U.S. To Declassify Records On Argentina's 1976-83 'Dirty War,' In Which Over 20,000 People Were Kidnapped, Tortured, And Murdered

Andrew Galbreath

The government of the United States will declassify military and intelligence documents regarding Argentina's 1976-1983 "Dirty War," U.S. officials said on Thursday.

According to Reuters, the move "coincides with President Barack Obama's visit to Argentina next week on the 40th anniversary of the 1976 coup that installed a military dictatorship, which the United States initially supported. Argentina returned to democracy in 1983."

The "Dirty War" (Guerra Sucia in Spanish), refers to the seven-year period of civil conflict and state terrorism in which the Argentine military junta cracked down on left-wing opponents. It is believed that over 20,000 people were kidnapped, "disappeared," tortured, and murdered during this period. The atrocities were mainly committed by the Argentine military and security forces, as well as right-wing death squads.

The role played by the U.S. in supporting the Argentine government in the name of Cold War politics despite its systemic human rights abuses has been controversial for decades. The State Department has already declassified roughly 4,700 State Department cables and documents having to do with the "Dirty War" period. However, much of the record remains shrouded in secrecy. Just how much the American government knew about the state terrorism in Argentina and when they knew it is an important issue to the future of U.S. relations with Latin America.

"Declassifying a more extensive set of documents would also bring into sharper focus a shameful period of American foreign policy, during which Washington condoned and in some instances supported the brutal tactics of right-wing governments in the region. It is time for the American government to do what it still can to help bring the guilty to justice and give the victims' families some of the answers they seek."

"This anniversary and beyond, we're determined to do our part as Argentina continues to heal and move forward as one nation," Rice will reportedly say on Friday, according to prepared comments seen by Reuters.

As the story goes, Derian forwarded to Andersen a "memorandum of conversation" based on a 1977 conversation between her and then-Ambassador Robert Hill at the Buenos Aires Embassy. Hill was a five-time GOP ambassadorial appointee who had been struggling against Kissinger's secret approval for the generals, even refusing to let up when he was warned by those close to Kissinger that he might be fired if he continued trying to save lives in Argentina.

Andersen recently wrote for The Nation again, this time in an open letter to President Obama asking him to admit American complicity in the "Dirty War."

"The president is committed to continuing to support Argentine efforts to address the human rights violations committed during the 'Dirty War' and will highlight this commitment during his visit to Argentina next week," an unnamed U.S. official said to Reuters.

The new declassification effort is set to include law enforcement records, as well as those from the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the presidential libraries at the National Archives.

[Photo by Keystone/Getty Images]

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