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Dr. Charles Clements talks with Studs Terkel

BROADCAST: Apr. 13, 1984 | DURATION: 00:57:04

Synopsis

Discussing observations and experiences as a medical practioner in Vietnam and then Central America, principally, El Salvador with Charlie Clements M.D.

Transcript

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Studs Terkel What is a hero? You know, as kids we used to read all the Bullfinch Rome and Greek fables, and a hero is someone that goes through certain adventures, and in one way or another proves himself, not necessarily physically, not in a macho way, but who uncovers something about himself, too. And as a result of which does something he never dreamed he'd be doing when he first came into being or first was conscious of the world and others around him. A hero. If ever there were a hero today, his name is Charlie Clements, Dr. Charlies Clements, M.D. and how he, who flew some 50 missions as an American pilot or in a plane in Vietnam, became a doctor among the guerrillas of El Salvador is a drama, a story, and that's a hero. In a moment, my guest, Dr. Charlie Clements, whose book of his own findings, his observations and himself will be forthcoming soon. In a moment then, Dr. Charlie Clements and his story. After this message.

The Beatles ["Carry

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I think I'm someone who is concerned about what our country does and, what's happening in all of the world and have slowly become to understand that better through my experiences in life.

Studs Terkel Where are you from? We'll begin that way, where are you from?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I grew up in the military, my parents were in the Air Force, and I lived on Air Force bases around this country and overseas.

Studs Terkel And your father is a retired lieutenant colonel.

Dr. Charles Clements That's correct.

Studs Terkel Now, I'll ask you about your father and his thoughts about you today. So you grew up then in an atmosphere of doing your duty as you've been told it is.

Dr. Charles Clements Oh, absolutely. Always doing the right thing I think was the way that I grew up and, until I was about 25. Always did what was expected of me, was the good, the good high school student, the good cadet.

Studs Terkel Now, what was expected of you then during the Vietnam War?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I think I felt an obligation to serve in Southeast Asia. I was in graduate school, after I graduated from the Air Force Academy, but voluntarily left there because I felt an obligation to go to Asia. They were sending some of my contemporaries for the second time, sending some of my instructors from the Air Force Academy the second time, so I thought well, it's probably better for me to quit school now and go to Vietnam, and I'll come back to school later.

Studs Terkel And so in Vietnam you were a pilot?

Dr. Charles Clements That's correct. I was a C-130 pilot over there, transport pilot, and believed very much in what I was doing when I went there.

Studs Terkel You -- what, 50 missions,

Dr. Charles Clements That's correct, a few more than that, I think.

Studs Terkel Then you were up for all sorts of it seems to me medals and awards.

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I had some from the academy and I was, I was nominated for a few there, I wasn't -- didn't do anything particularly heroic, just did my job, but everyone who did their job there got medals. That's

Studs Terkel Well, then what

Dr. Charles Clements You read about Grenada recently? They awarded

Studs Terkel Seven thousand medals?

Dr. Charles Clements That's right.

Studs Terkel And 6000 were there.

Dr. Charles Clements That's right.

Studs Terkel So, what happened then? When did you start thinking about something else? How did that happen?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, it was a slow process that trying to recreate, Studs, has been has been interesting, because I can't tell you every step along the way. But there were impressions that they were made on my mind. I remember one time taking a load of soldiers from Camron Bay to a small fire base that was the second airplane or their ride of their lives for many of them and, the plane broke down and I talked to many of them, and I became aware that there were very few of them like me, that is, I was a white college graduate and most of them were Chicanos from the barrio or Blacks or kids from Kansas or rural America who went off with the bands playing that were very scared, didn't know why they were there, and I would take a lot of them back there in body bags or medical evacuate them. But I began to see that the kids like me, or the kids who might come in contact with at UCLA when I was in graduate school who were, who were by that time trying to either get their wives pregnant, because if they had a child they could get out of the draft, and they already gotten into graduate school and that could get them out of the draft and they'd already gotten married and that could get them out of the draft, and then were having to get psychiatrists to give them deferments of some kind, weren't the kids there were over there fighting. That was one of the things that remains in my mind. There were a lot of steps like that. Nixon came on TV one time and it was profoundly disturbing for me to think the President of the United States would knowingly lie at that time. It was before Watergate, and Nixon said that we don't have any troops in Laos and don't tend to commit any, and I knew very well that he was aware that we had secret bases there where my classmates were flying unmarked airplanes out of air bases, and they wore civilian clothes, and they were resupplied by CIA flying the same ones, C-130 I was except without markings. And that was a, that was a jolt. I remember trying to pick up bodies one time, and the sergeant saying, "Whoa, let 'em stay on ice a little bit longer. Lieutenant, the body count's not right this week," and realizing, beginning to see how much of the war was being falsified and manipulated and how the public was being deceived. Not to mention the horrors of war themselves.

Studs Terkel And then you decided to say you want out.

Dr. Charles Clements Not really. I just decided that I didn't want anything more to do with Southeast Asia. I was so loyal that I, I still felt I had an obligation to the Air Force. But I said, "Perhaps you can transfer me to someplace where my skills as a manager could be used better, that I'm getting very, very angry about what I am, what I'm doing." I flew part of the State Department into Cambodia in early 1970, ostensibly to negotiate with Sihanouk about the neutrality of his, of his country. I would later be told in bars in Saigon by CIA agents that I was a fool if I thought that we were negotiating with Sihanouk, that what we were really doing was negotiating his overthrow by a general who would let us invade Cambodia, General Lon Nol, and sure enough a couple of weeks later there was an overthrow, Lon Nol came to power. And then suddenly we were invading Cambodia and that was the kind of straw that broke the camel's back for me.

Studs Terkel So you decided what, that you would

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I talked to my commander. I'd come back to the States for a week leave, and Kent State happened, as well as the furor over the, over the invasion of Cambodia, and I had virtually no contact with the antiwar movement. My decisions were moral decisions at that time, not political ones. And I told my commander that I thought it was better for the safety of the people who flew with me and then for the Air Force if I was reassigned, because I didn't want to return to Asia, and he said that it'd be better if I saw the base psychiatrist, and

Studs Terkel Psychiatrist. Something was wrong

Dr. Charles Clements Well, any time a pilot refuses to fly, or has qualms about flying, they're required to see the psychiatrist, and so I saw the psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist said, "Well, before you can have a change of assignment, we need to document your kind of mental state." And so eventually I was sent back to the United States and found myself a patient in a maximum security psychiatric institution.

Studs Terkel A maximum security psychiatric institution. Why?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I was a -- I guess in the view of the psychiatrist, I was probably crazy. I was a dissenter. He considered me agitated and depressed, and I was certainly depressed when I found myself locked on a psychiatric ward and unable to eat with a knife or shave with a razor for fear that I

Studs Terkel We know the Russians do this. You know, the Soviets, you know when there's a dissenter. We know that part of what they do is they say, "This guy's nuts," you know.

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I don't bill it as an abuse of psychiatry like happens in the Soviet Union in the sense I was dealt with in an institutional way. The base commander sent me to the psychiatrist, the psychiatrist obviously saw I was agitated. The next psychiatrist I got to knew nothing about the Phoenix Program, the assassination program in which were killing thousands of people that I talked about. He knew nothing about the secret bombing war in Cambodia that made it look like the moon. He knew nothing about all I was saying, and he probably thought that I was paranoid or whatever. And so the nurse who threatened to give me a shot if I didn't take my medicine was told by the doctors I was crazy, and she was just responding in an institutional manner to do what her job

Studs Terkel You were offering what turned out to be true, but it seemed so surreal to them.

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I think it did. It did to my parents and lots of the people that I was coming in contact with, and

Studs Terkel By the way, your father, the retired lieutenant colonel, supports you.

Dr. Charles Clements He does now. That's correct. At the time, they thought if the Air Force said I was crazy, I was probably crazy.

Studs Terkel What happened after that?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I was eventually discharged from the service with a psychiatric discharge, and I left the country for a while and worked in some third-world countries and put my life back together a little bit. You have to understand that everything I had ever believed in and striven for was suddenly a castle of sand that very quickly dissolved, and I eventually came back to medical school.

Studs Terkel Oh, were you thinking of being a doctor before? Is that it?

