mistakes of their governments and national representatives.
Ramifications of the Massacre
In his book, Danner has attempted to provide the real picture of the events and consequences of the atrocities done by the Salvadoran military forces. Despite the immediate outcry by some important human rights agencies in the United States, the Salvadoran government firmly and unequivocally denied the occurrence of any atrocities. However, the human activists successfully identified the few eyewitnesses to the killings and were able to provide first-hand information regarding the manner in which the entire process of execution occurred. Their testimony left little questions that the alleged atrocities had occurred. Still, in the presence of the strong denials by both the American and El Salvador governments, more than eyewitness testimonies were needed to prove the reality of the occurrence of the massacre.
While it is evident that little evidence existed, Danner uses several scientific pieces of data that had been collected from the alleged killing scene. Notably, more than 143 skeletal remains were obtained from the massacre site. Of these, 131 were of children under the age of 12. Other evidence also suggests that most victims were lying on the ground by the murderers who were standing on the doors and by the windows (Kennedy 1).
The most sensitive evidence was that the bullets casings and those uncovered from the scenes and bodies were the American government ammunition for the US government M16 rifles (Kennedy 1). In this sense, therefore, many forensics experts have proved the allegations for the mass murder. Based on the fact that the allegations were proved, the aftermath of the massacre included the massive loss of life, mostly women and children, and denial of the fundamental rights and freedom to live. Further, the public trusts on the ability of the government to protect them from the atrocities emanating from different perpetrators was lost. The atrocities, therefore, provide the reflections of the post-Cold War conflicts and social justice uprisings within different nations.
Why is Mark Danners work important to American History?
In reality, Mark Danner, through his work, has succeeded in re-examining one of the major debated episode of the recent history with such thoroughness and integrity that the truth can no longer be in doubt. Danners harrowing rebukes the American policies and journalistic practice in the Cold War and after. On a wider note, the books offer greater insights concerning the role of the United States in the overseas in performing mayhems either directly or indirectly. Danner explains that what happened in the El Mozote could be classified into three levels that include the massacre, the official or governmental cover-up and the role of the press in exposing some of the government-supported abuses from the military forces. For a longer period, United States, through its principles, has been determined to protect the human rights in all the aspects, and consequently, give or embrace justice where possible. It is clear that the United States directly participated in the massacre by providing financial assistance, weapons and the specialized trained that focused on counterinsurgency combat techniques. As noted in the Danners work, America under the leadership of the President Ronald Reagan was determined to spread the myth and allegations that Salvadoran government was actually tackling and ending the violent activities of the Salvadoran rights. Danners work, therefore, reminds us of the failure of the United States to stand by and for its historical principles of protecting human rights and embracing justice where possible.
Kennedy, Kenneth A. R.: The El Mozote Massacre. Wordpress.com Accessed May 10th, 2017 Retrieved from https://mdkelleher.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/the-el-mozote-massacre/ 2012
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