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tv   Inside Story  Al Jazeera  March 30, 2016 6:30pm-7:01pm EDT

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>> i lived that character. >> we will be able to see change. >> it became known as argentina's dirty war. the coup in 1976 that led to the imprisonment and abduction and murder of tens of thousands of dissidents. last week, president obama visited, ceremonies meant to honor the disappeared. and as the president stood side-by-side with his argentine counterpart, he vowed to unveil new details about america's
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involvement in the bloody conflict. america's dirty war, it's the "inside story". >> welcome to inside the reef, i'm ray suarez. the state department has already declassified more than 4,000 documents from the dirty war era. most of them underscore a deep divide among senior u.s. officials about how to respond to the military regime that took over in argentina in 1976. at the center of the controversy, the former secretary of state, henry kissinger, who met with the leaders shortly after the coup. now president obama is promising to take another step to tans appearance, by declassifying more documents
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detailing america's involvement in the conflict. the president saying "democracies have to have the currently when we don't live up to the ideals this we stand for when we have been slow to speak up for human rights." >> there has been controversy about the policies of the united states early in those dark days ago. >> reporter: president obama's visit last week coincided with the 40th anniversary of argentina's coup de ta, when the argentinian president was overthrown. obama on the banks of the rio de la plassa. >> the pledge to continue to help families of the victims find some of the fruit in justice this they deserve, i can announce that the united states government will declassify even more documents from that period.
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>> reporter: the u.s. military and tense documents are expected to show the u.s. role during argentina's brutal military dictatorship. the state department papers released in 2002, and the national security archive, dedicated to open government. secretary of state henry kissinger talks about the gubs. two days after the 1976 coup, one of the kissinger staffers told him, we have to expect a fair amount of repression, and a good amount of blood in argentina before long. they have to come down hard, not only on the terrorists, but the party. kiss iger replied, i do want to encourage them but don't want to give the sense that they're harassed bit united states. in 2004, the national security archive had a conversation
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between kissinger and argentina's foreign minister. when he told kissinger that the main problem was terrorism, kissinger applied: kissinger made it clear, he wanted to stand by, and the appointment of the cabinet and new congress likely to cut millions in military aid to argentina. argentina's military used the word terrorist freely, to describe any challenger to its authority, including leftist guerillas, and socialists. a mission found that the military disappeared 10,000 people, but hewn rights groups put it closer to 30,000. the children of the disappeared are not happy with president obama's visit. >> respect to obama's visit,
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for us as president, beyond obama, this country has created the biggest genocide in the history of humanity. >> with the declassification of documents, it's likely to shed more light on the dark time of argentina, but it has remained shrouded in secrecy. >> america's dirty war, this time on the program, and we'll begin the program with larry burns, the director of the council on hemispherix affairs, and welcome to the program. larry, have the documents already released point to things that have yet to be released? give us an idea of what it is that we still don't know about the u.s. argentine relationship in those years? >> we know very little. and that's because the civilian government that came into power
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after 1983 felt threatened by the military, even after the military had returned to the barracks, and the result of that, the documents were hot property. no one wanted to touch them. and magnitude in the city. what happened was, at that point, the attention taking place finally the president of argentina, christine peron, she removed amnesty from the military. we had a military that killed, it was unparalleled in latin american history. no one believed
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[ audio difficulties ] the secretary of state kissinger knew all about what was going on. not only tolerated but cooperated with it. >> let's go back to the 1970s, the final days of the ford administration, and we have hot places in africa, and burgeoning ones, and opposing the united states in various flashpoints around want world, what was the american attitude toward the military regimes in south america? >> you're dealing with hard facts. first of all, david rockefeller, who was extremely influential in the republican administrations at the time, was a profound friend of a
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number of argentine military officials. in a bit, the last meeting of the board of directors was held in argentine a the prime minister of argentine a the -- i remember a debate took place at princeton university, in which we made the position about the dirty war, and how many people were being killed and so forth, and mr. rockefeller said that's all commie propaganda. a lot of people had no idea.
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and the military government and the military rule of course what was happening at the time. and most people didn't even know where argentina was. >> is there an assumption that when these last documents are released, there will be material in there that's embarrassing to the united states? and to those still living, senior government officials at the time? >> well, of course a lot of people were wiped out by this, and others made a heroic role. there was an ambassador to argentina, a man named vasquez. he was stationed in argentina, and he was a humanitarian. he was a man who constantly
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risked his life to save other people's lives. and when you were talking before about admiral abus buset, he was a notoriously vicious man, and he had vindictive feelings of those who did not see it sufficiently severe. there was almost no character. and the whole thing was a fiction, and under the guise of threats to the security of the united states, kissinger was able to manufacture a scenario
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which was not only uncouth, but was very very dangerous. >> larry burns, the director of the council on hemisphereica fairs, great to have you with us. america's dirty war. we'll speak with two victims of the coup in argentina after the break.
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>> you're watching "inside story," i'm ray suarez. argentina, and it's newly leaked president, president obama promised to release documents detailing the u.s. involvement in argentina during the years that the u.s. government was hunting and torturing and killing it's domestic opponents. joining me for the rest of the program, a former political prisoner in argentina, and for democracy, danielle came to the united states from argentina, and the latin american program for scholars. danielle deutsche, let me start with you, did you have any idea that you were an enemy of the state? when people started disappearing into jails and
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never being seen again? >> let me tell you that pro democracy, so in a way, the state, as you probably know, they were looking for me, they abducted my family, and we appeared in part to the efforts of the carter administration, through patricia darien, who was stationed at the u.s. embassy in buenos aires. yes, in other words, everybody was in danger, that anybody that was against the
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dictatorship was in danger. my mother was an intellectual, political, we were in danger. >> fernando, it's interesting that we heard such a tough deannunciation earlier in the program from a demonstrator on the streets of buenos aires. hostility toward the united states, yet you and daniel came to this country and made your lives here after that terrible period. the united states must have gone from being the villain to hero, to villain to back to being hero for many of your country's peep. >> yes, that is true, and most people really think of the united states in its role as the promoter of the military coupe of 1976, and not so many people in argentina know all the details about president carpenter's administration's different goal.
