We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
In 1972, V.S. Naipaul wrote a prescient article on Argentina in the New York Review, well before the Dirty War was in full swing: The Corpse at the Iron Gate. In 1972. Argentina had a military government. Perón was elected in 1973 and his widow was deposed in a coup in 1976. The Dirty War intensified after the coup. (Offhand, I would say that 98% of those killed in the Dirty War were killed from 1974-78 and maybe 90% from '75-'77);
From Naipaul in 1972:
These lawyers had been represented to me as a group working for “civil rights.” They were young, stylishly dressed, and they were meeting that morning to draft a petition against torture. The top-floor flat was scruffy and bare; visitors were scrutinized through the peep-hole; everybody whispered; and there was a lot of cigarette smoke. Intrigue, danger. But one of the lawyers was diverted by my invitation to lunch, and at lunch—he was a hearty and expensive eater—he made it clear that the torture they were protesting against wasn’t to be confused with the torture in Perón’s time.
He said: “When justice is the justice of the people men sometimes commit excesses. But in the final analysis the important thing is that justice should be done in the name of the people.” …
“There are no internal enemies,” the trade union leader said, with a smile. But at the same time he thought that torture would continue in Argentina. “A world without torture is an ideal world.” And there was torture and torture. “Depende de quién sea torturado. It depends on who is tortured. An evildoer, that’s all right. But a man who’s trying to save the country—that’s something else.
The leftists that Naipaul interviewed had a very plastic attitude towards torture: "Depende de quién sea torturado. " (Tr.: It depends on who's being tortured.) According to those two leftists Naipaul interviewed, torture was good if our guys do it, bad if the police do it against us. Which doesn’t sound very different from the military gorilas’ point of view. Sounds to me as if a lot of the guerrillas and guerilla supporters were brothers under the skin to the right wing torturing military gorilas.
The nervous breakdown that Argentina's political system endured in the 1970s was not at all confined to the military- there were lunatics on both sides. Argentina, like some other countries in Latin America, has long had the vivo as a cultural archetype. Literally translated as "lively," the vivo is an expedient type who has no problem with cutting corners. Con man would be an example. The businessman who cheats on the terms of the contract is another example. Torture, kidnapping, bank robbery, killing- including killing someone for being in a detainee's address book- were common currency in Argentine politics in the 1970s- which vivos on both sides saw as expedient and thus justified.
Naipaul's 1972 article also has a riveting portrait of a leftist priest.
The priest in charge was one of the “Priests for the Third World.” He wore a black leather jacket and his little concrete shed of a church, oversimple, rocked with some amplified Argentine song. It had been whispered to me that the priest came of a very good family; and perhaps the change of company had made him vain. He was of course a Peronist, and he said that all his Indians were Peronist. “Only an Argentine can understand Peronism. I can talk to you for five years about Peronism, but you will never understand.”
But couldn’t we try? He said Peronism wasn’t concerned with economic growth; they rejected the consumer society. But hadn’t he just been complaining about the unemployment in the interior, the result of government folly, that was sending two Indians into his shantytown for every one that left? He said he wasn’t going to waste his time talking to a norteamericano; some people were concerned only with GNP. And, leaving us, he bore down, all smiles, on some approaching Indians. The river wind was damp, the concrete shed unheated, and I wanted to leave. But the man with me was uneasy. He said we should at least wait and tell the father I wasn’t an American. We did so. And the father, abashed, explained that Peronism was really concerned with the development of the human spirit. Such a development had taken place in Cuba and China; in those countries they had turned their backs on the industrial society.
A priest who sees “development of the human spirit” in totalitarian regimes- that is sheer madness. Nor is his view of economics- eschewing economic growth while protesting poverty- any more rational.
In a return to Argentina two decades later, Naipaul met a former student of the leftist priest he interviewed in 1972. The priest's name was Father Mujica. Father Mujica later became a guerrilla, and was killed in a gunfight. The parents of a childhood friend were friends with Camilo Torres, a Colombian priest turned guerrilla fighter- who was also killed in battle. Like Father Mujica, Camilo Torres was from the aristocracy. Ernesto Cardenal, a Liberation Theology priest from Nicaragua, was also from the aristocracy. But Ernesto, never having taken up the gun, is still alive in his 90s.
At the same time, Naipaul made some comments about Argentina which were utter nonsense- such as claiming that Argentine women were uneducated. As long as Naipaul let his interviewees talk, and drew conclusions from what they said, he did fine. When he made sweeping generalizations not backed by conversations, he often fell flat on his feet.
Even with those shortcomings, it was a prescient article.