Dr. Charles Clements Not before, but I think that my contact with doctors in Vietnam who had one of the more positive roles, if there is such a thing in the midst of the horrors of war, and I wasn't sure at the time, so I worked for a while in third-world countries and traveled some and still found myself wanting to go to medical school, so I

Studs Terkel So you became a, you got your M.D.

Dr. Charles Clements Right.

Studs Terkel Okay, now you're a doctor. Why couldn't you -- now that you've done your work, your duty, at the same -- and recognizing this things are cockeyed, why didn't you practice somewhere or here in a community or have a nice affluent practice? What led you to do the next thing?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I began to practice in the in the sense of finishing my training in a community in California, in Salinas, California, and there I began to see refugees from El Salvador amongst the farm workers that I was seeing as patients.

Studs Terkel You worked among farm workers.

Dr. Charles Clements That's correct. Amongst others, I was in a county hospital and we saw a lot of farmworkers. I had already become aware of what was happening in El Salvador, because I had been president of the American Medical Student Association, and our colleagues, that is, our medical colleagues in El Salvador, asked that some Americans come down and investigate this campaign of terror directed against health workers. The American Public Health Association and the American Friends Service Committee sent a delegation there and documented that the nation's only medical school had been closed and occupied by the military, had been gutted, that physicians were being shot in the operating room on occasion, that patients were being murdered in hospital beds, nurses abducted and killed in front of their patients and clinics, and most of the activity directly attributable to the death squads and security forces. And so when I started seeing patients that had physical and psychological marks of torture, it really transformed a lot of those abstractions.

Studs Terkel The patients at that county hospital

Dr. Charles Clements That's right.

Studs Terkel In Salinas. That's

Dr. Charles Clements That's right. Some of them who were former medical students who had to flee for their lives.

Studs Terkel So the information you got was from them, from the actual refugees.

Dr. Charles Clements From union organizers, from farm workers. Peasants, they call them campesinos in El Salvador, from schoolteachers who were coming under attack, a variety of

Studs Terkel What happened next?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I was talking to people about the situation there in medical schools and schools of public health. I met with a lot of yawns, a lot of ho-hums, a lot of "poor brutes in the banana republic" type of response. At a time when I was hearing echoes of what I had heard as a as a young man, then it had been "If we don't stop them in Vietnam we'll have to stop them at the Golden Gate Bridge," and now it was "If we don't stop them in El Salvador, we'll have to stop them at the Rio Grande." And I was saying to them, they were the, they were many of the patients that were coming through, and we began to send helicopters to El Salvador and advisers and Secretary former General Haig said that we needed to reestablish our credibility in the world, that we needed to assert ourselves and prove we could win a victory, and to me it appeared that even then we were headed toward another Vietnam.

Studs Terkel So you went down there.

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I, I continued seeing patients. Really at first I inquired about working in a refugee camp and was told that I too would be considered subversive and should forget it, and so that was a little bit of a relief in a way, and I continued seeing patients and working and then I saw a movie about the opposition control zones, and the filmmaker afterwards said he had met a French doctor working there, a woman, and asked me if I would consider working there and first I said no, that since Vietnam I've become a Quaker and I said that is a bit of a contradiction. A commitment to nonviolence in the midst of all that, and some of my Quaker friends in discussions about it said I'd never asked myself the other question, that is, "Wasn't working in the government controlled refugee camps an endorsement of the government sponsored violence?" And I finally realized that those were probably contradictions unanswerable in the abstract, that there's always a place to bear witness and always a place to heal in the midst of that kind of turmoil.

Studs Terkel You're talking about bearing witness [unintelligible].

Dr. Charles Clements Well, as a Quaker I feel an obligation to "Speak truth to power," we call it, to observe situations and to inform people about what we've seen, and so bearing witness in the midst of civil strife is a tradition.

Studs Terkel So now begins another chapter in the life and the findings and the discoveries of Dr. Charlie Clements. So you took a step.

Dr. Charles Clements I took a step. I went to Mexico. One, to learn better Spanish, and two to negotiate as it were some conditions of service with the political representation of the opposition called the FDR, and explained that I wanted my own medical neutrality respected, that I wanted to be able to treat anyone with regardless of political considerations, that I preferred to work with civilians and that as a Quaker I didn't intend to bear arms and they found those acceptable after they overcame their initial suspicion of me as a former military man who wanted to work in a place that was being shot and bombed out.

Studs Terkel And so you found -- so they agreed.

Dr. Charles Clements They agreed, and a few months later I entered a what's called a controlled zone in Salvador called Guazapa.

Studs Terkel Guazapa. What is Guazapa? Now we come -- now you're in a certain area in El Salvador.

Dr. Charles Clements Guazapa is a volcano and it's the name of the area surrounding it. It's kind of like an egg, fried egg, the egg yolk being the volcano and the gentle sloping lands around it which are 15 miles by 15 miles. And in that 225 square miles, there were 10,000 civilians whom I would care for in the year I worked there.

Studs Terkel So there you are in that area. This is a rebel, a rebel-held area.

Dr. Charles Clements That's correct.

Studs Terkel And the government troops, the various ones are surrounding it, is that it?

Dr. Charles Clements That's correct. And it's called a controlled zone like one-third to one-fourth of the country that the opposition operates in, that the guerrillas operate in, because it's not liberated, but they control the entry of the death squads and the soldiers except when they mount massive operations and come through for search and destroy operations.

Studs Terkel Someone will say to you, the skeptic will say, "What do you mean by death squads?" They'll say, "Who are the death squads?"

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I think it's been pretty clearly established recently that the death squads are merely military men who take off their uniforms and carry out directives against certain civilians or people who have voiced opposition to what's happening. Many times they're paramilitaries, that is the organizations like ORDEN in which civilians have been armed with explicit instructions to defend their villages against anyone who's labelled subversive.

Studs Terkel And I suppose the four American women, the three nuns and the lay person who were killed -- the evidence is rather overwhelming that they were knocked off by death squads.

Dr. Charles Clements Oh, absolutely. The -- I was surprised upon my return. It was old news here, but to find out that one of the soldiers involved had confessed, that he said, "The sergeant ordered us to take off our uniforms, to put on civilian clothes and come back and set up a roadblock." I've interviewed several members of death squads since I've come back who are in sanctuary now, that is being protected by churches here, which may seem a bit of an irony, but these are men some of them who converted to Christianity, couldn't stop what they were doing for fear of losing their own lives, and had to flee the country and are in danger of being sent back here, and they admit very freely what they did and how they were taught to do it, and most of them are part of the security forces or military.

Studs Terkel And the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, I suppose. Well, that is pretty well.

Dr. Charles Clements Well, we know that Ambassador White sent cable traffic saying that Roberto D'Aubuisson drew straws to see who would have the honor of assassinating Archbishop Romero.

Studs Terkel We have to come to Charlie, you yourself now, Charlie Clements Dr. Charlie Clements and life. So there you are in this Guazapo [sic - Guazapa] enclave of the guerrillas. Is it a village, is it a camp, how does it

Dr. Charles Clements Well, it's the slopes of this volcano, which the peasants there have farmed for years, generally for the wealthy landowners, now they're farming it for themselves. There were 16 villages there, and in the health care sector there were two hospitals, a military hospital and a civilian hospital, and a clinic in each of the villages. My responsibility was for the civilians and trying to take care of them and develop programs that would ensure

Studs Terkel -- How many people there, about 10,000?

Dr. Charles Clements About 10,000 40 percent under age 12.

Studs Terkel Forty per cent under 12. How many doctors?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I was the doctor for the civilians, and there was a doctor for the military for the guerrillas as

Studs Terkel So there were two doctors and you were with the civilians, for the 10,000, 40 percent of whom were under 12.

Dr. Charles Clements Right.

Studs Terkel This -- could you describe a day in your life, in the life of your life and the life of the village

Dr. Charles Clements Well, everyone got up around daylight, around five or five-thirty. The women would gather wood and carry water in preparation for fixing breakfast. The men sometimes would grab a cold tortilla and head for the fields for a while. I would generally stop by the hospital and check in on the patients and then hike to one of the villages that I would make a regular circuit of. In the village, the first thing I'd do was meet with the health workers, some of whom were former medical students that had to flee for their lives when the school closed or some illiterate peasants who wanted to learn about healthcare. We would first visit the patients that were not ambulatory, that is, those who were in their homes but too sick to be able to come to the clinic, and then come back and see maybe 50 to 100 patients in the clinic. The health workers seeing a patient, presenting the patient to me, and we would discuss the case. In the late afternoon I might visit with the schoolteachers to see how the curriculum for the hygiene was coming along in the schools, or meet with the Health Collective and give an in-service training session on some disease or some medicine that we were trying to develop. We made a lot of natural medicines. And then I would either hike back to the hospital or hike to the next to the next village.

