28 May 2007

Soldiers at school

The Ministry of Defense hasn't been looking all that well lately, with what military-supervised airplanes being always late and/or missing each other by inches, and Minister Nilda Garré unsuccessfully trying to bend reality with her mind to negate the problem... but here's a good one for her. Also late, but you can't have everything. The MoD is changing the curricula of military education, and more: not only will there be humanistic subjects, but also new teachers and instructors coming from (civilian) universities. The pupils will learn about human rights, international law and Latin American integration, as well as a more current version of Argentine history.

If this doesn't make many a dead general spin in his grave (deservedly), I don't know what will. The notion of human rights has never been popular with any military force, ever, anywhere, but in Argentina just speaking aloud in favour of human rights has literally taken people to the bottom of the sea. Latin American integration, too, sounds positively misplaced in this context, where the usual teaching has been patriotism = nationalism = xenophobia... no matter how much our national heroes supported such an integration; today that sounds dangerously close to the "Bolivarian alternative" sponsored by Hugo Chávez or, if we're thinking of the religious side, the typical discourse of those irresponsible lefties of the Liberation Theology movement, which our most Catholic generals have always abhorred and our Holy (and Conservative) Father has so rightly condemned.

Above: The head of the future generation
of Argentine military instructors.

A few months ago, in one of those K-style spasmic bursts of decission-making that we've come to love and dread, there was a government idea of closing down all the military lyceums, which are colleges that give military instruction along with the common curricula and produce reserve officers. The plan was scrapped, and they came up with this, more sensible and less drastic measure, which will be implemented starting in August.

Thus far, the main report in La Nación, and a good one it was. Yet if you were starting to wonder whatever happened to the venerable paper's hypocritically ambiguous pro-dictatorship slant, a sub-article linked from this one will clear your doubts. It's called "A fractured ministry", it's written by María Elena Polack, and it comments on the internal conflicts of the MoD, where Minister Garré is (allegedly) trying to solve the structural problems of the military while the human rights department (the one in charge of the education curricula) is actually planning on "dismantling the very heart of the spirit of military education" by selecting instructors (committed to human rights, one guesses) that will teach the future officers, instead of letting the military themselves transmit the "values" they've been receiving from the previous generations.

Above: Benevolent dictator Rafael Videla speaks
about the moral value of sports (and how you
mustn't pay other teams to lose in the World Cup).

The rhetorical question near the end of the article cannot pass as innocuous to anyone with a mild grasp of Argentine political discourse: "Has anybody measured the impact of re-introducing in the military quarters the political debate that has caused so many pains for the country?". To my knowledge, the military have never debated whether violating the Constitution they swore to defend, start a programme of ideologically-motivated extermination of dissidence and state terrorism, and plunder the country's coffers for personal gain, was right or wrong or even justifiable; they've only made up excuses for not cleansing their own ranks in time. Moreover, this debate is not political, in the sense that it's not a matter of whose politics is popular or what politicians want — it's an ethical debate (what do we want our soldiers to believe in?) and it's a debate about justice (who deserves to be punished for the organized criminal group that called itself a government back in 1976?) and many other things.

The "forgive and forget" camp, the supporters of "reconciliation", have always been the same people: the right (not really the extreme right), the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and the dictators and their accomplices; claiming that this uncomfortable debate is a pain for the country is like saying that speaking of cancer surgery is a pain for the patient... or, we can infer, that ignoring the cancer is actually better than removing it.

1 comment:

  1. Pablo - Do students apply to enter military school after they graduate from high school? Is there some kind of entrance examination to weed out the psychos (or the other way around …)? Are there many women officer candidates?

    “These pupils will learn …a more current version of Argentine history.”

    Sometime I’d be interested in learning from you how the military dictatorship was taught when you were in school, and how that meshed with your parent’s views and the facts you learned later about the atrocities that were committed.



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