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(36,418 posts)
51. Read grandfather's career recollections: in S. America during the "Dirty War" & in Franco's Spain
Mon Apr 2, 2012, 12:43 PM
Apr 2012

Last edited Mon Apr 2, 2012, 01:25 PM - Edit history (1)

Here's his end of career interview with the Foreign Affairs Oral History project in the National Archives. http://international.loc.gov/service/mss/mssmisc/mfdip/2005%20txt%20files/2004zim01.txt

He was what might be described as a typical State Dept. spook during the Cold War, except that Zimmerman was posted in Spain and ended up in Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil during the "Dirty War." Early in the interview, he talks matter of factly about the Fascists he dealt with routinely in Spain and Portugal. His observations about Carter's attention to Human Rights are also notable for their ambivalence.

If George Zimmerman had Right-wing authoritarian attitudes (and the interview below is indeed with George's grandfather), he may have gotten them through his father who was reportedly Military Intelligence in Vietnam from his Grandfather, who was either CIA under diplomatic cover posted in some of the worst human rights violations in the world or was a career State Dept. guy in those posts who went over to CIA as a contractor at the end of his State Dept. posting. More specifically, he moved over to the "HUMINT Office of the old Intelligence Committee Staff" posted at Langley. At the very end of the interview he sums up his later career (1985-91) as being with the ARA (DOS Bureau of Inter-American Affairs). He appears to have been part of an "Inspection Corps," which may have been attached to the State Department, or that may have been his cover. But, there is no question about that he was a spook posted in some of the nastiest Spanish-speaking posts during the Cold War:

Q: Then you came back in 1974 to serve in ARA for five years.

ZIMMERMANN: That is right. I really didn't have an assignment when I came back. I had interviews with the Inspection Corps, with Ken Young and also with Bill Bowdler in ARA. Bill said, "We want you to take over Brazilian affairs. You have Portuguese and we think it will be great." It looked pretty good to me, I didn't see anything else on the horizon at that point. I had not ever been in Brazil before, and I had to do my homework fast. There was an excellent Ambassador at the other end, John Crimmins. It was a great assignment and I really enjoyed it. There were many problems and it was a very busy time.
It became even busier when the office became responsible for all East Coast Affairs including Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. We were having problems over nuclear facilities in Brazil and the military agreements were going a little sour because of friction on nuclear matters. They also wanted a lot more military aid than we were prepared to give them at that point. Also, as I say the dirty war was going on in Argentina and Uruguay.

Q: The dirty war being?

ZIMMERMANN: The dirty war was referred to the atrocities committed by both the military government and the opposition. There were hidden massacres and burials at night that nobody knew about. People were abducted and never heard from again. People were dropped out of planes over the river. It was a very dirty war.
At one point Robert Hill was Ambassador there. I stayed with him usually when I went to Buenos Aires. I remember riding with him with four lead cars and two behind. It was that bad in terms of threats against Americans who were accused of being too sympathetic with the "opposition". It was a very dirty problem. Obviously the human rights organizations here were very much up in the air, and, of course, we were too. The Carter administration properly placed great emphasis on human rights. There was great pressure from the White House on these things.

Q: Basically you had military governments in all three countries.

ZIMMERMANN: That is true, and Stroessner had been in Paraguay since 1955.

Q: And Uruguay had a military government?


Q: I think it is very interesting to look at the impact of the human rights policy during Carter on the Foreign Service and its almost visceral reaction about how this sort of upsets all sorts of other things. I think we have learned to live with it. But this was the beginning. Did you and your colleagues have trouble adjusting to this major emphasis on something... ?

ZIMMERMANN: I don't think any of us held any objection to this being a real goal in our foreign policy. I think what gave many of us problems was that it became almost the only goal in some ways. It certainly became a predominant goal and other means of achieving ends were sort of left in limbo.

Q: Did you find yourself going head-to-head with Pat Derian, head of the Human Rights office, or others in her office?

