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"Today, near the end of my days, I want to say that I harbour no rancour against anybody, that I love my fatherland above all. ... I take political responsibility for everything that was done."
      -- Augusto Pinochet, 11/26/2006 (eight days ago, on his 91st birthday)

"Midnight, our sons and daughters
Were cut down and taken from us
Hear their heartbeat
We hear their heartbeat

Picture of Pinochet from Wikipedia
Augusto Pinochet was given the last rites today, following a severe heart attack that left him hovering near death.

At age 91 he is a frail old man.  Too frail in fact, his lawyers have repeatedly claimed, to stand trial for the dozens of crimes for which he has been arrested and indicted.   More than likely, he will go to his death under house arrest, charged, but having never faced a trial, never having had to face his accusers, nor having been pronounced guilty of anything.

Caveat:  I am not a historian (IANAH) and this is not complete.  (Much of this comes from googling and/or Wikipedia.  All images are from Wikipedia.)

"In the wind, we hear their laughter
In the rain, we see their tears
Hear their heartbeat
We hear their heartbeat

The Other 9/11

Thirty-three years ago, the U.S. was mixed up in another "regime change".  Salvadore Allende, a Marxist, had been elected president of Chile in 1970.  In the midst of the Cold War, this could not stand.  The U.S., via Henry Kissinger's foreign policy and CIA Project FUBELT, undertook to do its duty to "replace him".

On September 11, 1973, they succeeded in a violent, but relatively bloodless coup (even compared to our invasion of Iraq).  However, there were a few people killed, including Allende himself who allegedly committed suicide with a machine gun.  (This is disputed.)  

The new, "democratically-installed" regime consisted of a military junta including Pinochet, two other Generals and an Admiral.  Pinochet was the chairman of this junta and later proclaimed himself President.

This new bastion of democracy proceeded to quickly "clean up" the country.  Indeed, one might say that September 11 changed everything.  In the following months, thousands were killed, tortured or "disappeared", and tens of thousand more (around 40,000) were held prisoner, concentration-camp style, in the National Stadium (where many were tortured and murdered).  Thousands more fled the country or were "exiled" to neighboring Argentina.

Operations Condor and Columbo

The coup was such a "success", that the U.S. tried to repeat it around South and Latin America in the next decade.  By the mid-1970s, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay all had their own right-wing dictators.  With encouragement from their friends up north, the secret police, intelligence and security organizations in these countries, led by the Direccion de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA) in Chile, combined forces and proceeded to carry out a genocidal campaign of "counter-terrorism".   (Not quite a "global war", but certainly a "continental war"!)  An orgy of assassinations and human rights abuses followed, including widespread torture, "extraordinary renditions" (a.k.a. "disappearances").  

DINA was able to largely finish the job it had started in 1973 of exterminating all the Chilean leftists (and their friends and family) by, for example, crossing the border into Argentina to assassinate those in "exile" that had fled the initial purges.  Indeed, during this time, DINA can claim some of the first acts of "international terrorism" on U.S. soil, including the carbombing assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt in Washington, DC.

Interestingly, the DINA "had the power to detain any individual only so long as there was a declared state of emergency.  Such an administrative state wound up lasting the entire length of the Pinochet dictatorship." [cite]

Meanwhile, Pinochet, champion of the "free market", was busy making his local and international corporate friends (including Milton Friedman) happy by deregulating and privatizing everything.  

Thanks to declassified documents and our Freedom of Information Act, we are starting to get a clearer picture of the U.S.'s role in all of this.

Justice Delayed...

"Night hangs like a prisoner
Stretched over black and blue
Hear their heartbeat
We hear their heartbeat

Fortunately, the nightmare -- and Cold War -- came to end end.  Pinochet was finally voted out of office in 1990.  

However, he remained the Commander-in-Chief of the Army until 1998 at which point he was appointed "Senator-for-life" (a position created by the constitution he had rewritten in 1980).  This, combined with his status as a former head-of-state, protected him from prosecution for many years, despite mounting evidence of the atrocities committed under his rule.

