The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War, by Mark Danner

McKay, of course, had reviewed the State Department cable before it was sent, but he was not its author; Greentree was. Though he was only twenty-eight years old, Greentree had already earned the respect of his Foreign Service colleagues and — what was much rarer in El Salvador — was considered a competent, trustworthy official by many in the press corps. Indeed, even a decade later, in his understanding of what had happened in El Salvador he seemed to me the most perceptive of the American officials I interviewed. It was Greentree who embodied the United States government in the closest contact it would make to the massacre at El Mozote, and yet it was Greentree who provided the reporting that would enable the government to deny that the massacre had happened. It is tempting to conclude that he simply suppressed what was inconvenient, but the truth of what happened in the writing of the cable, like most of the United States' dealings with the issue of "human rights" in El Salvador, is rather more interesting than that.

Danner, Mark. The Massacre at El Mozote. New York: Vintage – Random. 1994. Print.

In a remote corner of El Salvador, investigators uncovered the remains of a horrible crime — a crime that Washington had long denied. The villagers of El Mozote had the misfortune to find themselves in the path of the Salvadoran Army's anti-Communist crusade. The story of the massacre at El Mozote — how it came about, and hy it had to be denied — stands as a central parable of the Cold War.

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Danner, Mark. The Massacre at El Mozote: A Cold War Parable. New York: Vintage Books, 1994. U.S. officials have long been extremely proud of the Atlacatl Battalion’s performance and have praised it throughout the history of the war. In the February 8, 1982, Senate hearings on the presidential certification on El Salvador, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Elliott Abrams lavished praise on the Atlacatl Battalion, saying that “the battalion to which you refer [regarding the massacre at El Mozote] has been complimented at various times in the past over its professionalism and over the command structure and the close control in which the troops are held when they go into battle.”

∶⊛ The Massacre at El Mozote [Mark Danner]

The massacre at El Mozote remained a disputed fact until a peace treaty was signed between the government and the guerrillas of El Salvador in 1992. In the face of strong government opposition, members of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team were appointed by a U.N. truth commission to excavate the zone, and exhumation work continued until 2004. At that time, the remains of more than 300 men, women, children and infants had been recovered in the main killing grounds, but the list of victims from the village and nearby hamlets includes more than 800 names. As far as is known, this was the single largest massacre to take place in this hemisphere in modern times.

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