THE DEATH SQUADS:
BRINGING IN THE KINGDOM
OF GOD THROUGH TERROR,
TORTURE AND DEATH [1996]

Written By
S.R. Shearer

"Killing for the joy of it is wrong, but killing because it is necessary to fight against an anti-Christ system ... is not only right, but the duty of every Christian." [quoted in Cubie Ward's Paralife Ministries' newsletter, Living Word.; Paralife Ministries is associated with Larry Lea in its work in Central America, specifically, in El Salvador. Both Ward and Lea say they have dedicated the work of their ministry to "God's redemptive purpose in Central America."[1]

INTRODUCTION

Strange things have been going on in the name of Christ. Take the example of an evangelical pastor, Clemente Diaz Aguilar, who was detained by government forces in Guatemala and tortured by mistake: "My captors stole everything from me ... Those who captured me ... divided up my money, and later they led me into the hands of the torturers. In the long hours of torture, they asked me constantly about other pastors ... of some churches in the capital; they asked me also about my views on liberation theology ... The torturers, tired of doing so much damage to me, rested for a while; then I recognized some of them: two are members of a singing duo from these churches (i.e., Verbo and Mision Elim); I begged (them) to recognize me because I recognized them; then they asked me questions about my capture, my complete name, my address, my church and my activities. When they realized I was not the person they were looking for, they begged my forgiveness, saying, 'Brother, we are also Christians'."[2]

What does this mean? - that in building the kingdom of God on earth, it's OK to torture? - even your brothers in Christ if they are perceived to be on the "wrong side?" Obviously, the torturers knew Aguilar was an evangelical - it's just that they had mistaken him for another pastor whom they had reason to believe had gone "soft" in the struggle "to bring in the kingdom."

Of course, the larger question is, since when is it OK for any Christian to torture anyone, Christian or otherwise? What kind of a Gospel is being preached by evangelicals in Latin America? - obviously, at least in certain circles, it's a very politicized one.

Then there's the story of Dr. Myrna Cunningham in the Miskitu Indian border area between Honduras and Nicaragua. In December 1981, she was captured by Contra forces - elements of the same Contra forces supported by Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye and Larry Lea - and was beaten and repeatedly raped. Dr. Cunning-ham described the bizarre rape scene during which the Miskitus were singing hymns and praying. The Contras who had been involved in the rape later reported that they had been told by their pastors that killing and even torture (when necessary to obtain vital information) were permissible in a "just war" against an anti-Christ system[3] - and, if in the heat of the moment excesses like rape should occur, well, that certainly wasn't good, but that if they later confessed their sins, God would forgive and understand; after all, the purpose for which they were fighting was just.[4] [5 ]

Then there's the episode involving the Nicaraguan village of San Francisco del Norte, on the western border with Honduras; in July 1982 it was attacked by a band of 80 to 100 Contras. Fifteen village members were massacred - some even had their hearts cut out while they were still alive - and dozens more were kidnapped and tortured. While all this was going on, the killers and torturers were praising God, speaking in tongues and singing hymns.[6]

Asked to explain the participation of some of their members in these atrocities, one pastor answered, "... they don't massacre people ... They massacre demons, and these people are demon possessed: they're communists ..."[7]

THE DEATH SQUADS: STRUGGLING TO BRING IN THE KINGDOM

These are the Death Squads! - and whether Christians in America want to believe it or not, most of the men and women involved in Death Squad activity believe that they are embroiled in a "Holy War" to "bring in the kingdom of God""- and they are being surreptitiously supported in that view by countless numbers of Latin Americans (both evangelicals and conservative Catholics) who sincerely seem to think that this is the only way the forces of Satanic secularism and left-wing chaos can be fought.

A frightening glimpse into this kind of thinking was revealed in an extraordinary article, "How Argentina Won Its War Against Leftist Terrorism," which appeared in the February 13, 1982 edition of the conservative magazine Human Events.. The writers, both conservatives - former Chicago Sun-Times correspondent Virginia Prewett and former New York Times reporter William R. Mizella - interviewed members of the junta and conservative business and church leaders who had supported the Death Squads. One business leader praised those who had run them (i.e., the Death Squads) as "dedicated Christians." Another was quoted as follows: "Don't say it was I who said so, but the victory over ... (the left) began the day my wife said, 'There's no way out except to kill these monsters: we've got to kill them all'!" - [8]

Now talk of a Holy War against similar forces is surfacing in the United States, and while most American evangelicals would be appalled at the thought that they could ever be involved in the same kind of killing and torture in which their contemporaries were (are) involved in Latin America, this is where Political Christianity - especially when it's subjected to the urgency and tension of political and military conflict - ultimately leads most of its adherents, from the Crusades to the Thirty Years War to what's happening today in the former Yugoslavia. For American evangelicals to believe that they can involve themselves in this kind of thing without at the same time falling prey to the evil and excess associated with such a course of action is naive at best, and an exercise in titanic arrogance at worst. The really sad thing about it all, however, is that - unbeknownst to most Christians in America - they've already been involved in such a war - not in this country, but in Latin America; and maybe not directly, but indirectly through religious institutions and national security agencies which purport to represent them, institutions and agencies which today are at the forefront of urging just such a war on the United States in the name of "Christ and the Church."

