Wednesday, October 23, 2019

El Salvador : War and Revolution

          El Salvador War and Revolution

With Special thanks to J. Patrice McSherry

    One of the more horrifying chapters in the history of American imperialism took place in the tiny nation of El Salvador in the 1980’s. At least 75,000 civilians were killed in order to stop a revolution in an impoverished country. They died in massacres, were bombed with napalm, tortured, raped, assassinated and disappeared. They died to preserve a system where one in four babies died before age two from malnutrition or lack of access to medical care. In the 1983 only 6% of the population earned more then $240 a month while satisfying basic needs would have cost $344 dollars a month. A nation of peasants who lived in dire poverty even those with tiny plots of land struggled to survive by growing crops for food. 40% of the population were landless peasants starving while trying to survive as seasonal laborers. Amid so much horror and bloodshed no one even counted all the deaths from poverty and misery. This is the “Freedom” America fought to maintain during the cold war the freedom for a few to get rich off the misery of millions. In El Salvador they were called Oligarchy or  the 14 families although by the 1980’s there were between 40 or 200 rich families. They owned most of the land and ran the banks because their ancestors had stolen all the Indians lands and then founded banks in the 18th and 19th Centuries. They had created an army and police to enforce this unequal order. 

    The oligarchy, the army, and the Church had traditionally controlled El Salvador, but by the late 1970’s the Oligarchy and the Army had declared war on the Church and the United States was now the third part of the triad. The seeds of the horrors of the 1980’s had been planted in the early 1960’s when special forces some rotating from Vietnam arrived to teach counter-insurgency and the advantages of death squads. CIA agents under USAID cover arrived to train police intelligence units and equip them with computers to make lists of subversives.  By the 1970’s 200 people a year would be murdered union leaders, peasant organizers, teachers, protestors. Yet the masses were increasingly organized and radicalized and as fears of revolution spread the murders began to skyrocket. The Carter Administration had a contradictory policy on El Salvador. Some in the State department wanted El Salvador to rein in the killing. However they were over ruled (or betrayed their own principles) by ruthless officials like Zbigniew Brzezinski who favored continuing to support brutal dictators to preserve capitalism. With the election of President Reagan contradiction was replaced with ever escalating full scale support and an escalating bloodbath. Amazingly despite the flood of weapons and advisers coming from the US the revolutionaries of the FMLN managed to fight the massive killing machine to a stalemate. One day after the fall of the Berlin Wall the FMLN Guerrillas launched a massive offensive which the CIA believed was impossible capturing sections of the capital San Salvador. The new President Bush with other conquests in mind (The Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Central and Eastern Europe, Panama and Iraq) finally decided to push for a negotiated settlement. The war would end with the left wing opposition finally able to participate in politics without fear of their lives. Of course the war did not truly end but changed shape into a war on drugs a gang war as the fascist ARENA party ruled the country for 20 years. In 2009 the FMLN would win the elections. Eventually destabilized by tactics similar to what happened in Brazil (a corruption investigation aimed at discrediting the left) they lost elections earlier this year and El Salvador is now once more ruled by a US puppet President Nayib Bukele. The war for Latin America continues a war of liberation from capitalism and imperialism.

    The war in El Salvador had it’s roots in the 18th and 19th century. Of course before that there were the horrors of the Spanish conquest and the system of forced labor in the colonial era. El Salvador was part of the governate of Guatemala in this period. However in the later phase of Spanish  colonialism the Indians were allowed to live on their communal lands and were ruled through local native rulers as long as they produced their qouta of tribute. After independence El Salvador’s liberals decided to change all that they wanted to create huge plantations of cash crops namely coffee and this also required a huge influx of laborers. By destroying the communal land system and privatizing the country they would be able to steal the land they needed. By dispossessing the Indians they would also force them to work for the coffee plantations since they could no longer grow their own food. In 1846 the state coffee plantations were privatized and in 1881 communal lands were abolished. They also passed laws that basically forced Indians to work for the rich landowners. They created an army and a rural police force to control the countryside with an iron fist. French advisers helped them create a modern army. The whole state was created to enslave and dispossess the majority of it’s own people. Of course in the United States the Army had formed to carry out genocide and steal Indian land while the police had their origins in slave patrols to hunt runaway slaves. Out of the theft and enslavement of El Salvador were born the 14 families who became fantastically wealthy from the plunder. Naturally they viewed their countrymen and women as subhuman brutes who needed to be kept in line. The Indians revolted again and again with 5 major revolts during the 19th century but they were always spontaneous and localized and so easily crushed. The army and police kept the countryside under a constant state of martial law anyone who dared to resist risked murder or imprisonment and the rich landowners treated their employees like slaves.

    Jumping forward to El Salvador in the 1930’s another pivotal moment in it’s history.  The last truly free election (possibly until 2009) was in 1931 and President Arturo Araujo was elected he was a mild reformer who allowed labor organizing in the city but not the countryside. The year before in 1930 the revolutionary Agustin Farabundo Marti had returned from an eventful exile. In the United States he had been active in the Anti-Imperialist league before being forced to flee by the New York Police, in Nicaragua he had fought with the revolutionary General Sandino against the US marines waging brutal war on the country that saw the first use of dive bombers. Farabundo Marti had founded the Central American Socialist party and Red Aid. Between 1930-1932 Marti and his comrades would organize the workers and peasants of El Salvador  Marti would be arrested and released a few times. Even the American military attache Major Harris felt the country was ripe for revolution. However the revolutionary forces were still in their infancy.

   Unfortunately in a pattern that would repeat many times even mild talk of reform proved too much for the oligarchy who began to plot a coup with the military. General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez seized power early  in 1932. He was nicknamed El Brujo because of his obsession with the occult and was infamous for saying “It is a greater crime to kill an ant than a man, for when a man dies he becomes reincarnated while an ant dies forever.” He also claimed “It is good that children go barefoot. That way they can better receive the beneficial effuvia of the planet, the vibrations of the earth. Plants and animals don’t use shoes” Despite his strange beliefs he was a ruthless and devious dictator modeling his country on Fascist  Spain, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. In those days El Salvador had no need of American advisers or weapons it relied on the fascist powers to train it’s army and police and to supply weapons paid for with the profit from supplying coffee to the axis. Six weeks after General Martinez coup the peasants rose in an uprising demanding higher wages. Although 100 land owners and their private guards were killed it was relatively bloodless. Although the communists welcomed the uprising and joined it they were not truly responsible. Nonetheless the fascist General Martinez launched and anti-communist red scare and a bloodbath in the countryside. Farabundo Marti was among the 32,000 victims of what is known as the Matanza which means massacre in Spanish. Some were killed for being blond and thus apparently suspected Russians. The vast majority of the people killed as part of a genocide against the Indians. Anyone wearing Indian dress or speaking an Indian language was killed and after 1932 Indian culture was largely wiped out people were so traumatized they abandoned their distinctive clothes and no longer dared to speak to children in their native language. Farabundo Marti would go on to inspire the revolutionaries of the 1970s and 80’s. General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez would have a death squad named after him and his Matanza would be used as a model for the dirty war of the 70’s and 80’s.

   At the same time he was crushing the peasants General Martinez also had to put down an uprising in the army. They had risen up in protest of his coup and since many were poor peasant conscripts they refused to massacre peasants. General Martinez was able to crush them but although a military man he never trusted the army. Instead he relied on what would later be known as the Security Forces the Police and the National Guard. Ironically the National Guard had been meant as a reform to replace the Army role in the countryside back in 1912. It was quickly transformed into a military/police hybrid charged with terrorizing the countryside more reliable then the army because better paid. He also relied heavily on the police to arrest and kill subversives. He created  fascist paramilitary groups recruited from the rich and modeled on the black shirts the Pro Patria the National Patriotic League and the Liga Roja. During the Matanza he  created Civic Guards which acted as death squads of the rich who hunted the poor for sport. Hunting peasants for sport remained a popular pass time in El Salvador well into the 1970’s.  Those who could afford the membership fees to join the leagues received certificates that put them above the law. Martinez would rule until 1944 when his crushing of a military uprising and execution of it’s leaders who were officers enraged the public and the military the US pressured him into resigning. His successor General Menendez a reformer who promised free elections, and allowed unions to expand, but also authorized the massacre of protestors.  He lasted only 5 months before being overthrown by Martinez’s former chief of the National Police during the Matanza Colonel Osmin Aguirre y Salinas. For the next decades the oligarchs and the military maintained power through fixed elections and the occasional coup. The presidency was handed off from one military man to his hand picked successor. The people continued to live in poverty and fear.

   It was after the fall of Martinez and the end of World War 2 that US influence began to grow in El Salvador and the rest of Latin America. The “Cold War” had begun or rather as the bloody examples of Greece, Korea, Vietnam, El Salvador and many other countries demonstrate calling it World War 3 is more accurate. Through a series of bilateral and multilateral agreements the United States gained increasing control over Latin American militaries. The mutual defense pacts the US signed in Latin America became the model for NATO. As for the new American trained militaries through a long chain of coups they would eventually transform most of Latin America into fascist police states. The most infamous example being the Operation Condor countries of the 1970’s and 1980’s countries like Brazil, Chile, Parguay, and Argentina. Militaries were reorganized to focus on combatting internal subversion rather then national defense. Police were trained to hunt political subversives instead of combatting traditional crime. As we have seen El Salvador was already run along these lines so all America needed to do was provide weapons and training. There was no need to launch coups to overthrow reformers as in Guatemala, no socialist government to be destroyed as in Chile.

