by Jacob G. Hornberger
The Chilean government is investigating hundreds of cases of human-rights abuses under the dictatorial regime of army Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who took power in a violent coup in 1973. Notably, the probe will include an investigation into the death of Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president of the country who Pinochet and his military henchmen ousted in the coup. At the time, it was determined that Allende committed suicide. The investigators will attempt to determine whether he wasn’t actually murdered instead.
It’s ironic that the investigation is taking place today, given the widespread publicity about the U.S. government’s 30-year-long support of the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt. The U.S. government was also among the Pinochet dictatorship’s biggest supporters.
The U.S. government, including the CIA, has long denied any participation in the Chilean coup. Some have doubted the credibility of that denial, however, given the U.S. government’s ardent support of Allende’s ouster after his election, the CIA regime-change coups in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954), and the repeated attempts at regime change in Cuba, including assassination attempts, during the Kennedy administration.
A statement made by U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger after Allende’s election perfectly sums up the mindset that has long guided U.S. foreign policy, including with respect to Egypt: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”
There is another reason for believing that the CIA participated in the Chilean coup: the CIA’s participation in the murder of a young American journalist named Charles Horman who was living in Chile at the time. Horman’s murder was the subject of a movie titled Missing which starred Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. For years, the CIA denied any role in the killing, but in 1999 a State Department document was declassified that revealed that the CIA had been lying the whole time and that it had, in fact, played a role in Horman’s murder. How does an agency play in role in the murder of American citizen during a military coup while, at the same time, playing no role in the coup itself.
What role did the CIA actually play in Horman’s murder? We don’t know. Neither the Congress nor the Justice Department issued any subpoenas to the CIA to testify about the murder and the identities of the CIA agents involved in the murder.
The Pinochet regime was characterized by arbitrary arrests, indefinite detentions, rapes, torture, extra-judicial executions, and other human-rights abuses. It was all done in the name of protecting the nation from the communists and the terrorists. Not surprisingly, U.S. officials, especially those in the CIA and the Pentagon, fully supported the Pinochet military dictatorship, just as they have fully supported the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt. The notion was that Pinochet, like Mubarak, brought “order and stability” to the country, as compared to democracy, where people make mistakes, like electing socialists, communists, or people who simply wish their governments to be free of U.S. government control.
The people of Chile are confronting their dark past. The people of Egypt are confronting their dark present. Wouldn’t it be great if the American people did both?
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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