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Monday, May 5, 2014

Guerrillas in Our Midsts: Remembering the Progressives and Their Love for the Central American Insurgencies.

The eight readers of this blog might know that I served in Guatemala, 1988-1992. It was an odd time in Central America. The great armed guerrilla movements of El Salvador and Guatemala were on their last legs. At times it didn't feel like it, but the trend line was definitely downwards for them. Despite the best efforts of the Democrats in the US Congress, campus "progressives," European and American "human rights activists," leftist journalists, the Nobel Prize Committee, the Castro regime, the Soviets, the Sandinistas, and Mexico, the guerrillas were losing ground. In Guatemala, despite the many roadblocks thrown in their way by the US Congress, the Guatemalan army, then one of the toughest bunch of fighters you ever could meet, was grinding the guerrilla bands into military dust and political irrelevance. Using scarce and antiquated equipment, and relying on small units led by some excellent lieutenants, captains, and majors, the Guatemalans had developed their own anti-insurency doctrine and tactics, and were winning. It was tough, brutal fighting, and niceties were not often observed by either side; the guerrillas were on the run and barely kept alive largely thanks to the life-line from Mexico.

Those of us in the Embassy who spent a lot of time in the field knew this, and tried to tell Washington. The Great Ones back in DC, however, were not really listening, totally absorbed, as they were, by the battle with the "progressives" on the Hill, trying to appease them, and spouting the mantra that the 30-year war could not be won, and only a negotiated end was possible. They also were not interested in taking Mexico to task for its support of guerrilla movements--Mexico did eventually abandon the guerrillas as NAFTA negotiations with the US advanced and got paid back with the Chiapas conflict.

During my four years in Guatemala, we had countless visits from "human rights activists," leftist "journalists," and Congressional staff, usually of the Democrat variety. These, after all, were the days of Democratic rule of the lower house. For some reason, the Ambassador designated me as the primary on receiving  these American and European lefties who came through Guatemala and dropped in on the Embassy to hear our briefing--well, actually, they came in to yell at, spit on, and insult Satan, and I was Satan's designated flak catcher (to paraphrase Tom Wolfe). As a then relatively young officer, I was taken aback at how Americans, including members of Congressional staff, could be so anti-American and so pro-communist. It was a shock that made me understand that the Democratic Party had gotten on the bus to Loopyville and never gotten off. They wanted the communist guerrillas to win.

I had run into the opposition to America that came from the Democratic party before serving in Guatemala. I took part as a member of the US delegation to the 77th Conference of the Interparliamentary Union held at Managua, Nicaragua, April 27-May 2, 1987--you can click here and read the US delegation's report if you're sorely in need of dull reading material (I get mentioned in passing). It was an inconsequential meeting as such meetings go, although it was the first big do put on for the world community by the Sandinistas. The event was held at the newly built Olaf Palme Center, and Mrs. Lisbet Palme came and gave an opening speech in which she blamed her husband's assassination the previous year on the CIA. It all went downhill from there.

The Sandinistas had opted for what was then a technologically fancy translation system; delegates could walk around the center with wireless headsets over which the numerous speeches were simultaneously translated into the five or six official languages of the conference. Some African delegates thought the gadgets would work on the street; that they could engage Spanish-speaking Nicaraguans, and the headphones would translate--just like on Star Trek. The expensive sets began disappearing, and the Sandinista hosts had to dash about trying to wrestle them away from delegates before they walked out the door. I found quite interesting how racist Sandinista liberators of humanity could be--they, of course, didn't realize that I could understand their derogotory remarks about the Africans, even if I wasn't wearing a headset. A memorable personal encounter with the fact that racism and leftism go hand-in-hand.

If one went out into the field, and got away from the Sandinista handlers, there was no doubt that the "Contras" were winning the war. They had the support of ordinary people almost regardless of status. I saw first hand the so-called "sweaty palm" syndrome among Sandinista officials in the countryside; they would quietly sidle up to the gringos, and tell us how they, of course, did not really support the FSLN, and how they loved the USA, and that "everybody here is a Contra, and so are we." The obvious message being that when these Contras win, please use your influence to save us. Well, the problem was that the battle was being fought in the US Congress, and the Democrats managed to cut off all funding for the Contras soon after our visit to Nicaragua. The Sandinistas were saved by the Democrats, and the opposition lost all faith in the word and promises of the United States.