In 1998, in an amazing, significant and nearly unprecedented act of international law enforcement, the UK arrested Pinochet while he was in London getting medical treatment.  He spent the next year and a half there under house arrest while an international battle raged over what to do with him.  He, of course, claimed immunity, but this was eventually rejected by the UK House of Lords and he was set to be extradited to Spain to be tried for his involvement in the torture of Spanish citizens.  However, under pressure from George H.W. Bush and Margaret Thatcher, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw decided to release him back to Chile (seven years ago), claiming he his health was too poor to survive a trial. (He has dementia.)

Finally, some Justice?
In the last 5 years, the Supreme Court in Chile has voted several times to revoke Pinochet's immunity for various specific crimes.  He has been indicted a couple of times, and placed under house arrest.  He has also continued to use his poor health as an excuse to avoid trial.  However, in 2004, the Supreme Court revoked his dementia status thanks to an interview he gave to a Miami TV station in which he appeared healthy, coherent and composed.  And two months ago, the court opened the way for prosecution for the atrocities committed in the Villa Gimaldi prison, where Chile's current president and her mother, along with thousands of others, were tortured; he was indicted October 30.  It appeared that the slow wheel of justice was finally turning.  


Yesterday, while under house arrest awaiting this trial, Pinochet had a severe heart attack and today was administered the last rites.

"In the trees, our sons stand naked
Through the walls, our daughters cry
See their tears in the rainfall."

      -- Mothers of the Disappeared, U2, 1987

George W. Bush is 60.

Tick...  Tick...  Tick....

The clock is running.  For the sake of the hundreds of thousands around the world whom have been murdered, detained, and/or tortured thanks to his lies and greed, let's learn from this:  please don't let it expire!

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Originally posted to shock on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:51 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  U2 (6+ / 0-)

    U2's powerful "Mothers of the Disappeared" is really about Argentina's disappeared but, thanks to Condor, the two groups are not independent.  My eyes were first opened to our history in South America when I saw a tape of its performance in Santiago, Chile, in 1998.

    Social advance depends as much upon the process through which it is secured as upon the result itself. --Jane Addams

    by shock on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:58:24 PM PST

    •  They tried to play it there in '87 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Maybe you know this. The original plan was to go there at the end of the Joshua Tree tour and try and capture it on film to add to the "Rattle and Hum" reels. Apparently logistics prevented such an undertaking until, as you note, 1998.

      And you know, many people love to hate PopMart, but it brought that band and that song to Buenos Aires and Santiago. U2 didn't come back there until ealier this year, either.

      Any excuse to show my geekdom, sure, but for this song, it's worth it. On a much lesser degree (though still intense!) it's analagous to them playing "One Tree Hill" in NZ.

      Oh, and great diary. Nice to be rescued, innit?

      •  Thanks. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gogol, CK in NC

        Yes, I knew a little of that history (I've been a big U2 fan since the 80s), although at the time in the 80s I sadly wasn't politically active/aware enough to investigate further.  (In fact, I'm ashamed to admit that, until recently, starting in about 1998, I knew more about U2's history than I did about history in South America or even the US for that matter!)

        Oh, and yes, it's great to be rescued!  :-)

        Social advance depends as much upon the process through which it is secured as upon the result itself. --Jane Addams

        by shock on Wed Dec 06, 2006 at 12:03:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I used to love U2 but they changed sides: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      An Open Letter to Bono
      Why Are You Financing a Video Game on Invading Venezuela?


      It is extremely disheartening to discover your good name closely associated with a business that seeks to profit from a pathological culture of ill-will and military perversion and, more specifically, in tandem with a very pointed and insidious work of propaganda that reads straight out of the playbooks of George Bush, the Republican Party, and the Project for the New American Century.

