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Understanding History: The Argentine Military Regime

The naming of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope has raised issues about his actions (or, in fact, inactions) during Argentina’s military regime from 1976-1983.  I have no special insight into Bergoglio’s actions (although some on that below), but I can comment on the military regime in question.  Indeed, I was going to write about this situation at some point, but I came across the following Tweet from Erick Erickson (via LGM) last night and it spurred me to comment:

This is a pretty heinous statement, in my opinion, given that the “right wing junta” in question would torture and summarily execute “lefties” handed over to them.  This represents partisan nonsense at its worst:  Erickson thinks of himself as part of the “right” so the “right junta” must be the good guys in this scenario.*  Or, at a minimum, he thinks that if “lefties” are making accusations, then the Argentine military regime should not be taken as a serious topic.

Erickson did not back off when he was criticized (shockingly enough) as he later wrote at Red State:

He’s already being attacked by lefties for allegedly handing over commies to the right wing junta back in the day. If you think this attack on him makes him more awesome, I’ve learned today that it means you are endorsing death squads as opposed to a new pope getting attacked by old enemies.

But here’s the thing:  glibness about the Argentine military regime that was in power from 1976 to 1983 is to be glib about death squads.  As such, if Erickson wants to dismiss these charges against the Pope  as simply political attacks, he is free to do so, but to glide over the significance of the Argentine military’s government at the time is highly problematic.  Regardless of one’s conclusions about Bergoglio’s actions, one has to take seriously the period of time in question, as well as the actions of persons in powerful positions at the time.

Prior to the establishment of democracy in 1983, Argentine politics had been a tumultuous affair pretty much from independence from Spain.  There were periods of stability (such as the first Peron era),  as well as dabblings in democracy.  However, the entire period was one punctuated, as was true of many of its neighbors, with military forays into governance, with the last military government being the most vicious.

The war against “subversion” was one waged against the Argentine people, and not just against guerrillas, but against anyone that the military thought might be sympathetic to the left, including students, professors, poets, philosophers, union leaders, and the like (yes, even priests).  The military used torture, rape, and disappearances** to terrorize its perceived enemies, leading to a substantial death toll.  As Stepehn G. Rabe notes:

During la guerra sucia (“the dirty war”) of the late 1970s, the Argentine military and associated death squads massacred 30,000 Argentines. Many of the dead assumed the title of “disappeared” or desaparecido. The victims, sometimes alive, were often dumped into the frigid South Atlantic from airplanes.

There is also the fact that the children of the disappeared were often given to military officers who were involved in the murder of the parents.  See, for example, this story from the NYTDaughter of ‘Dirty War,’ Raised by Man Who Killed Her Parents:

It took an incessant search by a human rights group, a DNA match and almost a decade of overcoming denial for Ms. Montenegro, 35, to realize that Colonel Tetzlaff was, in fact, not her father — nor the hero he portrayed himself to be.

Instead, he was the man responsible for murdering her real parents and illegally taking her as his own child, she said.

[…]

Jorge Rafael Videla, who led the military during Argentina’s dictatorship, stands accused of leading the effort to take babies from mothers in clandestine detention centers and give them to military or security officials, or even to third parties, on the condition that the new parents hide the true identities. Mr. Videla is one of 11 officials on trial for 35 acts of illegal appropriation of minors.

The trial is also revealing the complicity of civilians, including judges and officials of the Roman Catholic Church.

The abduction of an estimated 500 babies was one of the most traumatic chapters of the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. The frantic effort by mothers and grandmothers to locate their missing children has never let up. It was the one issue that civilian presidents elected after 1983 did not excuse the military for, even as amnesty was granted for other “dirty war” crimes.

Let me say this is as clear a terms as possible:  the actions of the Argentine military, as well as any number of military regimes in Latin American from the 1950s into the 1980s in the name of anti-communism were crime against human rights, liberty, and democracy.  They should not be the subject of glib political commentary (not if one wants to pretend that one has a clue as to what one is talking about).

As to placing the new Pope into this context, as noted in the excerpt above, charges of complicity of Catholic officials in these events creates questions regarding the new Pope if anything because he was head of Argentine Jesuits at the time.   A run down of the issues can be found in this WaPo piece:  Pope Francis faces scrutiny over Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’.