Finally, the story of the Death Squads goes a long way in revealing the behind-the-scene maneuvering which has led to the rapprochement between Catholic conservatives and Protestant evangelicals, and does a lot to explain the under-the-table alliance both have struck with the Moonies. Evangelicals had better wake up to all the deal-making that's been going on in their name and in the name of their institutions.

CONCEPTUAL ORIGINS OF THE DEATH SQUADS

The concept behind the Death Squads in Latin America seems to have originated in Argentinean military circles[9] in the 1970s; most, if not all of them, were (are) linked to military intelligence, and police and national guard units as well as to various right-wing political parties throughout the area, such as El Salvador's ARENA Party.[10] Sources indicate, however, that lurking behind the Argentinean connection was (is) a much more powerful presence; that in point of fact, the Argentineans had picked up the concept from an American counter-intelligence program which had operated in South Vietnam during the late 60s and early 70s: the Phoenix Program,[11] and that the American intelligence community was the behind-the-scenes puppet master which was controlling the Argentineans.

The Phoenix Program originated after the communist Tet Offensive of 1968. Tet had caught American and South Vietnamese military authorities flat-footed. Initially, "main force" NVA (North Vietnam Army) units were not engaged; instead, in-country Viet Cong units - which drew their strength from clandestine, indigenous South Vietnamese cadres - provided the initial punch. The fact that so many South Vietnamese could have secretly participated in these cadres without the knowledge of the Americans and South Vietnamese - and apparently right under their noses - came as a complete shock. Tet proved once and for all to American intelligence experts that a more effective means of tracking down and eliminating the indigenous communist (Viet Cong) cadres had to be found - that attempting to deal with these cadres through the use of the regular police and the "peace-time" South Vietnamese judicial system - restrained as both were by limitations on what normally would be considered "unlawful" searches, seizures and detentions - was futile. The problem wasn't so much that the Americans and South Vietnamese didn't know - or couldn't find out - who the communists were; rather it lay in the fact that the South Vietnamese justice system was overwhelmed by the exigencies and urgency of the war. Extra-legal methods had to be devised which circumvented the normal justice system. Phoenix was the answer.

THE PHOENIX PROGRAM

Phoenix authorized special American / South Vietnamese military intelligence units to determine who these cadres were, to track them down, seize them, and finally detain them - frequently for long periods of time and often without trial and without any regard to "due process."

Clearly, those who originally devised Phoenix never intended to create an assassination program; detainees were to be kept in confinement until the "emergency situation" (i.e., the war) was over - at which time most were to be released back into the civilian population. Unfortunately, as Phoenix began its operations in late 1968 and early 1969 it soon began to take on the hue of a carefully planned and orchestrated strategy of assassination. Why? - because, as the plan shifted into high gear, detention space began to fill rapidly. Though feverish efforts were made to construct new detention facilities, construction of these facilities simply could not keep pace with the number of fresh detainees which were by 1970 pouring into the detention system as a result of Phoenix; the question then became, what to do with those for whom space could not be found? To people who had been hardened by war, the answer to the lack of detention space was an easy one: a bullet. It has been estimated by some that over 78,000 prisoners and detainees were dispatched in this way. South Vietnamese military intelligence did most of the killing; but to say that American military intelligence was unaware of what was happening is naive at best.

THE SUCCESS OF PHOENIX

The Phoenix Program ultimately proved to be an exceedingly successful strategy - so successful in fact that by late 1970 Viet Cong cadres had ceased to operate effectively in South Vietnam - and NVA "main-force" units had been compelled to take over the war. Indeed, from 1970 onward, the war ceased to be an insurrection in the traditional meaning of that word, and became instead a struggle between the regular army units of South Vietnam and the United States on the one hand, and North Vietnam on the other. After American military units were withdrawn, the contest became one which pitted the regular armies of South Vietnam and North Vietnam against one another, a struggle which the North at length won.

Nevertheless, by 1975, when Saigon finally fell, the Viet Cong had been reduced by Phoenix to a mere shadow - a myth which the NVA continued to exploit, but could do nothing more with. The fact is, it would not be unfair to say that had the struggle in South Vietnam been in reality a mere revolution and nothing more, then surely Phoenix would have carried the day for the South Vietnamese. And this contention is proven out by the fact that wherever Phoenix has subsequently operated - specifically in environments which have pitted it against revolutionary cadres unsupported by regular army units - Phoenix has prevailed, as the history of the Latin American Death Squads - the successors to Phoenix - have so starkly shown.

