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This article analyzes the role of the United States during Argentina's 1976–1983 military dictatorship and their genocidal counterinsurgency war. We argue that Washington's policy evolved from the initially loose support of the Ford administration to what we call "the Carter exception" in 1977–79, when the violations of human rights were denounced and concrete measures taken to put pressure on the military to end their repressive campaign. However, with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the end of the détente, human rights lost importance in Washington's foreign policy agenda. The Argentine military briefly recovered US support with Ronald Reagan in 1981, only to soon lose it with the Malvinas War. Argentina's defeat turned the page of the US upport to military dictatorships in Latin America and marked the debut of "democracy promotion."