    In 1960 the example of the Cuban revolution inspired a mass movement to overthrow the latest military installed President Colonel Jose Maria Lemus. By October 26 1960 he was forced to resign replaced briefly by a reformist junta which released political prisoners. The US now obsessed with combatting anyone in Latin America that might be sympathetic to Cuba refused to recognize the new government and a countercoup soon toppled it. Colonel Julio Adalberto Rivera seized power and stole the 1961 elections. The failure of the Bay of Pigs and the escalating war in Vietnam lead the JFK administration to an obsession with counter-insurgency that would have dire consequences for El Salvador, Latin America, and the world. There is a complex backstory discussed in Fletcher Prouty’s “The Secret Team”. In attempting to transfer responsibility for covert operations from the CIA to the military JFK was naively relying on sectors of the military that retained close ties to the CIA like counter-insurgency theorist General Maxwell Taylor or the special forces. The tentacles of the CIA were already inescapable. Whatever the motivations the results were disastrous a massive expansion of Special Forces, restructuring the entire military and National security state to fight Counter-insurgency wars and the creation of AID (replacing the ICA) and it’s branch the Office of Public Safety headed by Byron Engle.  The Office of Public Safety (OPS) would train police worldwide in torture assassination and even terrorism. Decades of mass murder, torture, terrorism, assassinations and coups would follow. Of course such tactics had been a part of US strategy since the beginning of the cold war in places like Greece where fascist death squads terrorized the populace to South Korea and South Vietnam where the military, police and death squads carried out torture and mass murder. In fact they had their roots much earlier in the Philippines at the turn of the century and the military men who carried out that bloodbath had learned their trade by carrying out genocide against American Indians. Thus what took place in the early 60’s during the JFK administration was merely a further institutionalization of this long obsession with counter insurgency warfare.

   In Latin America this brutal new reality would be disguised behind the facade of the Alliance for Progress. The Alliance for Progress falsely promised to bring prosperity to Latin America through reform and economic aid to spark development. In reality it was merely a PR stunt to compete with the appeal of Castro’s Cuba. The promised prosperity never arrived. Although the US did pour hundreds of millions in economic aid it did nothing to improve the lives of ordinary people. the money ended up in the hands of corrupt politicians or American corporations. In El Salvador which received the most money as it was intended as a poster child 15 years later the people were actually worse off the wages had declined and the number of landless peasants had tripled. The hidden more effective side of the Alliance for Progress was the determination to train the military and the police to crush any potential revolutions. After JFK was assassinated any pretense of  reform or development aid was abandoned along with the whole Alliance for Progress campaign. The military and police training however would continue.

    In El Salvador in the early 1960’s the already brutal police and military were trained to be even more brutal and efficient. A team of special forces advisers many fresh from tours in Vietnam arrived to train the military in the need to create Counter-Guerrilla’s a euphemism for death squads and terrorists. At this time there were no Guerrillas in El Salvador and no civil war. After the fall of General Martinez the military had abolished his fascist paramilitaries. Now the Americans had arrived to advise El Salvador on the need to recreate them. In Colombia in 1962 Special Forces under General William Yarborough also arrived to teach the virtues of death squads and his advice ended up in the public record. He advised the creation of “Civil and Military structures” to “as Necessary execute paramilitary, sabotage and or terrorist activities against known Communist proponents.” General Yarborough unleashed a bloodbath in Colombia that has continued to our own day. In El Salvador things were more secretive but the results were the same the creation of death squads. The main reason for their creation was plausible denial allowing the government to blame death squads for their own crimes. In El Salvador the police and military didn’t even bother to remove their uniforms when kidnapping and killing their victims but their crimes were blamed on shadowy death squads anyways. Plausible denial would extend all the way to Washington and the American media by the 1980’s although the people of El Salvador were not fooled. While pretending it wanted to rein in the death squads America was actually running everything behind the scenes via the CIA, MAP (Military Assistance Program) MTTs ( Military Training Teams the Special Forces advisers)  MILGP (US Military Group), and USAID. 

   Initially in El Salvador the counter-organization created called ORDEN was used primarily to spy on subversives and compile lists and intimidate voters into voting for PCN the militaries party of choice. It’s members were strongly indoctrinated along fascist lines. It was in the 1970’s that it began to carry out torture kidnapping and assassinations that would escalate throughout the decade. ORDEN was created by the one of the key CIA assets in El Salvador General Jose Alberto “Chele” Medrano in addition to heading ORDEN he was also the head of the brutal  National Guard. In addition to Special Forces teaching Counterinsurgency and the need for Counter-Guerrillas, Counter-Terror, and Counter-Organization the other key element in US strategy was the need to create a massive centralized intelligence apparatus linking the police, military, and ORDEN to a centralized communications apparatus and a computer network to compile lists of subversive’s that would later be used to supply death lists to military police and paramilitary death squads. The CIA and it’s front AID and it’s branch the Office of Public Safety (OPS) were used to construct this network. Although brutal and efficient the police had been using telegraphs now they would have state of the art technology to wage their war on the people of El Salvador. Operating under OPS cover the CIA created a special investigations division in every branch of the police. They were all networked together with SNI later renamed ANSESAL a sort of hybrid of the CIA and NSA based in the presidential palace. Linked with military intelligence, the police intelligence and ORDEN ANSESAL was the center of the counter-insurgency war and the brainchild of the CIA.

   El Salvador’s already brutal police which massacred even common criminals were taught to be even more brutal by OPS advisers. The National Police, The Treasury Police, and the Immigration Police would all become notorious for their war crimes. The CIA also created a special investigations unit of the National Guard. Traditionally the military had preferred to let the police and National Guard handle repression. Thanks to US special forces advisers they learned that they too must take an active role which would massively increase the bodycount during the Reagan era. By 1972 the entire security apparatus was complete centralized trained and indoctrinated to carry out the dirty war. El Salvador and other Central American countries were also networked together as part of CONDECA (the Central American version of Condor) with the Americans who were based in Panama. Panama was also where the infamous School of the Americas was based training the El Salvadoran military and the rest of Latin America to carry out torture, assassination and coups.  In turn Central America was only one of the regions covered by the US Military Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) run out of Panama and later Miami, Florida. 

    In El Salvador by 1972 largely ignored in the rest of the world peasants were being “disappeared” kidnapped tortured and killed their mutilated corpses left out as a warning to others. In addition to the perfection of the apparatus of oppression the 1960’s saw history repeat itself as El Salvador’s oligarchs decided to start growing cotton as a cash crop along the coast those peasants who had been lucky enough to avoid losing their land to the coffee barons in the last century now lost their lands to the new Cotton plantations and the number of landless peasants skyrocketed from 12% to 40% fueling the revolutionary unrest of the 1970’s. A key safety valve to unrest in El Salvador was nearby Honduras which was comparatively much less densely populated. El Salvadoran peasants crossed the border to squat on lands or seek work. In 1969 the Honduran President decided to whip up a wave of anti-immigrant hysteria against these Salvadoran refugees leading to the “Soccer War” after Salvadoran refugees were murdered in riots and thousands were rounded up and deported. El Salvador won the war it’s invasion force was close to capturing the Honduran capital but Honduras barred any more Salvadoran immigrants from entering the country. 

    1972 was a key year in El Salvador the opposition had united and finally grown strong enough to win an election. The Christian democrats the socialists and even the communist tied parties were united into UNO. However Colonel Molina  stole the election provoking a failed coup in favor of UNO that was crushed. UNO presidential candidate Napoleon Duarte was severely beaten. This provoked a wave of disillusionment with any hope for changing El Salvador by democratic means. By 1973 two revolutionary Guerrilla groups had been formed the FPL and the ERP and more were to follow. The FPL modeled it’s strategy on Vietnam’s Prolonged Peoples’ War (PPW). The ERP drew inspiration from the Cuban (and later Nicaraguan) model of hoping to spark an insurrection via a major offensive. Both groups carried out small attacks on the National Guard, bombed American corporations offices and assassinated war criminals. 

   In the countryside liberation theology was spreading. It’s origins were steeped in irony in 1968 Pope Paul VI one of the more corrupt and fascist popes spoke in Medellin Colombia later notorious as the home of an infamous CIA supported drug cartel. His message that catholics should work towards social justice unleashed a wave of liberation theology. Since his sinister history was largely unknown he inspired a new generation of idealistic clergy to try to improve the lives of the poor by organizing them as lay believers. In El Salvador Colonel Molina had announced that he would back land reform and the El Salvadoran church became involved in organizing the peasants. Molina angered the Oligarchs who set up ANEP and other right wing lobby groups to oppose any land reform and so Molina quickly canceled any land reform. The church’s efforts to work for land reform had suddenly become extremely dangerous. 