PHOENIX, THE ARGENTINEANS, AND THE GENESIS OF THE DEATH SQUADS

Of course, a successful anti-insurgency program like Phoenix could not for long be kept "under wraps." The first to hear of Phoenix outside the arena of Southeast Asia were Argentine military officers who routinely came to the United States for advanced military training at U.S. Army bases[12] where - in the late 1960s - Phoenix training programs were just beginning to gear up.

To many of these Argentine officers, Phoenix seemed to be an answer to the leftist crisis they were facing in Argentina. Accordingly, Argentine military authorities asked for and received training in the techniques of Phoenix.

LIBERATION THEOLOGY AND THE THREAT FROM THE LEFT

The leftist struggle the Argentineans were facing was in reality only one part of a larger crisis which was then sweeping through all of Latin America; it had taken hold initially in Argentina, but was rapidly spilling outward and threatening to spark a socialist conflagration throughout the region. The threat stemmed largely from a new and radical Catholic theology promulgated by left-wing Catholic clerics: Liberation Theology - and it was rapidly taking hold in the innumerable urban shanty towns and poverty-stricken rural communities throughout Central and South America. Liberation Theology was an incendiary gospel which linked socialism and Christian theology in a revolutionary blend which was proving to be particularly attractive to the peasants of Latin America - and it attracted them in a way which the traditional, more secular brand of Marxism-Leninism had never been able to do.

In their efforts to stop what increasingly was beginning to look like an inexorable victory for the left, right-wing military, business, and church interests throughout the region began to search for an effective defense: at length, this search led to Argentina where the right-wing military dictatorship there was beginning to successfully employ Phoenix in its struggle with the left. In 1980, these groups prevailed upon Argentinean military intelligence to host a region-wide conference, the aim of which was to coordinate efforts in the implementation of Phoenix techniques against the left throughout the area. The site chosen was Bogota, Columbia; the reason behind choosing Bogota was simple: the military dictatorship in Argentina was coming under increasing pressure from the world press as a result of its Death Squad (i.e., Phoenix) activity; it did not want to exacerbate the situation further by getting caught hosting a "Death Squad Conference" in Buenos Aires. Right-wing business groups, political parties, and traditionalist Catholic clerics sent representatives - and once again, the U.S. intelligence community was present as a hidden "puppet-master" behind all the "goings-on." The practical results of this conference began to be felt throughout Latin America soon thereafter. For example, on December 2, 1981, the New York Times revealed that Salvadoran military intelligence officers were in Argentina receiving training in Phoenix methodologies "focusing on problems of organization, infiltration, and interrogation."[13] Other reports indicated that Argentinean military personnel - described as "experienced counterinsurgency specialists" - were in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. In Guatemala they had helped in the capture of a number of guerrillas through "network analysis," described by Latin America Regional Reports as a method "whereby telephone, electricity and other household bills are scrutinized by computers for 'abnormalities'." In fact this computer "suspect identification system" was U.S.-built and transshipped through Argentina to Honduras, according to intelligence sources.[14]

THE EARLY EXPOSURE OF ARGENTINE PHOENIX METHODS

Computer expertise aside, however, Argentina's specialty was torture, and newspaper accounts out of South Africa, of all places, confirmed the scope of these activities.

A press campaign by liberal South African journalists in the early eighties had revealed the presence of certain Argentine diplomats in Pretoria who had formerly been posted to Argentina's infamous Escuela Mechanica de la Armada (Naval Mechanics School), which operated in Buenos Aires between 1974 and 1978. In a series of articles running from October through December 1981, the Durban Sunday Tribune identified four Argentinean naval officers that had been currently posted to Pretoria and who had formerly been involved in administering the Escuela death camp, including Lieutenant Alfredo Astiz - the "Blond Angel." What they were doing in South Africa was never established by the series, but at the time, observers outside South Africa noted the connection between the training of Salvadoran and South African intelligence teams in Argentina and had speculated that whatever was happening between the Argentineans, the Salvadorans and the South Africans was part of a coordinated effort - a "Third World Strategy" - being orchestrated by Washington to suppress Communist subversives in Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia, specifically the Philippines and Malaysia.

