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THE FLIGHT by Horacio Verbitsky

THE FLIGHT

Confessions of an Argentine Dirty Warrior

By Horacio Verbitsky

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1996
ISBN: 1-56584-009-7
Publisher: New Press

 A chilling as-told-to memoir by a man whose job it once was to murder political dissidents in the name of military dictatorship. A great code of silence once surrounded Argentina's so-called dirty war of the late 1970s and early 1980s, during which several thousand political opponents were ``disappeared.'' Whether willingly or out of fear, journalists did not report the daily discoveries of mangled bodies, and until recently the Argentine government maintained that it had never officially endorsed the campaign of terror. Francisco Scilingo breaks that silence: A naval officer who routinely kidnapped suspected dissidents and threw them from planes and helicopters into the South Atlantic, he had ``never been able to overcome the shock that the execution [of military orders] caused me.'' What impresses is not so much that Scilingo chose to speak as his reasons for doing so: As a military man, he concludes that the military's involvement in terrorism was simply ``not very ethical.'' Scilingo could readily claim that he was merely following orders, but he does not; he squarely accepts responsibility for his crimes. His confession, delivered first on television, then in newspaper interviews, and now in this book with his amanuensis, Argentine journalist Verbitsky, has caused a great stir in Argentina. Before Scilingo went public, President Carlos Menem pardoned all military personnel involved in the dirty war, saying, ``Of the two parties involved in it, one was fighting for the rule of law and the others were constantly violating that law.'' Afterward, Menem ordered the military to undergo ``self-criticism,'' with the navy's chief admiral reporting that the methods Scilingo and his fellow warriors used ``were unacceptable even in the cruel context of war.'' Now, however, the generals and admirals are retracting their confessions, and Scilingo has been jailed for making fraudulent claims. The dirty war thus goes on, despite this valuable book.