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Truth hurts.

Perhaps the irony contained in the title of Tim Golden's piece for the New York Times (November 1, 1992) was lost on the editors there. In an article headed "El Salvador, Where Truth Not Only Hurts; It May Not Heal," Golden wrote about that country's new Truth Commission, charged with recording the atrocities of the 12-year war there - a war which (contrary to the Times) has not ended, thanks to the return right-wing death squads.

Golden's essay was accompanied by a photo showing a forensics expert cleaning a skull taken from a mass grave in El Mozote. El Mozote was the place where the army conducted a brutal massacre of peasants in 1982 (not 1981, as the caption incorrectly suggested) - a massacre that the U.S. State Department has repeatedly denied ever took place.

It is now a matter of historical fact that then - Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Enders went before Congress and lied about the killings - and this despite the extensive on-site reporting from the region provided by Raymond Bonner of the New York Times. In fact, Bonner's findings were corroborated by two officials from the US. embassy, who sent a later,suppressed and heavily edited cable to the State Department.

Initially, the Times supported Bonner, one of a,very few journalists willing to risk life and limb in the Salvadoran countryside. The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, sided with Enders, attacking Bonner's credibility and alleging excessive credulity. Soon after, the Times followed suit, muffling its coverage of atrocities committed by the Salvadoran military.

Bonner was vilified by Reed Irvine's Accuracy in Media, U.S. Ambassador Deane Hinton, and even President Ronald Reagan. Deemed too "political" to cover an area as sensitive as El Salvador, Bonner was jettisoned by Times potentate Abe Rosenthal. (Later, Rosenthal chose to run bylined stories by such right-wing hacks as Claire Sterling and Shirley Christian, belying his concerns about "politicized" journalism.)

Rosenthal had, in fact, journeyed to El Salvador and, at least according to the Columbia Journalism Review, allowed Ambassador Hinton to empty his bile ducts about the much-despised Bonner. The ever-obedient Rosenthal responded quickly to such official grousing by unceremoniously sacking one of his best reporters. Journalists Robert Parry and Peter Kornbluh would later note that U.S. embassy officials "boasted in 1982 that they had forced [Bonner] out of the country because of his unfavorable reporting on the Salvadoran government" (Foreign Policy, Fall 1988).

But back to the painful "truth " Not surpisingly, nowhere did Tim Golden's piece mention the Times' own complicity in obscuring the facts about El Salvador, or the role former editor-in-chief Abe Rosenthal played in punting those Times writers (including Sydney Schanberg) who were deemed less than servile to state interests.

For the real and painful truth about the Times and El Salvador, have a look at Raymond Bonner's own splendid book, Weakness and Deceit: U.S. Policy and EI Salvador. There's also Ed Harriman's Hack: Home Truths About Foreign News. Both are much needed antidotes to Golden's inner-court revisionism.
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Title Annotation:Against the Grain; murders in El Salvadore
Author:O'Sullivan, Gerry
Publication:The Humanist
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Previous Article:Odd men out.
Next Article:Breach of faith.

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