As the young leader of the country’s Jesuit order, Bergoglio was aware of the atrocities that were being carried out and worked quietly to save victims, according to people who knew him then. But Bergoglio, like many other clerics at the time, remained publicly silent about the abuse and did not openly confront the military leaders.

[…]

Exactly what Bergoglio did — and didn’t do — during the years of the dictatorship is now the focus of intense scrutiny since his ascendancy to Pope Francis, with the Vatican pushing back forcefully against allegations that Bergoglio failed to protect two left-leaning priests in his Jesuit order, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, who were kidnapped by soldiers in 1976 and imprisoned for five months.

[…]

Bergoglio did not speak publicly about his role during the dictatorship until 2010, when he told an interviewer that he hid and protected several persecution victims at the Jesuit seminary, but could not say how many. He also recounted helping a young man who shared his likeness to escape across the Brazil border, giving the man his identification card and dressing him up in clerical vestments as a ruse. “It saved his life,” Bergoglio said.

Part of the controversy regarding Bergoglio can be found here (as well as the two sides of the story):

At one point, Bergoglio said he met privately with military commanders, including coup leader Emilio Massera to inquire about the missing Jesuits. “Look Massera: I want them to appear,” Bergoglio said he told him in a tense encounter before abruptly walking out of the room.

Yorio and Jalics were eventually freed, dumped off in a field after five months, half-naked and drugged.

Yorio later blamed Bergoglio for the imprisonment. In a 1999 interview with a respected Argentine journalist, he was quoted as saying, “I have no reason to believe [Bergoglio] did anything to free us, in fact just the opposite,” suggesting his superior had lifted his protection on the men as a punishment for their political views.

And also:

The criticism of Bergoglio for not doing enough has prompted several prominent Argentine rights activists, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel, to come to his defense in recent days.

“There were some priests and bishops that helped the dictatorship, and others who spoke out and died because of it. But Bergoglio wasn’t a collaborator,” said Graciela Fernandez Meijide, a politician and prominent human rights investigator whose 16-year-old son vanished after being snatched from his bed by soldiers in the middle of the night.

There is also this general fact that provides some context:

Argentina’s church leaders did not confront the country’s military rulers with anything approaching the public fervor of fellow clerics facing other dictatorships, as in Chile or El Salvador, where Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated in 1980.

The bottom line is this:  Erickson is showing a severe lack of understanding of history to make the glib comments that he has.  More importantly, however, the tale of Argentina (and most of Latin America during the timeframe under discussion) is rife with horrific tales of military governments abusing its citizens all in the name of anti-communism (and theoretically, “liberty”).  There was far too much glib support for such policies in the US at the time, but the continued ignorance of the situation is really inexcusable.

One thing we ought to be able to do, especially now that the Cold War is well in our rearview mirrors, is acknowledge that everything done in the name of “anti-communism” should not be absolved.  Rather, the fact of the matter remains that many things done in the name of fighting “lefties” ended up being heinous abuses of human rights and were every bit as opposed to liberty, freedom, and democracy as any Cold Warrior’s worst case scenario of communism.

To summarize:  if one wants to understand the discussion about  Bergoglio and the military regime, one needs to know a bit of history.

—————————

Posted at both OTB and PoliBlog

*Erickson is a child of the talk radio generation who thinks that bombast equals cleverness and who has never seen a political discussion that can’t be delineated into a simplistic left-right dichotomy.  He is emblematic of what is wrong with conservative commentary in the current era.

**People would likely disappear without a trace—kidnapped by the government and tortured and killed without due process.

Related Posts:

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. stonetools says:

    Erikson is despicable, really. For him, leftists aren’t people, so he can be pretty glib about a dictatorship that slaughtered 30,000 “leftists”.
    For right wingers, the “US funded “dirty wars” that slaughtered hundreds of thousands in Central America are similarly dismissed. Mustn’t besmirch the memory of Saint Ronald.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 0

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    To summarize: if one wants to understand the discussion about Bergoglio and the military regime, one needs to know a bit of history.

    Erikson is not interested in understanding Bergoglio or history. To him, history is a thing to be twisted to fit the narrative he has decided is correct.

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  3. al-Ameda says:

    Erickson is just another greaseball, in a long line of malevolent right wing commentariat greaseballs.