In their series, the Durban Sunday Tribune compiled the following documentation:

  • Lieutenant Alfredo Astiz had headed kidnapping operations for the Escuela, one of the largest of at least 15 death camps used as secret detention and torture centers. Over 4,700 men, women, and children thought to oppose the military junta had passed through the Escuela. Fewer than 100 had survived the camp. Astiz had also infiltrated what were considered "subversive group," for example, a church group run by women attempting to petition the Argentine government over the whereabouts of the "disappeared" children. Under an assumed name, and pretending to have a missing relative, Astiz infiltrated the church group to identify those involved. Then they were kidnapped, tortured, and killed - all of them!
  • Rear Admiral Rueben J. Chamorro (the Dolphin) had been commander of the Escuela from 1974 to 1978. There he had supervised the "operating theaters" or torture rooms, where over 100 people at a time were detained during the height of the repression. The victims had been handcuffed and hooded, according to survivors, and had been systematically tortured and then finally killed, often flown over the Atlantic and dumped while still alive. (This information was recently corroborated by several Argentine government officials who had been involved in the tortures and who have since come forward; several appeared on NBC, CBS, and ABC news shows to retell their story in May of 1995.) As one survivor recounted, "Chamorro was fond of personally showing visitors from the naval high command around his camp, which he proudly described as the 'best-known maternity hospital in Buenos Aires', because of the facility for pregnant women sent there. Those women who did not abort on the torture table were put on display for naval staff who wanted to adopt babies. After the babies were born, the women would be murdered and the children given away."[15]

This is the kind of "expertise" the Argentineans passed on to Death Squad leaders operating in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and so forth - leaders like D'Aubuisson, the Calero brothers, etc.; the same people Pat Robertson, Phil Derstine, Larry Lea, Cubie Ward, etc. were fond of "running around with" in their trips down to the Contra camps in Honduras and Guatemala; the kind of people evangelical politicos like Barbara Alby of Sacramento, California paraded around before Christian audiences as "Christian soldiers" in a "Holy War" against the forces of "godless communism." God preserve us all from such soldiers, and the Christian leaders who promote them!

DEATH SQUADS DO NOT OPERATE IN A VACUUM

Like their prototype in Vietnam, the Death Squads of Central and South America do not (did not) operate in a vacuum; in every country where they functioned they are (were) connected to a complex network of above-ground, political organizations which complement and support their covert activity.[16] Such was the case in Argentina where the Death Squads were supported by the so-called Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance (AAA). The AAA was formed to coordinate the activities of the Death Squads with the military regime in Argentina and the various right-wing parties and business interests which supported that regime. [17]

THE AMERICAN CONNECTION

In all of this, it's absurd to believe - as the U.S. government wished the American people to do in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s - that the Death Squads could have operated so widely and over such an extended length of time in Central and South America without U.S. support; and evidence continues to surface - even today - which suggests in unmistakable terms the depth of that support: it was very deep, indeed. For example, a recent Baltimore Sun investigation which lasted more than fifteen months, reveals how the CIA, the State Department, and U.S. military intelligence units collaborated with a secret Honduran military unit known as Battalion 316 in the 1980s, even though U.S. officials knew the battalion was kidnapping, torturing and executing its own people - and in one case, a U.S. citizen.[18]

BATTALION 316

The collaboration was revealed in declassified documents and in interviews with U.S. and Honduran participants, many of whom have kept silent until now. Among those interviewed by the Sun were three former Battalion 316 torturers who acknowledged their crimes and detailed the battalion's close relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA was instrumental in developing, training and equipping Battalion 316. Battalion members were flown to a secret location in the United States for training in surveillance and interrogation, and later were given CIA training at Honduran bases, specifically at a camp in Lepaterique, 16 miles west of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, who as chief of the Honduran armed forces personally directed Battalion 316, received strong U.S. support - even after he told a U.S. ambassador, Jack Binns, that he intended to use the so-called "Argentine Method" of interrogation and elimination of suspected subversives. The report indicates that a CIA officer based at the U.S. Embassy frequently visited a secret jail known as INDUMIL, where torture was conducted. The unit's torturers used shock and suffocation devices in interrogations. When no longer useful, prisoners were killed and buried in unmarked graves. "They always asked to be killed," said Jose Barrera, a former Battalion 316 torturer. "Torture is worse than death."

The training by the CIA was confirmed by Richard Stolz, then deputy director for operations, in secret testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in June 1988. In testimony declassified at the Sun's request, Stolz told the committee, "The (so-called) course consisted of three weeks of classroom instruction followed by two weeks of 'practical exercises', which included the questioning of actual prisoners by the students."[19]

TORTURE IN THE SERVICE OF A "JUST CAUSE"

