Sunday, 27 January 2019

Elliott Abrams, Allan Nairn, Robert Torricelli on Charlie Rose (Mar. 31, 1995)

A Nuremberg Trial for the US Government

Following is a transcript of the "Charlie Rose," talk radio show of March 31. The guests were Rep. Robert Torricelli, Elliot Abrams, and Allan Nairn.

ROSE: Tell me what you have found out, Allan. . . 

NAIRN: Alperez is one Colonel on the CIA payroll who committed two
murders. From talking to both Guatemalan and U.S. operatives involved
in this, its clear that there are many, perhaps dozens of Guatemalan
military officers on the CIA payroll who've been involved in thousands
of killings. The G-2, the military intelligence service which
coordinates the assassinations and disappearances-their top officials
have for years been paid by the CIA. I was able to learn the names of
three of them who've been on the payroll, as well as General Hector
Gramajo, General Roberto Matta, two of the top officers, closest U.S.
proteges, who've been directly involved in commanding massacres in the
Northwest Highlands. Furthermore, there are actual U.S. CIA agents who
work directly inside the G-2. I was able to learn the names of two of
them, Joe Jacarino and Randy Capister. They provide what's called
technical assistance and advice. l was able to reach colonel Alperez
on the phone in Guatemala. He denied being involved in the Devine and
Bamaca killings, said the CIA wasn't paying him, but he talked rather
extensively about how the CIA essentially helps to run the G-2 with
on-going advice and American advisers right there inside this
systematic killing operation.

ROSE: you recorded this conversation?

NAIRN: No, I took extensive notes on it. And it's not just the CIA.
It's the Pentagon, the State Department, and the White House as well.
For example, here are some internal State Department records which
indicate that during both the Bush and Clinton administrations after
there was a supposed cutoff of military aid to Guatemala, the State
Department authorized at least 114 separate sales of pistols and
rifles to Guatemala. The U.S. military has been planning joint
maneuvers with the Guatemalan military this spring. This is an across
the board policy and you have to hold the President accountable for

ROSE: Elliot, you were Assistant Secretary of State for Latin
American affairs during the Reagan administration. Tell me what you
make of this story, what you know about what went on...  

ABRAMS: ...from what I can see there's a lot less here than meets the
eye. The fact that the CIA maintains relationships with intelligence
people and military people in Central America and throughout the world
is not news. The fact that some of them are pretty unattractive people
is not news... That we had an ongoing CIA program in Guatemala at a
time there was a military cutoff, you can't do that without a finding,
its got to be approved by the House and Senate Intelligence
Committees. So one question to ask is: if the intelligence committee's
didn't like this why didn't they stop it? Before we start jumping up
and down here and saying this is another case of the CIA out of
control, here I think I might agree with Mr. Nairn that if this was a
Bush and Clinton policy, then let's talk about the policy of the
President in both cases, and let's not start talking about a rogue CIA
which does not yet appear to me to exist.

ROSE: Let me just ask you a hypothetical question. Would you as an
assistant secretary of State for Latin American affairs, if you found
out that our government was paying a man in the Guatemalan military
after it learned that he had been implicated in the assassination of
an American or someone married to an American, would you be outraged?

ABRAMS: I would certainly be outraged in the Devine case which looked
like the cold blooded murder of an innocent American. The notion that
we would continue to employ such a person would give him and others in
the Guatemalan military the sense that we just didn't care about the
killing of American citizens.  The Bamaca case is a different case.
That guy was a guerrilla and he was not an American.

ROSE: Yeah, but he wasn't killed in battle, he was killed in prison.

ABRAMS: No, but it is a different case. And the responsibility we have
is to protect above all American citizens, not Guatemalan guerrillas.
So it is a different case, different kind of level of seriousness for
the U.S. government.

NAIRN: Charlie, you asked a hypothetical: How would Mr. Abrams react?
In fact we have the historical record. We can see how he and the other
Reagan and Bush and Clinton officials have reacted.

ROSE: In the State Department, or in the CIA, or both?

NAIRN: Across the board. And in the face of this systematic policy of
slaughter by the Guatemalan military, more than 110,000 civilians
killed by that military since 1978, what Amnesty International has
called a "government program of political murder," the U.S. has
continued to provide covert assistance to the G-2 and they have
continued, especially during the time of Mr. Abrams, to provide
political aid and comfort. For example. . .

ABRAMS: Uh, Charlie.

ROSE: One second.

NAIRN: ...during the Northwest Highland massacres of the [early] '80s
when the Catholic Church said: "never in our history has it come to
such grave extremes. It has reached the point of genocide," President
Reagan went down, embraced Rios Montt, the dictator who was staging
these massacres, and said he was getting "a bum rap on human rights."
In '85 when human rights leader Rosario Godoy was abducted by the
army, raped, and mutilated, her baby had his fingernails torn out, the
Guatemalan military said: "Oh, they died in a traffic accident." Human
rights groups contacted Mr. Abrams, asked him about it, he wrote
back-this is his letter of reply-he said: yes, "there's no evidence
other than that they died in a traffic accident."  Now this is a woman
raped and mutilated, a baby with his fingernails torn out. This is
long-standing policy.

ROSE: ...these are specific points raised by Allan having to do with
your public conduct.