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so yeah, in original original, on the part of human rights activists, it will take a lot of time for the administration to change that. when what you saw last week, president obama's -- people were not totally convinced that it was good timing, but it was not enough that his words were not totally sincere. >> when the generals and the admirals took over, there were only nine or ten months left in the ford administration, and it seemed that henry kissinger was in a hurry to solidify things. how significantly did they flip when the carter administration came to washington? >> well, as you say, there's plenty of documentation that is
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declassified from the early 2,000s that shows that henry kissinger gave the message to the arn teen general's office in chile, that in the argentine case, that the main problem was to get it over quickly, to do what you have to do to eliminate subversion, and it's important to emphasize that there was a movement in argentina, directed to the erp and the montneros, who are largely wiped out in 1976, but the bulk of the repression, the peak of the pre-pression took place in the middle of 1976, toward the end of the year, and that's precisely the time when the message was coming from the u.s. secretary of state that the argentine general should do what they need to do to get it over quickly. >> but you heard, daniel deutsche, that there was a
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fairly widespread, the armed guerillas, and there are leaders of student organizations and they found themselves being classed the same way as the armed resistance. >> exactly, it included members of people's families, and trade unionists, democracy activists across the board, members of the church, including foreign nuns and priests and there was a sense after the guerilla movement was largely defeated by the end of the year that the repression went on for self more years, lots of disappearances and terrible bubbieses in original teen prisons and detention centers that were directed at this much broader smaug of
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civil society. >> we're looking back to the late stages of the cold war in latin america. argentina's government and u.s. support. america's dirty war. stay with us, it's "inside story".
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>> welcome back to "inside story". i'm ray suarez. we're looking at argentina's military government of the 1970s, and what, if any involvement the united states has in supporting a coup or the military government that took office. cynthia and fernando and daniel are with me. and fernando, what do we need to know at this point?
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with so many years removed, the tantalizing facts, and the involvement that are still needed to fill out the historical record? >> well, the promise to declassify the new documents, which documents would be, whether somebody will pick and choose the documents, or are they going to release all of them? but clearly, people need information about the whereabouts, disappearances, and if they were disposed of, killed. and 40 years ago, it was very fresh, and people are still very very familiar with that, and history, 40 years ago, but for argentinians, for many of them, this is very very fresh still. and so any new information would be crucial. they have requested what
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information it will be, and is it going to be enough? >> daniel, when a lot of countries in the last 40 years were moved from repressive governments back to democracy, many of them chose different ways of handling their recent history. the tortured and the torterrors were often walking on the same streets of the cities. how did argentina handle it after the generals were sent back to the barracks? >> first of all, it wasn't handled right after. there were some processes, but if you recall, a lot of those processes were reverted. they never gave amnesty. so in reality, most of the processes started with the
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government. but regarding that, it is important to know that argentina is a country in dispute, and it has been in dispute for several decades, i would say, and therefore, not only did the united states, the forces that acted upon argentina during the coup. many people has to wonder if they released these records, what are they going to do with criminals, war criminals like kissinger himself? or what are they going to do with other people that are still in the realm of the u.s. government. are they going to be prosecuted?
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are they going to be, the case of those being reprimanded. >> talking about how our country comes to terms with its own past, america almost seems unaware of its implications in these countries, and do we have to do a kind of accounting like the way this country did in africa, in central america, and in south america during the cold war? >> i think that there has been a fair amount of accounting. thousands of pages of classified documents, reflecting on human rights abuses of the warriors in el salvador, in the declassification effort around guatemala and around argentina, and these are ones that either were requested by the u.s.
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congress, done by the executive branch. other documents have come into the public record, largely as a result of freedom of information request by non-government organization. i would like to take issue here. i think that i would certainly, with humility, differ with people from argentina who directly suffered the consequences of these terrible military governments. but i think that we have to be careful about the use of certain language, war criminals, whatever, applied to u.s. officials. i think that there's a difference between the people who carried out these atrocities, and the people who seemed to influence political sanction to them, and that's what we're talking about. you asked earlier about the carter administration, there was certainly a change of tone and an emphasis on human rights issues, but a lot of disagreement within the carter
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administration, as there had been in the ford administration. you had the u.s. ambassador to buenos aires giving very strong messages about human rights, saying, we know there's trouble, but there are certain lines that civilized governments should never cross, and the kind of people, including vice president nelson rockefeller, here in washington. within the carter administration, you had the political officer in argentina, who personally maintained his own mails, and threw open the doors of the embassy to the families of the disappeared. and many say that those people saved their lives. and at the same time, there are others who are much more circumspect about how the united states, and whether the united states should distance itself, and whether we should be supporting moderates as
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oppose to hardliners, and the congressional efforts to cut off military aid. so i think there's a division. >> it's a complicated story, and a complicated past. we have barely scratched the surface. i want to thank my guests. that's the "inside story". join us tomorrow for a look at recent breakthroughs in againetic science. peace of mind with vulnerability todies, and if you know, make sure that no one else does. i'm ray suarez, good night.
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