excerpted from the book
The Greatest Story Never
A People's History of the
American Empire 1945-1999
by Michael K. Smith
Xlibrus Corporation, 2002,
1980 El Salvador
The reformist junta crumbles amidst rising
state terror and power shifts completely to the killing machine
churning out thousands of disfigured corpses a year. With crop
dusters sent by plantation owners dropping DDT on the massive
procession, sharpshooters and guardsmen open fire on the largest
peaceful march in Salvadoran history, leaving fifty dead on the
sidewalk, a hundred wounded, and every sanctuary of the diocese
overflowing with terrified refugees. Archbishop Romero announces
that, "the most repressive sector of the armed forces"
runs the country and calls on the Christian Democrats to resign
the government. In his weekly homily to the nation he quotes from
his letter imploring President Carter to suspend aid to the blood-drenched
junta, which, if sent, can only serve to "intensify injustice
and . . . repression" against the people, "who have
fought, so many times, for their fundamental rights
A right-wing group blows up the Church
radio station. Carter sends the aid.
Six masked men assassinate the Christian
Democrats' attorney general in the dead of night with army regulation
G-3 and M-16 rifles. On March 13th the Salvadoran Human Rights
Commission publishes a list of 689 political killings since the
first of the year, nearly 90% by government security forces and
affiliated death squads. In a reply to Romero's letter, Secretary
of State Cyrus Vance insists that, "The defense of human
rights has been, and continues to be, one of the principal goals
of the foreign policy of this administration ..."
1980 El Salvador
Living among the poor, Monsignor Romero
has developed an insatiable appetite for God. Speaking of justice,
he is accused of hatred.
He welcomes the Nicaraguan revolution,
its guarantee of human rights, independent judges, freedom of
speech, worship, and association, the termination of arbitrary
arrest, search, torture, and murder. He applauds efforts to bring
Somoza's officials to justice for crimes against the people.
His lone ambition is to intoxicate the
world with the Gospel, and he holds out hope that even the nuncios
and military vicariates might someday be converted. A disciple
of Vatican II, he sees the Church's mission as establishing community
in accordance with divine law while enlightening the people's
legitimate aspirations for a just society by the example of Christian
faith and hope. Peace must come, he says, but cannot unless it
is the product of justice and love.
Violence is "unchristian, "
but its most acute form is institutionalized violence, the planned
injustice of poor majorities deprived of the necessities of life.
The Salvadoran popular organizations are 'signs of Gods presence
and purposes, " while their violent persecution represents
"structural sin embedded in our society. " Marxism is
a useful tool of social analysis but it cannot substitute for
the inner conversion essential to loving community. Private property
is legitimate but comes with a heavy social mortgage: derivative
from God, wealth 'should reach all in just form, guided 6y justice
and accompanied 6y charity."
In a packed Metropolitan Cathedral, an
eerie hush falls over the congregation as Archbishop Romero appeals
directly to the young conscripts ordered to kill in the name of
national security: "No soldier is obliged to obey an order
contrary to the law of God . . . In the name of God, in the name
of our tormented people whose cries rise up to Heaven, I beseech
you, I beg you, I command you, STOP THE REPRESSION!"
1980: El Salvador
Speaking Power To Truth
The dammed blood bursts, a scarlet torrent
cascades through his skull, down into his mouth and nose, gushing
onto his purple-and-white vestments as he slumps to the floor
at the foot of the large crucifix behind the altar. Opening his
arms to offer the Eucharist, Archbishop Romero has been shot in
the heart, the most forgiving heart in El Salvador. The unforgiving
bullet scatters fragments through his chest, triggering massive
internal hemorrhage. Friends dash to his side and flip him on
his back while a photographer shoots him again with flashes. The
killer, escorted to the mass by two police patrols, escapes into
Unconscious, gasping, lifeblood ebbing
away, Archbishop Romero is carried from the chapel to a small
truck and driven to the hospital. After he is laid out on a table
in the emergency room, a nurse probes for a vein in his arm, but
all have collapsed.
He strangles to death in his own blood.
1980 South Korea
Blaming "impure elements" for
causing "disturbance" and fomenting 'a forceful riot,"
martial law troops and Black Beret paratroopers club, bayonet,
and mutilate the people of Kwangju, carrying out three days of
barbarity with the zeal of Nazi storm troopers," in the words
of an Asia Watch investigative mission.
With the massacre in full swing, the United
States receives two pleas for assistance: one, from a pro-democracy
citizens committee negotiating with the government and another
from General Chun, who requests the release of 20,000 U.S. troops
to help the storm troopers.