The pattern repeats and repeats and repeats . . .

31 comments:

  1. I think there are far more than "eight" readers of the blog.

    Been a reader since the "saber-toothed tiger theory."

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  2. Matt, the Seventh ReaderMay 5, 2014 at 7:34 PM

    I am proud to count myself among your legions of readers. Our ranks are probably approaching double digit numbers by now.

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  3. I am probably the the twelfth reader

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  4. Q: "Who is number one?"

    A: "You are number six. I am number two."

    Kindly indulge me. Couldn't help myself.

    Thanks for this, DM.

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    1. Leo McKern was a fine Number 2, but he was born to play Rumpole.

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  5. G'day Dip,

    Second time - thought the O'Barmy Secret Police had got you when the original post disappeared. Any Black Chevvy Suburbans parked in your street lately?

    Don't know what number reader I am as it is difficult to read them upside down as we are here in Oz or you are in the northern hemisphere depending on one's point of view.

    Interesting post. We don't get much on South & Central American Politics down here as it really doesn't concern us all that much. Though we did get a bit when Ollie North was in the hot seat over some arms deal.

    Interest in El Salvador and Guatemala is pretty minimal and my impression of Guatemala was/is that they were a bit of a bully where their relationship to their little neighbour Belize is concerned and probably to do with access to decent port facilities.

    Perhaps a Brit military type reader may know more as the Brits had a pretty strong commitment to the security of Belize and from my limited knowledge that was pretty much to do with Guatemala.

    Back in early '88 part of my job was with anti-terrorist stuff and a couple of friends from the dark side of military intelligence here knew a fair bit about the area as they were watching the counter insurgency ops with some interest due to the tropical/jungle terrain and we have lots of that to the north of us.

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  6. kerry tried to excusehis and obama's foreign policy results by saying that the cold war era was simpler.

    HAHAHAHA!

    simpler!?!?!?!?

    if it was so simple, then why was he and hillary and harkin and the rest of the dove side of the dem party ON THE OTHER SIDE!?!?

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  7. Progressivism. A bent form of supremacism; a supremacist movement riven with malignant egalitarianism.

    Why do today's chants of "racist" so frequently hail from the lips of bigots; self-assured supremacists of malformed demeanor and tyrannical disposition covetous of the property, being and liberties of differing others?

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  8. I still have never figured out why the Salvadoreans elected Ortega after all that or how Chile seems to be leaning left after years of great success. Of course, I had a bottle of Champagne ready for the Romney election so I am obviously upside down, as well.

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    1. On my two short trips to Nicaragua I learned that, as Dip states, the majority of the people did not support Ortega's cabal in the early years. The only thing I ever heard the locals out in the poor rural areas say the Sandanistas ever did for them was a large project to provide decent outdoor privies -- all covered, of course with their slogans.
      Most everyone was happier once Ortega's bunch were out. Unfortunately for them he took advantage of a split electorate, and used his gift of glib talking to convince the people he was no longer a leftist revolutionary. Sort of like lefties everywhere. Sadly, enough believed the hype and country is stuck with him.
      Sound familiar??

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  9. I learn a lot here and I stop by daily.

    #8

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  10. Far more than eight readers, DP. I post anonymously on rare occasions but your blog is one of a handful I make a daily sojourn to. I'm constantly amazed at the depth of your articles and of course the comments section is a real gem. I served with the Military Group in El Salvador in the early to mid 80's and saw first hand the utterly schizophrenic progressive obstructionism of the Congress ( Lord how I hated hearing Tip O'Neil et am speak). The self loathing of so many in the media, popular culture, ie Oliver Stone's movie was complete BS, not to mention Ed Asners ignorant romanticization of the FMLN.....made it very difficult to understand what they were saying with what we were doing in supporting the Salvadoran Army and by extension the government. I still don't understand how so many stand against foreign policy strategies and goals that benefit our country and those we employ these strategies in. Guess I was and still am naive in this regard.
    Thanks for the things you write about, I find your passion and ability express yourself engaging, at times biting, but always interesting

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  11. I have been reading your blog for over a year. Very informative!

