A recent film festival sponsored by Human Rights Watch at New York’s Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center attracted the hard-core sandalistas of the Upper West Side, who filed in to watch—what else?—the Sandinistas and Contras in a cartoon of a Canadian documentary called The World Stopped Watching. The accompanying flyer asked, “What happens to a country’s people when the media spotlight is turned off?”
Answer: Two American journalists who went to Managua, and into the hills in the 1980’s, have seen Nicaragua’s post-Ortega republic and find it sorely lacking. For starters, as the voice-over ominously intones, “11 of the 94 members of Nicaragua’s National Assembly are former Contra military commanders.” Obviously, somebody had better do a little affirmative-actioning to boost the percentage of non-Contras above the 88-percent mark.
Throughout the film, a former News-week photographer and a Boston Globe reporter, who had been fired by that publication for “lack of objectivity” (the mind boggles!), are eager to revisit alleged Contra massacre sites but never even broach the subject of Sandinista repression of, say, the Miskito Indians of the Atlantic coast. Similarly, scenes from the archives of cheering mobs defying the Norteamericano Reagan administration in the main plaza of the capital are interspersed with a pick-up baseball game being played on the same spot in the late 90’s.
Raucous leftism, good. Normality, bad.
Speaking of Reagan, maybe the audience was a bit lethargic that day, but the deceased 40th president appeared on camera twice and escaped unjeered. How quaint.
The program led off with a trip back to the bad old 70’s—specifically, the South America of the 1970’s. A documentary, first shown on French television, was the other part of the double bill: Death Squads: The French School, which purported to tell the story of French army officers, schooled in counterrevolutionary warfare in Indochina and Algeria, teaching interrogation techniques to Argentines, Brazilians, and Chileans as well as Americans at Fort Bragg beginning in the early 1960’s. A parade of villain-torturers is marched across the screen and, in many cases, interviewed: Gen. Paul Aussaresses, the eye-patched octogenarian who created a scandal by claiming in a book that Fourth Republic politicians, including François Mitterand, authorized his forces to use torture during the Battle of Algiers; assorted OAS militants; Manuel Contreras, chief of Pinochet’s DINA; and, of course, junta leaders Pinochet and Videla themselves.
So, maybe the defenders of civilization against the Bolsheviks played rough and bent the rules. (And maybe Pinochet used his position to squirrel away millions of dollars into a personal account at the Riggs Bank of Washington, D.C.) Point taken. But where was the accompanying feature-length documentary (or even two-minute intro), “Death Squads: The School of the Montoneros,” which could have recounted the countless executions of businessmen and officers, the daily bombings and kidnappings perpetrated by the revolutionary left in Argentina? The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article that discussed the work of Argentine political commentator Vicente Massot:
In his book “Matar o Morir” (“To Kill or To Die”), published in 2003, [he] finds that from May 1973 to March 1976, when the military deposed Isabel Peron, there were 5,079 terrorist attacks. Mr. Massot puts the body count in that period over 400, including almost 100 civilians and union leaders, dozens of policemen, and hundreds of military officers.
To the left, military repression always occurred in a vacuum. Their side never did anything to provoke. Just witness the recent flap over the French government’s decision, at long last, to extradite to Italy a member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism, Cesare Battisti, who murdered four people 25 years ago. Libération and a coterie of ex-Mitterand government officials, as well as the openly homosexual Socialist mayor of Paris, in a supreme example of radical chic, have all chimed in to preserve this rat’s “right of asylum.” Of course, they would be the first to call for Pinochet’s extradition to Spain, or to anywhere else in the world, wouldn’t they?
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