   In 1976 President Molina was replaced by President Carlos Humberto Romero installed by the coffee barons. General Romero had studied Counterinsurgency at the School of The Americas worked in CONDECA and had been involved in expanding the role of ORDEN under Molina and was a key link between the MILGP and the public safety advisers. Under Romero there were ten times as many assassinations  and disappearances doubled. Under Molina around 200 political murders a year took place. Under Romero the numbers would double then triple. In 1977 General Romero issued the Law of Order which made it a crime to organize or criticize the government amounting to a license to kill. Yet the increasing repression only seemed to fuel the revolution during the 1970’s. Teachers, Unions, Students peasants took to the the streets in protest risking their lives. In 1975 dozens of students were massacred when the army machine gunned protestors of a Miss Universe pageant there were 2,000 protestors. The next day 30,000 took to the streets. In the countryside the peasants were organized and demanding their rights inspired by liberation theology and radical school teachers. As the repression increased many were forced to join the guerrillas out of self preservation once their names were on the death list the only way to stay safe was to take up arms in self defense. Others joined to avenge their fallen family members, friends or lovers. Many more joined the popular organizations to demand an end to the killing, higher wages, land, free elections, and the right to organize without being killed.

   1979 had been the bloodiest year since the Matanza and the country seemed on the verge of revolution. In nearby Nicaragua Somoza had fallen to the Sandinista revolution in July alarming the US, the Salvadoran Military, and the Oligarchy. President Carter was in the White House and had promised to clean up America’s human rights record. His actual record in El Salvador would prove different. At the State department he put former civil rights activist Patricia Derian in charge of the new human rights division she was determined to force El Salvador to reform. She was always over ruled by the State Department Inter-American affairs division under Terrence A Todman which had long worked to turn all of Latin America into a mirror of El Salvador. However even the hint that it’s human  rights record might be examined caused General Romero to renounce military aid. It was a meaningless gesture as the American military mission remained to advise and supervise the ever escalating dirty war. Israel stepped in to take the US place as the main sponsor sending planes guns tanks and 100-200 advisers that would remain in the country throughout the 1980’s. Israeli military advisers operated under the cover of an agricultural assistance program.  However the fall of Somoza inspired the US to back a reformist coup to overthrow General Romero in the hopes of staving off a revolution. 

   It took place on October 15 1979 and would prove disastrous. It was lead by the well intentioned Colonel Majano and a clique of young officers who wanted land reform and to try war criminals. However to succeed they allied with right wing military figures on the CIA payroll like Colonel Jose Guillermo Garcia and Col Jamie Abdul Guttierez. The third faction was the civilian opposition that weren’t yet allied with the Guerillas. Opposed to the new regime while secretly allied to the right wing military were and also on CIA payroll was Major Roberto D’Aubusson who would go on to found ARENA a fascist party inspired by the Nazis, Taiwanese political warfare, Guatemala’s MLN and modeled on the GOP. He was one of ORDEN founder Medrano’s proteges and would use his World Anti-Communist league membership to forge close ties with the American new right. He had trained at School of the Americas, Office of Public Safety’s International Police Academy in Washington DC,  Taiwan’s Political Warfare Academy, he received additional training from the Israeli’s and was a close ally of the “Godfather of the Death Squads” Mario Sandoval Alarcon in Guatemala.

   The reformist coup was doomed from the start Colonel Garcia was appointed minister of defense, and instead of halting the repression it began to skyrocket yet again. More people would die in the first month of the coup then in the rest of 1979 combined. The Carter Administration used the coup as an excuse to restore military aid first under the cover of non-lethal aid. It sent Ambassador Robert White to work with the new junta. The civilian opposition demanded an end to the mass murder and civilian control of the military. Minister of Defense Garcia informed them the military would remain in charge on December 26 and on January 3-5 most of the civilians resigned in protest. The former agriculture minister would be brutally murdered while others decided to join the guerrillas or their political wing FDR. 

    Archbishop Romero had praised the civilians for resigning in protest. For most of his career he had been a conservative who played it safe leading Rome to appoint him to head El Salvador’s church. However he had become increasing radicalized by the militaries repression of the church. His friend the priest Rutilio Grande and another priest were murdered 3 weeks after Romero became Archbishop as was the first priest he had ever ordained. A month after Grande was killed the military attacked the area he had operating in massacring 50 peasants. The only newspapers in the country were right wing supporters of the government the others had been bombed, their journalists murdered or forced into exile. Romero was the only public voice allowed to criticize the government beloved by the poor of El Salvador and increasing respected worldwide. He had written to Washington begging them not to send military aid and urging them to negotiate peace. He created a legal aid office so that family members of the killed and disappeared could demand justice. The churches legal aid office soon became the key source documenting the ongoing massacre in El Salvador. The military launched it’s own PR campaign with the slogan “be a patriot kill a priest.” because of the churches role organizing peasants and documenting war crimes. On March 4 1980 Romero would be the 11th clergyman murdered by a sniper while giving a memorial mass he became an international martyr. A  When tens of thousands gathered to mourn his death the military opened fire on the crowd with machine guns another of the countless massacres that took place in the capital of San Salvador.  Both catholic and protestant churches in the US would become deeply involved in peace and solidarity work in El Salvador. 

    Two months after the assassination of Archbishop Romero Colonel Majano arrested D’Aubuisson on May 7 1980 who was busy plotting a coup. D’Aubuisson had been circulating video tapes to military bases branding the government communists and now sought to seize power. When he was arrested along with his co-conspirators documents were seized proving he was behind the assassination of Archbishop Romero. However the arrest ended the career not of D’Aubuisson but of Colonel Majano who lost all real authority although publicly he remained part of the junta until December to please Ambassador Robert White. D’Aubuisson was released in a matter of weeks as the military and Defense Minister Garcia sided with him against Majano. The CIA had been busy buying off all the younger officers and the military made sure they were purged or began to participate in the massacres. For example the next month on June 26 1980 soldiers stormed the National University and killed 50 people. 

   As Majano’s power waned Christian Democrat Napoleon Duarte had been brought in to provide a facade of civilian participation he had joined the junta in March 1980 and was appointed president in December 14 1980. He would cover up military war crimes and obediently obey the demands of his american advisers. He would loose the Presidency in the 1982 elections when D’Aubuisson’s ARENA party won control of the constituent assembly and Alvaro Magana became president to avoid the PR disaster of a President D’Aubuisson a man former ambassador Robert White called a pathological killer but who was backed by Senator Jesse Helms and a network of new right lobby groups with links to fascists and the CIA like the American Security Council and the Committee on the Present Danger. D’Aubuisson had hired the powerful McCann-Erickson PR firm. The CIA would flood the country with money to insure Napoleon Duarte’s 1984 election victory. The US had Duarte institute disastrous neo-liberal reforms while the military began to escalate the killing in the cities again in 1987-88. The Christian democrats were discredited as corrupt and ineffectual clearing the way for and ARENA victory in 1989 and the election of president Alfredo Cristiani with help from President George H. W. Bush’s PR man Roger Ailes. The elections were largely a PR exercise for the American media in 1982 and 1984 voting was mandatory and failure to vote could get you killed all parties to the left of the Christian democrats were banned and their leaders on death lists. Freeedom of speech and assembly were nonexistent. In 1989 ARENA won by getting rid of mandatory voting relying instead on voter suppression with the poor or internally displaced unable to register , voter intimidation with clear ballot boxes allowing ARENA poll watchers who were often death squad cadres to terrify voters into voting for them. ARENA  also had a well funded party machine to get out the vote.

   On November 4, 1980 Reagan was elected President an event greeted with joy by the oligarchs and the military who celebrated by getting drunk and firing their weapons. Reagan had criticized Carter for being too soft in Central America. Even before the election the Reagan team had promised Guatemala and El Salvador that they would be free to pursue their dirty wars with full US support. Thus his election was a green light to the military in El Salvador to further escalate the dirty war which was already bloodier then ever that year. The first American killed in El Salvador had been back in 1976 a black american Ronald J. Richardson had been arrested and disappeared. The American ambassador at the time was Ignazio Lozano jr had demanded answers. Ironically Carter would replace him with Frank Devine which was seen as a green light to El Salvador’s military to act with impunity. Carter’s reputation for softness had more to do with the rage that ensued when he failed to re-appoint George H. W. Bush to head the CIA then his actual policies like provoking the war in Afghanistan. The new CIA director Stansfield Turner purged some of the more notorious CIA operatives and they launched a PR campaign to destroy Carter in revenge. Between 1946 and 1979 El Salvador had received only 16.7 million dollars in Military aid from the US. In his final year in office Carter would send 10 million in military aid 5 million just before Reagan was inaugurated thanks to Zbiegniew Brzezinski.  Carter had also approved a huge San Lorenzo Dam loan at a time when General Romero was escalating the repression. Ambassador White embodied these contradictions he supported reform and opposed D’Aubusson and ARENA who plotted to kill him. He also opposed the Guerrillas however and in the end signed off on the last minute military aid despite the wave of high profile murders that were to follow Reagan’s elections .In other Carter’s concern for human rights was mostly rhetorical in practice the machinery of empire functioned the same old way. 