ZIMMERMANN: No, you didn't go head-to-head with Pat Derian. Our Assistant Secretary was very careful on this score. We followed his lead. Fred Rondon, who was my Argentine Desk officer and later my deputy, had the most contact with Pat Derian. In fact he accompanied her on a trip down to Argentina. He was a good man for it and was bilingual in Spanish and could help out a great deal with Pat. He also had good rapport with her, I think, given the circumstances. We took our lead from the Assistant Secretary really on how to play this.

Q: How did this translate with relations? Was it one of these things where we would go up and say you have to be more human rightish and then go on our way and nothing would happen but we had made our bid?

ZIMMERMANN: My opinion is that our representations seldom led anywhere in Uruguay or Argentina, certainly not in Argentina. In Argentina, one feels half out of the real world. There is a feeling of being isolated from world events. Certainly, they, in their own activities felt that; they didn't give a damn about opinion elsewhere.

Q: They can live off their own resources.

ZIMMERMANN: Exactly. We tried hard. I mean the violations were so egregious that it wasn't hard to be in support of human rights, believe me. The violations were incredible, including by the Tupamaros in Uruguay. We may have had a slightly restraining role in Uruguay in some cases, but not a great success.

Q: How about with Brazil and human rights?

ZIMMERMANN: Human rights was a factor in Brazil...the death squads and so forth. But violations had tapered off as an issue in some way versus what it had been earlier, and certainly Brazil in this respect was way over-shadowed by Uruguay and Argentina. But there were still problems. We got wind of violations less than we did in Argentina. Information came from interviews with people who had been released from prison some time later. Also, we had other fish to fry in Brazil, including the nuclear issue, because they were by far the most advanced in nuclear research, etc., and were dickering with the Germans.

Q: What was the issue on the nuclear side that got us so involved?

ZIMMERMANN: Well, the issue was basically what their ultimate intentions were. We discouraged the production of enriched uranium, which we tried to keep away from most countries. Were their goals just nuclear power and research or were they intent on developing military uses?
We had a similar problem with the Argentines. We were very concerned. They would not let us see their reactors except from a distance. But the issue didn't come up as sharply as it did in Brazil because Brazil was dickering with German firms for plutonium enrichment equipment and processes. In the end, the German processes did not prove very successful as I remember. I think they were systems that had not really been proved in themselves and as far as I know, did not prove to be very useful to the Brazilians either. It cost a lot of money and time and plus bad relations for a while.

Q: Brazil, unlike most of the other Latin American countries, hasn't really fought any wars with anybody for a long time. Why would it want a bomb?

ZIMMERMANN: Well, Brazil sent troops to fight with us in World War II and were the only Latin Americans that did.

Q: Yes, and they fought the Italian campaign. But you don't have a feeling that the Brazilians are after slices of territory. What would they use a bomb for?

ZIMMERMANN: Argentina. This was the big rival on the continent and they were aware that the Argentines were also pursuing nuclear development.

Q: Was it the feeling that the Argentines are messing around with nuclear things so we better have one ourselves?

ZIMMERMANN: That was the feeling on both sides, absolutely.

Q: You look at the map and you would say that you would have a real hard time making much of...they abut on each other in a relatively small area of little consequence.

ZIMMERMANN: Uruguay was established as a buffer state. I think in Brazil's case it was a little more than that, however. In Brazil it was a question of being a big power. They always wanted to be considered a big power, particularly by the US, and pointed at us and said we didn't treat them as a big power. The nuclear aspect was the mark of a big power and therefore they wanted to develop this. I think that was a very major part of the consideration.

Q: How did you evaluate our Embassies? Were we well represented in those countries?

