[News] Poetic Justice for Pinochet

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Mon Dec 11 12:49:54 EST 2006

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December 11, 2006

Death of a Pig

Poetic Justice for Pinochet


Look around--there's only one thing of danger for you here--poetry.

Pablo Neruda, during a search of his home and grounds after the 
September 11, 1973 fascist coup in Chile

Let's get it straight. Augusto Pinochet ordered the deaths of perhaps 
4000 people, if not more. He did this after violently overthrowing a 
legally elected government in the sovereign nation of Chile. Of 
course, he had a little help in this endeavor from Richard Nixon, 
Henry Kissinger, Anaconda Copper, IT&T, and that always 
friendly-to-dictators bureaucracy -- the Central Intelligence Agency. 
That's another story, however, and one that would also be dealt with 
if there were true justice on this planet.

One of the most moving times I ever heard Joan Baez sing was in 
Washington, D.C. at a funeral procession for Orlando Letelier and 
Ronnie Moffitt. These two individuals were killed by Pinochet's 
secret police -- the DINA -- by a car bomb in the middle of the U.S. 
capital city. As Joan sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," fascist 
demonstrators threw dirt and insults at those of us who had gathered 
to commemorate these two individuals and condemn the governments 
responsible for the murder. Business as usual. The men directly 
responsible for the car bomb were eventually arrested, tried and 
jailed, (after years of intense pressure from several governments and 
individuals), but their leaders weren't.

I was living in New York when the coup occurred. There were protests 
downtown and the Weather Underground bombed IT&T's Latin American 
Division offices in Manhattan. Pablo Neruda died of prostate cancer a 
week or two after the coup. Funeral processions were banned but 
thousands of Chileans defied the fascist government and marched in 
memory of Neruda and against the fascist coup. Phil Ochs organized a 
concert for the disappeared the following spring. We were pissed off 
in the way that seemingly hopeless despair makes one. A genuine hope 
for a humanistic future had been destroyed by the forces of evil 
right in front of our eyes and most of our countrymen didn't give a 
shit. Business as usual, you know. What can you do about it?

There's a place in Berkeley, CA. called La Pena Cultural Center. The 
front of it is covered by a mural done by O'Brien Thiele, Osha 
Neuman, Ray Patlan and Anna DeLeon. A panorama of the popular 
struggles of the peoples of Latin America, the first thing about it 
that catches your eye is the bas-relief sculpture of the Chilean folk 
and protest singer Victor Jara. Jara was killed by the forces of 
repression during the 1973 coup. The popular story goes is that first 
the assassins cut of one hand and then the other before they killed 
him. Like Woody Guthrie's guitar that killed fascists, Victor Jara's 
songs threatened the living bejesus out of those Chileans carrying 
the fascist mantle.

Augusto Pinochet escaped earthly justice, but I get the feeling he 
isn't going to enjoy his afterlife. Him and Jeanne Kirkpatrick in one 
week. Maybe there is a god. But, then again, if there is then why the 
hell is Henry Kissinger still around giving his deadly advice?

Ron Jacobs is author of 
Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is 
just republished by Verso. Jacobs' essay on Big Bill Broonzy is 
featured in CounterPunch's new collection on music, art and sex, 
in the Garden. He can be reached at: 
<mailto:rjacobs3625 at charter.net>rjacobs3625 at charter.net

December 11, 2006

The Atrocities of Gen. Augusto Pinochet and the United States

The Condor Model


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 detainees.

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 Conventions.

Roger Burbach is director of the Center for the Study of the Americas 
(CENSA) and a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of International 
Studies, University of California, Berkeley. He is co-author with Jim 
Tarbell of 
Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire," His latest 
book is: 
Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice."

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