John Wiley Lecture delivered to a meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, June 2, 2000
Introduction: the State and the Vulnerable
The following words appear in Nunca Mas, the commission report on violence against Argentina's citizens during the `Dirty War' (1976-1983):
... the blows were aimed at the defenceless, the vulnerable and the innocent, and a new type of torment was conceived (CONADEP 1986, 286, emphasis added).
The passage refers to new born and small children taken from their mothers by agents of the military government and `disappeared' meaning, in this case, secret placement with families approved by the regime.
The babies, at least, were `innocent'. Their mothers were `defenceless'; being in jail and subject to torture. After giving birth, many were `disappeared' in the more usual sense -- secretly killed and put in unmarked, mass graves, or thrown from aircraft into the sea. They comprised a few hundred of the 9,000 or so Argentinians murdered in the repression. The `vulnerable' would include their parents, who could not protect their own children and were denied their living grandchildren. This seems extraordinarily evil, but highlights a general tendency of state terror to produce singular excesses. Unhappily, they are not confined to Argentina.
Globally, civilian victims of state violence far exceed those in natural and technological disasters. It is often remarked that the motor car has killed and injured more people than wars since 1945. This may be true for soldiers, more exactly regular, especially Western, soldiers in wars like those in Korea and Vietnam. It is patently wrong for civilian war casualties. Moreover, in the twentieth century more civilians were killed by their own governments and armed forces, than in any other form of armed violence.
Rummel (1994) estimates about 170 million fatalities for twentieth century `democide' -- the deliberate killing of citizens and other civilians by governments in their own or occupied countries (Table 1). Totalitarian regimes of USSR and China proved overwhelmingly `proficient' in this, followed by Nazi Germany. Given the problems of estimating the numbers, actual figures could be a few tens of millions less -- or over one hundred million more (Elliot 1967; Harff and Gurr 1988). They exceed, and are in addition to, between 40 and 60 million civilians killed by `the enemy' in wars as normally understood, and compared to 38.5 million `battle dead', largely male soldiers (Sivard 1996; Hewitt 1997, 118).
Understandably, van den Berghe (1990) concludes that "... Most states have outkilled all freelance murderers by one or two orders of magnitude...." And, as Rita Arditti (1999, 4) points out in the Argentine context, "... when the state commits crimes, the victims find themselves totally defenceless, with no recourse."
Violence and a `Civil Discipline'
The language used to describe civilian victims of state violence echoes that recently applied to other risks (Hewitt 1997, chapter 6). The victims of technological and natural disasters are also, most often, made vulnerable by poor or absent social protections. Yet, if this commonly involves bad or indifferent governance, the disasters are rarely intended. Armed violence is always deliberate and `aimed' -- if sometimes badly. There are extensive preparations and training, weapons and tactics selected for the planned action. Command structures are heirarchical, usually very rigid. Specific people and places are targeted in orders to those carrying out the violence, even in what appear as acts of random terror. Meanwhile, systemic state violence against home populations, let alone modern wars, depend upon unresolved social conflict and, at least among the more powerful segments of society, entrenched attitudes, on-going institutions and priorities. The great episodes of terror in recent times grow out of histories of intolerance, militarism, economic exploitation, authoritarian rulers or established instruments of unjust rule. Although a focus on `government by terror' involves us in the more extreme forms of state violence, important implications relate to how these grow out of entrenched and `normal' features of the state.
However, you may wonder what these issues have to do with geography. They are virtually absent from our academic literature, at least. In The Canadian Geographer for the 1990s, I found just one paper recognising armed violence as relevant to our usual interests -- a short, historical piece by Cole Harris (1995) on the fur trade in British Columbia. A `Focus' section on immigration (Hiebert 1994) recognized the violence and high death tolls that attend recent refugee crises, but found Canada rarely emphasizes or encourages such immigrants. This was a decade of extraordinary violence, overwhelmingly against civilians (Sivard 1996; IISS 2000; Project Ploughshares 2000). Meanwhile, state violence and gross human rights violations, if relatively rare in Canada's recent history, have occurred in many countries involving Canadian interests, its armed or peacekeeping forces, often geographers' research projects, certainly our course content. Nor should we ignore the experience of the many former immigrants to Canada who did flee repression and war.
A few geographers have made the case for examining armed violence (Bunge 1973; Hewitt 1983; 1997; Pepper and Jenkins 1983; Curry 1986; Thrift and Forbes 1986; Wisner 1986; Ashworth 1991; Routledge 1996). A singular look at state terror is Scarpacci and Leslie's (1993). Their influence remains very limited.
I suspect that a fairly general silence on these matters since 1945 has been aided by the emergence of professional geography as a civil field. Our studies and training largely pursue interests related to the material basis and cultural life of modern civil societies; whether in settlement geography or economic activity, environmental concerns, tourism or gender studies -- and no less for places where civil society is deliberately repressed or under attack. We seem committed to a civil vision of the public good, seeking empirical evidence and technical or normative models with the modern civil `commonwealth' as the reference or paradigm (LeFebvre 1991, 188). However, our vision of civil society remains largely one of its relation to the state. The preoccupations of geography remain `governmental' (Gordon 1991). This is made plain in Bryan Massam's (1999) pioneering discussions of the `civic state', and Gordon Nelson's `civics approach' (Nelson and Serafin 1996). Nor is it surprising. Since the eighteenth century professional geography has been most closely aligned with the administrative and bureaucratic apparatus of the modern state and empire (Godlewska and Smith 1994).
