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Spreading the Truth about Dihydrogen Monoxide

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Nearby, in the long-depopulated villages, you can see stirrings of life: In a remote corner of El Salvador, investigators uncovered the remains of a horrible crime a crime that Washington had long denied.

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. But follow the stony dirt track, which turns and twists through the woodland, and in a few minutes you enter a large clearing, and here all is quiet. No one has returned to El Mozote. Empty as it is, shot through with sunlight, the place remains as a young guerrilla who had patrolled here during the war told me with a shiver espantoso: Into this quiet clearing, in mid-October last year, a convoy of four-wheel drives and pickup trucks rumbled, disgorging into the center of El Mozote a score of outsiders.

Some of these men and women most of them young, and casually dressed in T-shirts and jeans and work pants began dumping out into the dust a glinting clutter of machetes, picks, and hoes. Others gathered around the hillock, consulted clipboards and notebooks and maps, poked around in the man-high brush.

Finally, they took up machetes and began to hack at the weeds, being careful not to pull any, lest the movement of the roots disturb what lay beneath. Chopping and hacking in the morning sun, they uncovered, bit by bit, a mass of red-brown soil, and before long they had revealed an earthen mound protruding several feet from the ground, like a lopsided bluff, and barely contained at its base by a low stone wall.

They pounded stakes into the ground and marked off the mound with bright-yellow tape; they stretched lengths of twine this way and that to divide it into quadrangles; they brought out tape measures and rulers and levels to record its dimensions and map its contours.

And then they began to dig. At first, they loosened the earth with hoes, took it up in shovels, dumped it into plastic pails, and poured it onto a screen large enough to require several people to shake it back and forth. As they dug deeper, they exchanged these tools for smaller, more precise ones: Then, late on the afternoon of the third day, as they crouched low over the ground and stroked with tiny brushes to draw away bits of reddish dust, darkened forms began to emerge from the earth, taking shape in the soil like fossils embedded in stone; and soon they knew that they had begun to find, in the northeast corner of the ruined sacristy of the church of Santa Catarina of El Mozote, the skulls of those who had once worshipped there.

By the next afternoon, the workers had uncovered twenty-five of them, and all but two were the skulls of children. Later that afternoon, the leaders of the team four young experts from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Unit, who had gained a worldwide reputation for having exhumed sites of massacres in Guatemala and Bolivia and Panama and Iraq, as well as in their own country piled into their white four-wheel-drive vehicle and followed the bumpy, stony road out of El Mozote the Thistle.

Slowly, they drove through Arambala, waving to the smiling little girls standing on their porch, and out onto the calle negra the "black road" which traced its way up the spine of the red zone, stretching north from the city of San Francisco Gotera to the mountain town of Perqu?

At the black road, the Argentines turned left, as they did each evening, heading down to Gotera, but this time they stopped in front of a small house a hut, really, made of scrap wood and sheet metal and set among banana trees some fifteen yards from the road.

Getting out of the car, they climbed through the barbed wire and called out, and soon there appeared at the door a middle-aged woman, heavyset, with high cheekbones, strong features, and a powerful air of dignity. In some excitement, the Argentines told her what they had found that day. The woman listened silently, and when they had finished she paused, then spoke. In the polarized and brutal world of wartime El Salvador, the newspapers and radio stations simply ignored what Rufina had to say, as they habitually ignored unpalatable accounts of how the government was prosecuting the war against the leftist rebels.

El Mozote seemed to epitomize those methods, and in Washington the story heralded what became perhaps the classic debate of the late Cold War: In the United States, the free press was not to be denied: By early , when a peace agreement between the government and the guerrillas was finally signed, Americans had spent more than four billion dollars funding a civil war that had lasted twelve years and left seventy-five thousand Salvadorans dead. By then, of course, the bitter fight over El Mozote had largely been forgotten; Washington had turned its gaze to other places and other things.

For most Americans, El Salvador had long since slipped back into obscurity. But El Mozote may well have been the largest massacre in modern Latin-American history. That in the United States it came to be known, that it was exposed to the light and then allowed to fall back into the dark, makes the story of El Mozote how it came to happen and how it came to be denied a central parable of the Cold War.

