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Why Corporate Media Focuses on Benghazi Instead of Guatemalan Genocide

What happened in Guatemala deserves significant contemplation and discussion.

Photo Credit: Milan


Last week two important stories about U.S. foreign policy broke. First, the White House released some 100 pages of e-mails confirming a dastardly scandal: rather than call the Benghazi attack a “terrorist act,” President Obama, in a Nixonian power grab, called it an, “act of terror.”

The second story broke in a country most Americans can’t place on a map—a U.S.-backed dictator in Guatemala, Efrain Rios Montt, was convicted of genocide. This is the first time any such conviction has been reached in a domestic court of law. The  dictator was found guilty on May 10 of overseeing deliberate killings by the armed forces of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil pupulation during his rule between 1982 and 1983, and sentenced to 80 years in prison. (The case has since been overturned, and the constitutional court announced it had thrown out all proceedings in the case dating back to April 19.  Judges quarrelled over who should take the case, and the trail was suspended.)

Yet, the former story has sucked up media coverage and the latter has wallowed in obscurity. Of major U.S. publications, only The New York Times has given the story any real coverage and even there, the coverage of Benghazi dwarfed that of Guatemala. The Wall Street Journal included a few conservative pundits accusing the international left—whatever that is—of playing politics with genocide (more on that later).  Fox News online picked up a few AP wires. But, ultimately, a general Google news search for “Rios Montt” brings up 11,000 results while a search for “Benghazi report” brings up 107,000 results. Benghazi is receiving 10 times more coverage than the first ever domestic court conviction of genocide.

What happened in Guatemala deserves significant contemplation and discussion. Given that it is now a popular trend among neoconservatives to own up to US-inflicted atrocities, it is especially dumbfounding that nobody is covering the issue.

A few of the atrocities committed by US-assigned dictators the world over have inspired retrospective media coverage of various flavors over the years.

In The Atlantic, Robert Kaplan writes that  Ethiopia should lament the fact that the U.S. hasn’t installed a Pinochet there. This merits a brief summary of Pinochet’s actions: 

The Guardian reported in 2004, “a year-long investigation into state-sponsored torture in Chile has documented that an estimated 35,000 people were abused during the 1973-90 military regime.”  The Independent reported in 1998 that, “Prisoners at both centres were subjected to electric shocks, severe beatings, suspensions from ceilings until their wrists tore, and rapes.”  A recent Guardian story, detailing the torture of the Allende (Allende was the democratically-elected leader that Pinochet overthrew) supporter Leopoldo García Lucero describes some of the torture he faced: “The torture did not stop. He was suspended with weights on his legs, kicked in the testicles and burned with cigarettes.”

Ah, if only the Ethiopians could have had such a benevolent leader. When Pinochet was finally replaced by the democratically-elected Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin the country did not delve into chaos, but rather inequality and poverty—caused by the Western economic reforms Pinochet instituted—decreased, while education reform provided an impetus for upward mobility.

Similarly, in the wake of Iran-Contra, Dick Cheney laid blame not on Oliver North and the Reagan Administration for covertly funding the Contras,  but rather on Congress for failing to approve the funds. I’ll let this excerpt from another  Guardian report (quoted in William Blum’s book  Killing Hope) suffice as a rebuttle:

"Rosa had her breasts cut off. Then they cut into her chest and took out her heart. The men had their arms broken, their testicles cut off. They were killed by slitting their throats and pulling the tongue out through the slit."

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