Studs Terkel Before I ask you, then the life goes on. That is, the peasants farm there.

Dr. Charles Clements Oh, absolutely. They're farming -- there are many co-operatives there now, they're called revolutionary cooperatives. Ten years ago they were they were called Catholic cooperatives. They were the inspiration of, perhaps certainly more than ideology what has probably inspired the peasants there of what we call "liberation theology," when they began understanding that their misery wasn't the result of God's will, but it was more the result of men's greed, and they began organizing these cooperatives and the association of Christian peasants and organizations like that, which were attacked, and they eventually began to respond in kind and protect this new society that they were building until we've seen the spiral of violence ending in

Studs Terkel The liberation theology, the phrase [I heard you?], this is -- a number of young priests and nuns are part of that, too,

Dr. Charles Clements Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. In the mid-'70s, there was a popular slogan in El Salvador, "Be patriotic, kill a priest." And they began to do that. They killed a priest Rutillio Grande who organized many of the base Christian communities, the Bible study groups in the area where I worked. The soldiers beat and raped and left for dead another of the priest, named Father Jose Alas, who fled for his life. They began then killing the delegates of the word that these lay preachers that were trained, and then the leaders of the cooperatives.

Studs Terkel When Grande, the young priest was killed, the militant young priest, that's when Romero really, Bishop [sic - Archbishop] Romero really took a stand.

Dr. Charles Clements That was the beginning of his conversion process. I had the privilege recently of being on a panel with an American Maryknoll Sister, Joan Patrick, who worked there for 12 years, and she said they all cried when Archbishop Romero was selected Archbishop, because he was so conservative and they knew that all of their work in the base Christian communities would probably be unsupported by him. But he slowly, after hearing the stories of the peasants who were being killed and, and many of the priests who he knew weren't communists who were being killed, converted himself to the preferential commitment to the poor, as he called

Studs Terkel I gotta ask about you, the doctor. You mentioned homemade medicine, and we'll come to that, about the medical supplies and yourself and how it works and what the conditions are at this very moment. After this message. [pause in recording] Resuming with Dr. Charlie Clements, who is here right now working on a book. He'll be finished. Your book, your -- in a sense your discovery, self-discovery will be forthcoming in May, did you say?

Dr. Charles Clements In June of

Studs Terkel In June, Bantam the publishers.

Dr. Charles Clements That's correct. It's called "Witness to War".

Studs Terkel When's the last time you were in that area?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, just a little bit over a year ago.

Studs Terkel A year ago.

Dr. Charles Clements Right.

Studs Terkel So -- the medicine. How did you treat -- you came, when you came in, when you came from Mexico there, you carried [something?] like 75 pounds of medical supplies with you.

Dr. Charles Clements That's correct. I didn't have any idea where I'd be working. For reasons of security the guerrillas didn't tell me if I'd be in a referral hospital or in the boondocks, so I decided to prepare for the worst and bring kind of a MASH unit on my back, if you will. Maybe with a little less humor than they manage on MASH, but the idea was that to have a self-contained medical and surgical

Studs Terkel What do you use when the supplies run out?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, we had to improvise a lot. The corollary of being of -- healthcare being subversive for the poor and displaced in the cities is that any medicine destined for the rural areas are destined for the poor or displaced is considered contraband. So people were killed for buying any quantity of medicine and we had to improvise a lot. Anemia was a big problem there, and so we taught women to make nail cocktails.

Studs Terkel Nail cocktails?

Dr. Charles Clements Right.

Studs Terkel What's a nail

Dr. Charles Clements Anemia is a lack of iron in the blood, and so we encouraged women to soak large construction nails in a glass of water, clean them every 24 hours with a piece of lemon, and drink the rusty water that we called the nail cocktail.

Studs Terkel That's how they get the

Dr. Charles Clements That was a little bit of iron for their diet that they didn't have. The chronic arthritics would get four aspirin every two weeks, and we taught them to make a tea, boiling the leaves or the bark of the willow tree which had acetylsalicylic acid, the same active ingredient as aspirin, and that was our major analgesic.

Studs Terkel Four aspirin every two weeks.

Dr. Charles Clements That was about all we could afford there. We tried to teach people to be self-sufficient and depend on preventive medicine. Diarrhea was a great killer amongst children there and there was a number of campaigns that were directed toward building latrines and having people understand the connection between contaminated water and diarrhea. Children in the elementary schools learned the importance of washing their hands in boiling water and using latrines as well as washing fruit when it fell on the ground. Women learned to make rehydration solutions, because in diarrhea it's the dehydration that kills children sometimes, nothing more and mothers would learn to mix honey or molasses with a liter of water and some salt and rehydrate their children when they had malaria or diarrhea.

Studs Terkel So there was a learning process. Hygiene was learned, habits were learned, they'll come to school in a moment, too. Through daily adversities and necessities.

Dr. Charles Clements Through daily adversities and it's the spirit of this new society they're building. For instance, food is really the central issue, probably more than anything else. Food and land use of the of the struggle there. El Salvador is considered the hungriest country in Latin America by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization. I knew a lot statistically before I went down there. For instance, I knew that one percent of the population owned 20 percent of the land in 1960, and by 1980, two percent of the population owned 60 percent of the arable land. But hearing women tell the stories in the prenatal clinics about their children, I had a very different understanding of it in the sense that they would say, "Well my oldest died in the year there was too little rain, or the year there was too much rain, or the year that fertilizer prices doubled." And I came to understand what it meant living as a subsistence farmer. They paid 50 to 70, 50 percent generally of their crop yield to the landlords or the lenders, much like sharecroppers had done in this country for many years, and they could subsist on half of what they produced even under difficult conditions in good years, but in a bad year they had a hard choice. Did they give the landlord or lender what was due and watch another child grow hungry, and 25 percent of all children died before age five, prior to 1980, now it's even higher. Or the reverse of that was feed their children for another year and watch their land be repossessed, and that was the process of this expropriation that concentrated land in the hands of the wealthy, and watched land that had grown corn or beans or sorghum, what they eat three times a day, then be planted in coffee or cotton or sugar cane or be used to graze cattle, things that are consumed here and put money in the pockets of the landlord but don't feed people in El Salvador. And now those Catholic cooperatives which were started as a response to that that are now called revolutionary cooperatives, for instance the dairy co-operative. They keep a hundred head of cattle down by the lake, and the helicopters that come over daily strafe any livestock they keep in the open, so they guard them down under the tree cover. They distribute that milk through the clinics so the most malnourished children get a half a cup of milk a day, or the fishing co-operative that catches about 150 pounds of fish a day would distribute those through the health clinic so either the pregnant women or the patients with wounds, both of whom have higher protein needs have first access to that fish, and if there's enough fish everybody gets a little bit, but that's the

Studs Terkel So in the meantime, the able-bodied men of a certain age, they become the soldiers.

Dr. Charles Clements Well, they -- if they choose to. Probably of the young people there, I would say maybe a third of them choose to become guerrillas, the soldiers, but a lot of them don't want to directly participate as soldiers, and so they work in the cooperatives or they become schoolteachers or whatever, they're certainly, no one is forced into the military, but they're watching their mothers and fathers or their brothers and sisters killed there, and there's a pretty strong motivation for these for these youngsters to

Studs Terkel How many such -- it's really an enclave, isn't it there?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, Guazapa was, there are other large areas that are controlled that are that are more contiguous with other parts of the country, in [Juatesan? Huatasan? Can't find name in list of villages of El Salvador] or Chalatenango, or

Studs Terkel So, so Salvador is what, it's not a very large population.

Dr. Charles Clements No, it's about roughly about five million.

Studs Terkel Five million. And how much of the area would you say is

Dr. Charles Clements Well, today about a third to a fourth of the country is under guerrilla auspices.

