Mickey Z. -- World News Trust
Aug. 8, 2013
“The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.”
- Henry Kissinger
Since September 11, 2001, there has been a marked increase in the comfort with which those in power openly discuss military interventions -- both current and pending. This shift is particularly obvious when examining the "other 9/11."
Thanks to information made available in documents declassified in 1999, we can coherently discuss the Sept. 11, 1973, coup in Chile -- an event cloaked in secrecy and obscured by Cold War paranoia. But those roughly 5,000 documents don't begin to explain how the toppling of Salvador Allende fits within the context of today's foreign entanglements.
After all, what the United States did by replacing Allende with General Augusto Pinochet 40 years ago would today be termed a "regime change" or "humanitarian" (As Henry Kissinger explained at the time: "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.")
"Nothing but human rights"
Salvador Allende, a physician by trade, first gained worldwide attention when he came within 3 percent of winning Chile’s 1958 presidential election. Six years later, the United States decided to no longer leave such elections to chance. It was time to introduce the Chilean people to democracy, American-style.
The U.S. government, mostly through the covert efforts of the Central Intelligence Agency, spent more money per capita to support Allende’s opponent, Eduardo Frei, than Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater combined to spend that same year in the American presidential election.
With an estimated $20 million of U.S. taxpayer money to work with, the CIA embarked on a program of anti-communist propaganda and disinformation designed to scare Chilean citizens -- specifically mothers -- into believing that an Allende victory would result in direct Russian control of their country and their lives. “No religious activity would be possible,” they were told. Their children, hammer and sickle stamped on their foreheads, would be shipped to the USSR to be used as slaves, the radio and newspapers direly warned.
The scare tactics worked. While Allende won the male vote by a small margin, 469,000 more Chilean women chose Frei. Cleverly manipulated to fear the “blood and pain” of “godless, atheist communism,” the mothers of Chile voted against the man who promised to “redistribute income and reshape the … economy” through the nationalization of some major industries, like copper mining, and the expansion of agrarian reform. A far cry from Leninism, Allende’s policy of “eurocommunism,” i.e., communists linking with social democratic parties into a united front, was for the most part, as unacceptable to the Kremlin as it was to the White House.
When the 1970 Chilean presidential election rolled around, Allende was still a major player. However, he had a new and powerful enemy: Dr. Henry Kissinger.
Despite another wave of U.S.-funded propaganda, Salvador Allende was elected president of South America’s longest functioning democracy on Sept. 4, 1970. Henry Kissinger (HK) and his cohorts had to act. The 40 Committee was formed with HK as chair. The goal was not only to save Chile from its irresponsible populace but to yet again stave off the red tide.
“Chile is a fairly big place, with a lot of natural resources,” explains Noam Chomsky, “but the United States wasn’t going to collapse if Chile became independent. Why were we so concerned about it? According to Kissinger, Chile was a ‘virus’ that would ‘infect’ the region with effects all the way to Italy.”
At a Sept. 15, 1970 meeting called to halt the spread of infection, Kissinger and President Nixon told CIA Director Richard Helms it would be necessary to “make the [Chilean] economy scream.” While allocating at least $10 million to assist in sabotaging Allende’s presidency, outright assassination was also considered a serious and welcome option.
The respect held by the Chilean military for the democratic process led Kissinger to pick as his first assassination target not Allende himself, but General Rene Schneider, head of the Chilean Armed Forces. Schneider, it seems, had long believed that politics and the military should remain discrete. Despite warnings from Helms that a coup might not be possible in such a stable democracy, HK urged the plan to proceed.
When the killing of Schneider only served to solidify Allende’s support, a CIA-sponsored media blitz similar to that of 1964 commenced. Citizens were faced with daily “reports” of Marxist atrocities and Soviet bases supposedly being built in Chile. U.S. threats to sever economic and military aid were also used to help cultivate a “coup climate” among those in the military. These two approaches represented the hard and soft lines outlined by Nixon and HK.
How soft was soft? Edward Korry, U.S. ambassador to Chile at the time, articulated the soft sell by declaring that the U.S. task was “to do all within our power to condemn Chile and the Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty.” Korry warned, “not a nut or bolt [will] be allowed to reach Chile under Allende.”
On the hard side, Dr. Henry began securing support for a possible military coup.
“In 1970,” wrote historian Howard Zinn, “an ITT director, John McCone, who had also been head of the CIA, told Kissinger and Helms that ITT was willing to give $1 million to help the U.S. government in its plans to overthrow the Allende government.”
“The stage was set for a clash of two experiments,” says Blum. Allende’s socialism was pitted against what was later called a “prototype or laboratory experiment to test the techniques of heavy financial investment in an effort to discredit and bring down a government.” This clash would reach its climax on Sept. 11, 1973.