      Without promoting its title, let me describe the story line for a soon-to-be-released video game of the (sadly) popular "kill and destroy" variety: as protagonist, you play by "no rules" and even have access to "mini-nukes" as you lead an invasion of Venezuela to "profit from chaos" as a "power hungry tyrant messes with Venezuela's oil supply," to quote directly from the video game's website. As the leader of the madness and destruction that ensues, you, the game player, more or less represent the Halliburton criminals and their ilk: "Dirty deeds, done for exhorbitant fees," as your line of work is described further.

      I won't name the game itself, but I will mention that the company releasing it is called Pandemic, which has very recently been absorbed into a corporate entity called Bioware/Pandemic Studios, which was created by a $300 million dollar investment from the venture capital group Elevation Partners, a new private equity firm which boasts none other than you, Mr. Bono, as a managing director and co-founder. In fact, Bioware/Pandemic was your new group's very first investment.

      I would like to believe that this is something that just happened to slip under your radar, Mr. Bono. I know you're a very busy man involved in many honorable activities. But your firm's website boasts only one other portfolio company in addition to this one, and upon inspection of your firm's own webpage, the obsession with death and warfare seems clearly to be the prevailing tone of this company's video games, if not the only one.

      In short, Mr. Bono, you are notably invested in a video game that is targeted towards young men of prime military recruitment age and promotes Mr. Bush's very dangerously misguided and malintentioned foreign policy towards a small country that, ironically, is actually reaching out economically to poverty stricken citizens of the United States and Europe. Being both a recent Nobel Peace Prize nominee and a person of sizeable and direct influence in this matter, to say the least, what are you going to do about it?

      •  Thanks for this. (0+ / 0-)

        I didn't know about this.
        Has Bono (or U2) responded in any way (good or bad) to this letter?

        Social advance depends as much upon the process through which it is secured as upon the result itself. --Jane Addams

        by shock on Wed Dec 06, 2006 at 07:56:49 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Reply to Shock (0+ / 0-)

          To my knowledge, there has been no response -- nor any change in the object of the videogame, nor Elevation Partners' funding of it.

          Elevation Partners, incidentally, can be reached on the Web here

          I don't know what to make of it, except that U2 has been my religion since the days of "War" and my ambivalence has been building for a few years.  I understand (do most fans?) that when you see the Fly Shades (such as the cover photo of ATYCLB), it's a signal that the contents/work are intended to be interpreted as an extension of the ironic (Achtung) Fly persona.

          This leads to some tautologic and epistemologic hair-splitting.  The Fly Shades give "ironic distance" to allow Paul Hewson to get photographed with Bush & tour with Paul O'Neill, yet produce some good with the irony.

          But apparently those shades are being used to rationalize anything.  Between U2 & democracy (and Venezuela is vastly more democratic than the U.S.), I don't want to be forced to choose...

          This story actually makes me ill.  I couldn't think of a more distressing story than Bono attacking Hugo Chavez, who is already the recipient of a gigantic lying propoganda campaign.

          Chavez's opponents (who staged a coup attempt in 2002, documented by Irish filmmakers here) are the exact same people (and ideology) who "disappeared" citizens in Chile & Argentina.

          It's distressing to me.

          Excellent diary, I recommend it.

  •  missing (6+ / 0-)

    the brilliant costa-gavras movie with sissy spacek and jack lemmon is about the Allende overthrow and the assumption of power by Pinochet -- insofar as it is about charles horman, an american who was killed immediately after the overthrow.

    what is saddest of all is that the us government at the time probably had at least knowledge of charles gorman's death (if not a hand in it) but were unhelpful with gorman's widow (joyce) and father (ed gorman) when they tried to find charles and/or his body and/or his whereabouts.

    the film won the cannes film festival's golden palm award (i am too tired to get the correct french spelling of that award) and lemmon won the cannes award for best actor.

    the movie is terrifying and riveting. lemmon and sacek are amazing in it.