And how exactly was this "questioning" carried out? - a New York Times corespondent, Raymond Bonner, unearthed the surrealistic details of just such a "questioning" as described by a trainee:[20] "One evening they (i.e., the instructors) went and got nine young people that were accused of being guerrillas and brought them to where we were ... The first one they brought - a young fellow who was around 15 or 16 years and the first thing they did was to stick the bayonets under his fingernails and pulled them out. That day he was the first one that died under torture. The young fellow said all sorts of things against them (i.e., the guerrillas) in order to be let go. The interrogators said, 'We are going to teach you how to mutilate and how to teach a lesson to these guerrillas'. The officers who were teaching on this were ... Americans. They didn't speak Spanish so they spoke English and then another officer ... translated it into Spanish for us. Then they began to torture this young fellow. They took out their knives and stuck them under his fingernails. After they took his fingernails off, then they broke his elbows. Afterwards they gouged out his eyes. Then they took their bayonets and made all sorts of slices in his skin all around his chest, arms and legs. They then took his hair off and the skin of his scalp. When they saw there was nothing left to do with him, they threw gasoline on him and burned him. The next day his dead body wasn't around but was found by people out in the streets - left as a warning!" [sic. - entire section]

"The next day they started the same thing with a 13-year old girl. They did more or less the same, but they did other things to her, too. First, she was 'utilized' (i.e. raped - the Americans didn't rape her, but the soldiers did). They stripped her and threw her in a small room, they went in one by one. Afterwards they took her out tied and blindfolded. Then they began the same mutilating - pulling her fingernails out and cutting off her fingers, breaking her arms, gouging out her eyes and all they did to the other fellow. They cut her legs and stuck an iron rod into her womb. The last one that they killed that day suffered more, because they stripped him naked at midday. Then they put him on this hot tin and made him lie there - he was cooking. After about a half-hour, when they finally took him off, he was all covered with blister-like wounds. They did different types of torture to him. Then they threw him out alive at 14,000 feet altitude from a helicopter. He was alive and tied." [sic. - entire section] [21]

THE REV. MOON, THE UNIFICATION CHURCH, & THE KCIA

In addition to the Americans, the Argentineans, the conservative Catholic Church, and various right-wing politicos, business leaders, and the military - with their attendant intelligence apparatus - there was a final component to the deadly mix which constituted the environment in which the Death Squads worked: specifically, the World Anti-Communist League (WACL) of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. WACL became involved in these operations as a result of its Korean connections - connections which also led back to Phoenix..

WACL is a Moonie front organization with strong ties to the KCIA (a creation of the American CIA); its ultimate allegiance is to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church.

Moon, of course, is no friend of democracy. He is a theocratic authoritarian who considers himself to be the Son of God and the new Messiah.[22] Moon believes that Jesus failed in His earthly mission to save man through His death on the cross; in addition, Moon claims that Jesus had sex with the women who followed Him.

As early as 1978 newspapers like the Washington Post began to pick up on the connections between Moon (WACL) and the Latin American Death Squads. For instance, one such article which appeared in the Post describing these connections carried the headline: "The Fascist Specter behind the World Anti-Red League."[23] In 1984 these connections were further explored in a series of columns by Jack Anderson.[24] Other publications carried additional articles detailing these connections and the Nazi components which comprised these elements.[25]

ORIGINS OF THE UNIFICATION CHURCH

In the light of all this, it might be fair to ask, what was it in the history of Moon and the Unification Church which would have led to such links between what ostensibly is supposed to be a religious organization and Nazi-oriented, right-wing Death Squads? The tides which produced these strange relationships originated in the very early 1950s in the murky right-wing political, religious and military currents which swept through Korea as a result of the Korean War; specifically in the wrath of Korean President Syngman Rhee and other right-wing elements in the Korean military who were furious at Truman and Eisenhower for not prosecuting the Korean War through to a successful conclusion - by which they meant the re-unification of the Korean Peninsula under President Rhee.

Right-wing elements in the United States were also enraged; many saw in the U.S. "surrender" the outlines of a sinister conspiracy. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin went so far as to blame the U.S. "surrender in Korea" on the machinations of a White House clique besotted by "bourbon and benzedrine;" in a rage, he actually called the President a "son-of-a-bitch" from the floor of the Senate. Senator William Jenner of Indiana, echoed McCarthy's rage; he too saw the silhouette of an ominous conspiracy; he went on to declare that "... this country today is in the hands of a secret inner coterie which is directed by agents of the Soviet Union." Both groups - right-wing Americans on the one hand, and right-wing Koreans on the other - felt they had been stymied in Korea by a vast, underground intrigue which had seized control of the United States and which was aiming at the destruction of the Free World; they perceived themselves as engaged in an immense struggle against an implacable foe which not only controlled Communist China and the Soviet Union, but powerful, secret elements in the West as well (i.e., the "Illuminist Conspiracy"). This view of things was only strengthened when Rhee was toppled in April of 1960 with Eisenhower's help.

It was this witches' brew of virulent right-wing politics which gave birth to the aberrant theology and politics of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church; Moon became as much a believer in the existence of the "world-wide communist (Illuminist) conspiracy" as had been Korean strongman Syngman Rhee and Senators Joseph McCarthy and William Jenner. Moon believed that the conspiracy could only be stopped by uniting the Western World under the banner of "Christianity" (by which he meant his own weird blend of New Age philosophy and aberrant religious teachings). Thus, Moon's movement was (is) as much a political movement as it is a religious movement; it is the result of a strange convergence of extreme right-wing politics (which stem not only out of sources in Korea, but also elements in the United States) and a bizarre mixture of fanatical, authoritarian religious beliefs.

