[Added: Our blogbrother, Hermano Juancito pointed out in comments that El Mozote was populated with evangelical Christians, who one would imagine the Salvadoran army troops would have regarded as neutrals, or at least not pro-rebel.]
The Nation has a fascinating little piece on whether Bill O’Reilly neglected to report on war crimes in Central America. Greg Grandin:
Before Bill O’Reilly was, well, Bill O’Reilly, he worked for a time as a foreign correspondent for CBS Nightly News, anchored by Dan Rather. O’Reilly talks about that period of his career in two of his books, and in both mentions that in early 1982 he reported from northeastern El Salvador, just after the infamous El Mozote Massacre. “When the CBS News bureau chief asked for volunteers to check out an alleged massacre in the dangerous Morazán Territory, a mountainous region bordering Nicaragua, I willingly went. [As one of the commenters at The Nation notes, El Salvador does not border Nicaragua]
The story of the massacre [at El Mozote, El Salvador] was broken on the front page of The New York Timesby the journalist Raymond Bonner and in The Washington Post by Alma Guillermoprieto; both stories were published on January 27, 1982, and accompanied by photographs taken by Susan Meiselas. Bonner and Meiselas got to El Mozote, after hearing about the massacre, by walking for days in from Honduras. Guillermoprieto wrote about seeing “countless bits of bones—skulls, rib cages, femurs, a spinal column” poking “out of the rubble.” Bonner noted the “charred skulls and bones of dozens of bodies buried under burned-out roofs, beams, and shattered tiles.” Later, Mark Danner reported on the massacre in detail, first in a lengthy New Yorker essay and then in a book.
Aside from the brutality of the killing, El Mozote is distinguished by the fact that Washington moved quickly to cover it up.
[In his reporting] O’Reilly doesn’t mention the massacre at El Mozote. He rather focuses on a supposed killing committed by leftist insurgents in nearby Meanguera (Meanguera, a municipal town center, is nine kilometers away from the hamlet of El Mozote). It is extremely unlikely that O’Reilly would not have known about the El Mozote massacre.
The question is: Did O’Reilly intentionally deflect away from a war crime that implicated Reagan’s Central American policy, or was the deflection a result of his ignorance and laziness?
The journalists who reported the truth got punished. The politicians and journalists who lied got promoted. Is there a connection between O’Reilly’s rise and his willingness to close his eyes to the massacre of hundreds of civilians and the rape of girls as young as 10?
I wish I knew.