Here’s a recent news story I wanted to flag to round out some earlier discussion here. Leaders of Argentina’s military dictatorship have been convicted of charges arising from stealing babies from leftist opposition members and handing them (the babies) over to good military families. The parents of the children were typically killed after the children were taken. Sentences for these crimes range from 15 to 50 years in prison.
It’s been known for some time that these events occurred during the reign of the junta but I gather military leaders denied that they occurred as part of a systematic plan. A sixteen year (really–it says 16 years) trial proved that there was indeed a plan.
I found this quote particularly striking:
“The kidnapping of newly born babies is the last crime that former members of the military regime are willing to admit,” says British journalist Robert Cox, who was one of the main witnesses at the trial last year. As editor of the small English-community daily Buenos Aires Herald in the late 1970s, Cox was one of the only journalists in Argentina who dared report on the crimes committed by the military as they happened, including their kidnapping of infants. “It’s like the Nazis, what they did was so terrible they could never admit it,” Cox said in Buenos Aires upon hearing the verdict that his testimony helped bring about.
The criminal prosecutions really are a tribute to the grandmothers who pursued their quest for the truth for many years.
I’m not a terrific fan of DNA as a defining feature of parenthood, so it seems to me all the more important for me to follow this story. What was done here is abominable. The harm done–to the parents who were killed, to the children who were denied all knowledge of the origins, to the grandmothers who searched years for lost descendants–is unfathomable. It seems to me it is particularly complicated for the stolen children themselves, many of whom were raised by families that were grounded on a foundation of lies and violence. That this all occurred as part of a systematic plan bespeaks a level of cruelty and barbarity that leaves me without words.
DNA evidence is incredibly important here. It tells us something critical about historical truth.