Monday, January 10, 2005

"On My Command, Unleash Hell."--Russell Crowe as Maximus

Newsweek is reporting that the Pentagon is debating the "Salvador option," the use of "death squads," a la El Salvador in the 1980's. It seems many "U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success—despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal." We have a face for this policy: John Negroponte, then Ambassador to Honduras, now Ambassador to Iraq. But what if we put a face to those "innocent civilians"?

THERE are so many deaths everywhere that it is incredible. The "death squadron" strikes in so many poor homes. A family of seven, including three small children, was machine-gunned to death in a nearby town just last week. It is a daily thing-death and bodies found everywhere, many decom-posing or attacked by animals because no one can touch them until they are seen by a coroner. It is an atmosphere of death.

The organized, as they call the left, are made up of some of those simple courageous, suffering farmers. In the Pastoral de Asistencia [Pastoral Assistance] work that Ita began in Chatelango, one comes in contact with so many poor refugees-women and children especially, who have lost husbands, brothers, fathers.

It has become an ordinary daily happening. Two lovely young women were cut into pieces by machetes in a com-munity nearby where so many of the people have been killed. The brave mother of one of these young women is also the mother-in-law of the other and she was here with us taking refuge. We are trying to help the refugees-bringing them to shelters and getting food to places where it is desperately needed.

Archbishop Romero [murdered while he said Mass in San Salvador on March 23] and all the martyrs of this little violent land must be interceding for a new day for Salvador.

I am beginning to see death in a new way, dearest Katie. For all these precious men, women, children struggling in just laying down their lives as victims, it is surely a passageway to life or, better, a change of life. . . .

I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I am at peace here and searching-trying to learn what the Lord is asking. Ita is a beautiful, faith-filled young woman. I am learning much from her. At this point, I would hope to be able to go on, God willing. . . . This seems what he is asking of me at this moment. The work is really what Archbishop Romero called "acompanamiento" [accompanying the people], as well as searching for ways to bring help.

Write to me soon. Know that I love you and pray for you daily. Keep us in your heart and prayers, especially the poor forsaken people.

Maura Clarke was a Maryknoll sister working with the poor in EI Salvador when she wrote this letter in October 1980. On December 2, Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Jean Donovan and Dorothy Kazel were brutally murdered.

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