    All the same the Salvadoran military decided to use the time between Reagan’s election and inauguration to conduct a shocking wave of killings in which even american’s were targeted. On November 26 1980 they tortured and killed Enrique Alvarez 4 other FDR leaders and a sixth victim eliminating the political wing of the opposition and making any negotiated settlement impossible. Their killings received little international attention. On December 4 1980 the bodies of four american  nuns and lay workers Maura Clarke, Jean Donovan, Ita Ford and Dorothy Kazel were found. Some had been raped and all had been executed after being stopped at a roadblock on the way back from the airport. They were killed for doing charity work in an area that was believed to be sympathetic to the Guerillas. One of them was a personal friend of Ambassador White and the next day aid to El Salvador was suspended. The Carter Administration waited weeks to make a statement and even tried to charge one family thousands of dollars to bring the body of a murdered nun back. 

   The Reagan administration would top him when Jeane Kirkpatrick who had met with El Salvadoran business leaders promising unlimited military aid days before the murders called the nuns FMLN activists to justify the killing.  Secretary of State Al Haig called them “pistol packing nuns” and claimed they were killed running a roadblock a blatant lie as they were shot execution style at point blank range. On January 4 1980 more Americans would die this time employees of the CIA/USAID front the AIFLD. The American Institute of Free Labor Development had trained 300,000 union members to wage an anti-communist pro corporate attempt to take over latin american unions and was used to overthrow Goulart in Brazil and Allende in Chile. However even controlled opposition was too much for the El Salvadoran fascists and 2 AIFLD advisers Michael Hammer and Mark Pearlman were gunned down while dining with the head of El Salvador’s land reform Jose Rodolfo Viera who was also killed and was the main target. Hammer was probably CIA and not just working for a CIA front. Many Salvadorans were also killed for joining the AIFLD created union UTC.  In both the AIFLD and the nun murders it was quickly revealed that the murders were ordered by high ranking Salvadoran military officials their names public knowledge yet throughout the 80’s they would be promoted instead of punished while the Reagan administration pretended that El Salvador was making progress on their cases. As for the murder of El Salvadorans no one was ever charged the military punished drunkenness or lateness mass murder was rewarded. To give one example 90 primary school teachers were killed between January and October 1980. On January 16, 1981 Carter sent 5 million in military assistance despite the dead Americans.  On January 20 1981 Reagan was Inaugurated, On February 1 1981 Ambassador Robert White was fired replaced by Ambassador Deane Hinton who would cultivate a father son relationship with D’Aubuisson. On March 2 1981 Reagan would ask for 25 million in military assistance. Eventually Reagan would pour 6 billion dollars into funding the slaughter in El Salvador and would increase the size of El Salvador’s military from 5,000 to 50,000. Reagan hoped a quick victory in El Salvador would dispel the “Vietnam Syndrome” instead it proved a costly stalemate. In spite of all these weapons and advisers the FMLN would fight on.

  During the escalating violence El Salvador’s Guerrilla factions had been united first as the DRU and then as the FMLN thanks to the efforts of Fidel Castro who personally negotiated their merger. As Reagan’s inauguration neared they launched a massive “final offensive” that they hoped might spark a revolution. They failed in that goal but it helped give the Guerrillas valuable combat experience. In 1982 they would launch a daring attack on Ilpongo airbase (later infamous for it’s role as a drugs and weapons smuggling site during Iran/Contra) they managed to severely damage most of El Salvador’s air force. Unfortunately the US simply used this as an opportunity to double the size of the El Salvadoran air force. Despite the flood of weapons for the Salvadoran military the Guerrillas would steadily gain strength in the first half of the war from 1980-1984. Other major victories would be the assault and capture of the supposedly impregnable base at El Paraiso on December 30 1983 and the destruction of the Cuscatlan bridge on January 1 1984. The FMLN controlled between a third and a fifth of the country setting up their own local  government’s in the areas they controlled. Unfortunately these victories would force the military to rely increasingly on airpower to carpet bomb the countryside and the second stalemate phase of the war would last from 1984-1989 with helicopters machine gunning villages and American bombers bombing the countryside. In addition to Air Power US advisers created new forces called PRAL small mobile units that ambushed and terrorized the FMLN in Guerrilla held territory. Since most reporters stayed in the cities this bloodbath received a lot less international attention then the wave of death squad killings in the cities during the 1st half of the war. The FMLN countered this by rebuilding their network of supporters in the cities which had been decimated.

   While the Guerrillas were gaining in strength in 1980-1984 the United States was busy with it’s own strategy which involved the creation of rapid response battalions the most infamous being the Atacatl Battallion. They were used to conduct vast search and destroy sweeps meant to clear whole areas believed to be sympathetic to the Guerrillas in 1981-82 they conducted a massive sweep of the Morazan department massacring village after village and forcing the survivors to flee as refugees. This would result in the El Mozote massacre when 1000 men women and children were murdered and journalist Raymond Bonner of the New York Times managed to expose it at the cost of his career. After a brief period as an assistant to Jeane Kirkpatrick at the UN Elliot Abrams had been put in charge of Human Rights at the State Department. Under Reagan all pretense of objectivity had been abandoned and Elliot Abrams job was to cover up the crimes of allies like El Salvador while loudly exaggerating the minor offenses of enemies like Nicaragua. He and the head of the Latin American Division Thomas Enders tried to cover up the El Mozote massacre. Ambassador Dean Hinton worked with Reed Irvine of Accuracy In Media (founded to attack journalists who dared to expose the crimes of the empire) to discredit Raymond Bonner. This in turn was part of a the massive Reagan era “Public Diplomacy” program where CIA veterans worked with PR firms to sell empire to the american public through “Perception Management” in the process destroying investigative journalism. Ironically the El Mozote massacre like the Mai Lai massacre was one of hundreds. Whole areas of the country were targeted by search and destroy sweeps and an American anthropologist would witness the aftermath of the Morazan “sweep” of which El Mozote was merely one episode when he spent weeks fleeing with hundreds of refugees who were repeatedly bombed and strafed week after week as they tried to flee. 

    The border with Honduras became a killing field as refugees were targeted by both the Honduran and El Salvadoran military. Honduras had become a base for both the dirty wars on El Salvador and Nicaragua. Over 100 special forces advisers operated there to get around limits on the number of advisers allowed in El Salvador. Ambassador Negroponte ruled there as a sort of proconsul as Honduras began to expand it’s own death squad Battalion 316. His work covering for  death squads would later get him appointed Ambassador to Iraq during the occupation while the former head military adviser in El Salvador Colonel James Steele would arrive to set up death squads for the “Salvador Option.” Elliot Abrams would also return to power during the war in Iraq.

    The war in El Salvador was planned on the model of Vietnam and would then serve as a model for Iraq. All the major elements of the Phoenix program had been replicated in El Salvador in the 1960’s and 70’s centralized cooperation between the police and military linked by a computer network that would be the model for the internet. By the 1980’s they were openly bragging about the connection and claiming Phoenix aka CORDS would be the blueprint for victory. Counterinsurgency theory was back in vogue also known in the 1980’s as IDAD Internal Defense and Development. They even brought back the architect of Vietnam’s land Reform Ray Posterman of USAID to create the El Salvadoran land reform program although predictably it was never fully implemented. The Vietnam parallels were quite open with El Salvador and it’s CIA and Special forces advisers launching Operation Phoenix. And the Phoenix Programs cover program of CORDS (Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development) was used as the model for El Salvador’s counterinsurgency strategy the NCP (National Campaign Plan) and promoted openly in the press as the key to winning the war. The strategy was clear, (send in the military to conduct bloody sweeps) Hold (Set up Civil Defense militias to keep the populace in line) Build (engage in public works for PR in practice the military preferred to embezzle the money). El Salvador would then be used as the template for the War in Iraq although this was absurd because El Salvador was only “a success” from the ruthless imperial perspective because it allowed the empire to wage a bloody war via a local proxy with minimal loss of american life because their were only a hundred US military advisers and a similar number of CIA men in the country. 

   In 1989 the war would enter it’s third and final phase. George H. W. Bush was the new President in the US and he had helped ARENA (the party of the death squads and oligarchs) to win the March 1989 elections. He had ignored the chance to peacefully end the war in exchange for a few minor democratic reforms demanded by the FMLN and the Democratic Convergence the new opposition party. Bush also got Congress to agree to still more military aid to El Salvador. Beginning in 1983 the countries of Central America as the Contadora group had been slowly working on a peace plan to end the wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Eventually this would evolve into the Esquipulas. The US worked to sabotage the process even trying to use the NED to defeat the Costa Rican President at election time. In 1984 Duarte had begun talks with the FMLN that never went anywhere thanks to constant US interference. Since 1984 the FMLN had been forced to pursue a defensive strategy to preserve it’s forces from Salvadoran air power and PRAL teams. However it had also been rebuilding it’s network of urban supporters who had been killed or forced to flee in the first half of the war. In 1987-1988 the El Salvadoran military had responded by reactivating the death squads who went to work in a campaign of selective terror targeting the leaders of the popular movements. 