    Apart from the fact that he does not seem to know much about the sad history of juntas and authoritarian military governments in South America generally, and of the regime in Argentina specifically. is bad enough. However to use the occasion of the election of Bergoglio to the papacy to rejoice in the murder of Argentine citizens, is despicable.

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  4. rudderpedals says:

    If you think this attack on him makes him more awesome, I’ve learned today that it means you are endorsing death squads as opposed to a new pope getting attacked by old enemies.

    He should have said “Others tried to teach me today” because he learned nothing. Good fisk, Steven.

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  5. swbarnes2 says:

    Erickson is a child of the talk radio generation who thinks that bombast equals cleverness and who has never seen a political discussion that can’t be delineated into a simplistic left-right dichotomy. He is emblematic of what is wrong with conservative commentary in the current era.

    No. He is a child of the conservatives who are his audience. All the conservatives who live in his area vote for the same guys he votes for.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  6. anjin-san says:

    Guys like Erikson are the ones who inform guys like bithead, Jenos, & JKB. I don’t think a lot more needs to be said.

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  7. That lefties are accusing the new pope of handing over lefties to the right wing junta for execution makes me adore the new pope.

    I’m a little tired of this juvenile way of thinking. It basically admits that the merits don’t matter. I mean, adore the new pope because he’s adorable…..not because some persona non grata said something mean about him.

    I mean, I get it. To be a contrarian is to be cool. But what’s wrong with deciding for yourself how you feel about things?

    It’s certainly easier than taking the world’s temperature and basing one’s opinions on the results.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  8. Gustopher says:

    Erikson is a goat f.cking child molester.

    He’s just scum, and those who deal with him as if he is anything other than scum shouldn’t be taken seriously. Like CNN.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  9. Ben Wolf says:

    Interesting!

    Erick, son of Erick has denounced Communist governments for their abuses of human rights, things like murder, imprisonment, torture and maintenance of an all-powerful police state. Yet when he perceives a government using identical tactics is “right-wing” (it can be argued Argentina’s military government was not so much right-wing as it was devoted to acquiring ultimate power) suddenly he finds such actions not only acceptable but praiseworthy.

    It’s a small step from “adoring” someone who hands lefties over to authorities for dismemberment, to calling for similar treatment of those judged to be “leftists” in the United States. Hell. let’s be honest and acknowledge his tweet was A) part joke, and B) a subtle messsge to his audience that liberals deserve no less than destruction.

    The flow of wealth into Erick, son of Erick’s pockets is dependent on inciting hatred and “class” solidarity amongst the extreme-right element in American politics.

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  10. Davebo says:

    I think the issue being missed is that for folks like Erik torture, rape, and disappearances** to terrorize its perceived enemies, leading to a substantial death toll is perfectly acceptable.

    He and his like have wholly embraced such tactics for years now. Why should any of this come as a surprise?

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  11. Dave says:

    The military itself wasn’t even free from the dirty war. Hundreds of soldiers would have ropes tied around their arms and legs and staked to the ground and left to die of dehydration or exposure. This dictatorship was nothing but loathsome and the fact that the U.S. backed these governments throughout SA at the time is as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  12. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Erickson is showing a common blind spot on the right — as long as a government is pro-American and anti-Communist (or anti-some other thing we generally oppose and despise), he’ll turn a blind eye to their other activities.

    It’s a common affliction among those who hold specific beliefs particularly ardently. On the opposite side, the left often is very forgiving of similar acts as long as the actors in question are generally anti-American, anti-Zionist, or anti-Western in general. Look at how they tend to embrace the Palestinians, excuse the hell out of the Islamists, and cozy up to left-wing dictatorships (Cuba and Venezuela come to mind).

    As a flippant remark, I’d be inclined to shrug it off as just trying to irritate those who, quite frankly, need to be irritated at every opportunity. Erickson should have come back with a “what, you can’t take a joke?” instead of doubling down.

    Oh, and for the record: despite anjin’s babbling, I don’t pay any attention to Erick, son of Erick. And Gustopher’s comment is out and out libel — unless you have some proof that EsoE has, indeed, committed bestiality and pedophilia. Those are some serious words.

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  13. al-Ameda says:

    @Gustopher:
    Gustopher says:
    Erikson is a goat f.cking child molester.
    He’s just scum, and those who deal with him as if he is anything other than scum shouldn’t be taken seriously. Like CNN.

