Monday, December 18, 2006

J. Patrice McSherry's Predatory States

I had mentioned Patrice McSherry’s book (Predatory States: Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America) in my post on Pinochet’s death, and here’s a review. I’ve put the book on my list on the right side of the blog.

John Dinges wrote a very good book about Operation Condor, the covert organization of South American military governments meant to share intelligence and detain/torture/murder each other’s citizens. But this book goes further in two main ways.

First, it provides a conceptual framework that brings out the formal nature of Operation Condor and South American repression more generally. She goes to great lengths to demonstrate how this was not simply a matter of dictatorships killing people; rather, it represented a coherent plan, formulated across South America and with help from the United States, to create a parastatal repressive structure (and it includes analysis of how the structure was applied in Central America as well). It was carefully planned, plotted, and executed on an international level with all the proper paperwork (which, ultimately, is why so much information is coming out).

Second, the book’s attention to detail is impressive. I kept thinking it could be used in a court somewhere, as she gathers information from her own research in Paraguayan archives, personal interviews, newspaper citations from numerous countries, and a walth of secondary sources. There is more out there, held secretly in U.S. and Latin American archives, and with any luck it will come to light more over time (especially as protagonists like Pinochet die).


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