   The United States and El Salvador believed they were winning the war and that the Guerrillas were incapable of launching any more major offensives. On November 8, 1989 to the shock of the CIA analysts who had declared it impossible the FMLN launched a major offensive the day after the Berlin Wall fell which aimed at capturing the cities and provoking a full scale revolution. It was either the last great battle of World War 3 or the first battle of World War 4. Gorbachev’s treachery was destroying the Soviet Union but in Latin America the struggle for Communism and Socialism would continue. The FMLN would manage to capture part of the capital San Salvador even occupying the rich neighborhoods. Unfortunately exhausted by 10 years of bloody civil war the people failed to rise in revolution and the military was able to counter-attack forcing the FMLN to retreat. It was a military defeat but a major political victory as it destroyed the illusion that the military was on the verge of victory. The US was forced to allow peace negotiations to go forward. The infamous Atlacatl battallion had created another PR disaster by murdering 6 jesuit priests and two housekeepers causing congress to cut military aid in half although President Bush would later full restore it while the world was distracted by the Gulf War. On January 16, 1992 the El Salvadoran Government and the FMLN finally signed a peace agreement that officially ended the war. The opposition was finally granted the right to participate in politics without being tortured and executed for it.

    However despite being allowed to participate the FMLN was forced to compete with a well funded party trained in PR by corporate specialists. ARENA managed to hold onto power from 1989-2009. They privatized everything and launched a brutal anti-gang war.  This new war predictably had American roots thousands of El Salvadoran gang members had been deported in the 1990’s as part of a racist anti-immigrant wave in the 1990’s and it was probably intended to destabilize El Salvador as the LA gang unit was infamous for it’s many scandals and likely has close ties to the CIA. Just as in El Salvador US police forces have divisions with intelligence functions that liaison with the CIA Red squads, Organized Crime and Gang Units are important partners in the counterinsurgency war at home. However regardless of the motives of sending MS-13 to El Salvador ARENA was able to seize on the issue to become increasingly repressive while gang wars within the country lead El Salvador to become the murder capital of the world for a few years. Given ARENA’s close ties to Taiwan it’s links to the Iran-Contra scandal and reputation for corruption they doubtless had a hand in the drug trade they pretended to fight.

  In 2009 the FMLN were finally able to win an election joining the wave of left wing governments inspired by Venezuela’s example. The first FMLN President was Mauricio Funes. In 2014 FMLN won another election electing President Sanchez Ceren a former Guerrilla leader and member of the Andes 21 teachers union which had been a major target during the dirty war. ARENA threatened a coup after the 2014 victory. However years of struggle had made the FMLN overly cautious and they no longer sought to transform society. President Funes relied on centrist advisers and pursued neo-liberal policies. Despite this fact the FMLN did engage in an ambitious program of reform building hundreds of community clinics, doubling the minimum wage, providing free school supplies, free university education and launching a literacy campaign that taught 330,000 people to read mostly elderly women. They also negotiated a secret gang truce which the media ruined by exposing. 

    El Salvador’s wealthy right wingers with american advice set out to discredit the FMLN via their control of the media, the legislature and the judiciary. They launched a corruption probe to discredit the FMLN and a scare campaign about crime in the media. Although gang violence was actually declining the media gave the impression it was out of control. The FMLN angered their radical base by refusing to reaffirm their commitment to radical change. The FMLN  suffered a disastrous loss in the 2018 constituent assembly election and in 2019 one of their former centrist allies Nayib Bukele was elected President. ARENA came in second with the FMLN a distant third. Another of the pink tide countries had fallen into the imperial orbit joining Paraguay, Honduras, Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador. Bukele has cultivated close ties with Trump helping him wage war on immigrants inside El Salvador itself and joining his schemes to overthrow the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua. He plans to privatize the water supply. The struggle for a better world continues in El Salvador, Latin America and worldwide. As I write the people are rising up in Haiti, Chile and Ecuador. Repression is again on the rise across Latin America and sadly the brutal horrors of El Salvador’s dirty war demonstrate the ruthless lengths the empire will go to crush the dreams of peoples of the world in defense of capitalism.



Michael McClintock’s The American Connection Volume one State Terror and Popular Resistance in El Salvador is a masterpiece providing a detailed history of the war into the mid 1980’s. I also highly recommend his book Instruments of State Craft for anyone interested in the US history of terrorism and counterinsurgency.

Weakness and Deceit U.S. Policy and El Salvador by Raymond Bonner provides a detailed and vivid description of the war. Bonner was recalled from El Salvador after exposing the El Mozote massacre and being attacked by the State department and Reagan’s “public diplomacy” propagandists. 

The Salvadoran Crucible: The Failure of US Counterinsurgency in El Salvador, 1979-1992 by Brian D’Haeseleer offers a great overview and analysis of the war highlighting the resilience of the FMLN. He also provides a brief history of US counterinsurgency warfare and discusses the “Salvador Option” in Iraq.

The Empire’s Workshop: Latin America The United States and the Rise of the New Imperialism By Greg Grandin is alternately brilliant and criminally naive. It provides background on the economic dimension of what he refers to as the third conquest of Latin America and connects the Reagan administration war in El Salvador with the Bush administration invasion of Iraq.

Craig Pyes wrote a shocking article on El Salvador’s fascist ARENA party

This Alternative views episode contains an excellent documentary on El Salvador “Revolution or Death”

This Alternative Views episode highlights the role of female revolutionaries in El Salvador 

A documentary on the brutal war in El Salvador and the people’s heroic resistance

Alternative views interviews doctor Charlie Clements who went to El Salvador to provide medical care and document government war crimes

Kathleen Stockwell (daughter of CIA whistleblower John Stockwell) provides  first hand account contrasting Nicaragua with El Salvador

Two FMLN diplomats analyze the situation in El Salvador circa 1989

Covert Action Information Bulletin had a great article on the 1989 ARENA election victory in  El Salvador

El Salvador the War Continues from 1989

An analysis of the FMLN years after their recent defeat in elections

An article on the first 100 days of new Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele’s rule 

My article on Operation Condor based on J. Patrice McSherry’s classic Predatory States: Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America a must read

My Article on The Phoenix Program based on another classic must read book the Phoenix Program by Douglas Valentine

Monday, July 29, 2019

Ratline: The Vatican, The Nazis, & The CIA V2

    Ratlines : The Vatican, The Nazis & Western Intelligence

    In one of the more shocking episodes of the Cold War tens of thousands of Nazi war criminals and their fascist allies were smuggled out of Europe and resettled around the world in places like Argentina, Canada, Australia and the United States. Others were resettled throughout the middle east a few ended up as far away as South East Asia. They were considered too valuable by western intelligence to face justice for their crimes. 27 Million people were killed in the Soviet Union alone, 4 million in Poland,  I’ve written of the many uses these fascist exiles were put to in my previous articles. They were used as spies, propagandists and terrorists in the west’s secret war on the Soviet Bloc and even non-aligned countries like Yugoslavia. They went to work for Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, universities, and think tanks and were even used to turn out the vote for the Republican Party in the US. The Ukrainian fascists formed a powerful lobby in the US, Canada and Australia. In Canada for example the Ukrainian Nazi exiles are so powerful that they have placed one of their own at the head of Canada’s Ministry of  Foreign Affairs  Chrystia Freeland.  As the cold war neared it’s end these fascist movements in exile returned home seizing power with the help of Western Intelligence in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, in the 1990’s and  Ukraine in 2004 and again in 2014. They also have a great deal of influence in the Baltic countries of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania where SS veterans hold yearly parades and are treated as heroes. Thus the fascist exiles have gone from a scandalous chapter in cold war history to the cause of a new cold war with Russia. They have played a vital role in the increasing danger of fascism worldwide.

   Students of CIA or MI6 history won’t be surprised to see them conspiring with Nazis and Fascists. The CIA has been involved in countless fascist coups from Guatemala in 1954 to Ukraine in 2014. CIA architect Allen Dulles was notorious for his nazi business ties before and during the war. The ratlines were only one element of CIA involvement with the nazis which included, Operation Sunrise (Dulles separate peace with the SS near wars end,) the recruitment of Reinhard Gehlen and his Org of nazi war criminals, the phony denazification of West Germany, Operation Bloodstone (placing nazis in american universities and think tanks), Operation Paperclip (recruiting Nazi Scientists) , the Free Europe Committees, fascist stay behind networks like GLADIO, and more. The   British did not even wait for World War 2 to end before siding with Greek Fascists in crushing the Greek Partisans who had single handedly defeated the Nazi occupation of their country. MI6 played a key role in using the fascist exiles to wage war on the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia between the disbanding of OSS in 1945 and the creation of the CIA in 1947. MI6  had worked with these same fascists before the war when the Ustashi and Stepan Bandera’s OUN Ukrainian fascists were both on their payroll. CIA architect Allen Dulles and his brother John Foster had like the british been in business with the fascists before during and after the war. 