ZIMMERMANN: Well, I think under John Crimmins the Embassy was very strong in Brazil. He was a top professional to my mind. In Uruguay, Larry Pezzulo, who was Ambassador when I left ARA, was excellent and worked very hard. His predecessor was not under the same pressures, so I think a comparison might be unfair.
In Paraguay Landau did a very good job for a number of years. I visited there twice. I flew back with the body of the Ambassador who died here and saw Stroessner a couple of times. It was a very low key operation compared with events in neighboring countries.
I think Hill did a good job in Argentina although I know he was controversial. I was never that closely involved with Raul Castro ...from Arizona I believe. I took him through his paces here before he went down, but I did not have that much of a feeling later.

Q: Carter did speak some Spanish. Was there more interest in ARA during his administration?

ZIMMERMANN: I don't know. Obviously Kennedy had an interest with his Alliance for Progress program. I think Johnson was so involved in the Vietnam business that he probably didn't have a whole lot of time for it, at least as far as I remember...I was on the Far East side at that point. I think Carter had a genuine interest in Latin America. He had Bob Pastor as his NSC guy for Latin America affairs.

Q: Did Rosalynn Carter make a trip to Latin America?

ZIMMERMANN: Yes, she went to Brazil for an inauguration that the President could not attend. I don't think the Brazilians appreciated her visit properly. I think that was unfair, but again it was the old Latin machismo. She got very involved in human rights down there too, which didn't endear her to the government.

Q: You retired when?

ZIMMERMANN: In February 1979.

Q: What have you been doing since?

ZIMMERMANN: That fall they were setting up the new FOI (Freedom of Information) office and I started working with the first team. After about a year and a half or so, Larry Pickering wanted me to join the historic document review center...it was sort of a Bangkok mafia. So I moved down there and am still working down there insofar as the salary cap permits me.
But aside from that, most of my work during the past five years has been with the Intelligence Community Staff on the HUMINT committee. That was broken up as of July under Gates. My contract is being kept alive until they decide how this settles down, whether they even want any contractors back. The HUMINT office is being moved out to Langley and the other divisions of the old Intelligence Community Staff are being parceled out elsewhere. I did mostly projects that had to do with Latin American and the Iberian Peninsula.

Q: Okay. I want to thank you very much.

