Nestor Cerpa, leader of the squad that took over the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Peru, and his fellow rebels are safely dead. It must be assumed that they knew this is how it would end.
Japanese capital can again breathe freely as they assist the Peruvian government in the continued subjugation of Peru's desperate majority. Alberto Fujimori can engage in macho exhibitionism for the adoring press. The thousands unjustly incarcerated in Peru's prisons can continue to endure the daily agonies of their dank shit holes, as millions still at liberty to starve in the open air can abide in the shit holes of Lima's hellish slums. By contrast, the pampered adolescent future leaders of the oligarchy will fill the bistros and discos of Miraflores and Barranco.
But I want to point out a different contrast. The Peruvian forces who conducted the assault on the Ambassador's residence were largely trained and very likely directed by the US Army's counter-terrorist unit, Delta. It will be denied. The probability that Delta participated in this operation is 100 percent...either as planners, shooters or both. I myself trained Peruvian Special Forces in 1991, and I was a member of Delta for almost four years. In 1985, I was thrown out for being too friendly with "suspicious personalities" in another Latin American country, where I wasn't supposed to be. I want to say a few things about Delta, and about the MRTA rebels who accepted their personal extinctions in Lima.
When I was being exiled from the army's highest priority unit in 1985, they had just broken ground on a new facility to house them. We had until then worked in a converted stockade on Butner Road in Fort Bragg, where the building modifications had been done by unit members, and much of what we had, we improvised. But with the Reagan Administration, the money began to flow into "special operations," and we were suddenly finding ourselves in possession of expensive specially designed vehicles, surveillance gadgets out of Dick Tracey, kayaks, mountain climbing gear, skis. And, of course, the new facility.
I saw the new compound a few years later when I was assigned to a task force with the mission of capturing Mohammed Farah Aidid in Somalia. The facility was impressive. America's top army commandos, contrary to popular mystique, work in some of the best imaginable conditions of anyone I have ever encountered who is not wealthy. They have gymnasiums, Olympic swimming pools, Jacuzzis, their own clinic complete with a squad of Special Forces medical sergeants, a dentist, and an MD or two.
They have state-of-the-art firearms and superlative ranges. They have a unit budget exceeding $20 million a year. (I am legally prohibited from stating the unit's size).
Each "operator" receives three substantial special pays beyond his military base pay. They are fond of chic haircuts, Oakley sunglasses, expensive toys. They have mortgages to keep them in line, becoming quickly dependent on the extra pay which will terminate if they leave Delta.
The shooters are white. The "support" people: cooks, supply sergeants, communications support, all the non-glamour jobs have their fair share of color, but the "operators," who submitted to the exhausting selection course, who undergo a process which has never been subject to outside oversight, are almost exclusively white. In all my years in the army, Delta was the whitest unit I knew.
Though there are exceptions, the majority of its members are openly racist arch-conservatives. It is a kind of pampered, phallic culture, designed solely to perpetuate itself and kill people like Cerpa and his comrades.
Cerpa was a labor activist. The Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru came later. He did not have a swimming pool or a mortgage or Oakleys. He grew into a Marxist as a seed grows, nourished on the experience of the ground beneath him. He thought he could confront the extreme unevenness of that ground: the disease, infant mortality, wretched working conditions, desperation-through the union. When the unions were crushed, he resorted to clandestine organizing. When his revolutionary organization was being dismantled and his colleagues were being thrown into cages, he made a choice. In December of last year, he consented to die. Delta and Peru's Special Forces were merely the functionaries who carried his decision out.
It was a dumb operation, even in the brilliance of its tactical execution...the takeover of the residence, not the army assault. Cerpa and his companeros could have waited for the pressure to grow among the Peruvian poor the way masses of worms grow in their bellies. The takeover was essentially reactionary...from the standpoint of a cold, committed revolutionary... no one waiting for the mass movement to reach critical mass. The organization was in danger of being crushed by state terror, true, but they could have disbanded, regrouped. They were reacting. Out of loyalty to a cause, second, but out of solidarity with their jailed comrades first.
To the last, that was the one intransigent demand. Release them. A dumb operation. They didn't even kill the hostage. That was not likely ever the plan.
Delta operators wouldn't do it. The calculated risk they'll take, but they won't deliberately accept themselves as corpses. They are Americans, after all. Neither would the American "left" do anything this dumb. We might write or demonstrate. But we are an infantilized culture, in denial about the certitude of death, self-absorbed and in the dark about this idea of something being larger than an individual.
Hopefully, there are millions of Peruvians who are willing to do something dumbwilling to do something. Cerpa and his band entered freedom when they entered the Japanese Ambassador's residence, for no one is as free as one who steps over the fear of death. Free to do something dumb. Free to say no.
Adios, compañeros. Nos vemos.
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