   More shocking is the role of the Vatican in all this. Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising given the history of the Church. During the Middle ages clergy often played the role of diplomats, spies and technocrats in royal courts as they were comparatively well educated and often of noble lineage. In Italy the Vatican held vast territories and became a state pursuing it’s own ruthless realpolitik waging wars for territory. Popes like the Borgias became notorious for their ruthlessness and corruption. The church also became a vast business enterprise holding valuable lands, manufacturing goods, and eventually making a fortune in the slave trade. They would play a key role in the conquest of the Americas and the genocide that followed and would compete with the protestant missionaries in the conquest of Asia and Africa. The chance to seize the vast assets the church accumulated over the centuries became a driving force behind the Reformation and the bloody wars of religion that lasted centuries. Then came the French Revolution and democracy became a major threat to the wealth of the church. Worse it unleashed revolutions across Europe including Italy and the church lost most of it’s territory. The Vatican became as obsessed with battling revolution as it had once been with battling heresy. Then came World War 1 and the Russian Revolution which threatened to spread across Europe. If the church was terrified of liberal democracy you can imagine it’s horror at the triumph of “godless Communism.” To sum things up the Vatican had millennia of experience in espionage, propaganda, diplomacy setting up NGOs as fronts and other instruments of soft power and had been fighting for centuries to preserve it’s power and it’s vast fortune. It isn’t my intent to single out the Catholic Church as one could also write a book on Orthodox or protestant ties to fascism. Less well known are the Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim ties to fascism. American evangelicals for example have long played an important role in international fascist networks like WACL.

   Eugenio Pacelli the future Pope Pius XII was papal nuncio in Munich when the revolutionaries briefly triumphed in Germany in 1919 and armed workers invaded his home before deciding to spare his life. If they could have seen into his future they would have shot him as he would spend his life battling communism and supporting fascism. Within a few days the revolutionaries were being massacred by Freikorps fascist death squads that would give birth to the Nazi Party. A couple years later Pacelli would  meet with an obscure politician by the name of Adolf Hitler handing him a small fortune and giving his blessing to Hitler’s crusade against Communism. When Mussolini came to power in Italy the Vatican would negotiate a deal known as the Concordant making the Catholic Church the state religion, giving the Church tremendous influence over education, and allowing it to keep it’s vast fortune tax free. Soon the Vatican established a bank that was the perfect vehicle for all sorts of nefarious money laundering as it was the only bank in the world with diplomatic immunity. Many books have been written about the endless series of Vatican banking scandals which followed through the decades and Pope John Paul I would be murdered for attempting to investigate it.  The Vatican set up charitable fronts which it would later use to fund fascists, smuggle war criminals and bribe politicians for the CIA.  At the center of all this was Cardinal Montini the future Pope Paul VI who as Cardinal would be Pius XII’s right hand man in all the intrigues that followed as head of the IOR (The Institute of Religious Works) and as Secretary of State of the Vatican. Montini would also go to work for the notorious future head of CIA counter intelligence James Jesus Angleton as part of the Operation Sunrise negotiations with the SS a relationship that would continue long after the war. The relationship between the Church and Fascism was a little more complex then I’ll portray it here, allowing the Church to present an opposite narrative of resistance to Fascism. However the Church protested only when it’s own interests were threatened and there was a deafening silence about the atrocities the Nazis and their allies were inflicting on Europe. Some clergymen spoke out but the Vatican failed to follow their example. In contrast the church constantly attacked and vilified the communist countries. Worse in places like Croatia and Slovakia it was the clergy itself that were involved in carrying out war crimes. In Fascist Croatia clergy ran death camps and lead death squads murdering people with their own hands in gruesome competitive throat slitting competitions. Fascist Slovakia was ruled directly by the clergy in the form of Monsignor Tiso who was the dictator of the country. 

   While the Nazis were obsessed with race and Nazism also had a strong current within it seeking a sort of teutonic pagan “revival” (along with a Nazified protestant church) the Vatican had it’s own brand of catholic fascism which it backed in Spain, Hungary, Italy, Argentina, Croatia, Slovakia and even Ukraine. It was all part of a much grander Vatican scheme called the Intermarium that sought to create a catholic bloc of countries between Germany and the Soviet Union that they hoped would be united in a Pan-Danubian Confederation. Intermarium itself was a sort of proto-World Anti-Communist League (WACL)  an alliance of Fascists throughout Europe. Interestingly the Vatican was not alone in this scheme the French, the Germans, the British, the Poles, the Hapsburgs, as well as Americans like Allen Dulles were all working together and occasionally competing for control of Intermarium. Unsurprisingly Intermarium has been resurrected today by NATO and the American empire as a plan to turn all the territories Gorbachev gave away in exchange for vague promises of peace into implacable enemies of Russia and it’s remaining allies in the region. A closely related scheme was the Promethean League another proto-WACL based in London, Paris and Poland aiming to unite soviet minorities against the USSR which is fascinating today because of the role it played in uniting Ukrainian fascists with Pan-Turkist fascists in the days before and during World War 2. During the war both groups would join the SS and be run by the same man Theodore Oberlander who would later be a key WACL figure as well as minister for the expellees. Expellees were ethnic Germans forced out of eastern europe (places like Sudatenland Czechoslovakia or Silesia Poland) because of their pro-nazi views and role in the Nazi conquest and occupation and yet continue to be funded by the German government to lobby for the return of their lost territories. The fact that a war criminal like Oberlander was not only perfectly safe in West Germany but given tremendous power reveals that the Ratlines were about far more then war criminals escaping justice. Oberlander was not alone Nazi Generals like Heusinger were still being promoted, Reinhard Gehlen ran a huge nazi intelligence service employing war criminals and he worked closely with Hans Globke who wrote the Nuremburg laws and was the power behind Konrad Adenauer. Thus Nazis weren’t merely being sent around the world to escape justice as their was little chance of them facing justice with the Americans  and British turning a complete blind eye to their pasts. They were being planted around the world to wage war on the planet on behalf of western intelligence. The old ties between the pan-turkists and the OUN helps explain why the Ukrainian fascists went to Chechnya during the 1990’s fighting on the side of al Qaeda against Russia. In 2007 Ukrainian Nazi Right Sector founder  Dimtry Yarosh held a conference of al Qaeda type groups in western Ukraine.  It is revealing of the connections between the wars in Syria and Ukraine linked by threads of the secret history of international fascism threads that tie together through studying groups like Intermarium, the Promethean League, the Asian Peoples Anti-Communist League (APACL)  and the Anti-Bolshevik-bloc of Nations (ABN) a key branch of the later World Anti-Communist League. And these are only a few of the many fascist groups who’s histories intertwine with the Vatican and western intelligence and which unfortunately continue to play a part in world events into our own times.

    Italy is a land of intrigues and conspiracies thus before getting lost in the web of intrigues surrounding the Vatican and having introduced two of our key players Eugenio Pacelli who had become Pope Pius XII after having negotiated the Vatican Concordant with Nazi Germany and Cardinal Montini the head of the Vatican bank and the Secretary of State lets turn to the end of World War 2 and the story of the ratlines themselves. A ratline is intelligence slang for an escape/smuggling route. It had a number of key points and routes. One key one was in Salzburg Austria where both the British and American forces would play a key role. Vienna and Trieste were also key hubs for the ratlines. First the British pretended not to notice the notorious wanted war criminals hiding out in their area like Ante Pavelic the dictator of Croatia during the war. The  American CIC 430th division was stationed there supposedly it’s job was to hunt Nazi war criminals but thanks to the behind the scenes manipulation of Allen Dulles the mission changed to helping to smuggle Nazis or using them to do their dirty work. Future CIA director Allen Dulles was head of a proto-OPC known as either the WDD War Department Detachment or the DDU the Documents Disposal Unit (The OPC was a part of the State Department headed by Allen Dulles right hand man Frank Wisner that carried out the work that was too dirty for the new CIA.)  I’ll pause for a moment to consider the implications for historians that veterans of the Document Disposal Unit would later control the CIA and men like Angleton would have decades to destroy and censor files in turn destroying or censoring the history of the world. Many journalists and historians foolishly wait till the CIA admits through declassified files what it has been up to before they are willing to believe what they already should have known. But many files have been destroyed, selectively edited, forged, or deliberately misfiled,  and many more will never be released. 

