1985 Censored

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Fiercest Aerial War in America is Unreported in U.S. Press

SYNOPSIS: While the President of El Salvador, Jose Napoleon Duarte, boasted about the decline in death squad killings, the people of El Salvador were victims of the most intense saturation bombing ever conducted in the Americas.

From June 1984, when the U.S. provided Duarte with the largest air force in Central America, the Salvadoran Air Force dropped over 3,000 tons of U.S.-made bombs on civilian populations, causing more than 2,000 deaths. Between January and mid-March of 1985, there were more than 105 attacks on civilian populations. These missions were often directed by U.S. military leaders. Investigative journalist Alexander Cockburn asked, "How is it that over the past two years the United States has been organizing, supplying, overseeing and in many cases actually executing the heaviest bombing and most ferocious aerial war ever seen in the Americas and not one coherent report of the extent, viciousness, or consequences of this campaign has ever appeared in any major U.S. newspaper or magazine?"

Cockburn reported the aerial war was responsible for most of El Salvador's 500,000 internal refugees and for many of the 750,000 refugees out side the country's borders. More than one-fifth of the Salvadoran population of five million became refugees-a higher percentage than the corresponding figure in South Vietnam at the height of that war.

Patrick M. Hughes, director of Refugee Legal Services, in Laredo, Texas, wrote Project Censored to say, "The most outrageous omission in the press is the refusal to report the bombing campaigns in El Salvador."


UPDATE: Two weeks after Alexander Cockburn wrote the 1985 source article about the El Salvador aerial war, he reported that he watched for news of the bombing in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Miami Herald, and found none. Instead the press continued to herald Duarte's Administration despite the fact that "the death squads were at their worst in his first term and the aerial war had risen to a climax in his second" (The Nation, 6/15/85).

While the media ignored the largest aerial war ever conducted in America, protesters attempted to get the message to the public. In October 1985, students at Brown University and the University of Michigan jointly protested the media's cover-up of the bombing in El Salvador (The Nation, 11/30/85). Protesters urging the United States to stop the bombing rallied in August 1986 at the Illinois State Fair, where President Ronald Reagan was making a major speech on farm policy (Chicago Tribune, 8113186). And protesters interrupted Macy's 63rd annual Thanksgiving Day parade in 1989 when they were arrested for marching with an unauthorized 30-foot-long bomb-shaped balloon that read "Stop the bombing in El Salvador" (UPI, 11/23/89).

The American media were loathe to report the U.S.-supported aerial war in El Salvador, but the Russian news agency, TASS, eagerly reported the U.S. complicity in the brutal bombing of civilians in El Salvador (TASS, 1/25/87).



Still Unreported: Ten Years of Genocide in East Timor

SYNOPSIS: One of the top ten Censored stories of 1979 was "The Tragedy in East Timor." It revealed that since 1975, neutral observers estimated the number of Timorese people slaughtered with U.S.-supplied arms at 50,000 to 100,000-about ten percent of the population.

Ten years later, in 1985, Amnesty International (AI) reported that up to 200,000 East Timorese, a third of the population, died as a result of Indonesian aggression in the region, a tragedy still unreported by the American press.

Amnesty International released a report on human rights violations in June 1985, which indicated that, despite Indonesian claims of peace in the province and "normality," the Indonesian troops continued with waves of killings, "disappearances," and political arrests.

An Indonesian military manual obtained by AI clearly acknowledges the use of torture and interrogation procedures that contravene international law. The manual states, "If the use of physical violence is unavoidable, make sure that there are not Common People...around to witness it, so as not to arouse the antipathy of the Common People."

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