Studs Terkel And life is similar to the others. I would assume as it is here.

Dr. Charles Clements Perhaps a little less intense. People sometimes get the idea that Guazapa is off in the boondocks. It was only about 25 miles from San Salvador, so I could see the hotel where the journalists stayed, but an American journalist never made it to Guazapa the year I was there because of the dangers involved. Only 25 miles away. Right. So that meant the aircraft who traveled 400 miles an hour could get there in a matter of a matter of sort of the aircraft is that is that area bombed. There wasn't a day in the last six months that I was there that it wasn't either bombed by American supplied 837 or

Studs Terkel

Dr. Charles Clements

Studs Terkel What is a hero? You know, as kids we used to read all the Bullfinch Rome and Greek fables, and a hero is someone that goes through certain adventures, and in one way or another proves himself, not necessarily physically, not in a macho way, but who uncovers something about himself, too. And as a result of which does something he never dreamed he'd be doing when he first came into being or first was conscious of the world and others around him. A hero. If ever there were a hero today, his name is Charlie Clements, Dr. Charlies Clements, M.D. and how he, who flew some 50 missions as an American pilot or in a plane in Vietnam, became a doctor among the guerrillas of El Salvador is a drama, a story, and that's a hero. In a moment, my guest, Dr. Charlie Clements, whose book of his own findings, his observations and himself will be forthcoming soon. In a moment then, Dr. Charlie Clements and his story. After this message. ["Carry Well, I think I'm someone who is concerned about what our country does and, what's happening in all of the world and have slowly become to understand that better through my experiences in life. Where are you from? We'll begin that way, where are you from? Well, I grew up in the military, my parents were in the Air Force, and I lived on Air Force bases around this country and overseas. And your father is a retired lieutenant colonel. That's correct. Now, I'll ask you about your father and his thoughts about you today. So you grew up then in an atmosphere of doing your duty as you've been told it is. Oh, absolutely. Always doing the right thing I think was the way that I grew up and, until I was about 25. Always did what was expected of me, was the good, the good high school student, the good cadet. Now, what was expected of you then during the Vietnam War? Well, I think I felt an obligation to serve in Southeast Asia. I was in graduate school, after I graduated from the Air Force Academy, but voluntarily left there because I felt an obligation to go to Asia. They were sending some of my contemporaries for the second time, sending some of my instructors from the Air Force Academy the second time, so I thought well, it's probably better for me to quit school now and go to Vietnam, and I'll come back to school later. And so in Vietnam you were a pilot? That's correct. I was a C-130 pilot over there, transport pilot, and believed very much in what I was doing when I went there. You -- what, 50 missions, something That's correct, a few more than that, I think. Then you were up for all sorts of it seems to me medals and awards. Well, I had some from the academy and I was, I was nominated for a few there, I wasn't -- didn't do anything particularly heroic, just did my job, but everyone who did their job there got medals. That's -- Well, then what hap-- You read about Grenada recently? They awarded 7000 Seven thousand medals? That's right. And 6000 were there. That's right. So, what happened then? When did you start thinking about something else? How did that happen? Well, it was a slow process that trying to recreate, Studs, has been has been interesting, because I can't tell you every step along the way. But there were impressions that they were made on my mind. I remember one time taking a load of soldiers from Camron Bay to a small fire base that was the second airplane or their ride of their lives for many of them and, the plane broke down and I talked to many of them, and I became aware that there were very few of them like me, that is, I was a white college graduate and most of them were Chicanos from the barrio or Blacks or kids from Kansas or rural America who went off with the bands playing that were very scared, didn't know why they were there, and I would take a lot of them back there in body bags or medical evacuate them. But I began to see that the kids like me, or the kids who might come in contact with at UCLA when I was in graduate school who were, who were by that time trying to either get their wives pregnant, because if they had a child they could get out of the draft, and they already gotten into graduate school and that could get them out of the draft and they'd already gotten married and that could get them out of the draft, and then were having to get psychiatrists to give them deferments of some kind, weren't the kids there were over there fighting. That was one of the things that remains in my mind. There were a lot of steps like that. Nixon came on TV one time and it was profoundly disturbing for me to think the President of the United States would knowingly lie at that time. It was before Watergate, and Nixon said that we don't have any troops in Laos and don't tend to commit any, and I knew very well that he was aware that we had secret bases there where my classmates were flying unmarked airplanes out of air bases, and they wore civilian clothes, and they were resupplied by CIA flying the same ones, C-130 I was except without markings. And that was a, that was a jolt. I remember trying to pick up bodies one time, and the sergeant saying, "Whoa, let 'em stay on ice a little bit longer. Lieutenant, the body count's not right this week," and realizing, beginning to see how much of the war was being falsified and manipulated and how the public was being deceived. Not to mention the horrors of war themselves. And then you decided to say you want out. Not really. I just decided that I didn't want anything more to do with Southeast Asia. I was so loyal that I, I still felt I had an obligation to the Air Force. But I said, "Perhaps you can transfer me to someplace where my skills as a manager could be used better, that I'm getting very, very angry about what I am, what I'm doing." I flew part of the State Department into Cambodia in early 1970, ostensibly to negotiate with Sihanouk about the neutrality of his, of his country. I would later be told in bars in Saigon by CIA agents that I was a fool if I thought that we were negotiating with Sihanouk, that what we were really doing was negotiating his overthrow by a general who would let us invade Cambodia, General Lon Nol, and sure enough a couple of weeks later there was an overthrow, Lon Nol came to power. And then suddenly we were invading Cambodia and that was the kind of straw that broke the camel's back for me. So you decided what, that you would -- Well, I talked to my commander. I'd come back to the States for a week leave, and Kent State happened, as well as the furor over the, over the invasion of Cambodia, and I had virtually no contact with the antiwar movement. My decisions were moral decisions at that time, not political ones. And I told my commander that I thought it was better for the safety of the people who flew with me and then for the Air Force if I was reassigned, because I didn't want to return to Asia, and he said that it'd be better if I saw the base psychiatrist, and -- Psychiatrist. Something was wrong with Well, any time a pilot refuses to fly, or has qualms about flying, they're required to see the psychiatrist, and so I saw the psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist said, "Well, before you can have a change of assignment, we need to document your kind of mental state." And so eventually I was sent back to the United States and found myself a patient in a maximum security psychiatric institution. A maximum security psychiatric institution. Why? Well, I was a -- I guess in the view of the psychiatrist, I was probably crazy. I was a dissenter. He considered me agitated and depressed, and I was certainly depressed when I found myself locked on a psychiatric ward and unable to eat with a knife or shave with a razor for fear that I kind We know the Russians do this. You know, the Soviets, you know when there's a dissenter. We know that part of what they do is they say, "This guy's nuts," you know. Well, I don't bill it as an abuse of psychiatry like happens in the Soviet Union in the sense I was dealt with in an institutional way. The base commander sent me to the psychiatrist, the psychiatrist obviously saw I was agitated. The next psychiatrist I got to knew nothing about the Phoenix Program, the assassination program in which were killing thousands of people that I talked about. He knew nothing about the secret bombing war in Cambodia that made it look like the moon. He knew nothing about all I was saying, and he probably thought that I was paranoid or whatever. And so the nurse who threatened to give me a shot if I didn't take my medicine was told by the doctors I was crazy, and she was just responding in an institutional manner to do what her job was. You were offering what turned out to be true, but it seemed so surreal to them. Well, I think it did. It did to my parents and lots of the people that I was coming in contact with, and -- By the way, your father, the retired lieutenant colonel, supports you. He does now. That's correct. At the time, they thought if the Air Force said I was crazy, I was probably crazy. What happened after that? Well, I was eventually discharged from the service with a psychiatric discharge, and I left the country for a while and worked in some third-world countries and put my life back together a little bit. You have to understand that everything I had ever believed in and striven for was suddenly a castle of sand that very quickly dissolved, and I eventually came back to medical school. Oh, were you thinking of being a doctor before? Is that it? Not before, but I think that my contact with doctors in Vietnam who had one of the more positive roles, if there is such a thing in the midst of the horrors of war, and I wasn't sure at the time, so I worked for a while in third-world countries and traveled some and still found myself wanting to go to medical school, so I did. So you became a, you got your M.D. Right. Okay, now you're a doctor. Why couldn't you -- now that you've done your work, your duty, at the same -- and recognizing this things are cockeyed, why didn't you practice somewhere or here in a community or have a nice affluent practice? What led you to do the next thing? Well, I began to practice in the in the sense of finishing my training in a community in California, in Salinas, California, and there I began to see refugees from El Salvador amongst the farm workers that I was seeing as patients. You worked among farm workers. That's correct. Amongst others, I was in a county hospital and we saw a lot of farmworkers. I had already become aware of what was happening in El Salvador, because I had been president of the American Medical Student Association, and our colleagues, that is, our medical colleagues in El Salvador, asked that some Americans come down and investigate this campaign of terror directed against health workers. The American Public Health Association and the American Friends Service Committee sent a delegation there and documented that the nation's only medical school had been closed and occupied by the military, had been gutted, that physicians were being shot in the operating room on occasion, that patients were being murdered in hospital beds, nurses abducted and killed in front of their patients and clinics, and most of the activity directly attributable to the death squads and security forces. And so when I started seeing patients that had physical and psychological marks of torture, it really transformed a lot of those abstractions. The patients at that county hospital -- That's right. Some In Salinas. That's right. Some of them who were former medical students who had to flee for their lives. So the information you got was from them, from the actual refugees. From union organizers, from farm workers. Peasants, they call them campesinos in El Salvador, from schoolteachers who were coming under attack, a variety of -- What happened next? Well, I was talking to people about the situation there in medical schools and schools of public health. I met with a lot of yawns, a lot of ho-hums, a lot of "poor brutes in the banana republic" type of response. At a time when I was hearing echoes of what I had heard as a as a young man, then it had been "If we don't stop them in Vietnam we'll have to stop them at the Golden Gate Bridge," and now it was "If we don't stop them in El Salvador, we'll have to stop them at the Rio Grande." And I was saying to them, they were the, they were many of the patients that were coming through, and we began to send helicopters to El Salvador and advisers and Secretary former General Haig said that we needed to reestablish our credibility in the world, that we needed to assert ourselves and prove we could win a victory, and to me it appeared that even then we were headed toward another Vietnam. So you went down there. Well, I, I continued seeing patients. Really at first I inquired about working in a refugee camp and was told that I too would be considered subversive and should forget it, and so that was a little bit of a relief in a way, and I continued seeing patients and working and then I saw a movie about the opposition control zones, and the filmmaker afterwards said he had met a French doctor working there, a woman, and asked me if I would consider working there and first I said no, that since Vietnam I've become a Quaker and I said that is a bit of a contradiction. A commitment to nonviolence in the midst of all that, and some of my Quaker friends in discussions about it said I'd never asked myself the other question, that is, "Wasn't working in the government controlled refugee camps an endorsement of the government sponsored violence?" And I finally realized that those were probably contradictions unanswerable in the abstract, that there's always a place to bear witness and always a place to heal in the midst of that kind of turmoil. You're talking about bearing witness [unintelligible]. Well, as a Quaker I feel an obligation to "Speak truth to power," we call it, to observe situations and to inform people about what we've seen, and so bearing witness in the midst of civil strife is a tradition. So now begins another chapter in the life and the findings and the discoveries of Dr. Charlie Clements. So you took a step. I took a step. I went to Mexico. One, to learn better Spanish, and two to negotiate as it were some conditions of service with the political representation of the opposition called the FDR, and explained that I wanted my own medical neutrality respected, that I wanted to be able to treat anyone with regardless of political considerations, that I preferred to work with civilians and that as a Quaker I didn't intend to bear arms and they found those acceptable after they overcame their initial suspicion