ABRAMS: I'm not, I tell you, whatever Allan Nairn wants to do,
Charlie, I'm not here to refight the Cold War. I'm glad we won, maybe
he's not.  What I'm here to say is we're talking not about U.S. policy
in the world .

NAIRN: Won against who, won against those civilians the Guatemalan
army was massacring?

ABRAMS: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.  Wait a minute. Wait a minute.
We're not here to refight the Cold War.  We're here to talk about, l
thought, a specific case in which an allegation is being made that the
husband of an American, in another case an American citizen, were
killed and there was a CIA connection with, allegedly, with the person
allegedly involved in it. Now I'm happy to talk about that kind of
thing. If Mr. Nairn thinks we should have been on the other side in
Guatemala, that we should have been in favor of a guerrilla victory, I
disagree with him.

NAIRN: So you're then admitting that you were on the side of the
Guatemalan military!

ABRAMS: I am admitting that it was the policy of the United States,
under Democrats and Republicans, approved by Congress repeatedly to
oppose a Communist guerrilla victory anywhere in Central America
including in Guatemala.

NAIRN: "A Communist guerrilla victory!"  Ninety-five percent of these
victims are civilians-peasant organizers, human rights leaders,
priests-assassinated by the U.S.-backed Guatemalan army.

ROSE: I'm happy to invite both of you, I'm happy to invite both of you
back to review Reagan and Bush administration policy. Right now I want
to stick to this point [re Alperez scandal]...

NAIRN: Let's look at reality here. In reality we're not talking about
two murders, one Colonel. We're talking about more than a hundred
thousand murders, an entire army, many of its top officers employees
of the U.S. government. We're talking about crimes and we're also
talking about criminals; not just people like the Guatemalan Colonels
but also the U.S. agents who've been working with them, and the higher
level U.S. officials. I mean, I think you have to apply uniform
standards. President Bush once talked about putting Saddam Hussein on
trial for crimes against humanity-Nuremberg style tribunal.  I think
that's a good idea. But if you're serious, you have to be even-handed.
If you look at a case like this, I think we have to start talking
about putting Guatemalan and U.S. officials on trial. I think someone
like Mr. Abrams would be a fit subject for such a Nuremberg-style

ABRAMS: (laughs) 

NAIRN: ...but I agree with Mr. Abrams that Democrats would have to be
in the dock with him.

ROSE: Well, well 1...  

NAIRN: The Congress has been in on this. The Congress approved the
sale of 16,000 M16s to Guatemala. In '87 and '88...

ROSE: All right, but hold on one second,

NAIRN: ...they voted more military aid than the Republicans asked for.

ROSE: And again, I invite you and Elliot Abrams back to discuss what
he did, but right now...

ABRAMS: No, thanks Charlie, but...

ROSE: Elliot, go ahead Elliot, to repeat the question, do you want to
be in the dock?

ABRAMS: It is ludicrous, it is ludicrous to respond to that kind of
stupidity. This guy thinks we were on the wrong side in the cold war.
Maybe he personally was on the wrong side. I am one of the many
millions of Americans who...

NAIRN: Mr. Abrams, you were on the wrong side in supporting the
massacre of peasants and organizers and anyone who dared speak.
Absolutely. And that's a crime. That's a crime, Mr.  Abrams, for which
people should be tried. It's against the law.

ABRAMS: All right, we'll put all the American officials who won the
Cold War in the dock....

TORRICELLI: I don't believe that the likes of a Webster or a Gates or
a Woolsey, all directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, would be
condoning or even knowledgeable of the kinds of activities that we're
now hearing about occurred in Guatemala.

ROSE: I assume you would agree with that Elliot?

ABRAMS: Well I, we'll find out, lets see if they were not aware.

ROSE: That all this could take place without being reported up the
line to the Director.

ABRAMS: If all of this happened and none of them were aware, one has
to say: what kind of managers were they? I would urge Bob Torricelli
to stick to the facts and to avoid the kind of crackpot theories that
we're getting from Mr. Nairn. If you stick to the facts there may be
quite enough to get people's attention.

TORRICELLI: Well, I m trying to stick to...

ROSE: I, I also have to say that Allan Nairn is a distinguished
reporter who won the George Polk Award last year. So, I mean, you
know, I don't want him characterized on this broadcast as a crackpot.
I mean, you can have a personal argument about what he says about you
specifically, but,

ABRAMS: Well, Charlie, Charlie, Charlie, when a guy tells me he thinks
the entire U.S.  Leadership during the Cold War needs to have a
Nuremberg trial, he's a crackpot.

ROSE: OK, I mean, I, I wouldn't, point well taken.  

NAIRN: Well, it s Mr. Abrams s right to say whatever he wants, but the
facts speak for themselves. And in the case of Guatemala you have this
ongoing pattern of murder which has been public record-the Catholic
Church in Guatemala has documented it, all the human rights groups
have documented it. And on the public level, not even talking about
the covert level, year after year the U.S. has continued to provide
all different kinds of aid to the Guatemalan military. Right now it's
the Clinton administration that's talking about a joint maneuver with
the Guatemalan army, it's the State Department that was licensing
these 114 pistol and rifle sales. The idea of a rogue operation is
really preposterous when you have this kind of systematic, ongoing
program that stretches back over years over both Democratic and
Republican administrations. . .

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