    From Salzburg the war criminals would be smuggled into Italy often after staged escapes from displaced persons camps. Key ratline hubs in Italy included the Tyrol, Genoa, Milan and Rome each ratline hub was overseen by a churchman. In Rome they would come under the protection of Pro-Nazi Bishop Alois Hudal head of the Collegium Orientalis which trained priests to infiltrate the Soviet Union and spy for the Vatican and the Nazis. Now the International Red Cross enters the picture. The sinister role of the Red Cross reveals that the use of NGOs as intelligence fronts is nothing new. Allen Dulles was close to people like Francois Poncet President of the Red Cross who supplied blank Red Cross passports to Alois Hudal who gave them out to the Nazis with new fake names. During the war Poncet and many french conservatives had been informers for the Gestapo. Poncet would also be appointed high commisioner of Germany and Ambassador to Italy. The Vatican received permission to send clergy into displaced person’s camps and prisoner of war camps from Carmel Offie at the State Department and they smuggled in Red Cross passports with fake names to the prisoners during their visits. From Italy many resettled in Spain, Latin America or the Middle East especially in Argentina where Juan Peron had made deals with the Vatican and nazi underground to welcome them with open arms. The Ratlines to  Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and other countries brought not just the Nazis themselves but often huge sums of gold, whole factories, valuable patents, looted art and a fortune in Nazi loot that was hidden oversees. Italy was a big beneficiary as whole factories were shipped from eastern europe to be rebuilt in Italy and West Germany. To help launder all the nazi loot back to his clients Allen Dulles had William Donovan and the MI6 liaison to the US during the war William Stephenson set up the World Commerce Corporation. Some of the infamous Nazi war criminals who escaped along the ratline included mobile gas van inventor Walter Rauff, The “Butcher of Lyons” Klaus Barbie and his friend SS Counterfeiter Federico Schwend, Adolf Eichmann, and Josef Mengele.   

    There was a brief scandal in Italy after Alois Hudal’s ratline was exposed so the Vatican turned to father Krunoslav Draganovic a Croatian fascist as his replacement in running the Rome Ratline. Dragonovic was based in San Girolamo’s Croatian Institute which had trained Croatian clerics for centuries and was now guarded by armed Ustashi. During the war Draganovic had served as Ustashi emissary to the Vatican. The Dragonovic network carried around fascist war criminals in cars with Vatican diplomatic plates.  Dragonovic had a network of Croatian priests to help run the ratlines and his ratlines carried 15 times as many war criminals as  Hudal’s. Hudal had smuggled 1,000-2,000 fugitives mostly German nazis while the Draganovic ratlines smuggled at least 30,000 war criminals not just the Ustashi but the SS and the Ukrainian OUN/B, the Romanian Iron guards and anyone else the vatican and CIA wanted him to smuggle. He met regularly with both Cardinal Montini and Italian intelligence, and American intelligence which paid him $1,200 dollars a head to smuggle out nazis they thought would be useful in future operations. Draganovic’s friends in intelligence warned him in advance of any plans to arrest one of his nazi exiles so they could be moved to safety before any raid. Dragonovic was also a key Intermarium member who was known as the “Golden Priest” because he ended up in possession of much of the loot from the Ustashi’s murder spree in Yugoslavia during the war. 

  Long time readers will be familiar with the Ustashi; but since their crimes are still being covered up in order to legitimize the current fascist government of Croatia  installed thanks to Germany, the US, NATO, and the lying corporate media. Croatia was the worst example of clerical fascism it had a special relationship with the Vatican going back to 700 AD. The Ustashi began in the 1920’s as a fascist terrorist group that conducted a wave of assassinations. Their most famous victim was King Alexander of Yugoslavia assassinated in Marseille France in 1934. The Ustashi took a secret oath in front of a knife a revolver and a crucifix. They were sponsored by fascist Italy the Vatican and British Intelligence. Then during the war the Nazis set up a Croatian Ustashi puppet Government under Ante Pavelic which broke away from the rest of Yugoslavia and was allied to muslim fascist Bosnians. Ante Pavelic was so extreme he once lectured Hitler on being too soft on the Jews and bragged about the speed his Ustashi had already eliminated them with. The Ustashi also hated Gypsies and above all the Orthodox Christian Serbs. Their goal for the Serbs was to convert a third, kill a third, and expel a third. Often those who converted were massacred anyway. At their death camp in Jacenovac the Ustashi burned victims alive or slit their throats. Once when Mussolini visited Pavelic he saw what he thought was a huge bowl of oysters only to discover they were 40 pounds of human eyes sent him in tribute by the Ustashi. 

   Yet despite all this Pope Pius XII gave Pavelic a personal audience. And the Croatian Church not only supported the Ustashi they joined them or lead them in their slaughters. Their crimes revealed yet another angle in the Vatican schemes which was not just motivated by anti-communism but by the desire to continue their war on the Orthodox Church after the schism of the 11th century. Popes Pius XI and Pius XII dreamed of forcibly converting the whole Orthodox world to catholicism. Earlier in  Franco’s Spain their fascist ally had slaughtered protestants. In allying with fascists the church was reviving the old horrors of the crusades and the wars of religion. All while also cynically co-operating with protestant imperialists like the british who had denied catholics civil rights for centuries. The Vatican role in Croatia is one of the most shameful crimes of the 20th century. Sadly instead of apologizing in the 1990’s the church beatified  Archbishop Stepinac a fervent Ustashi war criminal and he is on the fast track to sainthood.

   Draganovic was involved in far more then smuggling out Ustashi. At wars end they had returned to their roots as a terrorist group now funded by the CIA in addition to the british. They were renamed the Krizari meaning the Crusaders and were waging a now forgotten covert war on Yugoslavia that lasted into the 1950’s. Their base was in Trieste. The Ustashi reign of terror would continue for decades as they assassinated Yugoslav government officials hijacked airliners, and acted as hitmen and bodyguards for Latin American dictators like Stroessner in Paraguay. Yet despite their ongoing crimes they were allowed safe refuge to operate out of Australia, Canada, and the US. They were key allies with the Ukrainian OUN/B and together they dominated the ABN (The Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations) a key component of WACL. Before being forced to retreat to Salzburg the OUN/B had battled Tito’s partisans in Yugoslavia near the end of the war. By the start of the 1990’s the Ustashi had managed to return to power in Croatia under Franjo Tudjman thanks to the CIA and German intelligence. The media has maintained complete silence on this fact for decades while relentlessly demonizing the Serbs. 

   The Ukrainian OUN followed a similar story. They had also begun as a fascist terrorist group that conducted a wave of assassinations. During the Russian civil war during and after WWI Ukrainian fascists lead by Symon  Petilura had lead genocidal massacres of jews. Today he is honored as a hero in post Maidan Ukraine. After his defeat the Ukrainian fascists organized the OUN to continue the war underground backed by british and German intelligence. The OUN would split into two branches the OUN/M or Melnyk faction and the more notorious OUN/B the Bandera faction. They conducted a campaign of terror and assassination in Ukraine and Poland. Bandera was on the MI6 payroll prior to the war. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union they followed the German army briefly declaring an independent Ukraine with Yaroslav Stetsko as prime minister they launched a genocidal massacre in western Ukraine slaughtering jews and loyal soviets. Hitler objected to the idea of independent Ukraine since he wanted to turn the whole Soviet Union into a german colony with the whole populace slaughtered or enslaved. Bandera and Stetsko were sent to a comfortable prison but the OUN/B itself continued to work for the Nazis becoming auxiliary police and carrying out the dirty work of the holocaust before forming their own Waffen SS division the Gallician SS. They were notorious for their atrocities one of their favorite methods of killing involved sawing people in half or hacking them to pieces with axes. Like the Ustashi they were so brutal that they even shocked the Nazis. And although they like to pose as brave nationalists the OUN helped the Germans round up Ukrainians to serve as slaves in German factories. As the Nazis began to loose the war against the Soviets they were forced to abandon their earlier arrogant attitude and rely more and more on the OUN and to endorse the idea of an “independent” Ukraine. In 1944 the Ukrainians and representatives of the rest of the Nazis fascist allies joined together to form the ABN and set up governments in exile for all the territories the soviets had liberated. It was a scheme Allen Dulles would co-opt after the war setting up the Free Europe committees with America’s corporate and media elite. MI6 would later reform the ABN in London. The SS Gallicia division was encircled and crushed at the battle of Brody by the red armies 1st Ukrainian front at the Battle of Brody July 22 1944.  The surviving Ukrainian SS veterans and a wave of new recruits were reformed into the Ukrainian 1st army.  At the same time with Bandera’s help Gehlen was running a stay behind Guerrilla war in Ukraine using the OUN. As the war ended this covert war on the Soviet Union would continue until 1953 claiming thousands of lives run by MI6 and later the CIA.

   The story of the Ukrainian ratline is one of the more outrageous chapters of this sordid saga. They had formed an important part of Vatican schemes to gain control of the east. The heartland of Ukrainian fascism was Gallicia which had been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire a close vatican ally (and after WW1 was part of Poland another vatican ally) and they had set up a Uniate church there which used Orthodox ritual but was loyal to the Vatican. During the war they had schemed to unite the pro-nazi Ukrainian orthodox church with the Uniates but the scheme was foiled by the soviet military intelligence the GRU who as we shall see had managed to infiltrate many moles into the vatican’s fascist network. In any case at wars end the Vatican came to the defense of the “catholic army of Ukraine” as it had for the Nazis and Ustashi. Strangely their chief patron was the Ukrainian American Bishop Bucko who mounted a huge campaign to prevent them being sent back to the Soviet Union to face war crimes trials for their many crimes including the murder of 800,000 jews in Ukraine, their involvement in the crushing of the Warsaw uprising and general mass murder of poles, and even their involvement in fighting the western allies at Monte Casino or murders Partisans in France and Yugoslavia. Bucko enlisted the aid of a key ally of the Ratlines in the US and a major cold warrior in his own right Cardinal Spellman of New York. Spellman would play a key role in selecting Diem to rule Vietnam and also would lead the yearly “Captive Nations” day ceremony a parade of fascist exiled war criminals presented to the gullible american public as freedom fighters. MI6 had also renewed it’s ties to Bandera and the OUN/B while the Americans had recruited their own faction of Ukrainian fascists thanks to Klaus Barbie under Mykola Lebed. Instead of being smuggled into Latin America the British decided to evacuate the entire Ukrainian Army from Italy back to Britain itself. It caused only a minor scandal back in Britain and eventually most of them would be sent to Canada which would be a key sponsor of the ABN. 

