Scott Simon really oozed about Corazon Aquino this morning:
- "Cory Aquino often told interviewers that those years in exile were her happiest. When your husband is thrown into jail for what he believes, in a country ruled by a dictator's words and whims, it is hard to trust that your children can be safe."
- "'I am just one of the thousands and millions of victims of the Marcos dictatorship,' she told crowds."
- "She displeased both leftists who wanted more radical land reform, and rightists who didn't want to talk to leftist radicals."
- "Corazon Aquino didn't have the life she expected—and because of it, gave hopes to others that they could make better lives, too."
Sadly, Simon's tribute reduces Aquino to a one-dimensional heroic caricature, but her legacy was far more complex. Aquino clearly helped move the Philippines away from dictatorship - but she also tolerated gross human rights abuses and was close to many military leaders who helped overthrow Marcos - but were steeped in traditions of torture and repression.
The most glaring problem with Simon's praise is the complete lack of historical context (a typical feature of NPR reports). Simon fails to mention that the Marcos dictatorship and its "thousands and millions of victims" would not have been possible without staunch US support over many years.
Simon's omissions are quite relevant to current events both in the Philippines and here in the US. In the Philippines a surge in human rights abuses (and US involvement) has occurred since 2001 and continues up to the present under the Arroyo regime (including a US citizen who reported being recently tortured). As the Alfred McCoy link above and his book, A Question of Torture, indicate - there are obvious links between the CIA-assisted Marcos torture regime and the current US torture regime of slappings and beatings, "stress positions," sexual humiliation, waterboarding, sensory deprivation, etc. Perhaps most chilling are McCoy's conclusions that the intoxicating power of the torturers can lead them to attack the very governments they supposedly serve. As McCoy notes, the ability of the torture architects and practitioners to secure amnesty in the Philippines has allowed many of them to stay in power - and for their practices to resurface.