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  12. I thought your eulogy for GGM was excellent. Keep up the good work.

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  13. If we are all going to select our places, I am reader #5. I first encountered The Diplomat some years back in his first version of this blog, and while he was still serving.
    The stories of the corrupt and incompetent UN during the 2004 Indonesia tsunami were simply things those of us outside of the State department simply never heard about.
    I knew it wouldn’t last. Anonymous at the time, but I knew that he wasn’t the only bright bulb in the State Department. The Diplomad would be identified, and asked to not publish stories on the Internet.
    I was delighted to see his return, and followed since.

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    1. I too discovered the Diplomad during that tsunami. Through it I learned the gap between what was being talked about and what was being done as rescue efforts made news. I learned that all of our Down Under cousins were either in route or on the scene and not waiting for the UN or Washington. Though that Diplomad may have been a tad younger and a bit more svelt, today's version was worth the wait during the required quiet period.

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  14. Sometimes I get too angry to write about the willingness of the Democrat party to reflexively side with Commies or their proxies. I had experiences in Latin America back in the late 1970s. Things were beginning to boil then but not yet to the mid 1980s level. I was always suspicious of anyone who looked like me---lean Anglo--until I heard them speak. Then what they spoke about.

    I have tried over the years to figure out where these warped souls--too many Democrats--got their genetic malfunctions. The Great Depression seems a starting point for many like Harold Ickes Sr (and his red diaper baby boy Harold Jr). WW2 seemed to bring a pause but then Uncle Joe Stalin erected the Iron Curtain which I experienced more than once. The red scare and Joe McCarthy over did it and that launched the Left's anti-anticommunist movement.

    Lefty heroes were caught and jailed and a few got worse and this infuriated the Lefty pols, media and academics. Vietnam, Castro, Latin America, Nixon...all drove the Lefties mad. Iran/Contra was one of the best responses to the House Dems I ever saw. This event pissed off the Russians, Democrats, Sandinistas, MSM, Cubans, Ed Asner etc etc.

    Too me all this stuff with Obama and his politburo, the MSM, their political party is, I believe, just an extension of the past with them giving as much pay back as possible to their enemies and persecutors, before they get bounced out on their Red Liberal asses. I ain't forgetting, and I hold a grudge and I'd better quit typing as I am getting a bit too warm.

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    1. High again, Mr. Wall.

      The 'crats aren't reflexively willing to side with the Commies. It isn't a reflex; it's deliberate. And it isn't the Commies or even the left, per se; it's whoever America's enemies are.

      What are they against, in theory? Clan-based theocratic woman-hating gay-killing slave-holding need-I-go-on. But the overwhelming virtue of Muslims, to them--trumping all of that stuff--is that they are enemies of the United States.

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    2. a6z....It's been a while, good to see you. I appreciate your calm clear response. You've always been good at those. It seems the Libs use terms to describe Conservatives that should be used only for true enemies. When a true enemy shows up, the Libs are out of anything to say. Thus I guess when Muslims want to build an Islamic Center on the edge of Ground Zero, the Libs drop to their knees.

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  15. I began perusing about 9 months ago. I reckon I'm unique reader #976,414 or so. Damn good stuff. Max.

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  16. Two areas I will appreciate systemic root elucidation on are:
    1. The Balkan crisis and American Foreign policy under Clinton; and
    2. NAFTA (it's impact on Mexico and Canada and the broader implications for the rest of the Americas and why it is generally viewed negatively in the US). Max.

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  17. Back in the Sillier 'Seventies, when I was a college student, I was told that the epitome of participatory democracy, low-cost development, and the end to alienation existed in Mao's China (then in the throes of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution). Later, when dealing with students from Mainland China and people in China itself in the early '90's, I would always get embarrassed, incredulous titters when I related that story.

