U.S. Policy / Argentina

Feitlowitz, Marguerite. A Lexicon of Terror: Argentina and the Legacies of Torture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. 302 pages.

This well-crafted book is consuming and painful to read. It is an account of Argentina from 1976-1983, a time when state-sponsored terrorism claimed 30,000 civilians. They were tortured to death in 341 death camps, or thrown into the ocean from airplanes, or simply "disappeared." The author spent years interviewing victims of this Dirty War. Many pages tell the story from their perspective, whether they are the Mothers of the Plaza, or organizers of farmers in the north. Today in Argentina, justice for the victims is still the exception rather than the rule.

There's something scarier here than there was with the good Germans under Nazism, since there were few external pressures on Argentina and no racism imposed from above. The 1976 coup had massive civilian support, and for once the CIA was not involved. The middle class in Argentina watched neighbors getting dragged off into the night, and then they'd line up at disco clubs as if everything was normal. (The generals lost power only after they declared war on Britain.) The author is troubled too; she refers now and again to the vocabulary of this new fascism, as a "hook" into Argentina's psyche. This aspect of her book doesn't provide answers. The only answers anywhere are found in the courage of those who resisted, or simply persevered. Above all, this book is a tribute to their spirit.

North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 454, New York NY 10115, Tel: 212-870-3146.

Argentina: In the Hour of the Furnaces. 1975. 105 pages.

NACLA began in 1966 and quickly became one of the most important research organizations to emerge out of the U.S. student movement. Through the mid-seventies their publications concentrated on the role of U.S. corporations and foreign policy in Latin America, with special emphasis on U.S. universities, development policy, police training, and CIA covert activities. Reports were well-researched, with more facts than analysis.

This report covers Argentina in the twentieth century, with special emphasis on the role of imperialism in the economy. U.S. corporations and AIFLD are discussed along with Peronism and other socialist movements. One section analyzes the U.S. embassy and identifies several CIA officers.

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