The U.S. dispatches the soldiers, throwing
in unrequested naval and air units as a bonus. Two thousand people
are executed, including children and the elderly.
After the bloodbath, the President of
the Export-Import bank arrives in Seoul to float the butchers
a $600 million loan.
General Chun takes over the Presidency
President Carter comments that the U.S.
would prefer democracy, but, "The Koreans are not ready for
that, according to their own judgment, and I don't know how to
explain it any better."
Four percent of the electorate votes for
Ronald Reagan because he is 'a real conservative."
Reagan's share of the total potential
vote (26.6%) is the third lowest of any winning candidate since
1932. His share of the total popular vote surpasses Jimmy Carter's
losing effort by just half a | percentage point.
Thirty-seven percent of Reagan voters
decide to vote for him in the last week. Ten to twelve percent
make their decision on the last day. One-quarter report they have
voted for "the lesser of two evils" only 6 percent say
they have chosen "the better of goods. " Since 1952
the only candidates more unpopular than Reagan are McGovern and
Goldwater. Among elected candidates, Reagan is the least popular.
Support for social programs is high, especially
Social Security and Medicare. Large majorities oppose benefit
cuts for the elderly, poor, handicapped, or in general health
programs or federal aid to education. They favor expanded regulations
to protect the health and safety of consumers, workers, and the
quality of the environment.
The mass media declare a landslide victory
for conservatism and the death of the New Deal.
Reagan officials Speak Out On Nuclear War
" ... it is possible for any society
to survive [a nuclear war].... nuclear war is a destructive thing
but still in large part a physics problem. "
Charles Kupperman Arms Control and Disarmament
"You have a survivability of command and control, survivability
of industrial potential, protection of a percentage of your citizens,
and you have a capability that inflicts more damage on the opposition
than it can inflict on you. "
Vice-President George Bush, on how to
win a nuclear
"Everybody's going to make it if there are enough shovels
to go around. Dig a hole, cover it with a couple of doors and
then throw three feet of dirt on top. Its the dirt that does it.
T.K. Jones, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense
"The United States must possess the
ability to wage nuclear war rationally. "
Colin Gray, Arms Control Adviser
"It would 6e a terrible mess, but it wouldn't be unmanageable.
Louis Giuffrida, FEMA
Would democracy and other institutions survive nuclear war?
"I think they would eventually, yeah.
As I say, the ants eventually build another anthill."
William Chipman, FEMA
The Reagan Administration withdraws from
the public housing market and hundreds of thousands of Americans
express a sudden preference for living in the great outdoors.
On Good Morning America, the President refutes charges of callousness:
"One problem that we've had, " he says, "is the
people who are sleeping on the grates . . . are homeless . . .
by choice. "
One of his children, about Ronald Reagan
"He makes things up and believes them."
At a White House press conference President
Reagan announces that he will lay a wreath in a military graveyard
in Bitburg as a gesture of reconciliation between the U.S. and
Germany, once enemies, now allies. Among the 2000 German soldiers
buried there, 49 are former members of the Nazi SS.
"They were victims," says Reagan
of the Nazi soldiers, 'just as surely as the victims in the concentration
1985 Reagan White House
In an article entitled Helping the Poor:
A Few Modest Proposals, White House favorite Charles Murray argues
for the conquest of poverty by eliminating the poor. "The
notion," he writes, "is to reduce the reproduction of
poor children by intensifying the unpleasantness of circumstances
that precede their birth, rendering unwed parenthood . . . contemptible."
He recommends that indigent women be induced to abort or give
their babies to the state by threatening them with the prospect
of 'a good correctional 'halfway house' .
To heighten the birth deterrent Murray
advocates the abolition of New Deal style social programs, whose
counterproductive doles and hand-outs foster dependency, perpetuating
the misery they intend to alleviate. "Take away all governmentally-sponsored
subsidies for irresponsible behavior . . . The natural system
will produce the historically natural results."
Why should extremes of poverty and wealth
be accepted as natural? "Some people are better than others,
" Murray explains. "They deserve more of society's rewards."
1985 Third World in US
In apartments without cooking facilities
on the North Side, a common dinner for elderly residents is a
tin of cat food and a raw egg.
Dr. Howard B. Levy, Chairman of Pediatrics
at Mount Sinai Hospital, publicly states his concern that his
caseload of advanced malnutrition diseases like kwashiorkor and
marasmus is growing.
