Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Reagan and his infanticides

Consortium News - Jan 30, 2007

Reagan & the Salvadoran Baby Skulls

By Robert Parry--[Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise
of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at, as is his 1999
book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.']

Ronald Reagan's many admirers may find this idea offensive, but - given a
new report by the Washington Post - it might be fitting to have a display
at Reagan National Airport to show how Salvadoran baby skulls were used as
candle holders and good luck charms. Perhaps the presentation could contain
skeletal remains of Guatemalans and Nicaraguans, too.

It might be modeled after skeletons on display in Cambodia from the
slaughters by the Khmer Rouge. After all, it was President Reagan - more
than any other person - who justified and facilitated the barbarity that
raged through Central America in the 1980s, claiming the lives of tens of
thousands of peasants, clergy and students, men, women and children.

Reagan portrayed the bloody conflicts as a necessary front in the Cold War,
but the Central American violence was always more about entrenched ruling
elites determined to retain their privileges against impoverished peasants,
including descendants of the region's Maya Indians, seeking social,
political and economic reforms.

One of the most notorious acts of brutality occurred in December 1981 in
and around the Salvadoran town of El Mozote. The government's Atlacatl
Battalion - freshly trained and newly armed thanks to Reagan's hard-line
policies - systematically slaughtered hundreds of men, women and children.

When the atrocity was revealed by reporters at the New York Times and the
Washington Post, the Reagan administration showed off its new strategy of
"perception management," denying the facts and challenging the integrity of
the journalists.

Because of that P.R. offensive, the reality about the El Mozote massacre
remained in doubt for almost a decade until the war ended and a United
Nations forensic team dug up hundreds of skeletons, including many little
ones of children.

Now the Washington Post has added a new grisly detail. Several months after
the massacre, the Salvadoran army returned to the scene and collected the
skulls of some El Mozote children as novelty items, the Post reported.

"They worked well as candle holders," recalled one of the soldiers, Jose
Wilfredo Salgado, "and better as good luck charms."

Now, a quarter century later, describing his role piling the tiny skulls
into sacks as souvenirs, Salgado acknowledged that he had "lost his love of

The Post reported that "witnessing the aftermath of what his colleagues did
in El Mozote and reflecting on those skulls changed his mind about how the
war was being fought." Salgada said his mentor, Col. Domingo Monterrosa,
who later died in a helicopter crash, had ordered an act of "genocide" in
El Mozote.

"If Monterossa had lived," the Post reported, "Salgada said, he should have
been prosecuted for `war crimes like a Hitler.'" [Washington Post, Jan. 29,

...But the story of the Reagan-supported genocide of the Mayan Indians was
quickly forgotten, as Republicans and the Washington press corps wrapped
Reagan's legacy in a fuzzy blanket of heroic mythology.

The atrocities inflicted on the Mayas - and the peasants of El Salvador and
Nicaragua - were rarely associated with the popular Reagan. Neither, of
course, will anyone in polite Washington society link Reagan to the
revelation that the skulls of children butchered at El Mozote became candle
holders and good luck charms.

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