Kissinger's Fingerprints Are All Over America's Argentinian Dirty Laundry

Kissinger’s Fingerprints Are All Over America’s Argentinian Dirty Laundry

Declassified documents shed light on Kissinger’s dirty past

Less than a week ago, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the declassification of documents from Argentina’s Dirty War, and the evidence is all pointing straight at his predecessor Henry Kissinger.

Days after the documents were released, analysts have uncovered evidence that shows that key figures influenced former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and the country’s human rights policy in regards to the Argentinian military junta. According to the declassified U.S. files — which were released on Monday night — Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, jeopardized U.S. efforts to stop the mass killings that took place in Argentina between its 1976-1983 military dictatorship, and instead supported and encouraged those military leaders for “wiping out” terrorism. As explained by The Guardian, the documents also show:

“how Kissinger’s close relationship to Argentina’s military rulers hindered Jimmy Carter’s carrot-and-stick attempts to influence the regime during his 1977-81 presidency. Carter officials were infuriated by Kissinger’s attendance at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina as the personal guest of dictator Jorge Videla, the general who oversaw the forced disappearance of up to 30,000 opponents of the military regime.”

Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski, his national security adviser, actually worked to make human rights an essential pillar of U.S. foreign policy and tried to put pressure on Argentina’s dictator, Rafael Videla, to stop the mass detentions by withholding loans and sales of military equipment. However, Kissinger strongly praised Videla for his methods, he even considered them to be outstanding. In a 1978 cable from U.S. ambassador to Argentina Raul Castro to the Secretary of State it is stated:

“My only concern is that Kissinger’s repeated high praise for Argentina’s action in wiping out terrorism and his stress on the importance of Argentina may have gone to a considerable extent to the hosts’ heads. Despite his disclaimer that the methods use in fighting terrorist must not be perpetuated, there is some danger that Argentines may use Kissinger’s laudatory statements as justification for hardening their human rights stance.”

In fact, it is now known that Kissinger arranged private meetings with Videla without the presence of the Ambassador. Allegedly, Kissinger’s behavior angered officials in Washington not only because it encouraged Argentina’s campaign against terrorism (which violated human rights, including forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and mass killings) but also because it went against Carter’s administration. Another cable from September 1980 referred to the Church and the Pope and the possible influence they could have had on the Argentinian government to stop its atrocious actions. The cable directed to US officials in Rome said that:

“the Vatican may be the most effective advocate” before the Argentinian authorities, for whom “disappearance is still the standard tactic”.

Nevertheless, it is still unknown if the U.S. ever approached the Vatican for help; the entire role of the Catholic Church in Argentina’s Dirty War remains an issue of debate with some believing that priests were behind the mass violations of human rights.

It is well known that the U.S. supported Argentina’s dictatorship in the beginning, as it supported many other dictators across Latin America. Yet it is a matter of serious concern to know that one of its most important political figures even praised the violation of human rights, the forced disappearances and the use of torture during its entirety. Does this information give more responsibility to the U.S. over what happened in Argentina?

Featured image via White House photo office/CC-PD-Mark

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From Mexico City, Carolina has lived in five different countries, experiences she defines as the most enriching. She has focused her studies and work on international conflicts and international security issues, diplomacy and protocol. Carolina holds two MA degrees and hopes to begin her PhD studies soon.