The Myth of the Missing
Both discuss atrocities in South America. The Mission portrays the massacre of a South American native tribe, and Missing shows the fallout when family members investigate the enforced disappearance of an American journalist in Pinochet’s Chile.
Watching the latter film, I became aware for the first time that my government covered up the kidnapping of its own citizens. After that, I couldn’t get enough information on the topic. I spent study hall reading declassified documents from the Nixon administration and eventually created an audio report in college on the US-supported militarization of Latin and South America.
Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance defines enforced disappearance as:
“the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”
What bothered me enough to get my blood pumping years ago was the idea – nay the historical fact – that even as an affluent American citizen I could be erased for looking behind closed doors. I couldn’t fathom the sense of frustration and anger that would naturally follow the realization that your father, or husband, or daughter had not only been secretly abducted and likely tortured, but that your elected officials could be complicit.
Nowadays I’ve lost that sense of shock.
It’s no longer a secret that we keep secrets. Black sites and prisons closed off to media have become an accepted part of counter-terrorism efforts around the world.
But what does still shock me is the degree of State-authorized kidnappings occurring globally today. The numbers are astounding and mock the rule of law. In Iraq alone, as many as 250,000 to upwards of 1 million people have disappeared and not been found. As I’ll get into tomorrow, the United States plays no small part in that statistic.
Perhaps we should consider a change in vocabulary. No one is “missing” when the world’s largest military superpower knows exactly where they are.
They are just missed.