While President Jose’ Napoleon Duarte boasts about the decline in death squad killings, the people of El Salvador are experiencing the most intense saturation bombing ever conducted in the Americas.
Since June, 1984, when the U.S. provided Duarte with the largest air force in Central America, the Salvadoran Air Force has dropped over 3,000 tons of U.S.-made bombs on civilian populations, causing over 2,000 deaths. Between January and mid-March 1985, there were over 105 attacks on civilian populations. These missions are often directed by U.S. military advisers.
Investigative journalist Alexander Cockburn asks “How is it that over the past two years the United States has been organizing, supplying, overseeing and in many cases actually executing the heaviest bombing and more ferocious aerial war ever seen in the Americas and not one coherent report of the extent, viciousness or consequences of this campaign has appeared in any major U.S. newspaper or magazine?”
Charging that the United States is getting away with war crimes with barely a word of description or protest, Cockburn says that the aerial war, which has almost entirely escaped the attention of the press corps, has been responsible for most of El Salvador’s 500,000 internal refugees and for many of the 750,000 refugees outside the country’s borders. More than one-fifth of the Salvadoran population of 5 million now are refugees — a higher percentage than the corresponding figure in South Vietnam at the height of that war. This “secret war” is known to its victims, international observers, humanitarian organizations, and foreign journalists, but, it is not reported in the mainstream U.S. media.
Cockburn concludes that “all the most ghastly crimes perpetrated in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Guatemala are being repeated in El Salvador. The supervisory criminals are ensconced in the Defense Department and the upper echelons of the Reagan Administration, fully cognizant of what their executors — Salvadorans with U.S. instructors — are doing on the ground or in the air, bombing, machine-gunning and massacring. All you need is a complicit or cowed press and a mendacious State Department and the American people need scarcely know that repeats of My Lai and Operation Speedy Express are taking place not far south of Miami and are sponsored by their government.”
Patrick M. Hughes, director of Refugee Legal Services, in Laredo, Texas, wrote PROJECT CENSORED to say “Perhaps because of my constant exposure to its victims … the most outrageous omission in the press is the refusal to report the bombing campaigns in El Salvador.”
Cockburn’s article received more individual nominations than any previous article since the project started ten years ago.
THE NATION, 6/l/85, “Remember El Salvador?”, by Alexander Cockburn, pp 662-663; REFUGEE LEGAL SERVICES, Laredo, Texas, l/24/86, letter from Patrick M. Hughes, Director.