On this day in history: The El Mozote Massacre

On this day in history, December 11, 1981: Units from the U.S. trained/funded Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran Army killed more than 800 civilians (over half of whom were children) in the village of El Mozote, El Salvador and the surrounding area.

Victims Of The Mozote Massacre, Morazán, El Salvador, January 1982  Photo: Susan Meiselas
Victims Of The Mozote Massacre, Morazán, El Salvador, January 1982
Photo: Susan Meiselas

The Atlacatl was a “Rapid Deployment Infantry Battalion” specially trained for counter-insurgency warfare, trained by United States military advisors. The U.S. government, under Jimmy Carter (a Nobel Peace Prize winner, like fellow mass murderer Obama), was funneling enormous amounts of military aid to the Salvadoran military at the time.

El Mozote consisted of about twenty houses situated on open ground around a square. Facing onto the square was a church and, behind it, a small building known as “the convent”, used by the priest to change into his vestments when he came to the village to celebrate mass. Near the village was a small schoolhouse. Upon arrival, the soldiers found not only the residents of the village but also campesinos who had sought refuge from the surrounding area. The soldiers ordered everyone out of their houses and into the square. They made them lie face down, searched them, and questioned them about the guerrillas. They then ordered the villagers to lock themselves in their houses until the next day, warning that anyone coming out would be shot. The soldiers remained in the village during the night.

Early the next morning, the soldiers reassembled the entire village in the square. They separated the men from the women and children and locked them in separate groups in the church, the convent, and various houses. During the morning, they proceeded to interrogate, torture, and execute the men in several locations. Around noon, they began taking the women and older girls in groups, separating them from their children and machine gunning them after raping them. Girls as young as 10 were raped, with some soldiers reportedly heard bragging that they especially liked the twelve-year-old girls. Finally, they killed the children, often by slitting their throats … sometimes hanging them from trees. After killing the entire population, the soldiers set fire to the buildings.

El Playon, Well-Known Location Where Bodies of the “Disappeared” Are Often Found, Sonsonate  Photo: John Hoagland
El Playon, Well-Known Location Where Bodies of the “Disappeared” Are Often Found (Sonsonate)
Photo: John Hoagland

The US officially praised the efficiency of the Atlacatl Batallion on several occasions. During a Senate hearing on El Salvador which took place on 8 February 1992, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Elliott Abrams stated that ‘the battalion to which you refer [Atlacatl] has been complimented at various times in the past over its professionalism and over the command structure and the close control in which the troops are held when they go into battle’.

The perpetrators of the El Mozote and other equally vicious massacres – along with their supporters in the Carter and Reagan administrations (including the Presidents themselves) – were never charged, as authorities granted all forces a general pardon following the peace accords of 1992 which put an end to the war.

Families Looking for “Disappeared” Relatives in the “Book of the Missing,” Human Rights Commission Office, San Salvador  Photo: Eli Reed
Families Looking for “Disappeared” Relatives in the “Book of the Missing,” Human Rights Commission Office, San Salvador
Photo: Eli Reed
Unearthing of Three Assasinated American Nuns and a Layworker from Unmarked Grave, Santiago Nonualco, December 4, 1980  Photo: Susan Meiselas  Two Young Girls Found Alongside the Highway to Comalapa Airport  Photo: John Hoagland National Guardsmen Arresting a Suspected Guerrilla, Chalatenango  Photo: Kenneth Silverman
Soldiers With Their Mutilated Victims, Chalatenango  Photo: Harry Mattison Soldiers Check University Workers for Identification Following Skirmish with Students, San Salvador, March 1980  Photo: Etienne Montes National Guard Arresting Members of Popular Political Organizations Who Had Occupied the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) Headquarters, San Salvador  Photo: Michel Philippot
Guerrilla Dragged Through the Streets of Cuscatlancingo, March 1982  Photo: Susan Meiselas Female Victims of Death Squad, Apopa  Photo: Chris Steele-Perkins Arrest for Failure to Carry an ID Card, San Salvador  Photo: John Hoagland

 

[These photos from the U.S. backed dirty war in El Salvador were taken from the book “El Salvador: Work of Thirty Photographers (1983)” … keep this fresh in your mind, because this is, no doubt, how your tax dollars are being spent in Afghanistan and Iraq right now.]

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