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Foreign Policy News Stories


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What is Really Happening in Central America?

SYNOPSIS: The 1982 media coverage of the deadly and widespread battles taking place in Central America was limited and confusing. The paradoxical media reports on El Salvador and the Nicaragua/Honduras situation has made it virtually impossible to ascertain what is really going on. But while the media reports from El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras might be limited and often incomprehensible, we hear even less from Guatemala, where the situation may be even worse. When General Efraim Rios Montt took power in a military coup in Guatemala on March 23, 1982, he was lauded by some as a savior. For example, commenting on the situation in Guatemala at the time, The New York Times said, "Left-wing terrorism is quiet after a decade and a half of turmoil."

Montt, a born-again Christian, once was forced to leave the country because of public outcry over his repression and bloody campaign against Indian campesinos. When he returned to power, the Vietnamization of Guatemala was stepped up with pacification programs, fortified hamlets, and search-and-destroy missions in what Montt referred to as a "beans and rifles" program.


UPDATE: It was not until March of 1995 that Guatemala was finally put on top of the media's news agenda with revelations that a Guatemalan military officer on the CIA payroll had been involved in the murders of an American citizen and a guerrilla commander. Questions raised by Project Censored were finally answered with sordid disclosures of the complex web of relations between various agencies of the U.S. government and the Guatemalan military over the last 40 years.

Guatemala's civil war was the longest and deadliest in Central America, having taken the lives of up to 200,000 unarmed civilians, primarily highland Indians. It started in 1960, six years after the 1954 U.S. intervention ousted the popularly elected government of Jacobo Arbenz, and ended in 1995. The war officially ended with an accord signed December 29, 1996.

Today, Guatemala has a new president, Alvaro Arzu, who has plans to advance peace negotiations and to establish civilian control over the army. Additionally, the Clinton Administration does not seem ideologically committed to the Guatemalan army, as was the case with Reagan and Bush (Foreign Policy, 6/22/96).



The United States Against the World on Nuclear Issues

SYNOPSIS: On December 9, 1982, the United Nations General Assembly voted on three resolutions concerning the nuclear issue and world peace.

Two of the resolutions, both opposed by the United States, would ban testing nuclear weapons but not nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes. The votes were 124 votes for and 2 against with 19 abstentions on the first resolution; 114 for and 4 against with 26 abstentions on the second.

The third resolution called for a treaty outlawing all nuclear blasts.

It was overwhelmingly adopted by a vote of 111 to 1 with 35 abstentions. The United States alone voted against the rest of the world.

Kenneth L. Adelman-accused of lying to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when it was considering his nomination by President Reagan to head the nation's Arms Control and Disarmament Agency-defended the U.S. vote, saying the resolution would not reduce the nuclear threat.


UPDATE: In 1996, ironically on the 51st anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, delegates from 61 nations of the Conference on Disarmament met in Geneva, Switzerland, to complete negotiations on a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Negotiations reached an impasse when India vetoed the treaty, but a group of nations agreed to informally present the U.N. General Assembly with a report on the conference's work. On September 10, 1996, the General Assembly overwhelmingly endorsed a global treaty to ban all nuclear test blasts (Associated Press, 9/11/96). The vote was 158 for the treaty, with three against (India, Libya, and Bhutan) and five abstentions.

Fourteen years after the United States was the lone dissenter in the world for banning nuclear tests, it finally joined the rest of the world community and voted for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. On September 24, 1996, using the same black pen that John F. Kennedy used 33 years earlier to sign the world's first nuclear pact, President Clinton put the opening signature on the global treaty (USA Today, 9/25/96). However the treaty still requires passage by a two-thirds majority of the U.S. Senate, where some Republicans have reservations about the pact (Associated Press, 9/25/96).



American Industrialists Traded with the Nazis

SYNOPSIS: In a shocking expose of American corporate greed, investigative author Charles Higham revealed a disgraceful if not criminal collaboration of some of America's largest corporations with Nazi Germany not only before but during World War ll.

Higham documents his claims with information gathered through the National Archives and the Freedom of Information Act. His book, Trading with the Enemy, gives evidence that such industrial and financial giants as DuPont, Rockefeller, Ford, Chase Manhattan Bank, ITT, General Motors, and Standard Oil collaborated with the Nazis either for monetary gain or because they were Nazi sympathizers hoping for a German victory.

Higham claims that Standard Oil, among other examples, supplied fuel for German U-boats through neutral Spain. It continued providing fuel until 1944 and in the process contributed to the deaths of numerous American merchant seamen.

ITT was the supplier of communications and other equipment for the buzz bombs that devastated London.

Ford maintained a motor plant in Vichy France that turned out tanks and troop carriers for the Third Reich.

Chase Manhattan Bank trafficked in the gold market through the Nazi controlled Bank for International Settlement in Basel. The source for some of the gold it bought and sold: dentures and wedding rings from death camps.

Most of the corporations were interlocked with the German industrial giant I.G. Farben, the company that produced the poison gas for the death camps and ran the largest camp, Auschwitz, for its slave labor.


UPDATE: Charles Higham, author of the 1982 source, Trading with the Enemy, wrote a follow-up book, American Swastika, published by Double day in 1985. In this well-researched book about spies, Nazi sympathizers and anti-Semitic public officials, Higham concluded that "forces of camouflage, protection, and support for the anti-Semitic cause still exist in the United States" (The New York Times, 6/23/85).

In 1953, the assets of I.G. Farben, which American companies worked with during World War II, were divided; the company today remains basically a trust to settle claims and lawsuits from the Nazi era (Des Moines Register, 8/27/95). While I.G. Farben rejected claims from survivors in the past, on July 3, 1996, the German Constitutional Court ruled that slave laborers from the Nazi era can at last press their claims in court (The London Times, 7/4/96). On August 21, 1996, about 70 surviving slave workers sold by the Nazis to I.G. Farben more than 50 years ago protested outside a shareholders' meeting in Frankfurt to press for compensation (USA Today. 8/22/96).

Additionally, while the story of looted Nazi gold in Swiss banks made headlines in late 1996, there was no mention of Chase Manhattan Bank's alleged trafficking in the gold market through a Nazi-controlled bank.

Ironically, the 1917 Trading With the Enemy Act, which was ignored by the U.S. government during World War II when American corporations traded with the Nazis, is now being used to sanction Cuba (Washington Post. 6/24/95).

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