Children of Cain: A Story of State Sponsored Terrorism

MiMi Yeh

The September 11 attacks, horrific as they were, were the product of an extremist religious fanatic, Osama bin Laden and company, exiled from his own country. Appropriately enough, he found a home in Afghanistan where the government was often the culprit when it came to tormenting citizens into walking what their version of the Koran deemed the “straight and narrow.”

The situation in Children of Cain: Violence and the Violence in Latin America, isn’t any better. Chronicling the creation and perversion of democracies that were little better than military-run dictatorships, author Tina Rosenberg gives and in-depth look at the ignored open secret of sanctioned drug violence, state-sponsored terrorism, and guerilla warfare that shook the populations of Latin America and South America.

From 1985-1990, Rosenberg traveled to Peru, Chile, Argentina, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Colombia, documenting and interviewing former prisoners, guerillas, leftist politicians, and the iron-fisted militaristic right. In the process, she paints an unimaginable world where a fear-driven people turn a blind eye to corruption, death squads, and miscarriages of justice. Except this is the reality of the world we live in.

Take the case of Colombia, where the coca trade has spawned an industry of assassination. Sicarios, as they are traditionally called, will kill anyone, including one another, if the price is right. For as little as $700, one can have inconvenient business, love, or political rivals removed, as Rosenberg found.

Colombia’s leaders even considered legalizing the cocaine trade and consider it a “legitimate” industry that regularly brings in $1.5 billion or more. The state willingly launders drug money, taking their cut in a tax on every transaction.

In Children of Cain, a study found that, “In a successfully functioning society, a government, together with its institutions that create a sense of community, such as courts and schools, is an arbitrator. It teaches children that killing is wrong, for example, and punishes people who kill. In Colombia, the government is too weak to play that role.”

Argentina’s Dirty War, gave birth to the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, women determined to walk the famous plaza every Thursday until their children appear once again. More than 6,500 souls have disappeared and were presumed dead. If one is a suspected or accused Communist by the military regime, it is enough to warrant a death sentence.

Whether she is interviewing hired killers or Shining Path guerrillas, Rosenberg plumbs the depths of mans inhumanity to man, in starkly, gruesome detail, to find a reason for what most perceive to be hopeless, unstoppable violence. Although this book primarily details the sins of each government, it also goes into the creation of the infamous U.S-sponsored “School of the Americas.”

For those of you unfamiliar with this institution, formally named the International Military Education and Training Program, it teaches such courses as “Psychological Warfare,” “Riot Control,” “Urban Counterinsurgency,” and more. This is an instructional school designed to stamp out any opposition whatsoever, including thorough indoctrination against communist and/or socialist theories.

This nonfiction work was published in 1991 but makes for an insightful, gripping read, regardless of time. Awareness and education against the cruelty around us is essential if we are ever to evolve beyond it.