No one who wasn’t living in a cave (and even ones who were) will ever forget the horrifying image of planes flying into buildings on September 11th. It was an outrageous act committed by men who clung to a deeply conservative ideology and wished to destroy the democratic countries of the west. They opposed progress; it is hard to say if there is anything they actually supported – except oppression and a narrow version of god.
But there was another 9/11, one that few people noticed when it happened and which has largely been forgotten except by those on the left. In 1973, a group of very conservative men overthrew the democratically elected Marxist government of Chile. Driven by a hatred of progress and inspired by what was, for them, a foreign ideology and a very narrow view of freedom, they marched their guns and tanks into Santiago and took power for several decades. President Allende died – either by murder or suicide – and Augusto Pinochet took over the reins of power.
As Kissinger said to Nixon: We didn’t do it but we helped. The CIA and, as it turned out, American corporate dollars aided and abetted an anti-democratic coup. In the years that followed, Pinochet killed and ‘disappeared’ thousands, filling mass graves and dumping bodies in the ocean. It was a brutal time as Pinochet and his friends filled their pockets with gold forged from their enemies’ blood.
At the time, little was said. The Vietnam War was grinding down to its bitter end and dictatorships were springing up all over the world. What was another military coup in Latin America? Worse would follow. The Iran Contra affair during the Regan years comes to mind – illegal arms sales to one of America’s sworn enemies to fund right wing guerrillas seeking to overthrow another in Nicaragua. (The irony: Ortega, the eventually ousted Sandinista leader, became president again, this time as a democratic socialist, governing with the tacit support of some of those who had previously opposed him). At least someone went to jail in that deal, though those at the top escaped any real punishment – as they always do,
Ancient history you might say. Pinochet is gone, his life ending in the disgrace of charges before the World Court. Democracy flourishes in Latin America – well, flourish might be too strong a word but it is there.
Still, lessons need to be learned. When you hear a right wing ranter call for the President’s ouster by force – even for his death, you need to ask yourself a question. Do I really want to live under a dictatorship run by a bunch of guys who have a twisted idea of freedom and no respect for human life? Well, do ya, punk?
But that’s ten minutes.