That's one weird ass website you linked too... snooper2 Apr 2012 #1
It certainly goes well together, given that there are almost no jobs in our country anymore, and... Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #2
Well that explains why they spell their last names differently obey Apr 2012 #3
The grandfather's official obituary deleted the last n from his name. mainer Apr 2012 #5
Ah Ha, and Grampa Zimmermann was from Minnesota obey Apr 2012 #20
And I sense a mole, Mr. 51 posts mainer Apr 2012 #33
I never notice things like when posters became active. I guess I should. It might explain behavior Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #52
How's that spook ass taste? Tom Ripley Apr 2012 #40
I'm sure there's a lots more we don't know. nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #7
The grandfather died like 20 years ago? HooptieWagon Apr 2012 #4
sshhhh you'll ruin it... belcffub Apr 2012 #6
If this is correct, it would provide an explanation why Zimmerman is being given the VIP treatment Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #8
It means the father could access damaging information mainer Apr 2012 #10
Exactly. And this wouldn't be the first time - nor the last for something like that to happen nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #11
So if daddy has this power, why didn't he get Georgie a cushy job? onenote Apr 2012 #13
Because George is a troublemaker and a loser mainer Apr 2012 #14
So daddy can get the PD and SA to risk their careers for this loser but couldn't get him set up onenote Apr 2012 #16
George's life is on the line here. It makes sense this is far more urgent mainer Apr 2012 #17
Exactly. In such circumstances, you call whoever you have to call on and cash in your chips. nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #25
I have a 100 favors i can call in if I am in real trouble, but I don't have Job connections.... slampoet Apr 2012 #30
Interesting that you choose to argue via questions in lieu of statements. rhett o rick Apr 2012 #38
Why is it interesting? onenote Apr 2012 #41
1) Because a murderer is running free; 2) Because he's being given VIP treatment; 3) Because the Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #73
I was asking why the poster thought it was interesting that I framed my posts as a question. onenote Apr 2012 #80
Oh ok, sorry. I thought you were wondering why the Zimmerman case was interesting. nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #83
Sorry if I misunderstood you. rhett o rick Apr 2012 #139
Risk what? What's to risk? Power has been manipulating everything from early history to the Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #70
I don't think this case is turning out to be a good career move for the police chief or the SA onenote Apr 2012 #71
You're right about that. nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #76
You could be right, but isn't it something that Zimmerman is being treated like VIP, and such Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #19
Father was a justice of the peace. Kaleva Apr 2012 #32
Yup. A magistrate judge. nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #55
Just "magistrate" not "magistrate judge" onenote Apr 2012 #92
I think that a more important question is was daddyzimmy did PRIOR to becoming a magistrate Ecumenist Apr 2012 #141
I agree. How long has it been since Zimmerman shot the child? And STILL he runs free. nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #144
Maybe the three previous closed cases are an example of his ability to pull strings? Baitball Blogger Apr 2012 #59
If so he really is a very very powerful guy. onenote Apr 2012 #69
We have lawyers in the area with 8 DUIs Baitball Blogger Apr 2012 #74
How on earth does the grandfather being in the CIA Travelman Apr 2012 #24
The father is possible CIA also. Recall the 25 year career gap? slampoet Apr 2012 #31
Don't even need a college degree to be one in Virginia Kaleva Apr 2012 #35
That is totally irrelevant to the topic. leveymg Apr 2012 #42
Was he actually a judge? Kaleva Apr 2012 #44
Magistrate judges do the same job as any judge. In 3 of the litigated cases I manage, the Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #57
A judge with no requirement for a law degree? For even a college degree? hack89 Apr 2012 #60
In 24 states across the country, judges donít need a law degree to serve on certain courts. Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #65
So why do you think being a Virginia magistrate hack89 Apr 2012 #66
Why does power function as power? Because power and money wield power since time Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #68
But you have yet to show he has either power or money. hack89 Apr 2012 #93
Shoeshine person? How low do you dream of making him to make him seem insignficant? Give me an Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #102
He was a magistrate for six years hack89 Apr 2012 #107
Question. I know you're a pro-gun, gun lover. No mystery about that. But would you defend anyone Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #109
