U.S. Propaganda

Tales from the far side, or
Media coverage of Salvador

By Ralph Tomlinson
with press reports from Radio Farabundo Marti and the FMLN General Command.
December 1989; page 7; Volume 1, No. 3
Polemicist

America's largest counterinsurgency effort since the Vietnam war continues, and the mainstream media has reported every incident with a heavy dose of spin and slant. FMLN "terrorists" take over a hotel and hold Americans hostage, according to the administration's ravings, yet the hostages are released unharmed. The guerillas slip out during the night, and leave their "hostages" behind.

Six Jesuits priests are murdered by men in army uniforms, according to the only witness, and we are assured that they were probably extreme right-wing elements of the Salvadoran army. But the latest Amnesty International report on El Salvador shows that the military and the death squads are one and the same.

We are told the situation is under control, but that President Alfredo Cristiani can't control the military. These are just a few examples of media hype surrounding the recent FMLN offensive, and the Bush Administration's verbal counteroffensive.

But some recent events deserve special scrutiny. In an effort to avoid its obligations under the regional peace agreement, and as a scheme to break diplomatic tics with the Nicaraguan government, the Cristiani administration reported the crash of a Cessna loaded with Soviet arms. The Salvadoran government said they finally had proof of Nicaraguan arms shipments to the FMLN rebels.

No one bothered to ask where the Nicaraguans acquired a Cessna, which is made by General Dynamics. The Chicago Tribune reports that the type of Cessna the Salvadorans captured was not large enough to carry all the weapons the government said were on board. And no one questioned why gunrunners would be bold enough to wear Nicaraguan uniforms. One TV reporter did note that considering the condition of the plane, the weapons suffered little damage. The Salvadoran soldiers even displayed the pistol the lone survivor of the crash used to commit suicide and avoid capture - a U.S.-made Colt .45 automatic.

El Salvador released the "dead" Nicaraguan pilot's name, but much like Mark Twain, rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated. Mauricio Quiroz, the "dead" pilot, told the Associated Press the next day that he was surprised to hear of his demise. "At first I thought it was a joke," he said, sitting in his home in Managua, "then I started to take it more seriously."

Secondly, if we are to believe the reports from Washington, our benevolent government gave its employees extra Christmas vacation and sent chartered aircraft to San Salvador so they could return to the United States. As foreign diplomats deserted their homes in the upper-class neighborhoods of the capital - where the guerillas launched their latest offense - American officials refused to label the chartered flights stateside as an evacuation.

Reports indicate one American embassy official's home was among the first attacked in the recent offensive. Washington immediately pointed to this as evidence of violence against U.S. citizens. The FMLN responded by ordering all guerillas in the area to cease hostilities for six hours so Americans could pass unharmed, and broadcast reassurances on Radio Farabundo Marti and Radio Venceremos that U.S. citizens and property were not targeted for attacks. The Salvadoran government wasn't so kind to the hundreds of peasants they killed while bombing and strafing the poor- and working-class neighborhoods.

Congress had an opportunity to end the bloodbath before its year-end recess. Instead, they decided to vote themselves a pay raise. The strategy was to pass a bill raising their salaries before their constituents could object. They succeeded. The pay raise may make it easier to enjoy their holiday feast with the blood of more than 72,000 Salvadorans on their hands.

Perhaps as they warm their bloated bodies before the Yule log, our congressional representatives will find time to wonder how many more Salvadorans will never see another Christmas.