The story of the death of General Augusto Pinochet, according to the American media, is the story of justice denied, the story of a man, a murderer, a monster who died without having ever faced justice for his crimes—and worse, without having ever even admitted that his brutal legacy left him anything other than loved and respected by his countrymen. But there is another story: the chance that still remains to bring some of those most directly responsible for the crimes of the Chilean regime to justice. Such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Readers of TomPaine.com already know that only in the past decade, extraordinary progress has been made in bringing closure to the crimes of Pinochet's rule, which started with a military coup against a democratically elected Socialist president, Salvador Allende and ended with, hopefully, the establishment of the Pinochet Precedent:
The big turning point came on October 16, 1998, the day Pinochet was arrested in London on a Spanish court order. ...The British courts stripped Pinochet of his “sovereign immunity” and ruled that Spain could extradite him for torture. Although British Home Secretary Jack Straw intervened and released the aging general after 16 months on “humanitarian grounds,” the case sent a chilling message to other rulers: you no longer sit on privileged thrones above international law. This “Pinochet Precedent” is the crowning global achievement of a 30-year struggle.
But American media in general ignored completely the role that the American government had in the crimes of not just the coup, not just the reign of terror which Pinochet's secret police extended around the South American continent and across the globe—including the worst terrorist act on U.S. soil prior to 9/11, the assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt in 1976 in Washington, D.C.—but also multiple attempts to overthrow the democratic government of Chile in the years prior to the coup. These efforts were coordinated from the very top of the American government, by President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Neither The Washington Post nor The New York Times, either in their obits, or in each of their respective editorials reflecting on Pinochet's death, mentions the name Kissinger. In fact, the Post is odious enough to claim that in the end, Pinochet (and patron Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who also died last week) were "right" and can be given the credit for Chile's economy and stable liberal democracy now (never mind the fact that before Pinochet, Chile had a history of liberal democracy unbroken since the 1930s and unparalleled by any South American, or even many European countries).
By 1975, Sen. Frank Church had already established through public hearings culpability for U.S. covert activities in Chile in the decade leading up to Pinochet's coup. According to his report, "Covert Action in Chile 1963-1973," while the official U.S. response to Allende's attempts to gain power were diplomatic chills and attempts to organize embargos, there was a "Track II" process, at the order of Richard Nixon and coordinated by Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms, then-Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger and Attorney General John Mitchell, without the knowledge of the Departments of State and Defense or the U.S. ambassador to Chile. In 1970, in order to prevent Allende from being elected, Nixon ordered a coup:
Track II activities in Chile were undertaken in response to President Nixon's September 15 order and were directed toward actively promoting and encouraging the Chilean military to move against Allende. ...
Although certain elements within the Chilean army were actively involved in coup plotting, the plans of the dissident Chileans never got off the ground. A rather disorganized coup attempt did begin on October 22, but aborted following the shooting of General Schneider.
Chilean Commander-in-chief Rene Schneider's assassination in 1970 greatly destabilized Chilean politics and was part of a coup prompted by Richard Nixon. The Federation of American Scientists' Intelligence Resource Program summarizes these activities, including funding of terrorist groups.
Meanwhile, the United States pursued a two-track policy toward Allende's Chile. At the overt level, Washington was frosty, especially after the nationalization of the copper mines; official relations were unfriendly but not openly hostile. The government of President Richard M. Nixon launched an economic blockade conjunction with U.S. multinationals (ITT, Kennecott, Anaconda) and banks (Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank). The U.S. squeezed the Chilean economy by terminating financial assistance and blocking loans from multilateral organizations. But during 1972 and 1973 the US increased aid to the military, a sector unenthusiastic toward the Allende government. The United States also increased training Chilean military personnel in the United States and Panama.
According to notes taken by CIA director Richard Helms at a 1970 meeting in the Oval Office, his orders were to "make the economy scream." It was widely reported that at the covert level the United States worked to destabilize Allende's Chile by funding opposition political groups and media and by encouraging a military coup d'état. The agency trained members of the fascist organization Patria y Libertad (PyL) in guerrilla warfare and bombing, and they were soon waging a campaign of arson. CIA also sponsored demonstrations and strikes, funded by ITT and other US corporations with Chilean holdings. CIA-linked media, including the country's largest newspaper, fanned the flames of crisis. While these United States actions contributed to the downfall of Allende, no one has established direct United States participation in the coup d'état and few would assign the United States the primary role in the destruction of that government.