I am on record as saying Zimerman broke the law and should be arrested. hack89 Apr 2012 #110
My reply Kaleva Apr 2012 #63
Here's how magistrate is viewed: "A magistrate is an officer of the state; in modern usa... Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #67
Zimmerman's father was a low level judicial officer... Kaleva Apr 2012 #86
Next thing you know, Zimmerman's father will be said to have fried burgers at McDonald's lol Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #90
Well, you certainly tried hard to make him more then he was. Kaleva Apr 2012 #103
There are 2 of you on this forum who long to make him a server at a local fast food joint, just to Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #104
It is hard to believe that a judicial officer for 6 years... Kaleva Apr 2012 #112
No - we just want you to present some actual facts hack89 Apr 2012 #113
Magistrates in Virginia do not do the same job as any judge onenote Apr 2012 #95
VA Magistrates issue warrants, subpoenas, summonses. They're Judges. leveymg Apr 2012 #97
And any judge in Virginia will tell you that they're not. onenote Apr 2012 #100
What, exactly, is your point? Are you implying that George getting off twice did not have anything leveymg Apr 2012 #108
The only relevance is that some folks are misdescribing what his father's job was. onenote Apr 2012 #115
I haven't seen any evidence that Zimmerman's father's... Kaleva Apr 2012 #118
Wow, way to dodge the question. slampoet Apr 2012 #116
Info on Robert Zimmeran Kaleva Apr 2012 #129
Who says there's a 25 year gap. Kaleva Apr 2012 #120
OK. Why would the CIA protect a cop wanna be HooptieWagon Apr 2012 #43
It isn't the cia it is connection gotten while in their employ. slampoet Apr 2012 #114
Well, I doubt the SA or Chief of Police are ex CIA HooptieWagon Apr 2012 #122
Or they have secrets that Zimmerman's dad dug up on them mainer Apr 2012 #123
and Church and KKK connections are EXACTLY the kind of things a CIA operative collects. slampoet Apr 2012 #125
CIA not allowed to spy domestically. HooptieWagon Apr 2012 #130
Valerie Plame lived in the US mainer Apr 2012 #131
She wasnt carrying out a domestic operation though HooptieWagon Apr 2012 #135
Who said Robert J was carrying out any domestic operations? mainer Apr 2012 #136
The speculation was that he used CIA contacts HooptieWagon Apr 2012 #137
Only when the turds cross the Rubicon to come and float around for a while--before the flush. n/t Horse with no Name Apr 2012 #78
So did Grandpappy Bush Horse with no Name Apr 2012 #82
Grampa Zimmerman supposedly "died" 20 years ago whistler162 Apr 2012 #138
More like 13 years ago. Not speculation, comparing his obit with info that's been released about HiPointDem Apr 2012 #176
No it does not nadinbrzezinski Apr 2012 #9
Zimmerman called Daddy, Daddy made some calls. Amerigo Vespucci Apr 2012 #18
That's what I think. When someone is facing the possibility of capital punishment, why not. Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #21
Yup, that he did nadinbrzezinski Apr 2012 #22
There are 100 different ways Pappy Zim could have made that first call after hearing from Georgie Amerigo Vespucci Apr 2012 #26
Local area connects and developing them is in the CIA handbook. slampoet Apr 2012 #28
I happen to live in an area with a lot of retired CIA folks. mainer Apr 2012 #12
My grandpa worked for the CIA XemaSab Apr 2012 #15
By some peope's logic, yup. nadinbrzezinski Apr 2012 #23
Maybe you could just click "alert" for starters and try the bullet if that fails Amerigo Vespucci Apr 2012 #27
I have a list too Horse with no Name Apr 2012 #85
Where were you when Walt Starr was tomnbstoned? Dr. Strange Apr 2012 #94
Haha joshcryer Apr 2012 #146
I read the link that was posted and deleted EmeraldCityGrl Apr 2012 #29
Interesting info JustAnotherGen Apr 2012 #34
NY Times says grandfather was "Army Intelligence" Justice4allofus Apr 2012 #36
Both might be true. Remember, before there was a CIA it was called Military Intel. slampoet Apr 2012 #37
I had a HS teacher (early 70s) who was a retired army colonel HooptieWagon Apr 2012 #46
I had a similar teacher on loan from the Naval War College. slampoet Apr 2012 #111
My father JustAnotherGen Apr 2012 #98
I think the family was trying to AVOID scrutiny when they got George off mainer Apr 2012 #39
I'm going out on a limb here and proposing a vastly more complicated explanation. Warren Stupidity Apr 2012 #45
+1 onenote Apr 2012 #47
+1000. My God, with all these CIA fantasies COLGATE4 Apr 2012 #89
I think you have it. MineralMan Apr 2012 #91
Bingo HooptieWagon Apr 2012 #132
zimmerman doesn't seem to be especially connected. he worked as a security guard, notoriously HiPointDem Apr 2012 #162
Church, fraternal orgs, chamber of commerce, etc HooptieWagon Apr 2012 #175
Weird coincidence about our Consul General in Barcelona DFW Apr 2012 #48
Thanks, it's interesting. I lived in Spain (not with the military or anything - I was married to a Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #79
Yes, I had been wondering about your Basque name DFW Apr 2012 #117
