"There is no military honor in killing children"
"No hay ningún honor militar en matar niños"
There is no military honor in killing children
These words were spoken by Prof Terry Karl today as she was wrapping up her presentation of her expert opinions in the El Mozote massacre case, where the majority of the 978 victims were children and more than 400 were aged 12 or younger.
Yesterday Karl spoke about a pattern of massacres to show that the events at El Mozote fit within a strategy of terror advanced by the hard-line military leadership in control in El Salvador in 1980-81. Today she spoke about a pattern of operations in the department of Morazán in northeast El Salvador where El Mozote is located.
According to Karl, the central target of several operations starting in October 1980, was always to get to the FMLN and to capture Radio Venceremos, the guerilla radio station. There were attempts in October 1980, March-April 1981, and August 1981 by the armed forces which were always unsuccessful. The problem, according to Karl was that the Salvadoran army was prepared to fight a conventional war in which the enemy stands ground and defends territory, but instead the FMLN would slip away each time.
Thus “Operation Rescate” as the December 1981 attack was known, was yet another attempt to capture the guerrillas and Radio Venceremos. It was a massive operation, she testified, including almost a third of the entire Salvadoran military. 90 trucks filled with soldiers made their way to Morazán. Helicopters brought in other troops. Thousands of soldiers participated along with bombing from the air. And because of the size of this operation, Karl said it was obvious that the High Command knew all about it and authorized it.
She regularly returned to the theme of the amount of planning needed to mount such an operation – it was not the work of a single battalion commander, and how it fit into the pattern of prior incursions into Morazán in pursuit of the radio station.
For much of her testimony, Karl referred to this map:
She indicated the map appears on a website devoted to praising the memory of Domingo Monterrosa.
Karl provided a detailed chronology of events from December 1 through December 10, 1981, when the population found in El Mozote was massacred and then the successive killings in following days in surrounding communities. By December 7, the FMLN had packed up Radio Venceremos and left the zone because it was no secret that yet another incursion into the area was being made by the army. El Mozote had filled with people who thought it would be safe zone. Troops of the Atlacatl rounded them up on December 9, but were waiting for something. On the morning of December 10, executions start with the men. A helicopter arrives with Monterrosa and other high officers (and maybe a US advisor Karl says). The officers then have a meeting. Monterrosa comes out of the meeting and goes to an elevated point to speak on a radiophone. After he returns, the helicopter leaves with the officers, and the hundreds of women and children start to be killed. Karl says that top brass in the Salvadoran military never stayed around while their soldiers did the dirty work.
According to Karl, an order to “leave no witnesses” could not have been given to the troops on the ground without the authorization at the highest levels.
Karl also continued on her theme of the involvement of the US in backing the Salvadoran military as it committed atrocities. She described the presence of many mercenaries hired into the country with money she suggested came from the CIA. She presented covers of Soldiers of Fortune magazine which told tales of mercenaries in the field in El Salvador.
Karl testified that there was at least one CIA operative stationed in the village of Osicala not far from El Mozote who was there along with the intelligence unit of the Salvadoran 3rd infantry brigade. A report from the CIA on December 9, the day before the massacre was key in Karl’s testimony because it described the fact that the FMLN had already left the area and would need to be pursued in “Phase 2” of the operation, which never happened. For Karl this is important because it shows that the military knew they were not encountering the FMLN and that they (and the US) knew that subsequent stories about a firefight with guerillas was a lie.
Karl again mentioned the US advisor with MILGROUP attached to the US Embassy, Bruce Hazelwood, who she described as a “duro” or hard-liner and the only US trainer who Monterrosa would work with she said.
As she was concluding, Karl tied the massacres of the early 1980s to the present day. These campaigns of terror she said, forced people to flee, and they began fleeing north to the United States, starting a process of migration which has never ended.
On Wednesday, Karl will be questioned by lawyers from the defense, from the attorney general's office, and from the victims' representatives.
Stating Abrams told the HRW director he wished he could offer there had not been a U.S. military adviser at El Mozote -
Adding that Abrams was referring to retired DELTA commando Bruce Hazelwood.
With due diligence in mind I asked the expert witness if Hazelwood's name was specifically stated as having been that adviser - the response was "No".
With that said - and in lieu of additional information coming from the former U.S. military adviser commander then at Sitio del Nino (the Atlacatl barracks/base) that Hazelwood was at the time a member of his team and present at Sitio del Nino on December 12, 1981, conducting training - the claim this U.S. adviser was present with Monterossa is discounted.
Abrams MAY have been referring to the two yet unidentified U.S. "observers" at Osicala, roughly 15 miles from El Mozote, as described in Mark Danner's 1994 book "The Massacre at El Mozote" - information supported by a U.S. CIA cable obtained by Danner via FOIA.
U.S. military advisers, from January 1981 onward until the Peace Accord in 1992, were authorized to accompany their units to the field - contrary to the urban myth otherwise - and to be appropriately armed to include "long guns".
My earlier belief dating back many years now was that Bruce Hazelwood did accompany Monterossa to El Mozote but when he could not stop the kill order from being given he left, on foot, and returned to San Salvador where he reported what was occurring (as was protocol) to the U.S. embassy.
Unfortunately that story - according to Mr. Hazelwood - was likely confused by its source with something similar that occurred in 1980 at Hacienda Colimia where Hazelwood offers he was present.
The expert witness, in possession of the El Mozote story told to me, determined no buses were running in/around El Mozote during Operation Rescate so anyone offering they "hitch-hiked" out and caught a bus was impossible. Hence the account given to me was deemed inaccurate at best.
Mr. Hazelwood did interview with the UN Truth Commission in 1992 and provided recollections regarding both the murders of the Dutch journalists in 1982 by a platoon from the ATONAL Immediate Reaction Battalion, and Monterossa/El Mozote. He has likewise, last year, interviewed with the Dutch Prosecutor's Office in Holland regarding their case.