    *** Just a little advice, if you don’t mind: next time, speak your mind, be more direct, tell us how you really feel about low-life like Erickson, okay?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  14. anjin-san says:

    I don’t pay any attention to Erick, son of Erick.

    The intellectual headwaters of the conservative movement, such as they are, are very limited. Erickson is part of the source. You are parroting people who parrot Fox, Rush, Malkin, Savage,and Erickson. The fact that you are not aware of it is quite in line with your overall lack of insight into yourself and the world around you. I mean, you think Jim Treacher is a big thinker and a cool dude, and you have vacuum welded your lips to his ass for all to see. That, all by itself, utterly exposes you.

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  15. anjin-san says:

    It’s a common affliction among those who hold specific beliefs particularly ardently.

    There is a mushroom cloud where the irony meter used to be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  16. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: Most — if not all — of my exposure to EsoE, Rush, Hannity, O’Reilly, Beck et all comes through here, filtered through the whinings of you and others.

    Kindly defer from ascribing connections between me and others, especially those with whom no connections exist.

    Treacher, however… yeah, I admire him greatly. His “Top 10 Reasons to accept that job offer from David Letterman” is one of the more brutal pieces of satire I’ve seen in a long time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 14

  17. anjin-san says:

    Kindly defer from ascribing connections between me and others, especially those with whom no connections exist.

    OK. And you stop being an annoying, whiny, little pissant who never contributes anything of substance.

    Deal?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  18. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Look at how they tend to embrace the Palestinians, excuse the hell out of the Islamists, and cozy up to left-wing dictatorships

    I’m looking. Do I need special glasses to see this?

    Look, I’ll grant that there may be some Palestinian apologists on the left, but who’s “excusing the hell out of the Islamists?”

    Gimme a name, cuz last I heard, people were FREAKING OUT over Obama’s drone campaign. Is “blowing them to smithereens” the new “excuse the hell out of” them?

    And the folks you see cozying up to leftist dictators? That’s not “the Left.” That’s Sean Penn and Oliver Stone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  19. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): Tell me again how awesome the Arab Spring was, and how much better things are with the revolutions in Libya and Egypt. Cliffy Claven here routinely lambastes Catholics and Zionists, but I don’t recall him ever talking about the far worse atrocities committed in the name of Islam by Islamists who can cite, chapter and verse, Koranic justifications for such noble acts as stoning homosexuals, shooting young girls in the head, beheading heretics, strapping bombs to the mentally handicapped, having sex with prepubescent girls, murdering cartoonists and filmmakers for drawing cartoons and making movies, and all sorts of other monstrosities.

    Pre-Arab Spring Egypt and Libya were bad. You wanna make the case that they are better now? For the average citizens of those countries, and the world at large?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 13

  20. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos Idanian #13

    Gimme a name,

    So what you are saying is that you can’t answer this simple question, but you can produce a boilerplate anti-Muslim screed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  21. Septimius says:

    If only the “right wing junta” in Argentina had implemented universal health care. Liberals would be praising it to this day. Oliver Stone would make fawning documentaries. Democratic members of congress would tell us how brilliant the leadership was. College kids would wear t-shirts emblazoned with the silhouettes of key revolutionary figures.

    But, hey, enjoy that sense of moral superiority over Erick Erickson. It’s well deserved.

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  22. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: Sorry it took me a while to stroll through the archives here, but here’s Ben Wolf two years ago:

    This is because the Muslim Brotherhood is not the radical bogeyman we’ve been told. It encompasses many different interests, the majority secular in temperament. The one thing uniting it has been opposition to the regime, and you can expect that coalition to fracture unless the military establishes a replacement autocracy.

    Or yourself, from the same time frame.

    Why can’t we give the people in Egypt some credit for what they have accomplished? Perhaps Muslims overthrowing a dictator on their own and moving towards democracy without the benefit of the U.S. killing a lot of people first does not fit into the GOP narrative.

    I’d offer more, but I think two links is the limit to avoid the filters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  23. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: Oh, here you are again!

    Muslims are making a very clear statement that they are willing to put their asses on the line for freedom. How many years now has the right been telling us that they live only to kill Christians & Jews and turn the entire world into a theocracy?

    How are things going for the Coptic Christians in Egypt lately?

