White Paper on El Salvador

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On February 23, 1981, the U.S. State Department released a document titled "Communist Interference in El Salvador: Documents Demonstrating Communist Support of the Salvadoran Insurgency",[1] also known as "the White Paper". The document was used as justification for U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. Critics charged that the technique deployed by the White Paper was to corrolate events in El Salvador into alleged examples of Soviet and Cuban military involvement. The White Paper was claimed to be part of a propaganda effort to divert attention from U.S. support for a repressive regime by creating a false threat of communist insurgency.[2]

The White Paper was authored by a young U.S. State Department official named Jon D. Glassman.

The Wall Street Journal opens criticism of White Paper[edit]

On June 9, 1981, The Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan Kwitney published "Apparent Errors Cloud US 'White Paper' on Reds in El Salvador", an article based on a three-hour interview with Glassman. In the article, Glassman admitted "mistakes and guessing" by the government's intelligence analysts who translated and explained the guerrilla documents. The White Paper, supposedly based on 19 captured guerrilla documents, was accepted as fact by the American press, with myriad U.S. government follow-up reports of plans for countering the activities alleged in the report. Yet Kwitney noted that a closer reading of the documents in the White Paper indicates that they were not written by guerrilla leaders. In the interview with Kwitney, Glassman admitted that most of the statistics cited in the document were extrapolated, and most of the information put forth in the documents wasn't in the purportedly captured documents at all. Kwitney noted, "A close reading of the white paper indicates ... that its authors probably were making a determined effort to create a 'selling' document, no matter how slim the background material."[3]

After the Wall Street Journal article was released, Mr. Glassman declined further interviews to the press.

Other press criticism of the White Paper[edit]

Other news reports soon followed with negative assessments of the White paper.[4][5] The State Department countered by defending the conclusions of the report;[6][7]

Use of the White Paper for U.S. propaganda[edit]

Notwithstanding criticism of the documents, the U.S. Congress presented a position very similar to the White Paper in 1982.[8]

The White Paper on El Salvador has been compared to the White Paper on Vietnam.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Communist interference in El Salvador. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of State, 1981 (OCoLC)659392619
  2. ^ Sklar, Holly (1998) Washington's War on Nicaragua, South End Press
  3. ^ Jonathan Kwitney (Jun 8, 1981). "Apparent Errors Cloud US 'White Paper' on Reds in El Salvador". The Wall Street Journal. 
  4. ^ Robert G. Kaiser (Jun 9, 1981). "White Paper on El Salvador is Faulty". The Washington Post. 
  5. ^ Juan de Onis (June 10, 1981). "U.S. Officials Concede Flaws in Salvador White Paper But Defend Its Conclusion". The New York Times. Retrieved March 19, 2013. 
  6. ^ James Nelson Goodsell (June 25, 1981). "US defends report on communist arms in El Salvador". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved March 19, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Administration Defends Challenged White Paper". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Associated Press. Jun 9, 1981. Retrieved March 19, 2013. 
  8. ^ Certification concerning military aid to El Salvador: hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, Ninety-seventh Congress, second session ... February 8 and March 11, 1982