There are, of course, many such movements throughout the world; but what has given Moon's organization such power is the relationship it enjoys with the government of South Korea - a relationship which endows Moon's religious empire with unlimited funds, business fronts, and access to sensitive intelligence matters - things which no other religious association in the world enjoys - outside of the Vatican; and it is precisely these things which have bought Moon entrance - if only through the back door - into America's Religious Right; the Religious Right in this country has seemingly found itself unable to resist the allure of Moon's money, the high-paying jobs he is able to offer through his various business fronts, and the excitement generated out of his intelligence (KCIA) contacts.

THE DEATH SQUADS AND THE REV. MOON

All this brings us back to Moon's involvement with Latin America's Death Squads; Moon's involvement originated as a result of his contacts with the KCIA, and the KCIA's involvement flowed out of Korea's connections with the Vietnam War. Korea was one of the very few U.S. allies which actively participated militarily in Vietnam alongside American forces. ROK (Republic of Korea) forces thus came into direct contact with Phoenix.

The KCIA was thrilled with Phoenix - and this favorable impression was passed on to WACL where the KCIA, as already indicated, exercised a great deal of influence; as a result, WACL soon became a purveyor of Phoenix-like operations throughout the world as an effective means of combating the spread of communism - so much so that in Latin America many of the Death Squad networks which were later established became synonymous with Moon and the Unification Church. Indeed, investigative reporter Russ Bellant writes that "... the ... Death Squad network{26} (in many of the various Latin American countries) is (in instance after instance) also the Latin American branch of Moon's World Anti-Communist League (WACL)."[27] For example, in Argentina, the Death Squads and WACL were so closely identified that in Buenos Aires the various Death Squad cadres constituted in fact the main Argentine branch of WACL.[28] These kinds of connections between the Death Squads and the Unification Church were repeated throughout Central and South America. So closely and effectively did Moon and the Death Squads cooperate in Latin America that they were actually responsible - along with Nazi fugitive Klaus Barbie - in helping to establish a Nazi-style state in Bolivia in 1982.[29] And what about the individuals who constitute the membership of these organizations? - they have been variously described as a mix of Hitler collaborators, anti-Semites, right-wing politicos, rich businessmen, etc. - all of whom hold to an unshakable belief in a world-wide conspiracy directed against capitalism and Christianity[30] - the same kind of ideological mix which - to a large degree - can be found in the CNP (the principle coordinating agency bringing together members of the Religious Right with members of the political right and the business right) today.

INVOLVEMENT OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT

And now we come to what we evangelicals may in the end be forced to count as one of the low points in the history of our community: our involvement in all this. At first glance, it would be tempting to write it all off as the result of naiveté. That - no doubt - is what many would like us to do. But ultimately it might prove easier to believe in the tooth fairy than to ascribe our involvement in it all to "simplicity of heart;" to assign such naiveté to the leaders of the Religious Right - who, more than the political left would like to believe, are anything but naive buffoons - is disingenuous at best, and an exercise in "high deceit" at worst.

Let's take just one example of the Religious Right's in-volvement: Pat Robertson. In the Spring of 1984 Pat Robertson and CBN reporter Norm Mintle traveled to El Salvador where they met with the late Roberto D'Aubuisson and other anonymous individuals connected with the political right in that war-torn and impoverished country. Following the trip, the "700 Club" aired four 20-30 minute segments on El Salvador, the major theme being that D'Aubuisson and the others were "very nice fellows" who were being maligned by the "biased liberalism" of Newsweek, Time and U.S. News and World Report.

D'Aubuisson - a very nice fellow? Hardly! The truth of the matter is that D'Aubuisson was one of the most notorious Death Squad leaders in all of Central America - a protégé and exemplar of the Argentinean military; he was affiliated with the ARENA party in El Salvador and served as that country's representative to WACL. A United Nations Commission - after reviewing the testimony of over 2,000 people - confirmed that D'Aubuisson had been directly responsible for the March 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero[31] as well as tens of thousands of others during El Salvador's decade long civil war.[32] In addition, recently declassified U.S. government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act also confirm D'Aubuisson's involvement with the Death Squads.[33] Finally, innumerable other articles in major U.S. and foreign publications substantiate D'Aubuisson's murderous association with these organizations - articles similar to those which appeared in Newsweek, Time and U.S. News and World Report and which prompted Robertson to denounce them as "liberally biased."

