Monday, December 11, 2006

It Couldn't Happen To A Nicer Guy

Augusto Pinochet, the butcher/dictator of Chile for much of the 70s and 80s, is dead.

The timing of this is interesting for me, as I'm currently reading a book on Pinochet’s assumption of power in a September 11, 1973 coup. Pinochet wrested power from Salvador Allende, a Marxist who had been democratically elected by the Chilean people in 1970; Allende died in the takeover.

Now-unclassified US government documents detail this country’s involvement in that coup, from financing opposition newspapers, to fomenting financial crises, to supporting terrorist acts within Chile to aligning ourselves with anti-Allende forces within the Chilean military.

One high-ranking Chilean military official, who did not wish to subvert the will of his country’s constitution by staging a coup, was assassinated as he drove to work one morning. It seems
René Schneider was just too democratically minded for his own good.

The US feared having a potential Soviet and/or Cuban ally in our basement, so we actively sought to overturn an undesirable though legitimate Chilean election, ironically, mimicking the Soviets in their interference in the affairs of nearby countries. In doing so, we helped install as the leader of Chile a man far less democratic and far more brutal than his Marxist predecessor. (We should remember Chile in case we have any designs on making Hugo Chavez the next Salvador Allende.)

Pinochet ran secret detention camps and tortured and/or disappeared thousands during his 17-year reign of terror. It's probably a smaller number of victims and certainly a shorter time span, but President Bush has done the same things, and for ostensibly the same reason - protecting his country. Pinochet had his communists and Bush has his terrorists. Disappearances are now simply called "extraordinary rendition."

This is also relevant now because we have a not-so-dissimilar situation with Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Since any enemy of Iran was a friend of ours, we supported Saddam, who had risen to power in a coup of his own, and who violently crushed all dissent thereafter.

Put simply, we have a history of supporting these assholes when it suits our interests. We’re still doing it today in the Middle East, with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (a monarchy rather than a dictatorship, but that’s just semantics) and in Eastern Europe. It's pure hypocrisy when we go against one dictator by supporting another. It's also un-American, un-democratic, and it's something we've already lived to regret.


Jack K. said...

When will we ever learn?

Soon, I hope.

Pete Bogs said...

jack - consternos hate political activists, but it's those organizations and individuals that expose this kind of thing, with the intent of preventing it from happening again... noble efforts, many of them, but definitely an uphill battle...