"Malnutrition has clearly gone up
in the last few years. We have more low-birth-weight babies. We
are seeing so much TB that my house staff is no longer excited
by it. "
New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis
[It is appropriate to] " ... kill
innocent civilians, or murderous states would never fear retribution."
1986 El Salvador
A U S. Mercenary Speaks Out On Counterinsurgency
"The army is not killing communist
guerrillas, despite what is reported. It is murdering the civilians
who side with them. "
"Its a beautiful technique. By terrorizing
civilians the army is crushing the rebellion without the need
to directly confront the guerrillas. "
'Attacking civilians is the game plan....
Kill the sympathizers and you win the war."
1986 El Salvador
Interview with ex-Treasury policeman fro
Q: "The torture that you were present
at-was putting peoples heads in buckets of excrement, electrical
torture . . . ?" A: "Oh, this is nothing. . ."
Q: "Did it get worse than that?" A: "Electrical
shocks-nobody will die unless it is too severe. But if you cut
somebody-their skin-or you take somebody's eyes-this is actually
what they did at the torture-with a pencil you take one eye out
and you say, 'If you don't talk I will take another one. 'And
you say 'I will pull your teeth out,' and they do-one by one.
I don't know-do you want to hear all that?-you
cut the fingers, you know why? Do you think this person will go
alive after you cut a finger or you take their eyes or you destroy
the ears with sound or with hitting this person in the ears-or
when you take the organ of this person, the genital organ, you
cut it-if a man you cut his organ?
This is the torture.
And this person bleeds to death, and then
you laugh around him, drinking, smoking marijuana, using LSD,
all kinds of drugs. And you feel bad after the torture takes place,
after the person disappears-you throw the person away. You say
'This guy was hard to kill' this is the conversation after the
But in the torture you try to destroy
this person physically-this is how they fight terrorists, Communists-to
eliminate a person-this is it. They are trained to eliminate."
1986 US Military Budget
Budget Of A Garrison State
Gross federal revenue $794 billion
Less Social Security $294 billion
Actual Federal Revenue $500 BILLION
Defense $286 billion
Foreign Arms $12 billion
Nuclear Weapons (Energy Dept.) $8 billion
Veterans' Benefits $27 billion
Interest on Past Arms and Wars $142 billion
TOTAL WAR SPENDING $475 BILLION
1987 Oliver North
Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North sits ramrod
straight, looking without blinking at the Congressional investigating
committee facing him and the television cameras recording the
moment. With his loyal-wife-Betsy behind him and a stack of telegrams
from his supporters in front of him, he confesses his undying
devotion to Ronald Reagan, the contras, and the oppressed people
From the White House basement he organized
a lucrative trade in cocaine, weapons, and American hostages involving
Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, South Africa, China, and other devotees
of liberty and justice for all. The profits went to killing Nicaraguans.
"Blood and Guts" North is asked
about having lied in previous testimony. North replies that he
wasn't authorized to tell the truth.
1987 Oliver North
The media boldly describe North's chin
line, haircut, and the way his voice chokes up. ABC's Ted Koppel
claims North held "an entire nation enthralled." John
Chancellor calls his testimony 'a terrific performance."
Dan Rather declares it "Washington theater at its best."
Seizing on North fans buying Ollie T-shirts and getting Ollie-style
hair-cuts, the networks portray him as a folk hero.
Murdered Nicaraguans, many thousands gone,
cannot attend the festival of self-congratulation.
Their next of kin are not invited.
1989 East St. Louis - America's Soweto
Under a pollution-darkened sky, raw sewage
backs up into homes, playgrounds, and schools, provoking warnings
of cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid. Uncollected garbage piles
up in lead-contaminated backyards, spawning a plague of rodents
and flies. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch observes that the odor
of burning trash "has become one of the scents of spring.
" A year ago a policeman reported 'rats as big as puppies"
outside his mother's house.
Sandwiched between Pfizer and Monsanto
plants and a trash incinerator, East St. Louis sits enveloped
in clouds of poisonous fumes that belch forth from vents and smokestacks
24 hours a day. Toxic spills and the wail of alarm sirens are
so routine that Monsanto maintains a standing account at St. Mary's
Hospital. Local children suffer from one of the highest rates
of child asthma in the United States.
Of 66 cities in Illinois, East St. Louis
ranks first in fetal death, first in premature birth, and third
in infant death. It has no obstetric services, no regular trash
pick up, and almost no jobs. Three-quarters of its population
subsists on welfare.
A local school named after Martin Luther
King is 100% black.
It is full of sewer water and its doors
are locked with chains.
Greatest Story Never Told