EXCUSING THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT

Is it really possible - without at the same time appearing to shamelessly dissemble - to say that Robertson didn't know all this? to persevere in excusing his actions by alleging that he was ignorant of D'Aubuisson's involvement with the Death Squads? that he knew nothing of D'Aubuisson's association with WACL? that he knew nothing of the thousands and thousands of peasant "disappearances" for which D'Aubuisson was responsible? To evade the obvious in such a fashion is an exercise in fraud; it opens us up as a religious community to the same mockery the Allied soldiers who liberated Hitler's Death Camps heaped (and rightfully so) on German civilians when - following the war - they (i.e., the Germans) denied any knowledge of the concentration camps - people who, while living just outside the walls of Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, etc., later had the chutzpah to say they had heard nothing; people who - despite seeing thousands of prisoners enter the Death Camps, never to leave, and who smelled the stench of the crematoria day after day - nevertheless denied they had any knowledge of what was going on.

If they didn't know, it's because they purposely chose not to know; it's akin to someone who, while standing three feet from the railroad tracks, upon hearing the train approach, turns away while it speeds by and then who later says he never saw the train. He never saw it because he purposely chose not to see it, though it noisily rumbled by a mere three feet from where he was standing.

No, it's easier to believe in tooth fairies than to believe that Robertson wasn't aware of D'Aubuisson's background - and, the fact of the matter is, in a back-handed way he appears to have admitted as much by saying that what D'Aubuisson was involved in was no worse than what the left was up to! But should Christians really care what the left is (or was) doing? - does that excuse D'Aubuisson? - and does that excuse our identification as a community with D'Aubuisson? Because communism is evil, are we now permitted to use evil in order to resist evil? Does that make it OK for us to endorse Death Squad activity? Is this where we as a religious community have finally ended up - identifying ourselves (and ipso facto the Prince of Peace) with Death Squads because we are engaged in a battle with evil? with communism? with "secular-humanism?" - if this is what we are doing, then God help us!

Once again, we've used CBN's Pat Robertson as an example here - primarily because he is perhaps the leading proponent of Christian activity directed at taking "America back for Christ and the church;" but what has been said of Robertson could just as easily have been said of any number of other so-called Christian leaders who callously insist on maintaining a relationship with people who have been clearly identified with Death Squad activity, for example Phil Derstine's[34] relationship with Enrique Bermudez of Nicaragua,[35] a former top-ranking Somocista with the Nicaraguan National Guard who - together with Roberto D'Aubuisson - was also implicated in the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero; or Derstine's relationship with Adolfo Calero, a top Contra leader who - like D'Aubuisson - is closely associated with the Death Squads; or Beverly LaHaye of Concerned Women of America (CWA) who never seems to tire of recounting how several prominent businessmen in Brazil successfully overthrew "socialist" Joao Goulart in 1964 "after much prayer and intercession" - of course, what she fails to add is that this same group of businessmen (all associated with the Institute for Economic and Social Research) later became identified - together with Moon's Unification Church (through WACL) - with some of the most notorious Death Squad activity in all of Latin America.[36]

This kind of callousness - the kind which lends itself to such relationships - hardens even the best of people, ultimately making us capable of things which ordinarily we would never contemplate. And for Christians who think that because they are Christians they cannot be so hardened, they should consider what happened to Paralife evangelist John Steer after he had spent a short time with Salvadoran government soldiers in the 1980s: apparently trying to justify the soldiers' bloody work, much of which involved activity directed at supporting the Death Squads, he said, "killing for the joy of it is wrong, but killing ... against an anti-Christ system ... (is) not only right but the duty of every Christian."[37] God deliver us from the John Steers of this world! - and God deliver us all from the kind of mentality which - on the one hand - can praise the Lord, speak in tongues and sing hymns while - on the other hand - it can countenance the torture and killing of men, women and children.