    Oh, and further down the thread, you again:

    How about a few posts diving into the broader implications of recent events in Tunisa, Egypt and now Yemen? The fact that millions of Muslims have made a clear statement that they want more freedom, without the religious overtones we saw in the Iranian revolution is deserving of our attention and support.

    Interestingly enough, later you diverged into talking about how awful Fox News was/is, but you didn’t apply any of your skepticism to the Islamists who are now running Egypt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  24. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: I apologize; I forgot to include the link to the last comments of yours.

    Error corrected.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  25. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos Idanian #13

    Then what you are saying is you pine for the good old days, when Mubaraks torture chambers were up and running 24/7, and our tax dollars were helping to put up the tab.

    But he was our guy, bought and paid for. So scared little boys like you slept a bit sounder at night.

    Oh, and you need to make it a bit clearer how my hoping that Egypt moves towards democracy equates to “excusing Islamists”…

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  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Septimius:

    If only the “right wing junta” in Argentina had implemented universal health care.

    How about, “If only the right wing junta did not disappear 30,000 people…” Reality much?

    And for the record….

    My wife’s grandfather was “disappeared” by Franco’s Spain while her mother was born in a prison during an air raid….

    F*CK YOU…. You read some shit in a book…. My wife has lived it. You don’t have a clue.

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  27. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    I think that you made a mistake by conjoining Mr. Erickson’s sentiments with the issue of Pope Francis’ personal history. I don’t think it a cheap trick, as the Tweet certainly deserves derision, but, as your article points out, those were dangerous times in Argentina and thereabout and a loose cannon tweet tends rather to drive the issue into high dudgeon and away from serious inquiry.

    I would add this. Those were the times of the advance of “liberation theology” throughout Latin America in the sense of O’Sullivan’s Law that all organization not specifically conservative eventually move leftward politically. Members of the Roman Catholic priesthood had trouble restraining their political impulses to the point where the Pope had to restrain them proscribing, among other things their holding political offices. So, many of those priests seem to me to have been more filled with the spirit of liberation rather than the spirit of their professed theology. I say that not to justify their mistreatment but to recognize that their behavior was found to be worthy of correction by the Pope, their nominal superior. That would make them something less than heroes in my estimation.

    Lastly, when I heard that Pope Francis was both a Jesuit and from Argentina, the liberation theology issue came to my mind also, probably for somewhat different reasons but His Holiness’ selection was certainly a surprise because of the complicated history of the region.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Oh… and for the record? I have a clue…. but my wife? She has the reality.

    Let me give you a clue: STFU.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: Oh, you weren’t just “hoping.” You were a total cockeyed optimist about Egypt’s future. I was on the side of those who were worried that the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists would take control and make things even worse than they were under Mubarak. I’d wager things were much the same with Libya.

    And just how did things turn out, anyway?

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  30. anjin-san says:

    And just how did things turn out, anyway?

    You tell me. Can you show that there is more torture and murder being committed by the new government than the old? More poverty? More despair?

    You are arguing that “things are worse” – prove it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  31. rudderpedals says:

    many of those priests seem to me to have been more filled with the spirit of liberation rather than the spirit of their professed theology

    They’re not mutually exclusive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  32. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Tell me again how awesome the Arab Spring was

    Do I look like Andrew Sullivan? I assure you, I have less hair on my face and more on my dome. I am also less prone to hysterics.

    I’m glad you found some blog comments to support your thesis though. Does that work all the time, or just when you want it to? We can go through the archives to see just how heartbroken you were over Al-Awaki’s death if you’d like, but not sure it would prove anything we don’t already know, which is that you think like Erikson.

    Rather than having any principles or ideas of your own, you first must ask what the lefties are doing, so that you can reflexively do the opposite.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  33. @anjin-san:

    “You are arguing that “things are worse” – prove it. “

    Before we get too far into this blog fight rabbit hole, let’s just stipulate that things are pretty bad in Syria, at least. Libya and Egypt…yeah, I dunno. If I keep getting older and they keep doing what they’re doing, I fear I may never get to see the pyramids.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  34. anjin-san says:

    @ James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb)

    Well, I am more focused on Libya and Egypt in this conversation. Syria has a civil war going on, and that is always bad.

