Rumsfeld stopped in El Salvador on his way to a hemispheric conference of defense ministers in Ecuador. On Veterans Day, he laid a wreath at a memorial for U.S. personnel killed during the Salvadoran civil war, including 20 service personnel. And Friday he paid homage to six Salvadoran military for saving the lives of six U.S. employees of the Coalition Provisional Authorities by awarding them with the bronze star. A few points worth mentioning:
- This is apparently the first time we've heard about this particular episode, as I'm quite sure it wasn't reported at the time. Why? Perhaps because Flores did not want to highlight the combat role (security details in a war zone might be considered that), especially days for the Salvadoran elections. It was always blatantly obvious why "special forces" were sent to Iraq for what was being toted as a humanitarian mission, but this would have made it even more clear.
- El Diario de Hoy said this was the first time that Bronze Stars had been awarded to any Central American officers. Actually, I did a quick internet search, and find that rarely do foreign troops get this honor. (The U.S. offered bronze stars to Canadian troops that had been accidentally killed by a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan, for example.)
- La Prensa Grafica reported that troop levels would rise to 200,000 by the end of 2005. Has that been noted yet in the U.S. press?
- Of course, the headline elsewhere, including an AP story that got wide play, was how Rumseld noted that El Salvador could be a model for Iraq. The LA Times had this quote from Rumsfeld: "When one looks at this country and recognizes the fierce struggle that existed here 20 years ago and the success they've had despite the fact that there was a war raging during the elections, it just proves that the sweep of human history is for freedom. We've seen it in this country, we've seen it in Afghanistan and I believe we'll see it in Iraq."
- All stories mentioned the continuing request by the U.S. to the Nicaraguan government to destroy some 2000 surface-to-air missiles still in the hands of the Nicaragua military--this after 14 years of conservative government rule. Sounds like there might be some "reserved domains" still among Sandinista higher-ups in the military.