Truth commission? – ‘This is not Latin America!’

Garzón aviva la causa de Guantánamo. El juez desoye al fiscal y apremia a Estados Unidos para que aporte información. Acepta otras tres acusaciones populares (Pú

What a tangled web: the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, the Dirty War in Argentina, property scams and political corruption in Marbella, the political violence of Henry Kissinger, the atrocities of Pinochet, the abuses at Guantánamo, and the Bush Six: Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Douglas Feith, William Haynes II, Jay Bybee, and David Addington…

These diverse episodes of history all come together in a dance macabre under the direction of Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón.

This may be now slightly old news, but it’s such a complex and ever-changing story that a little history gives it some grounding. Who is Garzón?

Garzón, battle-scarred Spanish judge, has in his time filed charges of genocide against Argentine military officers over the disappearance of Spanish citizens during Argentina’s 1976-1983 ‘Dirty War’, resulting in convictions.

His investigations led to the conviction of a Spanish PSOE minister under Felipe González, as head of the GAL clandestine counter-terrorism organisation (death squads clumsily fighting ETA).

His investigations have also led to the conviction of ETA terrorists.

He investigated the larger-than-life gangster and Marbella property developer-cum-mayor Jesús Gil.

He led investigations into extra judiciary executions during Franco’s regime, and directed the exhumation of unmarked mass graves, one of them believed to have contained the remains of García Lorca.

Along with certain Chileans, Garzón has repeatedly declared his interest in prosecuting Henry Kissinger for his involvement (direction) in setting up Operation Condor, the international intelligence-sharing network (or terror organisation) initiated in the Southern Cone in 1975.

He has investigated Islamic terrorists operating in Spain, as well as major drug traffickers.

He is probably best known as the investigating magistrate who issued the precedent-setting arrest warrant for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (and dear friend of Thatcher’s) in 1998 while he was undergoing treatment in a London hospital.

He has now publicly opened filed criminal charges against officials of the Bush administration.

Spanish court opens investigation of Guantánamo torture allegations (Guardian, 29/04/09).

The Bush Six to Be Indicted (Scott Horton in The Daily Beast)

Spanish Judge Resumes Torture Case Against Six Senior Bush Lawyers (Andy Worthington in HuffPost 08/09/09)

Now, this filing came only a few weeks after Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy called for a thorough investigation, proposing “a truth and reconciliation commission”, which was applauded by hundreds of individuals and organisations, such as Human Rights First.

Similarly, Ricardo Sanchez, former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq who retired over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, back in June, called ‘for a truth commission to investigate Bush-era policies behind the abuse and controversial interrogations of detainees.’ (CNN, 02/06/09) “Until America can really understand what has happened and look at it objectively and truthfully, we will still continue to be mired in the past,” Sanchez said. “We’ve got to learn the lessons and never go this way again.” (CNN)

The wonderful response of Republican Senator Arlen Specter to Leahy says it all:

“If every administration started to re-examine what every prior administration did, there would be no end to it. This is not Latin America.” (CNN Transcripts)

A Truth Commission…

Pinochet and Chile. Argentina. El Salvador. Guatemala. Panama. Peru…

Good grief, these places are full of Hispanics! They’re not like us…

Is this the biggest insult that could be made to a US politician? Kissinger must have felt the same just before the possible criminal charges against him were sidelined by 11th September 2001. It’s one thing to train those mustachioed Latins in the use of torture (see School of the Americas), it’s quite another thing to be likened to one.

Will Eric Holder lead a full investigation into the CIA abuses? Will it go all the way up the chain of command? Will it lead to prosecutions? Why is Obama so reluctant ‘to look back’?

Garzón was unable to extradite Pinochet. Maybe he’ll have better luck this time…

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