    I think the bottom line on someone like Jenos is that he does not give a shit about assholes running these countries and brutalizing their people, he just preferes it when it it our assholes that are the ones doing it. He goes though life a little less scared then.

    He will focus on the fact that the Arab Spring has not instantly transformed these countries into advanced democracies, and convieniently forget that all of today’s western democracies climbed long, steep roads to get to where they are today.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  35. An Interested Party says:

    It’s hardly surprising that a douchebag like Erickson would endorse such despicable actions…after all, I’m sure he’s part of the crowd that thinks that Pinochet was just so wonderful for Chile…

    If only the “right wing junta” in Argentina had implemented universal health care. Liberals would be praising it to this day.

    This is projection as, speaking of Chile, many of Pinochet’s atrocities were conveniently excused by people on the right as he brought capitalism on steroids to Chile…

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  36. @anjin-san:

    “He will focus on the fact that the Arab Spring has not instantly transformed these countries into advanced democracies, and convieniently forget that all of today’s western democracies climbed long, steep roads to get to where they are today. “

    No doubt. What’s going on over there is a work in progress.

    Jumping on it as proof that the lefties are, and always have been, the evil ones is just silly. But it’s what’s expected from our friend, innit?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  37. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Tell me again how awesome the Arab Spring was, and how much better things are with the revolutions in Libya and Egypt.

    Yes, Libyans were much more happy and free under Moammar Qaddafi.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  38. wr says:

    @11B40: “I say that not to justify their mistreatment but to recognize that their behavior was found to be worthy of correction by the Pope, their nominal superior”

    That’s funny. I thought a brave conservative like you would find it worthy to stand up to a corrupt supervisor and pursue a goal of justice. But because the rabidly anti-Commie pope chose to stand with the death squads, we’re supposed to condemn these priests? No thanks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  39. michael reynolds says:

    I see our resident right-wingers have successfully diverted the conversation. How about we get back to the point?

    If the new pope participated in the activities of the Argentine junta then he’s guilty of crimes against humanity. Nothing terribly new for a pope, but just the same this isn’t the Renaissance or the 1940’s.

    If he explains himself openly and honestly and hides nothing, great. But that would be rather unusual for the church. Maybe he’s entirely innocent, but there’s enough smoke out there that he’s going to have to put out this fire.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  40. @michael reynolds:

    uccessfully diverted the conversation

    Indeed: I noticed this as well.

    There is also a great deal of lousy comparative methodology going on here, i.e., comparing the actions of an established regime (Argentina) with an ongoing, and not yet consolidated, transition (Egypt and Libya). There is also the pesky problem that there is no evidence of regime directed actions in either case that would compare to the Argentine military regime (or to Latin American anti-communist military regimes in general). There is also the lack of mention of Tunisia.

    Mostly, of course, it is about changing the subject.

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  41. @Septimius: Your response is an utter non sequitur.

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  42. michael reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What’s bizarre is that so-called conservatives — those who are supposedly forever vigilant in defense of liberty and forever on the look-out for Big Government intrusion — would step up to essentially justify the very sort of fascistic regime they allegedly fear.

    Poke them a little and their authoritarian character reveals itself.

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  43. Dazedandconfused says:

    He lived in “interesting times”. We must be careful how we judge the people who must. At the risk of lousy comparative methodology, I’ll cite Zhou Enlai’s remarkable ride of The Tiger Dragon.

    Sometimes it’s a matter of survival to do what good you can. The clergy must walk a fine line.

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  44. Modulo Myself says:

    Funny thing–if this guy were a writer, his actions would be under much more scrutiny. The right still likes to cite Walter Duranty and they still love blacklisting Reds. But because he’s only the Pope, the right is willing to give him a pass.

    It’s going to be interesting to see the reaction to what the LBJ tapes confirmed (and what people have long suspected) about Nixon. Will anybody even care that the guy just didn’t break a few laws but he that willfully committed treason?

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  45. Andre Kenji says:

    A few points:

    1-) There is no proof the Pope Francis directly helped the military. The bigger problem to me is that Eugenio Salles and Evaristo Arns, respectively the Cardinal of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, helped to protect people from the Military and they helped the process of Democratization in Brazil. It´s true, the Argentinean Junta was much more brutal than the Brazilian Military, but their role during the Military regime raised the profile of Salles and Arns, and we cannot say the same thing of Pope Francis.