The socialist experiment ended in violence on that day and Allende himself was said to have committed suicide … with a machine gun. Of course, the U.S. claimed no complicity in or even knowledge of the coup at the time. However, when the State Department declassified 5,000 documents in 1999, a different story was told.
For example, a CIA document from the day before the coup stated bluntly, “The coup attempt will begin Sept. 11.” Ten days later, the Agency announced, “severe repression is planned.” With thousands of opponents of the new regime gathered in soccer stadiums, a Sept. 28 State Department document detailed a request from Chile’s new defense minister for Washington to send an expert advisor on detention centers.
Allende was dead. In his place, the people of Chile now faced brutal repression and human rights violations, book burnings, a powerful secret police, and more than 3,000 executions. Tens of thousands more were tortured and/or disappeared. Shortly after the coup, U.S. economic and military aid once again began to flow into Chile.
The man in charge of all this was General Augusto Pinochet, a man Dr. Kissinger could really get behind. “In the United States, as you know, we are sympathetic to what you are trying to do,” HK told the Chilean dictator in 1975. “We wish your government well.
“My evaluation,” he continued to Pinochet, “is that you are the victim of all the left-wing groups around the world and that your greatest sin was that you overthrew a government that was going communist.” Later that same year, when facing a roomful of Chilean diplomats concerned about the effect Pinochet’s human rights violations might have on world opinion, Henry was in top form:
“Well, I read the briefing paper for this meeting and it was nothing but human rights. The State Department is made up of people who have a vocation for the ministry. Because there were not enough churches for them, they went into the Department of State.”
Was HK really that concerned with the minor nationalization of industry proposed by Salvador Allende or were other forces at work here?
Here’s how the CIA saw it three days after Allende won the election: “The U.S. has no vital national interests within Chile. The world military balance of power would not be significantly altered by an Allende government. [But] an Allende victory would represent a definite psychological advantage for the Marxist idea.”
“Even Kissinger, mad as he is, didn’t believe that Chilean armies were going to descend on Rome,” says Chomsky. “It wasn’t going to be that kind of an influence. He was worried that successful economic development, where the economy produces benefits for the general population -- not just profits for private corporations -- would have a contagious effect. In those comments, Kissinger revealed the basic story of U.S. foreign policy for decades.” Accordingly, in 1974, when the new U.S. ambassador to Chile, David Popper, complained about Chile’s human rights violations, Dr. Kissinger promptly sent these orders:
“Tell Popper to cut out the political science lectures.”
The New Style
Ten days after the Allende government was overthrown, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jack Kubisch told the House Subcommittee on Inter-American Affairs: "Gentlemen, I wish to state as flatly and as categorically as I possibly can that we did not have advance knowledge of the coup." The documents declassified in 1999, of course, told a vastly different story.
Makes me wonder: what would happen if Allende were elected president of Chile in 2013? Would Obama and Kerry follow the same clandestine path Kissinger and Nixon opted for in 1973 or would the U.S.government be a tad more forthcoming about their plans?
Based on their public posturing and subsequent actions vis-à-vis Syria, one might safely assume that the Obama administration (or for that matter, a McCain or Romney administration) would declare Chile a clear and present danger, impose brutal sanctions, and then pronounce the need for regime change in the name of freedom and democracy. Next would come the brazen threats to "shock and awe" Santiago with 3,000 cruise missiles in the first two or three days of the "liberation." With or without the approval of the UN, Operation Chile Out would commence.
The Chilean people would be told, candidly, that America (and a mysterious "Coalition of the Willing"?) was acting in their best interests. Meanwhile, every man, woman, and child paying attention would be aware of the United States' intention to occupy Chile as de facto ruler while government contracts for the rebuilding of infrastructure destroyed by coalition bombs and missiles would set American-based construction firms into furious competition and nefarious backroom negotiations.
In other words, there would be little or no need for the curious to wait decades for documents to be declassified. Today's architects of war -- from both parties -- would merely rely on the seductive power of spin to paint Allende as the "next Stalin," Pinochet would hire a PR firm, CNN would design a nifty "Showdown with Salvador" logo, and reading books by Isabel Allende in the airport would be reason for a bag search.
As sentiments sizzle, you never know: a new moniker might even be needed for The Red Hot Chili Peppers and cartoon character Chilly Willy would become "Free Willy" and enjoy a unexpected career resurgence.
Rightfully, there is much hand wringing today when looking back at U.S. involvement in the 1973 coup in Chile. In 40 years, will others be equally persistent in attempting to comprehend how this generation tolerated -- and even offered tacit support for -- a culture that made the Freedom of Information Act superfluous?
Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.
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