of me as a former military man who wanted to work in a place that was being shot and bombed out. And so you found -- so they agreed. They agreed, and a few months later I entered a what's called a controlled zone in Salvador called Guazapa. Guazapa. What is Guazapa? Now we come -- now you're in a certain area in El Salvador. Guazapa is a volcano and it's the name of the area surrounding it. It's kind of like an egg, fried egg, the egg yolk being the volcano and the gentle sloping lands around it which are 15 miles by 15 miles. And in that 225 square miles, there were 10,000 civilians whom I would care for in the year I worked there. So there you are in that area. This is a rebel, a rebel-held area. That's correct. And the government troops, the various ones are surrounding it, is that it? That's correct. And it's called a controlled zone like one-third to one-fourth of the country that the opposition operates in, that the guerrillas operate in, because it's not liberated, but they control the entry of the death squads and the soldiers except when they mount massive operations and come through for search and destroy operations. Someone will say to you, the skeptic will say, "What do you mean by death squads?" They'll say, "Who are the death squads?" Well, I think it's been pretty clearly established recently that the death squads are merely military men who take off their uniforms and carry out directives against certain civilians or people who have voiced opposition to what's happening. Many times they're paramilitaries, that is the organizations like ORDEN in which civilians have been armed with explicit instructions to defend their villages against anyone who's labelled subversive. And I suppose the four American women, the three nuns and the lay person who were killed -- the evidence is rather overwhelming that they were knocked off by death squads. Oh, absolutely. The -- I was surprised upon my return. It was old news here, but to find out that one of the soldiers involved had confessed, that he said, "The sergeant ordered us to take off our uniforms, to put on civilian clothes and come back and set up a roadblock." I've interviewed several members of death squads since I've come back who are in sanctuary now, that is being protected by churches here, which may seem a bit of an irony, but these are men some of them who converted to Christianity, couldn't stop what they were doing for fear of losing their own lives, and had to flee the country and are in danger of being sent back here, and they admit very freely what they did and how they were taught to do it, and most of them are part of the security forces or military. And the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, I suppose. Well, that is pretty well. Well, we know that Ambassador White sent cable traffic saying that Roberto D'Aubuisson drew straws to see who would have the honor of assassinating Archbishop Romero. We have to come to Charlie, you yourself now, Charlie Clements Dr. Charlie Clements and life. So there you are in this Guazapo [sic - Guazapa] enclave of the guerrillas. Is it a village, is it a camp, how does it -- Well, it's the slopes of this volcano, which the peasants there have farmed for years, generally for the wealthy landowners, now they're farming it for themselves. There were 16 villages there, and in the health care sector there were two hospitals, a military hospital and a civilian hospital, and a clinic in each of the villages. My responsibility was for the civilians and trying to take care of them and develop programs that would ensure -- How many people there, about 10,000? About 10,000 40 percent under age 12. Forty per cent under 12. How many doctors? Well, I was the doctor for the civilians, and there was a doctor for the military for the guerrillas as well. So there were two doctors and you were with the civilians, for the 10,000, 40 percent of whom were under 12. Right. This -- could you describe a day in your life, in the life of your life and the life of the village there. Well, everyone got up around daylight, around five or five-thirty. The women would gather wood and carry water in preparation for fixing breakfast. The men sometimes would grab a cold tortilla and head for the fields for a while. I would generally stop by the hospital and check in on the patients and then hike to one of the villages that I would make a regular circuit of. In the village, the first thing I'd do was meet with the health workers, some of whom were former medical students that had to flee for their lives when the school closed or some illiterate peasants who wanted to learn about healthcare. We would first visit the patients that were not ambulatory, that is, those who were in their homes but too sick to be able to come to the clinic, and then come back and see maybe 50 to 100 patients in the clinic. The health workers seeing a patient, presenting the patient to me, and we would discuss the case. In the late afternoon I might visit with the schoolteachers to see how the curriculum for the hygiene was coming along in the schools, or meet with the Health Collective and give an in-service training session on some disease or some medicine that we were trying to develop. We made a lot of natural medicines. And then I would either hike back to the hospital or hike to the next to the next village. Before I ask you, then the life goes on. That is, the peasants farm there. Oh, absolutely. They're farming -- there are many co-operatives there now, they're called revolutionary cooperatives. Ten years ago they were they were called Catholic cooperatives. They were the inspiration of, perhaps certainly more than ideology what has probably inspired the peasants there of what we call "liberation theology," when they began understanding that their misery wasn't the result of God's will, but it was more the result of men's greed, and they began organizing these cooperatives and the association of Christian peasants and organizations like that, which were attacked, and they eventually began to respond in kind and protect this new society that they were building until we've seen the spiral of violence ending in what The liberation theology, the phrase [I heard you?], this is -- a number of young priests and nuns are part of that, too, aren't Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. In the mid-'70s, there was a popular slogan in El Salvador, "Be patriotic, kill a priest." And they began to do that. They killed a priest Rutillio Grande who organized many of the base Christian communities, the Bible study groups in the area where I worked. The soldiers beat and raped and left for dead another of the priest, named Father Jose Alas, who fled for his life. They began then killing the delegates of the word that these lay preachers that were trained, and then the leaders of the cooperatives. When Grande, the young priest was killed, the militant young priest, that's when Romero really, Bishop [sic - Archbishop] Romero really took a stand. That was the beginning of his conversion process. I had the privilege recently of being on a panel with an American Maryknoll Sister, Joan Patrick, who worked there for 12 years, and she said they all cried when Archbishop Romero was selected Archbishop, because he was so conservative and they knew that all of their work in the base Christian communities would probably be unsupported by him. But he slowly, after hearing the stories of the peasants who were being killed and, and many of the priests who he knew weren't communists who were being killed, converted himself to the preferential commitment to the poor, as he called it. I gotta ask about you, the doctor. You mentioned homemade medicine, and we'll come to that, about the medical supplies and yourself and how it works and what the conditions are at this very moment. After this message. [pause in recording] Resuming with Dr. Charlie Clements, who is here right now working on a book. He'll be finished. Your book, your -- in a sense your discovery, self-discovery will be forthcoming in May, did you say? In June of this In June, Bantam the publishers. That's correct. It's called "Witness to War". When's the last time you were in that area? Well, just a little bit over a year ago. A year ago. Right. So -- the medicine. How did you treat -- you came, when you came in, when you came from Mexico there, you carried [something?] like 75 pounds of medical supplies with you. That's correct. I didn't have any idea where I'd be working. For reasons of security the guerrillas didn't tell me if I'd be in a referral hospital or in the boondocks, so I decided to prepare for the worst and bring kind of a MASH unit on my back, if you will. Maybe with a little less humor than they manage on MASH, but the idea was that to have a self-contained medical and surgical [care What do you use when the supplies run out? Well, we had to improvise a lot. The corollary of being of -- healthcare being subversive for the poor and displaced in the cities is that any medicine destined for the rural areas are destined for the poor or displaced is considered contraband. So people were killed for buying any quantity of medicine and we had to improvise a lot. Anemia was a big problem there, and so we taught women to make nail cocktails. Nail cocktails? Right. What's a nail cocktail? Anemia is a lack of iron in the blood, and so we encouraged women to soak large construction nails in a glass of water, clean them every 24 hours with a piece of lemon, and drink the rusty water that we called the nail cocktail. That's how they get the iron. That was a little bit of iron for their diet that they didn't have. The chronic arthritics would get four aspirin every two weeks, and we taught them to make a tea, boiling the leaves or the bark of the willow tree which had acetylsalicylic acid, the same active ingredient as aspirin, and that was our major analgesic. Four aspirin every two weeks. That was about all we could afford there. We tried to teach people to be self-sufficient and depend on preventive medicine. Diarrhea was a great killer amongst children there and there was a number of campaigns that were directed toward building latrines and having people understand the connection between contaminated water and diarrhea. Children in the elementary schools learned the importance of washing their hands in boiling water and using latrines as well as washing fruit when it fell on the ground. Women learned to make rehydration solutions, because in diarrhea it's the dehydration that kills children sometimes, nothing more and mothers would learn to mix honey or molasses with a liter of water and some salt and rehydrate their children when they had malaria or diarrhea. So there was a learning process. Hygiene was learned, habits were learned, they'll come to school in a moment, too. Through daily adversities and necessities. Through daily adversities and it's the spirit of this new society they're building. For instance, food is really the central issue, probably more than anything else. Food and land use of the of the struggle there. El Salvador is considered the hungriest country in Latin America by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization. I knew a lot statistically before I went down there. For instance, I knew that one percent of the population owned 20 percent of the land in 1960, and by 1980, two percent of the population owned 60 percent of the arable land. But hearing women tell the stories in the prenatal clinics about their children, I had a very different understanding of it in the sense that they would say, "Well my oldest died in the year there was too little rain, or the year there was too much rain, or the year that fertilizer prices doubled." And I came to understand what it meant living as a subsistence farmer. They paid 50 to 70, 50 percent generally of their crop yield to the landlords or the lenders, much like sharecroppers had done in this country for many years, and they could subsist on half of what they produced even under difficult conditions in good years, but in a bad year they had a hard choice. Did they give the landlord or lender what was due and watch another child grow hungry, and 25 percent of all children died before age five, prior to 1980, now it's even higher. Or the reverse of that was feed their children for another year and watch their land be repossessed, and that was the process of this expropriation that concentrated land in the hands of the wealthy, and watched land that had grown corn or beans or sorghum, what they eat three times a day, then be planted in coffee or cotton or sugar cane or be used to graze cattle, things that are consumed here and put money in the pockets of the landlord but don't feed people in El Salvador. And now those Catholic cooperatives which were started as a response to that that are now called revolutionary cooperatives, for instance the dairy co-operative. They keep a hundred head of cattle down by the lake, and the helicopters that come over daily strafe any livestock they keep in the open, so they guard them down under the tree cover. They distribute that milk through the clinics so the most malnourished children get a half a cup of milk a day, or the fishing co-operative that catches about 150 pounds of fish a day would distribute those through the health clinic so either the pregnant women or the patients with wounds, both of whom have higher protein needs have first access to that fish, and if there's enough fish everybody gets a little bit, but that's the reorientation. So in the meantime, the able-bodied men of a certain age, they become the soldiers. Well, they -- if they choose to. Probably of the young people there, I would say maybe a third of them choose to become guerrillas, the soldiers, but a lot of them don't want to directly participate as soldiers, and so they work in the cooperatives or they become schoolteachers or whatever, they're certainly, no one is forced into the military, but they're watching their mothers and fathers or their brothers and sisters killed there, and there's a pretty strong motivation for these for these youngsters to -- How many such -- it's really an enclave, isn't it there? Well, Guazapa was, there are other large areas that are controlled that are that are more contiguous with other parts of the country, in [Juatesan? Huatasan? Can't find name in list of villages of El Salvador] or Chalatenango, or -- So, so Salvador is what, it's not a very large population. No, it's about roughly about five million. Five million. And how much of the area would you say is -- Well, today about a third to a fourth of the country is under guerrilla auspices. And life is similar to the others. I would assume as it is here. Perhaps a little less intense. People sometimes get the idea that Guazapa is off in the boondocks. It was only about 25 miles from San Salvador, so I could see the hotel where the journalists stayed, but an American journalist never made it to Guazapa the year I was there because of the dangers involved. Only 25 miles away. Right. So that meant the aircraft who traveled 400 miles an hour could get there in a matter of a matter of sort of the aircraft is that is that area bombed. There wasn't a day in the last six months that I was there that it wasn't either bombed by American supplied 837 or strafed It's Right. What