But in San Salvador, five hours by road to the west, where President Alfredo Cristiani and the generals and the guerrillas-turned-politicians were struggling with one another about how to put in place, or not put in place, a purge of the officer corps, which was proving to be the most difficult provision of the ten-month-old peace accord struggling, that is, over what kind of "reconciliation" would come to pass in El Salvador after more than a decade of savage war the first skulls of the children were enough to provoke a poisonous controversy.

Those twenty-three skulls, and the nearly one hundred more that were uncovered in the succeeding days, were accommodated by the nascent Salvadoran body politic in two ways. No vehicles or individuals are permitted to enter the zones of conflict in order to avoid accidents or misunderstandings Neither was the entry of journalists or individuals permitted. Four thousand men, drawn from the security forces the National Guard and the Treasury Police and from regular units of the Salvadoran Army, were hard at work.

The area north of the Torola River, the heart of the red zone, was alive with the thud of mortars, the clatter of small-arms fire, and the intermittent roar of helicopters. Two days before, Operaci? Many of the towns and villages were already empty; during and after Army operations of the previous spring and fall, thousands of peasants had left their homes and begun a long trek over the mountains to the Honduran border and refugee camps beyond. Of those who remained, many made it a practice, at the first sign of any Army approach, to leave their villages and hide in the caves and ravines and gullies that honeycombed the mountainous region.

But El Mozote was crowded; in the days before Operation Rescue, people from the outlying areas had flooded into the hamlet. Between their feet lay an expanse of dark rubble, a miniature landscape of hills and ridges and valleys in every shade of brown.

It took a moment or two to distinguish, among the dirty-brown hillocks, the skulls and parts of skulls, each marked with a bit of red tape and a number; and, beneath the skulls and skull fragments and the earthen rubble, scores of small brown bundles, heaped one on top of another, twisted together, the material so impregnated with blood and soil that it could no longer be recognized as clothing.

Amid the rubble in the northeast corner of the tiny room that had been called el convento though it was really a kind of combined sacristy and parish house, in which an itinerant priest, when he visited the hamlet, would vest himself, and sometimes, perhaps, stay the night , a dark-haired young woman in denim overalls was kneeling. She slowly drew a small bundle toward her it had beenlabelled No.

Tibia, left, I think Pants, light in color, with patches of blue and green color in the posterior part In the pants pocket Over her shoulder, I saw her staring at something in her palm, then heard her swear in a low voice: After a moment, the anthropologist Mercedes Doretti said, "Ordinarily, we could use this for identification. They had walked from their small house, several miles outside El Mozote, where the dirt track joins the black road.

Eleven years before, in early December, scores of people were passing by their house, pulling their children along by the hand, laboring under the weight of their belongings.

The people of El Mozote would have no problems provided they stayed where they were. Some townspeople wanted to head for the mountains immediately, for the war had lately been coming closer to the hamlet; only the week before, a plane had dropped two bombs near El Mozote, damaging its one-room school, and though no one had been hurt, the people had been terrified.

My godfather left, with his family. My children were crying. Otherwise, people would have left. Though the debate went on that afternoon and into the following morning, most of the people of El Mozote finally accepted his assurances.

They had seen soldiers before, after all; soldiers often passed through on patrol and sometimes bought supplies in El Mozote. Only the month before, soldiers had come during an operation and occupied El Chingo and La Cruz, two hills overlooking the town, and though the people of El Mozote could hear mortars and scattered shooting in the distance, the soldiers had not bothered them.

And the guerrillas knew about our relations with the Army. Licho, a rebel commander who had grown up in Jocoaitique, a few miles from El Mozote, acknowledged to me during an interview in Perqu? People had begun to convert as early as the mid-sixties, and by it is likely that half or more of the people in El Mozote considered themselves born-again Christians; the evangelicals had their own chapel and their own pastor, and they were known as were born-again Christians throughout Central America for their anti-Communism.

I had four children to look after. Peasants poured into the hamlet, occupying every bit of space. He and Alba Ignacia del Cid had stood in front of their house, had watched the people pass. But they had decided not to go. Either we both go or we both stay. They saw soldiers pass by, and saw a helicopter hover and descend. And later they saw thick columns of smoke rising from El Mozote, and smelled the odor of what seemed like tons of roasting meat.