I find the notion of geography as a civil field congenial. Yet, failure to critically address the relations of civil society to the state -- indeed, the changing and contested terrain of civil society in the post-Cold War world -- suggests a civil `project', hardly a civil discipline. To ignore state violence, especially given the scope of its assaults on civil life, seems bound to undermine credibility as Wisner (1986) argued. The state has been the dominant socio-political entity of the modern world to date. Acceptance of the principle that it should hold a monopoly of violence, and control most legal instruments to deploy it, are pivotal for all discussions of violence. It involves not only the violence which state governments would blame on others -- `aggressors', `criminals', `terrorists' -- but the ways in which legitimate governments may threaten and use coercion. And there are others argue persuasively that violence, especially state violence, is the pivotal problem of modern life -- in `peacetime' as well as war, in relatively well-governed states as well as where misrule prevails (Sorokin 1942; Aron 1955; Craig and Egan 1979; Lifton and Markusen 1990).
Meanwhile, only rarely present in our literature is any engagement with civil and human rights. But these are the key areas of legal and humanitarian efforts to restrain the violence of states. In their opposition to violent repression in general, and discriminatory violence in particular, these have been most closely associated with civil society, and efforts to rid it of exclusionary principles or practices. Hence, civil and human rights are most closely identified with establishing defenses for the `vulnerable', and the `innocent'. Human rights, in particular, have been defined mainly from contexts of state terror and, more generally, discriminatory and arbitrary violence of the powerful against the weak. No civil discipline should travel without them!
With such concerns in mind, two aspects of government by terror will be addressed: how state violence affects a country's civil population and geography, and how this involves, or could involve, geographers. To give some focus, these questions are explored through the countries and work of two members of our profession: Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (1915 -), and Peter Kropotkin (1842 - 1921). The former taught at the military academy in Chile for many years, and published in the fields of regional geography and geopolitics. Kropotkin also began his geographical studies in military service, but soon left it and, living in exile, made his name as a science writer and a leading anarchist thinker and organiser. The lives of these two bracket the twentieth century and its violence. Both spent time, willingly or reluctantly, working for repressive governments. Their careers attest to the importance of state violence if, in the end, from diametrically opposed viewpoints. Their countries of birth, Chile and Russia, went through periods of `government by terror' in their lifetimes. I will build my arguments mainly around the Chilean dictatorship, partly because it is closer to us in time, partly because the case of Pinochet has emerged as pivotal for human rights and the restraining state violence (Mifsud 1994; Amnesty International 1996; Human Rights Watch 1999; Hayner 2001).
The Chilean Disaster and a Geography of Fear
"Chile, geography has placed you between the ocean and the spring, between snow and sovereignty and the struggles for dignity has cost the blood of the people. And in times past happiness was a crime Do you remember those vile massacres? They left us a country wounded by the blows of prisons and sabres!"
Pablo Neruda (1973/1980) viii
Coup and Dictatorship 1973-1988
On 11th September 1973 a military coup initiated a reign of terror in Chile. In due course, Augusto Pinochet became dictator and remained so for eighteen years. The coup is said to have caused "... a complete shutting down of civil society and its interfaces with the state" (Pratt 1999, 26). At least 3,900 people were `disappeared'. Death was generally preceded by torture or caused by it. In the first two years over 250,000 persons were detained and some 42,500 `political' prisoners were tortured, threatened with death, or suffered extreme privations (Rettig Report 1992; Rrojasdatabank 2000). Most were later released, but denied legal redress for themselves or their families, who also suffered great hardship. About 20,000 people were forced into exile or fled voluntarily. Eventually, hundreds were given asylum in Canada. Some had been tortured and continue to require post-traumatic care. Perhaps one million persons -- 10 percent of the population -- suffered repressive violence of some sort, and at least 200,000, `situations of extreme trauma' (Derechos Chile 2000).
Similar or larger numbers apply to those brutalized as willing or unprotesting instruments of the repression. A whole generation of Chileans in uniform and government service became adepts in, witnesses to, or apologists for, torture and other atrocities.
The numbers may not seem large compared to other cases. But no military coup in Latin America to 1973 had perpetrated such sudden and extensive violence. The `dirty war' in Argentina was three years away. The greater violence in Colombia, in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Peru, was yet to come. In some ways, the Chilean coup was a `proving ground' for such Cold War military take-overs in the region. Pinochet was a model for military dictators such as General Zia-ul-Haq in Pakistan, whose career had obvious parallels, or military-backed civilians such as Fujimori in Peru (Llosa 1998). In turn, precedents elsewhere influenced the Chilean terror. Before the coup, Right …