Dr. Charles Clements There wasn't a day in the last six months that I was there that it wasn't either bombed by American-supplied A-37s or strafed by American-supplied helicopters or rocketed by American-supplied Cessna aircraft.

Studs Terkel Did you have a feeling of deja vu?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I had a feeling of deja vu in terms of our rhetoric when we went there, but in Asia I was a pilot, I wasn't on the receiving end of things, so it was quite a bit different to see these aircraft come barreling down on you, and I said this as much as a year ago when I testified in Congress, but nobody paid any attention to it, that occasionally American pilots would be flying those aircraft, because I could tell from their maneuvers and their skill, when the Salvadorans who are very poor pilots and when the American instructor pilots were flying the planes, and of course in the last few days we, we understand that they reveal that American pilots have been flying missions there occasionally.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking, Charlie Clements, you were, 50 missions you flew as an American pilot, transport pilot in Vietnam. Now you're on the ground, and you know that area being bombed by the pilots very similar to you. What you were in

Dr. Charles Clements My worst-case scenario was having one of my classmates from the Air Force academy kill me in El Salvador. And I think it's only a matter of time until American troops are introduced in El Salvador, I've been saying that for a year and it's getting very, very close. It's

Studs Terkel A new quagmire.

Dr. Charles Clements A new quagmire.