    It´s a matter of leadership and courage, more than direct help.

    2-) If you read and know the Argentinean press you´ll know that the main journalist that´s pushed the claims against Francis is a reporter called Horacio Verbistky. Verbistky, a former guerrilla himself, is one of the founders of Pagina 12, a left wing paper in Buenos Aires that is a heavy supporter of Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernandez Kirchner.

    Then Cardinal Bergoglio entered a heavy political fight with Cristina Fernandez when she pushed the gay marriage bill. If you are going to defend the Pope that´s the main point that you should use.

    3-) I like some people in the Liberation Theology Movement – Frei Betto is a nice fellow, a savvy analist of the Church and a very good writer. But they are also Marxists in larger sense(More to do with Paulo Freire Marxism than with Lenin), and I don´t know if Marxists belong to the Church.

    4-) The biggest problem for the church in Latin America is that the winning combination for the Church is combining a moderate dose of social conservatism with heavy doses of social justice. Most of the bishops are wasting precious time with parochial social issues, like gay marriage and abortion. C´mon, I´m as antiabortion as one can be, but it´s very difficult for that to be legalized in large scale in most Latin American countries.

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  46. matt bernius says:

    For some additional context for the historical aspect of this discussion, I’d recommend this NPR interview with Michael Warren, Buenos Aires Bureau Chief for AP. He does an excellent job of sketching out Pope Francis’ role during the dirty war and the complexity of that particular situation:

    http://www.npr.org/2013/03/14/174342953/pope-francis-criticized-for-not-confronting-dictatorship-during-dirty-war

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  47. anjin-san says:

    would step up to essentially justify the very sort of fascistic regime they allegedly fear.

    In the bizarro conservative universe, liberty is for white folks in El Norte. Brown, black, and yellow people around the world, not so much.

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  48. Dave says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Ironic that a neocon apologist would say that promoting liberty and freedom is wrong if it goes against the interest of America. When we were bringing “democracy” to Iraq how did you feel about it? Is it only ok for country’s to govern themselves without dictators if the American military overthrows said dictators and spends ten+ years bogged down there? I tend to think every country has the right to self determination regardless of what it means to American foreign policy, but then again I don’t believe this country is the center of the universe.

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  49. Mandramas says:

    @<a @Septimius: Except that Argentina had universal health care since 1950. In fact, the Junta did a lot to damage it…

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  50. al-Ameda says:

    @Septimius:

    But, hey, enjoy that sense of moral superiority over Erick Erickson. It’s well deserved.

    Call me an elitist but, yes I do consider myself to be morally superior to a guy who has no problem with the murder and forced “disappearance” of thousands of Argentines, simply because those who were murdered and “disappeared” might have been ‘leftists.’

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  51. Rob in CT says:

    First, thanks to Andre for his post.

    I suspect, strongly, that the new pope is neither pure as the driven snow nor did he help the junta disappear folks. It seems likely that he tried to do what he could in what was essentially an impossible situation. Speak up, get disappeared, hope this triggers the fall of the regime (before or after the Jesuits and other anti-regime elements get slaughtered?) or try to work quietly to help free some of the victims? I don’t see a good choice there. I do think you can argue that speaking out at full volume against the regime was more morally pure choice, but I also think it’s a little too easy to sit around now and claim that anything else represents failure and complicity in the junta’s murder, torture, etc.

    As for Erick son of Erick, what little hope I had that he’d grown up a bit now fades to black.

    This sort of huh-huh they know how to deal with leftists down there! crap is common on the right, unfortunately.

    I honestly cannot recall ever – in any context – seeing/hearing a lefty commentor of any stripe chuckle gleefully about the murder, rape and torture of “rightists.” I have heard apologies for nasty regimes who did those things (which is NOT ok! bear with me). But those apologies all included minimization of the regime’s crimes – not cheerleading. So, for example, you might have someone talk up Castro, but when the subject of secret police came up, the move is always to downplay. No, it wasn’t that bad. Or maybe ok it was bad but… Bautista! Never, ever, have I seen: damn skippy! That’s how you deal with rightists!

    I actually think this matters.

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  52. Barry says:

    He’s not being glib or ignorant about history; he thinks that right-wing mass murder is good.
    That’s the full story.

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