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Archbishop John R. Roach
January 14, 1981
The U.S. government has today announced the resumption of military assistance to the Junta in El Salvador. For several months now, and with particular intensity in the last four weeks, the U.S. Catholic Conference (USCC) has presented to the Carter Administration its position of opposing any military assistance to El Salvador. These discussions with the Administration have been frank and frequent; the President and the Secretary of State have provided us many opportunities to set forth our views, and they are aware of our position, the reasons why we hold it and the popular support the position has among members of the Church in the United States and in El Salvador.
In formulating and expressing our position the USCC has been conscious of the complexity of the situation in El Salvador. We have taken our orientation from the Church in El Salvador, a community of faith which has committed itself to the pastoral task of accompanying the people, especially the poor and oppressed, in their daily suffering and in their struggle for justice and freedom. That struggle has produced martyrs for the Church in El Salvador: Archbishop Romero, several priests, countless numbers of lay leaders, and most recently the four American women missionaries who selflessly gave their lives in service to the poor. The social struggle for dignity, for justice, for land has resulted in the death of ten thousand Salvadorans during the last year. While many factors are at work in a conflict of this magnitude, we remain convinced that the principal perpetrators of the violence have been the forces of the extreme right, the security forces which continue to function without control and their allies.
In the face of this human and political tragedy, we were aware that any decision made by the United States on military assistance would be a controverted and agonizing one. That decision has now been taken.
While recognizing the factors that were carefully considered in making it, I must frankly express the USCC’s profound disappointment and disagreement with the decision to renew military aid to El Salvador.
Our opposition to renewed military aid is based on the conviction that no real evidence exists that the government of El Salvador has brought the security forces under control. The murder last week of three people associated with the land reform program, two of them American citizens, is an illustration of the violence from the right which daily afflicts the citizens of El Salvador. The restoration of military assistance, in our view, enhances the possibility of more violence from the security forces and associates the United States with acts of oppression which can only alienate the majority of the people of El Salvador. A principal form of this oppression which deeply concerns us is the persecution of the Church in that country.
Providing military aid conveys an image of the United States which contradicts the best aspects of our human rights policy. It contributes to a view that we are prepared to support policies abroad that we would never sanction at home.
Finally, we fear that the kind of military aid now proposed will increase the possibility of further direct American involvement in the conflict in El Salvador in the months ahead. For all these reasons we find the provision of military aid a costly gamble which we cannot support.
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