Written By S. R. Shearer
Antipas Ministries
  1. Living Word, June 1986.
  2. Covert Action Quarterly, Number 27, Spring 1987, pg. 26.
  3. Covert Action Quarterly, Number 18. Winter 1983, pg. 19.
  4. Ibid., pg. 19.
  5. Of course, this isn't to say that Robertson, LaHaye or Lea themselves would have countenanced any such thing or even this kind of thinking! - they would not! But there can be little doubt that by lending their names to the Contra cause, they have passively (even if unwittingly) encouraged these kinds of actions.
  6. Op. Cit., Covert Action Quarterly, Number 27, pg. 19.
  7. Ibid., pg. 19.
  8. Ibid., pg. 19.
  9. Any study of Death Squad activity in Latin America quickly runs across the Argentinean military; Argentine military advisors pop up again and again - revealing a fundamental reality at work: the Argentineans have in fact become the proxies of the CIA in its battle against communist and left-wing subversion in Latin America.
  10. Jack Anderson, "Death Squads Have Permeated Latin America," Washington Post, Jan. 13, 1984, p. E-12; Jack Anderson, "Latin Terrorists' Leader" "Retains Support of CIA," Washington Post, Jan. 30, 1984, pg. B-32.
  11. Information on the Phoenix Program is readily available from any number of recent publications; the information provided here comes from an American military intelligence source who participated directly in the program beginning in 1969; the source received his initial training at Fort Holabird, Maryland and later became an instructor at the Phoenix Program's South Vietnam training facility at Vung Tau.
  12. Specifically at Fort Benning (infantry), Fort Holabird (intelligence), Fort Huachuca (intelligence) and most particularly in the School of the Americas which was located on U.S. military bases in Panama.
  13. Please see "Argentina Activates International Death Squads" in Covert Action Quarterly, Number 16, March 1982, pg. 14
  14. Ibid., pg. 14
  15. Ibid., pg. 14.
  16. Anderson & Anderson, Inside the League, pgs. 217-241 Jack Anderson, "Assassin Calls Death Squads Part of Network," Washington Post, Jan. 23, 1984, pg. B-30; Jack Anderson, "Death Squads Continue Despite U.S. Pressures," Washington Post, Jan. 26, 1984, pg. Md. 15.
  17. Anderson & Anderson, pgs. 223-224.
  18. Please see "Honduran death squads tied to US: CIA-trained troops committed atrocities in '80s, newspaper says": in The Sacramento Bee, June 12, 1995, pg. A-6.
  19. Please see "Honduran death squads tied to US: CIA-trained troops committed atrocities in '80s, newspaper says: in The Sacramento Bee, June 12, 1995, pg. A-6.
  20. Please see "Salvadoran Deserters Disclose Green Beret Torture Role," in Covert Action Quarterly, Number 16, March 1982, pg. 17.
  21. Ibid., pg. 17.
  22. As indicated above, Moon believes that Jesus failed in His earthly mission to save man through His death on the cross; in addition, Moon claims that Jesus had sex with the women who followed Him. In light of these and other similar statements, it is paradoxical that so many Christian leaders have linked up with Moon in recent years - directly or indirectly - leaders like Tim LaHaye, Colonel Doner, Gary Jarmin, etc.; nonetheless, they have, and most other Christian leaders seem unwilling to hold them accountable.
  23. Washington Post, May 28, 1978, pgs. 83, 154.
  24. Washington Post, Jan. 12-13, 23, 26, and 30, 1984; Feb., 9 and 18.
  25. Charles Goldman, ed. [pseud.], "World Anti-Communist League," The Public Eye, Vol. 2, Nos. 1-2 (1979), pgs. 18-27. This article was adapted from a translation of an article by Henrik Kruger in Erik Jensen and Petter Sommerfelt, eds., Under Daekke [Under Cover] (Copenhagen: Demos, 1978).
  26. Russ Bellant, The Coors Connection (Boston: South End Press, 1991), Pg. 76.
  27. Ibid., pg. 76.
  28. Ibid., pg. 223.
  29. Please see Washington Post, May 3, 1985; Westword, May 29-June 4, 1985; Anderson and Anderson, Inside the League, pg. 233-24; Christopher Dickey, With the Contras (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985), pgs. 82-84, 92, 95-96, 113, 117, 119, 179; Covert Action Information Bulletin, Winter, 1986, pgs. 15-20; please also see Bellant, The Coors Connection, pg. 76.
  30. Russ Bellant, Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party (Boston: South End Press, 1991), pg. 65.
  31. Romero had been linked to supporters of Liberation Theology and had been accused by the right wing of being an advocate of the leftist guerrilla movement in El Salvador.
  32. Please see From Madness to Hope: 12 Years of War in El Salvador, U.N., March 15, 1993. The U.N. "Truth Commission" reviewed the testimony of more than 2,000 people while examining many of the war's worst atrocities. The Commission assigned responsibility for 85 percent of the cases under investigation to Death Squad activity. The Commission confirmed Roberto D'Aubuisson's responsibility in planning the March 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
  33. Please see Clifford Krauss, "U.S. Aware of Killings, Kept Ties to Salvadoran Rightists, Papers Suggest," New York Times, November 9, 1993, pg. A4.
  34. Rev. Derstine heads up Gospel Crusade, Inc. of Bradenton, Florida.
  35. Please see William I. Robinson and Kent Norsworthy, David and Goliath: The U.S. War Against Nicaragua (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1987), pgs. 43-44
  36. See Joan Dassin, ed., Torture in Brazil: A Shocking Report on the Pervasive Use of Torture by Brazilian Military Governments 1964-1979 (New York: Vintage Books, 1986); and A.J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors: The Truth about U.S. Police Operations in Latin America (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978).
  37. Quoted from Paralife Ministries newsletter Living Words, September / October 1986, pg. 8.

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