HOWEVER ominous the events of August in the Soviet Union, they do
not, at the moment at least, threaten individual Americans.
Individual Americans are threatened, morally and physically, in El
Salvador, and now the Bush administration plans to put more American
soldiers into an even worse predicament in Peru.
The current personification of a flawed United States policy in
El Salvador is US Army Maj. Eric Young, caught in the middle of what
is plainly a never-to-be-completed investigation of mass murder in
El Salvador because he was ordered by his commander in chief to do
two contradictory jobs.
One job was to provide professional advice to the El Salvador
Army. You succeed in that job only by gaining the confidence of the
people you are seeking to advise. Major Young's other job was to
advance the American notion of human rights among the El Salvador
military. To do that in a military establishment soaked from top to
bottom in the blood of tens of thousands of innocent victims is out
of the question.
In the process of trying to do those mutually exclusive jobs,
Young apparently learned who planned the murders of six Jesuit
priests, their cook, and her daughter, and why. He was bound in
conscience to report that, knowing full well that to do so would
destroy any value he might have in his job as adviser, the
performance of which would determine his future military career.
Now caught up in the crossfire among all sorts of pressure groups
seeking to advance or abort what passes for judicial process in El
Salvador, Young will be fortunate to survive as a whole human being,
let alone continue with a meaningful military career.
Outrage over this sort of thing has been building for years among
US Army officers who have been put through the emotional meat
grinder in El Salvador, but their one channel to top US leadership
was closed off when President Bush fired US Southern
commander-in-chief Fred Woerner because General Woerner would not
countenance the deaths of hundreds of innocent Panamanians in order
to arrest Manuel Noriega.
Most articulate of the spokesmen for the advisers is Col. Lyman
C. Duryea, retired two years ago as chief of Latin American studies
at the Army War College and former defense attache in El Salvador.
Equally concerned were four US Army fellows at Harvard's Kennedy
School of Government who published a paper on the subject in 1988
and former advisers interviewed as part of the Army's oral history
program at Carlisle Barracks, Pa. What is especially striking about
this group is that most are West Point graduates, not a group
accustomed to criticizing higher authority in any form. …