Hannah Arendt died more than 30 years ago, but what she called “the banality of evil” is alive and well.
You can see it on full display on the website of the Colombian daily El Espectador, which has posted the entire 87-page PowerPoint presentation [update 9/08: try this link instead] that top paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso used when confessing to his past human-rights crimes two weeks ago. This was on the laptop computer screen from which Mancuso was reading as he sat before prosecutors.
Page 12 of 87.
Open up the file (if you can bear it) and note how much it looks like a boring sales presentation from some faceless widget company. Note how the paramilitary leader, who admitted to ordering the killing or kidnapping of 336 people, presents each massacre or execution on individual slides, complete with a map showing where each occurred.
Note how Mancuso has mastered Microsoft’s complex template feature, presenting each mass killing with pleasing colors, including the colors of Colombia’s flag at the footer and the same snappy logo (”Salvatore Mancuso – Confession 2006″) at the header of each page. Or did he hire a graphic designer to beautify this catalogue of serial murder?
Note how many of these massacres of civilian men, women and children are blithely referred to as “anti-subversive military operations.” Note how many of the victims are referred to as “people identified by military intelligence as members of the guerrillas,” even in some of the most famous, shocking and brutal cases like El Aro and MapiripÃ¡n. Note how he admits to crimes in nine of Colombia’s thirty-two departments – plus one arms purchase in Miami – which sounds like a lot, though it excludes many zones known for high paramilitary activity.
Take a look at this breathtaking file. Then spend the rest of the day rebuilding your faith in humanity.