Santiago recalls that "intelligence sources within the Army itself" had passed on a report of a key meeting at the High Command. His Vice-Minister, Colonel Francisco Adolfo Castillo, added that the troops "must advance no matter what the cost until we reach the command post and Radio Venceremos. He was not alone: Even worse, the radio managed to be funny. Most people at the Embassy, including the Ambassador, wanted to hear it. Colonel Monterrosa was mortified by Radio Venceremos as well, but, unlike his colleagues, he had determined, in his rage and frustration, to do something about it.

For Monterrosa, as American military advisers had come to realize, was a very different kind of Salvadoran officer. By late , with Congress and the American public having shown themselves resolutely opposed to dispatching American combat forces to Central America, it had become quite clear that the only way to prevent "another Nicaragua" was somehow to "reform" the Salvadoran Army.

You could surrender with eighty-five men and nothing at all would happen to you. These had to do not with military competence but with politics: A hundred teen-age boys might enter the Gerardo Barrios Military Academy, and from their number perhaps twenty toughened, hardened men would emerge four years later; throughout the next quarter century, these men would be promoted together, would become rich together, and would gradually gain power together.

If among them there proved to be embarrassing incompetents, not to mention murderers and rapists and thieves, then these men were shielded by their classmates, and defended ferociously. Finally, perhaps two decades after graduation, one or two from the tanda those who had stood out early on as presidenciables, as destined to become leaders of the country would lobby within the officer corps to become the President of El Salvador.

Monterrosa had graduated in , and though the records show him fourth in his class of nineteen, it is a testament to the respect he inspired that many officers now remember him as first. In the academy, he was a magnetic figure, charismatic from the start. By the late seventies, after Molina had given place to General Carlos Humberto Romero, in another dubious election, the situation had become even more polarized. On the far left, several tiny guerrilla groups were kidnapping businessmen, robbing banks, and, on occasion, assassinating prominent rightist leaders.

The security forces generally responded to these demonstrations with unflinching violence, shooting down scores, and sometimes hundreds, of Salvadorans. Finally, in October of , with at least tacit American support, a group of young "reformists" who called themselves the juventud militar the "military youth" overthrew General Romero and set in his place a "progressive" junta, which included politicians of the left. As had happened two decades before, however, the conservatives in the Army almost immediately regained the upper hand, and now, under cover of a more internationally acceptable "reformist" government, they felt free to combat the "Communist agitation" in their own particular way by intensifying the "dirty war" against the left.

The latter was named for a general who had taken over the country in , during a time of rising leftist agitation among the peasantry, and had responded the following year with a campaign of repression so ferocious that it came to be known simply as La Matanza.

Throughout the western part of the country, where an abortive rebellion had been centered, members of the National Guard, along with civilian irregulars, lined peasants up against a wall and shot them. Before the purge was over, they had murdered well over ten thousand people.

Drawing on money from wealthy businessmen who had moved to Miami to avoid kidnapping or assassination, and benefitting from the theoretical guidance of ideological compatriots in neighboring Guatemala, the officers organized and unleashed an efficient campaign of terror in the cities.

The campaign intensified dramatically after the "progressive" coup of October, By the end of the year, monthly estimates of the dead ranged as high as eight hundred. Against the urban infrastructure of the left the network of political organizers, labor leaders, human-rights workers, teachers, and activists of all progressive stripes which had put together the enormous demonstrations of the late seventies this technique proved devastating.

As the repression went on, month after month, it became less and less discriminating. Here, dug into a rock niche half a dozen feet underground, was the "studio" of Radio Venceremos, which consisted of a small transmitter, an unwieldy gasoline generator, assorted tape recorders, microphones, and other paraphernalia, and a flexible antenna that snaked its way up through a forest of brush.



The Truth of El Mozote View other pieces in "The New Yorker" By Mark Danner December 06, Tags: Central America | Latin America | El Salvador H EADING up into the mountains of Morazan, in the bright, clear air near the Honduran border, you cross the Torola River, the wooden slats of the one-lane bridge clattering beneath your . The Truth about DIHYDROGEN MONOXIDE Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) is perhaps the single most prevalent of all chemicals that can be dangerous to human life. Despite this truth, most people are not unduly concerned about the dangers of Dihydrogen greenclix.pwments, civic leaders, corporations, military organizations, and .

Total 1 comments.
#1 07.09.2018 14:37 Cazdaraz1987:
I forgot where I already saw such an article!