Chile recalls a different 9/11 anniversary

For Americans, today is the 12th anniversary of the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  But it also is the 40th anniversary of the U.S.-backed coup against the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile.

Golpe_de_Estado_1973Allende was elected President of Chile in 1970 in a three-way contest in which he received just under 37 percent of the popular vote—more than either of the other two candidates.

He attempted to transform Chile into a socialist country, even though he lacked a mandate from a majority of the voters.   The Chilean National Congress and Supreme Court opposed his plan.  A constitutional crisis resulted, paralyzing the government.

I can’t guess how this crisis would have played out if events had been allowed to run their course.  I don’t think it is possible to revolutionize a society by democratic means unless you have the overwhelming majority of the population behind you, which Allende did not.  And I don’t know to what degree his policies would have worked.

But on Sept. 11, 1973, all these questions became academic.  Armed forces led by General Augusto Pinochet staged a coup against the government and began 17 years of harsh dictatorship, marked by arbitrary imprisonment, torture and imprisonment, repression of labor unions and denial of basic human rights.

In order for this coup to take place, it was necessary to remove General Rene Schneider, chief of staff of the Chilean armed forces, who believed in civilian rule and the democratic process.   He was murdered by right-wing officers led by General Roberto Viaux.

The U.S. government was directly responsible for this.  Christopher Hitchens, in The Trial of Henry Kissinger, documented how Secretary of State Kissinger arranged a payoff of the killers.  That makes Kissinger no different from any other criminal who hires a killer to commit a murder.  Pinochet replaced Schneider and the coup proceeded.

Apologists for the coup say it was necessary to prevent a Castro-type dictatorship from being established in Chile.  The fact that Allende was caught so unprepared, and did not resist, indicates to me that this danger was imaginary.

I was disillusioned by the support given the Pinochet regime by Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, right-wing economists whom I had respected up to that point.

In their view, property rights trumped political rights.  It was a lesser evil to round up people in a stadium and shoot them down like animals, or kidnap them and drop them out of airplanes, for nothing more than peacefully supporting a legally-elected leader— it was a lesser evil to do that than to infringe the property rights of landowners and foreign businesses.

We Americans should remember this history because the rest of the world knows it, even if we don’t.


1973 Chilean coup d’etat in Wikipedia.

Chilean coup: 40 years ago I watched Pinochet crush a democratic dream by Hugh O’Shaughnessy for The Guardian.  (Hat tip to Jack Clontz).

The Other 9/11 by Christopher Moraff for the Washington Monthly.

Kerry, Kissinger and the Other Sept. 11 by Amy Goodman.

In an Age of ‘Realists’ and Vigilantes by John Pilger for Counterpunch [added 9/19/13]

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3 Responses to “Chile recalls a different 9/11 anniversary”

  1. It’s time to shut down the wimpy debaters | BlogTruth Says:

    […] To stir the pot, I posted the following post, linking to Phil Ebersole’s 9/11 post about Chile. […]


  2. From Russia, With Love: Vladamir Putin’s Op-Ed Piece to Americans | BlogTruth Says:

    […] For example, in 1973 in Chile the United States helped fund the assassination of President Allende. Subsequently began 17 years of harsh dictatorship, marked by arbitrary imprisonment, torture and imprisonment, repression of labor unions and denial of basic human rights [1]. […]


  3. Kerry, Kissinger and the Other Sept. 11 | Global Clarity Says:

    […] Chile recalls a different 9/11 anniversary ( […]


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