It sure wasn't! I'm sure you know that nowadays the skeletons of the Franco supporters Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #128
Post removed Post removed Apr 2012 #145
Isn't the color of his skin the more likely reason? nt hack89 Apr 2012 #49
That's the reason the murder took place, for sure. nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #50
And why the cops automatically took his side. nt hack89 Apr 2012 #54
Read grandfather's career recollections: in S. America during the "Dirty War" & in Franco's Spain leveymg Apr 2012 #51
great find! n/t librechik Apr 2012 #53
Clear that the grandfather has an intelligence service background onenote Apr 2012 #56
Thanks for pointing this out. He was indeed a "State Dept. spook." I know of at least 2 ex-CIA Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #62
My experience is similar onenote Apr 2012 #72
$35,000? nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #75
Salary for magistrates in Virginia onenote Apr 2012 #84
In case you wanted to see his face, here's Zimmerman's father, the "magistrate".... Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #88
Still has that military flattop. Guess it becomes him. leveymg Apr 2012 #99
Not just that. The fact that he won't show his face is very telling. nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #101
One could say, if he really believes George is innocent, he'd publicly stand right behind him. leveymg Apr 2012 #105
I think you're probably right. nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #106
It's the Grandfather, Robert W appears to have been a State Dept. spook. The father was military - leveymg Apr 2012 #96
I have a extended family member like that... EmeraldCityGrl Apr 2012 #77
Isn't it amazing how far money can stretch with certain connections? nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #81
Here's Robert W. Zimmerman - '60 Diplomatic List, Madrid, Zimmerman, Robert W., 1st sec; pol. ofl. leveymg Apr 2012 #119
Post removed Post removed Apr 2012 #58
Because it's not a "theory" that George's grandpa worked intelligence mainer Apr 2012 #61
Post removed Post removed Apr 2012 #64
An astute poster EmeraldCityGrl Apr 2012 #87
Find evidence of Zimmerman's connections influencing the handling of this case and get back to me. Vattel Apr 2012 #121
Find evidence reflecting Cheney the prick's influence over the oil industry and get back to me Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #124
I am not demanding legal proof. Vattel Apr 2012 #133
If there's no legal proof, there's a lot of speculation. In fact, speculation is almost all of what Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #134
Thanks for treating me like your BOY. slampoet Apr 2012 #126
Proof of anything usually starts with a hypothesis mainer Apr 2012 #127
so many assumptions arely staircase Apr 2012 #140
I don't think anyone is thinking the cops were lazy. In fact, I think that's the last supposition Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #143
Post removed Post removed Apr 2012 #147
And you joined Democratic Underground TODAY to post this, huh? nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #148
yep kmarx1917 Apr 2012 #151
You didn't realize the day you join DU shows on your profile Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #153
My crystal ball says... NYC_SKP Apr 2012 #154
He joined a few minutes ago, and was clueless he'd be figured out nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #155
Very Stealthy! NYC_SKP Apr 2012 #156
Yes! His post is already hidden. I think it's funny. He's not the only one that tried this nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #157
And now, PPRed. NYC_SKP Apr 2012 #158
I see that. Why do "they" do this to themselves? A desire to suffer? nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #159
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I'd also like to know your thoughts on... kmarx1917 Apr 2012 #149
So where do you usually hang out that you had to join DU today to post this? nt Sarah Ibarruri Apr 2012 #150
Post removed Post removed Apr 2012 #152
Post removed Post removed Apr 2012 #168
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Post removed Post removed Apr 2012 #171
It appears that Robert W. Zimmerman died in 1999 Kaleva Apr 2012 #142
And I hear some say his great-grandfather was a Pinkerton... cherokeeprogressive Apr 2012 #161
got a link for that? that *would* be interesting. HiPointDem Apr 2012 #163
Nah. It's just what I heard some people saying... cherokeeprogressive Apr 2012 #164
ah, i see. you were joking. zimmerman's grandpa actually was intelligence, though. that's HiPointDem Apr 2012 #165
Yes but as some other posters have pointed out... cherokeeprogressive Apr 2012 #166
a little favoritism fascisthunter Apr 2012 #169
So anyone who had a grandfather in the CIA can kill whoever they want without recourse? ButterflyBlood Apr 2012 #172
I find this post reaching. n/t vaberella Apr 2012 #173
well.... you'd know about reaching fascisthunter Apr 2012 #174
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