Studs Terkel The obvious question that you are asked I know is, "Where do these guerrillas get their supplies from?" Guns, munitions, medical, everything.

Dr. Charles Clements Well you know, that is the question I get asked a lot, Studs, and it's interesting. Sometimes I think we don't ask the right question. Instead of asking, "What are the revolting conditions that inspire a peasant to pick up a rifle and fire at an A-37 that's firing 6000 rounds a minute?" we have this preoccupation with where the weapons come from, mostly because about 80 or 90 percent of what we read is sourced from the State Department, the embassy, or the White House, and they frame the question. In more than three years they haven't been able to come up with any evidence, substantive evidence, of any massive arms flow from the outside. There is probably a trickle of arms that comes in from Nicaragua, there are arms that certainly are bought in the black market, in San Antonio they used to pay $750 for an M-16 in San Antonio.

Studs Terkel Oh, there's a black market that works here.

Dr. Charles Clements Well, there's a

Studs Terkel In San Antonio.

Dr. Charles Clements There's a worldwide black market of arms. The year I was there, the -- in Guazapa, and I was always keeping my eye out for things, the guerrillas captured about 400 weapons and that's about how many soldiers they fielded. Despite the fact that the Salvadoran air force had at least three types of aircraft, some very sophisticated, that flew daily missions, the guerrillas didn't have any anti-aircraft capability. Their 130-caliber machine gun looked like it came out of the Spanish Civil War Museum. They didn't have any surface-to-air missiles, handheld, the type that you'd think they would have. The first weapon, by the way, the United States sent to Chad last summer when there were disturbances there. Both the Salvadoran military and U.S. military advisers have gone on record in "The Washington Post" and "New York Times" this year saying that there is no significant supply of arms from the outside. Fred Eackley, third ranking man in the Defense Department, when pinned down about a week ago before a congressional committee, admitted that at least 50 percent of the arms they use are captured from the Salvadoran military. I think the figure is much higher. But basically the large difference is in morale. I was liaison to the International Red Cross there for the FMLN out of respect for my neutrality as a Quaker physician. I arranged for the release of prisoners of war. So I would interview these young soldiers who were captured and they

Studs Terkel The government

Dr. Charles Clements The government soldiers, right, and treat them if they needed treatment, and they were often very frightened. They had been told that the that the communist monsters barbequed their prisoners and none had returned alive or very few, because the guerrillas would release them through their own recognizance and the soldiers told me that generally the government would kill them because it suspected they were either cowards or collaborators if they returned. The guerrillas started turning them over to the Red Cross to protect them, and the Red Cross told me that they were considered a poisonous influence so the military wouldn't return them to active duty because after being guarded many times in Guazapa, when there was time they'd be guarding base Christian communities, so they would see worship services, clinics, hospitals, schools, and they were very transformed, because they realized that they were going to be peasants again if they survived this year of service.

Studs Terkel Were there cases of the government's soldiers joining?

Dr. Charles Clements Many of them did, about 40 percent of the ones I got to know, but that was a higher figure than in other areas, perhaps because Guazapa was capturing fewer and guarded them longer in terms of them having a chance. Sometimes when the guerrillas capture 100 or 200 at once, they just turn them over within 48 hours to the Red Cross, because they can't take care of them or feed

Studs Terkel I'm thinking of you, Charlie Clements, American hero of Vietnam, and here looking at those planes up above, which are American subsidized and sometimes American possibly American pilot planes dropping on you. And you said, you know, the irony. You know, your nightmare, this is right out of one of these novels not yet written.

Dr. Charles Clements Well, it's written now. It's written now.

Studs Terkel It's written now, it's yours.

Dr. Charles Clements That's right.

Studs Terkel "Witness to War" is what it's called. Let's come back again to education. You mentioned about how they learned about in the villages, the guerrilla controlled, earning about hygiene daily out of necessity. School itself, reading and writing, has that come out a certain way too?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, there were 30 elementary schools in that area. The elementary schools were often held on the porches of bombed-downed houses, because any collection of people would invite an attack, but the literacy classes there are more on what might be called a Pablo [sic - Paulo] Freire methodology, where people learn things relevant to their lives and their adult literacy classes there were many of the campesinos, the peasants for the first time are learning to read as well, and it's a very practical education.

Studs Terkel You meant the Paolo Freire approach, that is out of the daily necessity, a word is used, you know, survival, suddenly the word has a meaning because it deals with daily life, you know.

Dr. Charles Clements Absolutely.

Studs Terkel [Kind of?] food, or

Dr. Charles Clements They would learn about, you know, corn and beans, and they would learn about bombers. We had to educate people about the necessity for instance that napalm and white phosphorous burns aren't extinguished by water, that they have to be packed with mud or sand to cut off the oxygen. So, you know people would learn about those kinds of necessities. They would learn the words relevant to their lives. People had to have bomb shelters within

Studs Terkel When you testified, and here's chapter and verse cited by Charlie Clements who, like Kilroy, was there, what is the congressional reaction? Your testimony wasn't that fully covered.

Dr. Charles Clements Well, at first I was prevented from testifying, because you have to understand that congressional hearings are a very carefully orchestrated affairs, and the staff committee who interviews the people being selected to testify said that my testimony would polarize the committee, that I was an objective witness. There was a very courageous freshman congressman from Ohio, Ed Fein, who had just returned from El Salvador and was so outraged he pulled a parliamentary maneuver that allowed me to testify.

Studs Terkel Pardon me. They said that you were a non-objective witness.

Dr. Charles Clements That's correct.

Studs Terkel They thought you'd be objective.

Dr. Charles Clements Right.

Studs Terkel What does that mean?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I'm not I'm not sure what it means except, that maybe I

Studs Terkel Objective! How'd it go -- I know that a very excellent journalist, Raymond Bonner of "The Times" has covered much -- not much, but part of your life and your testimony [from?] here and there it is, but it's a question now, what do you find as you're here in the States talking different people, meeting, when you talk and offered this testimony?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I find that Americans are concerned about Central America, that they don't want to send their sons there again. But there's also a deep inclination to trust the president. They want to trust their leaders. They're suspicious of them. They want to believe what they're told in the papers, but a lot of the information they're getting is a little bit inconsistent, and is contradictory. And basically what I find is a lot of misinformation, because the present administration I think is very skillful in confusing the issues. A village that I worked in, I knew the people very well, had the strongest base Christian communities named Copapayo, suffered a massacre in November of this year, 118 of the 342 people that were killed, a family that had adopted me were all killed, from the six-month-old baby to the 72-year-old great grandparents, well in the "The New York Times", which is considered a fairly liberal paper, the article on November 18th referred to the people killed as terrorist casualties. It then referred to them as the guerrilla sympathizers, and then referred to them as a guerrilla column. Later referred to them as the leftist sympathizers. I think those kinds of words confuse the issues, and

Studs Terkel -- I think, aren't you're hitting something really key here, the use of words. It's guerrillas, leftist guerrillas, terrorists, but it's always government.

Dr. Charles Clements Cuban-backed,

Studs Terkel Cuban-backed.

Dr. Charles Clements Soviet supplied, words like that that are very pejorative that that evoke fears that Americans have, and I think that yes, some of the people involved are Marxists down there. There's no doubt about it, there's also Christian and Social Democrats, the Association of Christian Peasants, a broad spectrum as Murat Williams I think probably told you, our ex-ambassador there.

Studs Terkel Should point out to those who may not have heard of Murat Williams, if ever there were an establishment figure, an old-time State Department figure, almost you might say the striped pants and out of Virginia, aristocratic family, who was the ambassador to El Salvador under Eisenhower and during the time of President Kennedy and his testimony matches yours, or in your case it was the actual living in the communities themselves. So what -- when you -- a year ago you were there. What is -- did you sense any movement, way it was going, trend?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I think the movement has been toward the inevitable failure of U.S. policy there in the sense that we're seeking military solutions to socio-economic problems in the sense that no amount of military aid, the millions of dollars can buy morale or leadership or end the corruption of the Salvadoran military. Now we're in a situation I think very similar to the state of Vietnam in '74, '75 where the Salvadoran Army could collapse almost overnight. We read in "Time" magazine that the Salvadoran lieutenants trained at Fort Benning tell their young soldiers to wear their civilian clothes underneath their uniform so when they surrender they won't have to go home in their underwear. We read that that the schools are closed in many provinces because the schoolteachers fear being pressed into service at gunpoint, and most of the prisoners of war I interviewed, the youngest one being 14, admitted that they were conscripted at gunpoint after a dance or after a movie. The morale of that kind of Army can't sustain itself. They're running out of people to recruit. They're surrendering in large numbers, and finally this administration admitted last week, I think it was Sunday in "The New York Times" that in fact there are contingency plans to introduce U.S. troops if our present policies fail. I think we should just say when our present policies fail, because it's just a matter of time.