   One of the stranger chapters of the ratline story involves the Israelis. Still under British rule at the time and with an intelligence service that operated both in the west and in the Soviet Bloc they were well aware of the ratlines. However instead of exposing this massive criminal conspiracy they blackmailed their way into it. Soon Zionist settlers were traveling along the ratlines to sneak into Israel and weapons and money were being smuggled along with them. It quickly involved into a full blown alliance of sorts between Israel and the Nazi underground. Soon Mossad spies were being trained by the Gehlen Network and Gehlen always allowed the Israelis to operate with impunity in West Germany. In return Israel agreed not to expose or interfere with the nazi underground. It made similar deals with Italy and the Vatican. James Angleton at CIA would control both the Israel and the Vatican desks and had also been blackmailed into becoming a Mossad mole. The creation of the State of Israel would have been impossible without this strategy of blackmail. In the US they blackmailed Nelson Rockefeller over his business dealings with the Nazis during the war and in exchange for their silence he agreed to lobby Latin American countries to vote to create Israel in the UN.  In addition to his powerful business interests there Rockefeller had basically been given control over all US Intelligence operations in Latin America during the war and he managed to get Israel the votes they needed. By the 1970’s the Neo-Cons would join the American Security Council a close WACL ally which had started as a private intelligence firm with an anti-semitic blacklist of suspected communists becoming the leading lobbyist for the military industrial complex. Israel had forged close ties with key WACL members like Taiwan, Guatemala and Argentina and was busy selling weapons to fascists around the globe. 

   The west had used the ratlines to loot eastern europe, send spies around the world, wage covert wars in Greece, Yugoslavia, Albania, Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. It put fascists to work writing propaganda and intelligence reports and built them vast radio networks Radio Europe and Radio Liberty to bombard the world with propaganda and attempt to destabilize the Soviet Union and it’s allies. Vast sums of Nazi loot were being laundered through banks. The CIA and OPC put their Vatican allies to work rigging the 1948 Italian elections. On the surface it seemed a tremendous success. However from an intelligence standpoint it would soon be revealed to be an enormous disaster. The soviets were masters at planting moles and by using fascist exiles the west had played into their hands.

     The American’s allies the British were thoroughly infiltrated with Soviet Moles like Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt. The most famous mole was Kim Philby working for the KGB , but also included a whole spy ring running through both MI5 and MI6. Kim Philby was put in charge of many of these fascist networks and anti-soviet operations and so the Soviets were well aware of all the details of the covert war being waged against them. If that wasn’t bad enough the Soviets were masters at creating fake opposition groups the most famous of which is the Polish WIN who the west airdropped a fortune in supplies to only to discover that WIN was actually controlled by the soviets. However long before WIN the GRU had managed to infiltrate the white Russian fascist Emigres in the wake of World War 1. Britain’s super spy Ukrainian Sidney Reilly fell victim to the Trust an anti-soviet network that was actually controlled by Soviet intelligence which tricked Reilly into entering the Soviet Union so he could be arrested and executed for his earlier counter revolutionary coup plots, invasions and assassinations.  

  Prince Turkul was the GRU master spy among the Russian emigres in his long career he managed to con the French, the British, the Japanese, the Germans, the Ukrainians, the Vatican and the CIA and eventually came to be based in Rome. He had ties to all the white Russian fascists as well as to the Serb fascist Chetniks. He lead the NTS the Russian fascist party when the Nazis built a traitorous Russian army under General Vlasov they had NTS act as political officers thus the GRU knew everything the Germans were up too. Turkul helped save the Soviet Union by spreading divisions among Germany’s fascist allies and sabotaging german efforts at establishing a separate peace with the west. Not only was Turkul a master spy he was a master of manipulating intelligence and played a major role in insuring Germany’s defeat. He supplied them intelligence via the Max network who were posing as jewish fascists with access to intelligence from the soviet high command the Stavka. The information was accurate since it was being leaked by the GRU but at key moments before decisive battles like Stalingrad or Kursk the information proved misleading and the Germans would suffer a major defeat. The Soviet spy Turkul would save countless American and British lives at Normandy by tricking the germans into moving their forces from France to the Balkans to stave off a Soviet invasion that never came. In Warsaw Turkul’s NTS were caught broadcasting intelligence to the Red Army. Yet the Germans continued to place great faith in Prince Turkul and he worked first for Admiral Canaris’s Abwehr  and then for Reinhard Gehlen’s RSHA operating out of Gehlen’s headquarters with access to all the top German Intelligence. After the war with the danger of the Holocaust passed the Max network switched their loyalty to Israel from the Soviets. They were recruited by the CIA along with Prince Turkul. In order to keep Israel silent about it’s soviet moles the soviet bloc was blackmailed into sending arms to Israel from Czechoslovakia. As for Prince Turkul his final accomplishment was in helping to prematurely spark the Hungarian counter-revolution at a time when the west was already preoccupied with the Suez crisis allowing the counter revolutionaries to be crushed with the unexpected side effect of driving Allen Dulles right hand man Frank Wisner insane. The notoriously paranoid Angleton also began to go even crazier when he discovered that his good friend Kim Philby had been a soviet mole all along. The Soviets had also managed to plant a mole in the heart of the Gehlen Org Heinz Felfe who was head of Counter-Intelligence and West Germany’s NATO liason. Unsurprisingly the west’s covert war on the Soviet Bloc was a disaster with 95% of those attempting to infiltrate the soviet bloc captured or killed. 

    Unfortunately the west would have the last laugh as thanks to the folly and incompetence of Gorbachev they were finally able to achieve their dreams of the rollback of Communism with the Vatican playing a key role by funneling money to Solidarity in Poland. Western intelligence had bought many traitors within the Soviet Union and they used them to destroy the Soviet Union and install Yeltsin. The Vatican continues to wage covert war on socialist countries like Nicaragua and Venezuela despite the leftist rhetoric of the new Pope or the friendly relations the two countries have tried to forge with the church. The ratline was only the first in a long series of events linking fascists, the Vatican and the CIA that would plague Italy for decades stolen elections, corruption, Assassinations, P-2, Gladio false flag terror bombings and kidnappings, failed coups, the STIBAM arms and drug smuggling ring, ever mutating neo-fascism, and the Vatican banking scandals. Steve Bannon was recently exposed running an international fascist network out of a monastery in Italy dedicated to helping the far right win elections in Europe. 

   Almost 75 years later the after-effects of the ratline continues into our own time. Fascists openly rule in Poland, Hungary, Ukraine and Croatia. Their popularity is on the rise across europe. In Bolivia Klaus Barbie would help launch the infamous “cocaine coup” fueling the rise of the Medellin Cartel in Colombia. This would fuel Reagan’s phony war on drugs and the mass incarceration that would decimate minorities. In Chile Nazi exiles would torture and murder Chileans after the CIA installed the dictator Pinochet. It was only one example of the Nazis role as advisers to the Condor Network that would leave tens of thousands tortured and disapeared. Facebook has put a Ukrainian fascist in charge of censoring the news. Fascism is on the rise around the world from India to Brazil to America. Fascist terrorists have been massacring people around the world in mass shootings. American neo-nazis are training with Ukrainian fascist death squads who are being trained by NATO and the american military. In Ukraine the blood bath continues the world remains silent as Ukraine shells the  Donbass murdering civilians blowing up homes, schools, and hospitals. In Ukraine itself fascist death squads will torture or assassinate anyone daring to criticize the war or often anyone who refuses to pay them extortion as they operate as gangsters. And of course everywhere around the world there is the CIA and MI6 spreading death, destruction and lies. The Vatican, the Nazis and the CIA; the same players endlessly playing the same games forever. 


My main source was the excellent Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, the Nazis and the Swiss Banks by Mark Aarons and John Loftus which provides a highly detailed account of the ratlines despite the authors anti-Soviet bias.

I also recommend The Secret War Against the Jews by John Loftus and Mark Aarons which discusses Israel’s role in the ratlines among many other subjects. 

I highly recommend the classic God and the Fascists: The Vatican Alliance with Mussolini, Franco, Hitler, and Pavelic by Karlheinz Deschner which discusses the Vatican role in bringing fascism to power. 

An interview with John Loftus on Unholy Trinity

A classic Issue of Covert Action Information Bulletin on the Vatican the Nazis and the CIA 

Dave Emory and Nip Tuck on the endless series of Italian scandals

An Interesting article on Intermarium although I disagree with some of the conclusions

The Red Cross in Haiti another disgraceful scandal