Obama Offers Regret For ‘Dirty War’ Policies In Argentina

Obama has ordered the official release of 4,000 classified documents related to the 1976 “dirty war” in Argentina and offered regret, although not a formal apology, for U.S. policies at the time. The president made the gesture with Argentinian leader Mauricio Macri while visiting the Parque de la Memoria for the 40th anniversary of the right-wing military coup. The reaction to Barack Obama’s visit was about as complicated as the U.S. stance on the dirty war.

The POTUS spoke on the need to acknowledge atrocities, and admits the U.S. was slow to do that.

“Democracies have to have the courage to acknowledge when we don’t live up to the ideals that we stand for, when we’ve been slow to speak up for human rights, and that was the case here.”

Demonstrators took to the streets on the 40th anniversary day, denouncing the timing of Obama’s visits and past American policies. In 1976, Argentinian junta succeeded in a coup against the leftist Peron family, and started an brutal era of institutional violence. It wasn’t until 1983 that the military government finally left power.

President Obama's trip to Argentina was largely overshadowed by his visit to Cuba, including this baseball game. Although the president spoke on human rights violations in Argentina, he generally kept silent in Cuba where hundreds of people were arrested in preparation for his visit. [Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]
Many believe the U.S. condoned, and was even complicit in, the violent regime and its human rights violations, according to the New York Times.

President Mauricio Macri explained, “There has been controversy about the policies of the United States early in those dark days, and the United States has to examine its own policies as well and its own past.”

At the center of the “dirty war” controversy is Henry Kissinger according to the Wall Street Journal.

On March 24, 1976, he met with junta’s foreign minister and said “we want you to succeed,” despite already being briefed about the new government’s human rights abuses.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Henry Kissinger is still a subject in modern politics, even though he hasn’t officially held office in many decades. Candidate Hillary Clinton reportedly sought the former Secretary of State’s advice and has praised him for his brilliant insights. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is highly critical of Kissinger, especially in his role Vietnam during the Nixon administration.

But, Kissinger’s position doesn’t represent the whole of American policies in the “dirty war.” The Carter administration put human rights at the center of its foreign policy when he took office, and imposed economic sanctions against Argentina for the abuses. According to historian William Michael Schmidli, there was resistance to the change in policies, and “many U.S. military personnel thought Carter’s human rights policy was undermining a Cold War ally.”

President Obama meeting with Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, who has trying to quickly dismantle 12 years of populist policies since taking office just a few months ago. [Image via Casa Rosada website/Wikimedia Commons]
Obama’s release of documents should help historians piece-together the complicated position the U.S. held on Argentina, but they will also help law enforcement officials.

José Miguel Vivanco, the director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas division, released a statement to that effect.

“I have no doubt that the declassified documents will contain useful information that could contribute to bringing those responsible for these abuses to justice. Given the age of the suspects, time is of the essence.”

President Marci asked Barack Obama to declassify the documents, and said his visit was an opportunity for Argentinians to say “never again in Argentina to political violence, never again to institutional violence.”

Obama gave one more regretful statement on U.S. policies in the dirty war while casting white roses in Río de la Plata out of respect, saying “We cannot forget the past, but when we find the courage to confront and we find the courage to change that past, that’s when we build a better future.”

[Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]