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20/03/2013 | Pope Francis and some still dirty secrets from Argentina’s so-called dirty 'war'

Martin Edwin Andersen

When the accuser should stand among the accused

 

While much of the world celebrates the selection of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the choice of Pope Francis has brought in its wake accusations that, as the provincial superior for the Society of Jesus in his native Argentina during the 1970s “dirty war,” he was far too passive in the face of atrocities, and even charges that he betrayed two Jesuit priests to the military dictatorship. 

Left unaddressed by the news media is the colaborationist background of the chief architect of accusations against the Pope—the person at the forefront of claims that this authenic "champion of the poor" (something Bergoglio shares in common with most of the generals’ other religious victims) turned his back on fellow Jesuits tortured, and other priests murdered, during the repression.

How is it that the Washington Post, the New Republic, Reuters, the Associated Press, and others extensively quote allegations made by this Argentine against the spiritual leader of world Christianity, without also explaining who this purported human rights advocate is?

Why are their stories missing critical information about what the papal accuser himself did as some 25,000 of his countrymen were detained and secretly tortured and murdered in concentration camps that in their horror and number imitated the practices of the Nazis, so admired by many of the Argentine generals of that time?

The truth be told, perhaps the Pope’s accuser and the self-proclaimed campaigner against “ethical betrayal,” the Argentine journalist Horacio Verbitsky—should stand among the accused, once the course of his own career is appropriately addressed.

In one of his books heavily (and unfortunately by many, authoritatively) cited now, The Silence, Verbitsky claims that Bergoglio lifted Church protection from two left-leaning Jesuits, resulting in their being jailed and tortured after they refused to end their politicized ministry in the slums of Buenos Aires.

Since Bergoglio’s ascension to the papacy, Verbitsky has, to quote the Argentine publication Perfil, “redoubled his bet against the Pope,” making the pseudo-Bolivarian claim that Bergoglio’s appointment was “a shame for Argentina and for South America.”

Verbitsky also charges that the new “ersatz” pontiff not only turned his back on Jesuit priests, thus directly contributing to their arrests and torture, but also was party to an undeniable collusion of some in the Church hierarchy with the uniformed junta.

I used to be a good friend of Verbitsky's, dating to the time that I was a special correspondent for the Washington Post and Newsweek in the 1980s. (Verbitsky used to joke that I was his "first and only" American friend.) When I later went to work for Senate Majority Whip Alan Cranston on the professional staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we spent considerable time trying to help a supposedly crusading Verbitsky in his various scrapes with the corrupt government of Carlos Menem.

It wasn't until much later that I uncovered that this self-proclaimed former leftwing Montonero guerrilla intelligence chief, and—when I knew him—supposedly small "d" democrat, was in fact the ghostwriter of a book dedicated to the ruling dictatorship’s junta and published by the Argentine Air Force in May of 1979.

That date is key. The generals'  dirty "war" against critical sectors of Argentine society was still in its most murderous phase, with the person who later also became my friend and Newsweek colleague—Jacobo Timerman—still in captivity, his case becoming an international rallying point for the Carter Administration and others concerned about human rights. (If not for international pressure—led by the U.S. State Department—Timerman could very well have ended up like the thousands of desaparecidos who remain missing to this day.)

In El Poder Aereo de los Argentinos not only was Horacio given full credit for being its ghostwriter: “This book could not have arrived at the printing press if it wasn’t for the permanent encouragement and efficacious collaboration of Horacio Verbitsky.”

The tome was at the same time dedicated in part to the military regime responsible for the secret torture and death of tens of thousands. (“I dedicate this work … to my Air Force compatriots …to those who head it today …”)

The retired military man for whom Verbitsky "ghostwrote" the book, Air Force senior official Juan José Güiraldes, himself a former Timerman business partner, later admitted that he tried to keep the state of Israel from defending Latin America's largest Jewish community then under attack by a largely pro-Nazi military.

Just as important is the fact that—while thousands of other Argentines faced clandestine torture and death after torture-induced “discoveries” so innocent as having been listed in a friend’s personal telephone book—the supposedy clandestine and well-known former Montonero intelligence chief Verbitsky could be thanked by name in an armed forces publication.

As Timerman would later comment to me, how was it that his former employee Verbitsky, well known as a former Montonero intelligence official, was allowed to live undisturbed in Buenos Aires during the worst of the military repression? To which I would add: How was it that Verbitsky could be mentioned, by name, in a book read by the same vicious military he opposed in armed struggle, and not be bothered? 

[Verbitsky has limited his public comment about the whole post-guerrilla audition to saying that he helped "ghost" a book on "Argentine air transportation."]

Verbitsky’s claims against the Pope have also been challenged by some of the real heroes of the fight against the military and its ludicrous later demands for impunity for “saving” the Free World in what they called the “opening battle of World War III.”

Adolfo Perez Esquivel, the human rights activist and pacifist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980, while acknowledging that some members of the Catholic clergy were complicit with the military junta, attested to the fact that Bergoglio was no friend of the military junta and should not be blamed.

Julio Strassera, the former federal prosecutor who successfully presided over the historic 1985 “mini-Nuremberg” trials against the dictators, called attempts by Verbitsky and his friends—senior officials of the corrupt government of President Cristina Fernández—to link Bergoglio to the atrocities “a dirty trick.”

“It is absolutely false—during the entire trial there was not a single mention” of Bergoglio, Strassera pointed out, noting that the Cardinal’s name also did not surface in the Raul Alfonsin government’s official and much praised Never Again (Nunca Mas) study of the period.

A lie, Winston Churchill once noted, “gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

Even so, is it too much to ask that the media be appropriately dressed before engaging in questions about this world, and the next?

Martin Edwin Andersen is the author of Dossier Secreto: Argentina’s Desparecidos and the Myth of the “Dirty War,” called a “tour de force” in a full page review in the Sunday New York Times, as well as two others on Latin America. Dossier Secreto is dedicated in part to Monsignor Enrique Angelelli, the bishop of the Argentine province of La Rioja, who was murdered by the military in 1976 as part of their campaign against those who symbolized the “Church of the People.”

Read Horacio Verbitsky Bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horacio_Verbitsky

Offnews.info (Argentina)

 

  Downloads
Download Cover and reference "El Poder Aereo de los Argentinos"
Download Document 2 "El Poder Aereo de los Argentinos"

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