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“When are we going to learn? How many lessons do we need? . . . The power to declare war rests in the Congress of the United States.” The first Kennedy amendment, applying to Nicaragua and El Salvador, was defeated 71-20. The second one, which would have applied to Nicaragua only, was rejected 72-23. Both Texans voted against the amendments. Neither spoke. April 2 On April 2, Bentsen and Tower voted to kill a Kennedy amendment to cut aid to El Salvador from $62 million to $21 million, and it was killed, 63-25. April 3 Bentsen came into the floor debate the next day to oppose a Kennedy amendment that would have ended military aid to El_ Salvador after May 31 “unless that government has initiated a prosecution of those involved in the murder of two American labor advisers in 1981.” Kennedy said that ten days earlier the government of El Salvador had released Capt. Edward Avila, “who, by his own admission, provided the weapon that was used to gun down in cold blood two American labor advisers and the head of the Salvadoran land reform program.” In January 1981, so ordered by Avila, according to American Institute for Free Labor Development investigators, two Salvadoran national guardsmen shot the three men with a machine gun. which Avila and another Salvadoran officer gave them. Rising to oppose Kennedy’s amendment at length, Bentsen said “it is in our national interest to continue our assistance” to the Salvadoran government. He does not want D’Aubuisson to win the presidency in the forthcoming runoff, Bentsen said, but now is the time “to indicate our support for the democratic process in El Salvador.” “We all deplore the ravages of the death squads; we all deplore the corruption and injustice in El Salvador; we are all dismayed at the lack of progress in bringing to trial those responsible for the murder of American churchwomen and labor representatives,” Bentsen told the Senate. But the critics are dangerously wrong, suggesting that U.S. support “is somehow to blame for all the blood and injustice,” he said, continuing: “The fact is that El Salvador has been a massive killing ground for half a century. Terror and mayhem are endemic to the country. The United States did not spawn terrorism or death squads in El Salvador. “I do not know who is to blame for death squad murders. I have my suspicions. . . . We have told the government of El Salvador, at the highest levels, that death squad activity must cease. “As far as I know . .. we have had some real success in this regard. It has been several months now since there has been a prominent murder attributed to the death squads. However, several prominent right-wing politicians .. . have been assassinated. We have all seen pictures of their bodies in the papers. “Where is the outcry in this body against left-wing death squads? Are we only concerned with violence from the right? Mr. President, in June 1981 more than 800 people a month were being killed by civilian violence in El Salvador. Last month, accordina L’ to State Department information, that figure was down to 68. .. . “When we are talking about Central America there is no moat, there is no drawbridge there is only Mexico. . . . I do not think we should be turning five million Salvadorans over to 11,000 insurgents supported by Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Soviet Union. . . . I, for one, fail to see how we can achieve our objectives by turning our back on El Salvador.” Kennedy returned to the attack, saying he was amazed by comments from Bentsen and another senator “about unsolved murders in El Salvador. . . . We are talking about organized assassination squads, whether they be from the left or right. . . . We are talking about two national guardsmen who admitted that . . . Mr. Avila gave them the gun. And they went out and killed two Americans.” Kennedy said he was also amazed that neither Bentsen nor two other senators he identified were introducing amendments to limit aid to El Salvador until there is a verdict in the case involving the murder of the four American churchwomen. “No,” Kennedy went on, “we get up on our high horses and say that we are not going to provide any kind of conditioning with regard to the murder of Americans who happened to be labor advisers and were shot down in cold blood. . . . “If we are concerned about the cause of justice, decency and human rights and we are concerned about American lives, before we go ahead and appropriate many more millions of dollars, we must say that we mean business when it comes to organized murder and death squads. “If we do not,” Kennedy said, “we are sending a very clear message, Mr. President. It is one that I certainly do not want to have any part in, or anything to do with.” Kennedy’s amendment was then defeated, 69-24, with both Texans voting with the majority. They were on the prevailing side again as the Senate refused, 54-39, to cut off all aid to El Salvador until justice was done concerning the churchwomen’s murders. They voted the same day to kill an amendment to cut off aid until the President certified that the Salvadoran government had agreed to unconditional negotiations with all major parties that would also agree to them. That lost 63-26. April 4 The day of April 4, Bentsen reversed himself on the question of prohibiting combat troops except under certain circumstances, despite his having voted the other way twice on March 29. This time the proposal came from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., but this time with Bentsen as a co-sponsor rather than an opponent. Leahy’s amendment would have conditionally prohibited U.S. combat forces in or over El Salvador; except for provisions designed to induce quick congressional action if the President came to the Hill in an urgent situation, it was substantially the same as the two earlier Kennedy proposals. In the course of the debate Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said he fully believes that if Reagan is re-elected, “by this time next year we will have Americans fighting in El Salvador.” Taking the other side, Sen. _ Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., said: “The northern neighbors of Central America are Mexico. I live on the borders of Mexico. I can tell this body they have never been happy about the war with Mexico, which we fought without any good reason and which we won and we took land from Mexico. And many times they smilingly look at me and say, ‘You are living on our land and some day we are going to get it back.’ And I do not doubt that there will be a time in history when that effort will be made.” With Kennedy saying this vote was “the third time, the third strike,” on the question of U.S. combat forces in Central America, the Senate again defeated the prohibition 59-36, Bentsen voting with Kennedy while Tower voted with the majority as usual. Kennedy then immediately turned to his proposal to prohibit the ongoing covert aid to the contras in Nicaragua. He said U.S. support for the contras’ THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5