[Marxism] Roger Burbach: Pinochet and US Atrocities

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Dec 11 03:09:14 MST 2006

From: censa at igc.org
Sent: Dec 11, 2006 4:32 AM
To: PinochetUSAtrocities
Subject: Pinochet and US Atrocities 

The Atrocities of Augusto Pinochet and the United States 
By Roger Burbach
December 11, 2006

In Santiago on September 11, 1973 I watched as Chilean air force jets
flew overhead. Moments later I heard explosions and saw fireballs of
smoke fill the sky as the presidential palace went up in flames.
Salvador Allende, the elected Socialist president of Chile died in
the palace.

As an American the death of General Augusto Pinochet brings back many
memories of the military coup and the role played by my government in
the violent overthrow of Allende. From the moment of his election in
September, 1970 the Nixon administration mounted a covert campaign
against him. Henry Kissinger, then Nixon's National Security adviser,
declared: "I don't see why we need to stand idly by and watch a
country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people."
Weeks later the pro-constitutionalist head of the army, General Rene
Schneider, was assassinated in a failed attempt to stop the
inauguration of Allende.

For the next three years CIA-backed terrorist groups bombed and
destroyed state railroads, power plants and key highway arteries to
create chaos and stop the country from functioning. The goal was to
"make the economy scream" as Nixon ordered. US corporations such as
IT&T also participated in the efforts to destabilize the country.

In the midst of this struggle for control of Chile, Allende insisted,
almost stubbornly, on maintaining the country's democratic
institutions. He enjoyed immense popular support from below, even in
the waning days of his government when the economy was in shambles
and virtually everyone believed a confrontation was imminent. I'll
never forget the last major demonstration on September 4, 1973, when
the Alameda, the major avenue of downtown Santiago, was packed with
tens of thousands of marchers, all intent on passing by the
presidential palace where Allende stood on a balcony waving to the
crowd. This was no government-orchestrated demonstration in which
people were trucked in from the barrios and countryside. These people
came out of a deep sense of commitment, a belief that this was their
government and that they would defend it to the end.

In the aftermath of the coup over three thousand people perished,
including two American friends of mine, Charles Horman and Frank
Terrugi. The United States knowing of these atrocities, rushed to
support the military regime, reopening the spigot of economic aid
that had been closed under Allende. When the relatives of Horman and
Terrugi made determined inquires about their disappearances and
deaths, the US embassy and the State Department stonewalled along
with the new military junta. Four weeks after the coup, I fled across
the Andes, returning to the United States to do what I could to
denounce the crimes of Pinochet and my government.

I returned to Chile for the 1988 plebiscite that finally forced
Pinochet out of office after seventeen long and brutal years. But for
eight more years his dark hand hung over Chile as he continued in his
role as the commander in chief of the army. Finally as a result of
years of hard work by the international human rights movement,
Pinochet was detained in London in October 1998 for crimes against
humanity. Five hundred days later he was sent back to Chile,
allegedly for health reasons. There the Chilean courts lead by Judge
Juan Guzman squared off with the general's right wing supporters and
the military, stripping him of his immunity from prosecution as
"Senator-for-Life," a position he bestowed on himself when he retired
from the army.

As the proceedings against Pinochet advanced, new reports of US
complicity in the coup and the repression began to surface,
particularly about the role of Kissinger. The Chilean courts tried to
compel Kissinger to testify, but they received no cooperation from
the US Justice Department. French courts also issued orders for the
interrogation of Kissinger, making him realize that he like Pinochet
did not enjoy international impunity from prosecution. Small wonder
that Kissinger wrote an article in Foreign Affairs magazine, decrying
the use of the principle of 'universal jurisdiction' by courts to
bring human rights violators to justice.

In Chile President Michele Bachelet whose father died in prison under
Pinochet has refused to grant the ex-dictator a state funeral. Only
military bands will play at his interment. Eduardo Contreras, a
Chilean human rights lawyer, declared, "Pinochet should be buried as
a common criminal," adding, "The dictator died on December 10, the
International Day of Human Rights. It is as if humanity chose this
special moment to weigh in with its final judgment, declaring
'enough' for the dictator."

The burial of Pinochet comes at a moment when the current Bush
administration is being scrutinized for its atrocities and crimes
against humanity that are even more appalling than those of the
former Chilean dictator. It is another irony of history that Pinochet
died on Donald Rumsfeld's last full day as Secretary of Defense. Like
Pinochet and Kissinger, Rumsfeld may very well spend the rest of his
life trying to escape the grasp of domestic and international courts.
Eleven Iraqi prisoners held in Abu Ghraib and a Saudi detained in
Guantanamo are filing criminal charges in German courts against
Rumsfeld and other US civilian and military officials, including
Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. And on last Friday as Rumsfeld was
making a farewell speech to his cohorts at the Pentagon, attorneys
from the American Civil Liberties Union argued in a Washington D.C.
federal court that Rumsfeld and three senior military officials
should be held responsible for the torture of Iraqi and Afghani

The Pinochet affair has shaped a whole new generation of human rights
activists and lawyers. They are determined to end the impunity of
public officials, including that of the civilian and military leaders
in the United States who engage in state terrorism and human rights
abuses while violating international treaties like the Geneva

Roger Burbach is author of "The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and
Global Justice," Zed Books, New York and London. A Spanish edition is
also available with a prologue by Judge Juan Guzman: "El Affair
Pinochet: Terrorismo de Estado y Justicia Global," Mosquito
Communicaciones, Santiago, Chile.


More information about the Marxism mailing list