Tuesday, February 03, 2015

The suicide that was not a suicide in the asylum that is not an asylum

Karl Marx was right when he wrote: "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." For proof, one need not look beyond the strange case of the Argentine prosecutor whose president has ended up declaring his death "the suicide that was not a suicide."

The bare facts simplified:

1) Alberto Nisman spent roughly 20 years investigating the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association community center in Buenos Aires.

2) Nisman's leading theory of the crime was that the bombing could be traced back to a criminal conspiracy involving the Iranian government, all covered up by the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

3) On January 18, Nisman was found dead in his home, of a gunshot head wound with a weapon at his side, a development that was reported as a suicide until indications appeared that homicide could not be ruled out.

For about the past two weeks, Argentines on the Internet have been screaming that Kirchner is a "murderer," to which misguided Kirchner supporters have offered the shrill response that "we warned" the dead prosecutor.

Then, the once merely mediocre Washington Post bravely decides to vie for last place among major U.S. metropolitan newspapers.

On February 2, yesterday, the paper ran a front page story, written by reporters allegedly on the scene in Buenos Aires. On second and subsequent mention, they refer to the president of Argentina as "Fernandez." This is the equivalent of referring to Hillary Rodham Clinton as plain "Rodham."

To this average netizen, sitting in Washington, D.C., far from the events in Buenos Aires, where he once lived, the whole thing is perplexing and annoying to the point of inducing an eerie sense of insanity.

The AMIA bombing years ago struck me as yet another sad chapter in the long story of Argentine anti-Semitism. Adolf Eichmann, the SS-ObersturmbannfĂĽhrer who was one of the main organizers of the Holocaust, chose his hiding place well. He was seized outside Buenos Aires in 1960 before being tried and executed in Israel.

The idea that Iran is somehow involved in the AMIA bombing seems odd to me: there is no dearth of home-grown haters of Jews in Argentina and no need to import any. But, OK, let's say that Nisman had information he didn't share with me; I didn't know who he was until just before his death.

Also preposterous to me is Nisman's notion that former vicepresident Kirchner, who became president in 2003 upon the death of her husband Nestor, would  be involved in Nixonesque shenanigans concerning events a decade before she was in power. One might as well suspect Hillary Clinton of involvement in the Reagan-Bush Iran-Contra coverup.

And yet, and yet ... if everything in Argentina looks as if it is a reflection in one of those warped fun-house mirrors, perhaps that is the way they really are. Just as Nisman's suicide is not a suicide, Argentina is an asylum that pretends to be a country.

My ancestors were Argentine and I live in Washington partly to escape that past, even as I try to learn from it.

One of the lessons is that Argentine history is, indeed, a story of mistakes transmogrified into disasters and devolved into sheer absurdity. Another is that, even when posted as correspondents in Buenos Aires, Americans will never understand what I mean.
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