Studs Terkel What if someone says to you, "But they had elections."

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I think they did have elections and we're probably very used to confusing these elections with democracy. There were elections in Mississippi for 100 years after the Civil War and there was certainly no semblance of democracy there until the Freedom Vote and the civil rights movement. Even today there is numerous voter registration suits pending that keep people from participating, and that's the key issue, actually, of a negotiated settlement which is possible in El Salvador, but it doesn't interest our government is elections and the death squads. As long as the opposition cannot participate in elections, there won't be any negotiated settlement to El Salvador, and as long as the death squads aren't controlled, the opposition isn't safe to participate.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking about you, Charlie Clements, you're coming as you do out of this very patriotic -- we all say we're patriotic, you know. [Unintelligible] when you say patriotic, to what dream are you patriotic? But you came from this military family; was your father a little stunned when you first took this step? Here's a military man all his life. Retired Lieutenant Colonel.

Dr. Charles Clements Well, when I refused to fly in Vietnam, they like me were very shocked that the president of the United States would lie. Watergate hadn't happened. They couldn't believe that Nixon was lying to the public. The military had served them well, and they had served the military well, so it was difficult for them to accept. They didn't know I was going to El Salvador, or they thought I was going to work in a refugee camp someplace. But they'd been very supportive. They've spoken out. They've sent money for humanitarian aid, and they've criticized the policy of our government, even though they voted for Reagan and consider themselves Republicans. They're very critical of our foreign policy in Central America, and the many of the policies of

Studs Terkel Do you ever run into any of your old Air Force buddies?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I hear from a lot of them, usually through talk shows like this, and I'm astounded by how many of them said that they left the service as a similar result of their experiences in Asia. I would suspect that far less than half my class are on active duty in the military today, and most of the comments I receive are very supportive.

Studs Terkel Now we come to you. Your life. Charlie Clements, you know. This is a life out of which novels are made, you know, and your own work will be forthcoming. You don't mind if I'm being dramatic about you, in you are all these possibilities in a country of discovery, self-discovery, right, wrong. All there. You've been raised a certain way. You didn't question things that were done by the authorities, but out of your own observations. What you saw [unintelligible].

Dr. Charles Clements Well, experience is a pretty good teacher. And I think that's one of the wonderful things about our country is that we are exposed to a diversity of opinion, that certainly protest is allowed here, and it's not in other places, although it's certainly suppressed at times. I was basically not part of the civil rights movement or the antiwar movement, but I have learned a great deal from it. My commitment out of -- of nonviolence comes I think in large part from my respect for people like Martin Luther King.

Studs Terkel I was thinking -- earlier I asked you what is a typical cliche question, "Where did these guerrillas get the arms?" And you said that's not the real question. You answered that, and [this?], what makes them take up arms?

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I think that's the question, and I think it's repression, it's inability to bring out -- bring about change. I think if we looked at our own Declaration of Independence, we would see some phraseology there that says "When in the course of human events," and it goes on to say it is their right, it is their duty to overthrow a government who is usurping and repressing its own population, right out of our, of our own Declaration of Independence. And I think that although their political ideology may be different, and they've experienced what's been called capitalism and democracy for a long time there and they don't want any more of it. They want to design something Salvadoran, their own solution to things, and it doesn't mean they wouldn't like to have relationships with the United States. They I think have asked some very, very cogent questions of me, in the sense that explaining why they would like to negotiate a settlement. They've explained that a military victory may not be in their best interest, because if they win a military victory, they say, "Like the Nicaraguans, we may be labeled an enemy of the United States. And if you cut us off," they say, "From the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and the International Development Bank, where do we get funds to rebuild our country? Where do you expect us to turn? What happens to our goal of non-alignment? If you impose a blockade on our country," and we've had an unofficial economic blockade of Nicaragua, "and you mine our ports, where do we get parts for our John Deere tractors? Where do we get parts for our Bell telephones or Hewlett-Packard incubators?"

Studs Terkel You -- I suppose even a clearer case, Vietnam. One that would seem North Vietnam and no reparations. There were of course for Germany and Japan in World War II, but they won. They committed the cardinal sin.

Dr. Charles Clements Well, even going further back than that. If you believe in self-determination as a principle upon which we're founded, what about the admission in the PBS series on Vietnam that President Eisenhower said, "We [can't?] allow elections in 1956 in Vietnam, because a Ho Chi Minh would win." How different would be the face of Asia today had Vietnam perhaps reunified and the conflict hadn't destroyed much of Asia, two million lives and left much of the region

Studs Terkel Funny how we have parallels here, but this time it's in this area, in this hemisphere, and we -- of course, the history of Central America, of Latin America, [long?] the one you speak of, the few owning overwhelming amount of the land and everything else, preceded when Castro wasn't even a babe. Or for that matter, when there was no Soviet Union.

Dr. Charles Clements Well

Studs Terkel Long, long before that.

Dr. Charles Clements Absolutely. Most of the people I've worked with wouldn't know Marx, Groucho from Karl. You know, Castro was in short pants when Farabundo Marti, their hero died in Central America fighting the same things that they're fighting today. And I think the issue is their inability to bring about change and the control of so much of the wealth of that country. And it's a question we're going to be facing all of our lifetimes. Forty thousand children will die today of malnutrition-related causes, 1/365 of the 17 million that die every year of malnutrition. The peoples of the Third World are going to change their order that that has them living as virtual slaves. To many people in El Salvador, death has come to have more meaning than life, and that they would just as soon die changing it as living the way that they've lived. We need to develop a foreign policy that is going to encompass, guide, direct, perhaps facilitate change rather than obstructing it, and being part of the repression that they're struggling

Studs Terkel So as the hour nears the end, we come back to the beginning. Charlie Clements, M.D. Now, the very beginning you spoke of what you believed, the way you were raised, doing your duty. Now Charlie Clements a few years later, several years later, what years they have been. Now here you are. Reflections. You know, anything. Any

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I was brought up with a with an orientation towards service. Perhaps my idea of service has changed, but I think I'm still oriented in that direction. I have come to have a commitment to nonviolence. All of the difficult trials in El Salvador I think only deepened my commitment to it, but taught me a lot also. I remember perhaps one of the most profound lessons was one of the base Christian communities there and toward the end one of the leaders asked me why I didn't carry a gun. And I explained something about being a Quaker and non-violence, and that was just so much hoo-ha, just an abstraction that passed over their heads

Studs Terkel Were you ever tempted when the planes were coming by and

Dr. Charles Clements Oh, absolutely. I think nonviolence is a learned process with me, not an instinct, and the instinct was to pick up a gun and shoot an airplane like I would a mad dog. But this this peasant taught me a profound lesson, because he said he said, "You gringos are always worried about violence done with machetes or machine guns." And he said, "I worked on the hacienda over there, I used to have to feed the dogs and give them a bowl of milk or a bowl of meat every morning, and I could never put that on my table and, when the dogs were ill I've taken the Suchitoto or San Salvador and take them to the veterinarian while my children died for lack of medical care with a nod of sympathy from the landlord," and he said, "Until you understand the violence that's done to our spirit from watching our children die of malnutrition, you'll never understand violence or nonviolence." And I think there's a lot of that that happens right here in Chicago, right here in the United States, in terms of not understanding the violence done to people's spirits by institutions that keep them from realizing their full potential as human beings.

Studs Terkel Dr. Charlie Clements. "Witness to War" will be your book forthcoming and naturally I look forward to seeing you once more, because there's more where that came from.

Dr. Charles Clements Well, I look forward to it also and I would like to say that you've certainly been a influence in my life and a role model and that "Hard Times" and "Working" were both works that helped me understand what many people have faced in this in this country as well.

Studs Terkel Charlie Clements. Thank you very much.

Dr. Charles Clements Thank you.

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