    Whitewall: I think a lot of this began around WWII, when nothing bad could be said about any ally--especially "Uncle Joe" Stalin. A host of Communist writers such as Edgar Snow and Theodore White also puffed the Chinese Communists in Yan'an as "the only real fighters in China" at a time when the forces of the Chinese Nationalist government were bearing the brunt of Japan's aggression.

    While we're at it, I served in China (AmConsul Guangzhou) shortly after the Tiananmen business. It was said that following the Romanians' execution of the Ceaucescu's ("good, moderate Communists"), ordinary Chinese sent so many congratulatory telegrams and letters to the Romanian Embassy in Beijing that they filled someone's office up to a tall man's armpits.

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    1. Kepha....I remember my elders referring to Uncle Joe Stalin, just not in a kind way. My grandfather detested Stalin, Roosevelt and a few more. He referred to admirers of Roosevelt as "new deal Reds". I remember seeing news video of Ceaucescu's crumpled body in the gutter after his people found him and put an end to him. I approved. Good Communists? We were told that only dead ones were "good". Alas I have no experience with Asia and have to rely on your reports, as well as some others here, to fill in the gaps.

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    2. @Whitewall:

      What I sense is that a lot of people who've had the severe providence of living under Marxist-Leninist regimes develop a deep hatred of that system. It's a reason why some of the international developments I watch with a great deal of interest include an unprecedented growth of Christianity in China and the professed conversion to his ancestral Eastern Orthodoxy by a guy like Volodya Putin.

      Here's something else I've noticed: I know a number of immigrant Christians from Mainland China. Quite a few of them are very fundamentalist, but I find that the rejection of evolution on the part of many of them seems to stem less from the conviction that the Bible needs to be read "literally" (a poor shibboleth, I fear) than from a desire to reject everything to do with the Marxist-Leninist belief system, which they found oppressive.

      As an American who thinks himself a patriot, I shudder for my country in these days when we are under a POTUS and cohort who are informed by Communist indoctrination in their youth, and who have not really grown out of it.

      My quip about "good, moderate Communists" was put in quotes because it was an attitude we heard from American liberals for as long as I could remember--somehow, there were Marxist-Leninists uncompromised by Stalin's infection. Frankly, from my point of view, Stalin's victory was God's mercy to suffering Russia, for I believe that had Trotsky succeeded, he was the sort of sterling idealist who would've easily shown himself a European Pol Pot.

      Finally, your grandfather sounds like the kind of guy with whom I might've gotten along well.

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    3. Kepha....thanks, I didn't know Christianity was alive and growing in China. I assumed just the opposite. I caught your "moderate" Communists, but I couldn't resist. Yes, you would have gotten along well with my grandfather based on what you write. He and I are of the same cloth. He only read about it. I've seen a good bit of it. Thus I am as I am and proud of it.

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  18. Robert of OttawaMay 7, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    Mexico did eventually abandon the guerrillas as NAFTA negotiations with the US advanced and got paid back with the Chiapas conflict.

    That's a very interesting aside. Paid back by who?

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  19. Is my memory failing? My recollection is that the Guatemalan insurgency was crushed during the period running from the spring of 1982 to the end of 1984, and was only operating in remote zones in the western part of the country, living as a residuum until the formal amnesty in 1996. You are saying there was active warfare ca. 1990?

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    1. Yes there was, but very reduced and most in remote areas of the country near the mexican border.

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  20. In El Salvador the Useless director question the Salvadoran request for gunship-helicopters, while acting as handpuppet for the senile old ambassador. Once he departed ther gunships arrived along with AC-47s and guess wyhat happened to the G's. The political types were more interested in seeing what the NYTimes was saying than dealing with the military or ARENA types. State is just a cesspool and the in this period Central America collected a unique spectrum of losers and slugs.

    Some are now ambassadors where they have created more Junior officers in their own image. Is it any wonder that State is about as effective as a accordian in a allegator hunt.

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  21. Thanks for posting the link to the IPU minutes. That was my first FS tour and the embassy provided support to the US delegation. And I have a few Sandinista Nicaragua stories as well....

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