However, the FAS notes that no evidence could be shown in 1975 of Kissinger's or Nixon's role in the 1973 coup itself. That would have to wait almost 30 years, to President Clinton's declassification in 2000 of a raft of intelligence documents regarding CIA activities in Chile at the prompting of Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y. The Hinchey report is packed with revelations, including that the CIA paid $35,000 to Schneider's killers. But Peter Kornbluh of the Chile Documentation Project at the National Security Archive, still sorting through them, revealed in 2004 records of a conversation between Kissinger and Nixon (.pdf).
The transcript records a call made by President Nixon to Kissinger's home on the weekend following General Augusto Pinochet's violent overthrow of the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile. Kissinger reports to the president that the new military regime was "getting consolidated" and complains that the press is "bleeding because a pro-Communist government has been overthrown." When Nixon notes that "our hand doesn't show on this one though," Kissinger responds that "We didn't do it" [referring to the coup itself]. I mean we helped them….created the conditions as great as possible."
"We didn't do it" means they didn't directly organize the coup—they had merely spent the past three years trying to goad various members of the Chilean military to overthrow their government. Meanwhile, other revelations of the Hinchey documents, as Kornbluh summarizes, include:
Within a year of the coup, the CIA was aware of bilateral arrangements between the Pinochet regime and other Southern Cone intelligence services to track and kill opponents.
The CIA made Gen. Manuel Contreras, head of [Pinochet's secret police] DINA, a paid asset only several months after concluding that he “was the principal obstacle to a reasonable human rights policy within the Junta.” After the assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt in Washington D.C., the CIA continued to work with Contreras even as “his possible role in the Letelier assassination became an issue.”
The CIA made a payment of $35,000 to a group of coup plotters in Chile after that group had murdered the Chilean commander-in-chief, Gen. Rene Schneider in October 1970—a fact that was apparently withheld in 1975 from the special Senate Committee investigating CIA involvement in assassinations. The report says the payment was made “in an effort to keep the prior contact secret, maintain the good will of the group, and for humanitarian reasons.”
The CIA has an October 25, 1973 intelligence report on Gen. Arellano Stark, Pinochet’s right-hand man after the coup, showing that Stark ordered the murders of 21 political prisoners during the now infamous “Caravan of Death.” This document is likely to be relevant to the ongoing prosecution of General Pinochet, who is facing trial for the disappearances of 14 prisoners at the hands of Gen. Stark’s military death squad.
Chilean poet and playwright Ariel Dorfman has been the most eloquent voice of memory against Pinochet's crimes and has time and again reminded us of the culpability of Kissinger in all of his crimes. After Pinochet was arrested in 1998, Dorfman wrote an open letter, in Spanish, to Kissinger:
What I have wanted to see for 25 years now—and I still have a hard time believing that it might be about to happen—is that before your death you will be forced to look with your blue eyes into the dark and light eyes of the women whose sons and husbands and fathers and brothers you made disappear, one woman after another. I want for them to have the chance to tell you how their lives were fractured and torn apart by an order that you gave, or by the 'action' of the secret police that you chose not to stop. I have asked myself what would happen to you if you were forced to hear day after day the multiple stories of your victims and to acknowledge their existence.
When Pinochet was formally indicted in 2004, Dorfman went on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman.
AMY GOODMAN: There's a lot of discussion, Ariel Dorfman, of Pinochet right now. What about those still alive in this country that supported that coup? President Nixon has died, but Henry Kissinger is still with us.
ARIEL DORFMAN: Well, you know, it's very interesting to see that the United States government has never been able to really live up to and understand that it is responsible for many of these horrors. You know, we Chileans have our own sins to pay in the sense that there were things --
AMY GOODMAN: We only have five seconds.
ARIEL DORFMAN: Oh. I think Kissinger should be indicted.
Christopher Hitchens, before he became enamored of the war crimes of the current regime, also wrote eloquently about the need to prosecute someone other than third-world dictators and Serbian generals to prove the legitimacy of international law, by not exempting the most powerful. From his book The Trials of Henry Kissinger, quoted by the Toronto Globe and Mail:
If the drive to put Kissinger in the witness box, let alone the dock, should succeed, then it would rebut the taunt about 'victor's justice' in war-crimes trials. It would demonstrate that no person, and no society or state, is above the law. Conversely, if the initiative should fail, then it would seem to be true that we have woven a net for the catching of small fish only.
The guns of the coup were filled with bullets sold to the army by Washington. Those bullets gunned down thousands of Chileans, including folksinger Victor Jara, students and teachers thought to have leftist sympathies, and many others who became desaparecidos--disappeared, when their bodies were dumped from airplanes and helicopters into the ocean. Tens of thousands were tortured.
Those Washington bullets represented crimes whose primary perpetrator just passed away, but others who were responsible not just walk free, but are honored and feted by all. As Donald Rumsfeld moves from the Pentagon to the courtroom to face his crimes, let us not forget those of Henry Kissinger.