    "excuse me while i sharpen my nails" (tom waits, "who are you?")

    by dadanation on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 09:08:35 PM PST

  •  ps--- friends from college (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shock, docangel, kurt, Mary Mike

    when i did a year of domestic volunteer work following graduation from college, several of my friends also did the same program, only they went to chile for a two-year stint.

    their stories about life under pinochet were taken from the chilean individuals they worked with and were absolutely horrifying.

    it is indeed sad that he was able to get away with murder for so long and now, never to serve time for his crimes.

    great diary.

    "excuse me while i sharpen my nails" (tom waits, "who are you?")

    by dadanation on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 09:10:41 PM PST

    •  I was there in 1981, 1982 and 1983 (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shock, docangel, justiceputnam, kurt, Mary Mike

      We got shot at with water canons while protesting the dictatorship in the center of Santiago.  ("Si Samoza já se fué, que se vaya Pinochet!")

      The secret police came to our home at six in the morning and demanded to know with whom we were talking and what books we were reading.

      Once, I went to a massive demonstration and the following day my friends showed me a national magazing with a photograph of the crowd on the cover.  They said, "You're picture's in the paper!", which was not necessarily a good thing.  But, they knew it was me because there are very few black people in Chile (I saw two, arguably three during nine months there), and mine was the only Black face in the crowd.

  •  De noche en casa juntos (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shock, docangel, justiceputnam, Mary Mike

    De noche en casa juntos,

    Escuchabamos la música,

    De noche em casa juntos.

    Y pensabamos em que iamos a hacer

    Y em que hariamos em quanto chegasen . . .

    From a Chilean song about waiting in one's home for the Chilean secret police to arrive, under the Pinochet Dictatorship.

  •  One correction (0+ / 0-)

    Pinochet is the only recorded case of somebody making a complete recovery from Altzheimer's which was the basis of the appeal to Straw to nullify the extradition. Subsequently (and if I remember correctly, fairly recently) he has been ruled competent to stand trial in Chile.

    "Poor sick me" is a well known get our clause for the terminally corrupt. If you want a real laugh, see the pictures of Berlusconi taking a dive during a speech, two days before he was due to stand trial last week for corruption.

    One piece of good news is that Thatcher is getting increasingly gaga and is not allowed out without minders. A (LibDem supporting) comedienne Sandy Togsvig  recently told a story about a function she was acting as Master of Ceremonies, telling after dinner stories etc. Thatcher was to be present and her minders admonished her not to let Maggie speak. During the dinner La Thatch whispered to Sandy that she would like to speak a few words to the assembled party and Sandy immediately handed her the mike.

  •  Foyle's Bookstore (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    About a week before Pinochet was placed under house arrest in the U.K., my dad ran into him in the history section of Foyle's bookstore. He sent me an email at work with the subject line "Facing the Dictator", describing the encounter and the reaction of the store clerk who checked him out. The girl behind the counter refused to let Pinochet's bodyguards sign the credit slip and made him come to the counter. After they all left, she mentioned to my dad that she wished she could have spit in his face.

    Anyway, since then I've been following this story pretty closely. It's good to this is finally perhaps coming to an end, albeit w/o real justice delivered from the courts.

  •  Foyled (0+ / 0-)

    That would have been in the days before Amazon and Foyle's store shrinking back to a rump of its former self. One part is now a porn shop and another a music store. The core building is still operating  but I have a feeling Christine Foyle passed away several years ago. She was the martinet who ran it. If you went in there you were met by a variety of nationalities serving you as she paid so poorly that she would make Wal*Mart look like philanthropists.

    They had a wierd system where you took your book to be wrapped and you got a sales slip. You then took that to a central high securiy till to pay and get the receipt stamped (I have a feeling that they lost a lot of money from their poorly paid staff skimming off payments) You then had to tramp back to the original department and collect your book. At busy times there were lines of people waiting to get a payment slip, waiting to pay and then waiting to collect their book. I used to be sure that was the origins of the phrase "Curses, Foyled again"

  •  As the proprietor (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gogol, shock

    of ProgressiveHistorians, a community site dedicated to the intersection of history and politics, I would be honored if you would cross-post this excellent diary there.

  •  How Mass-Murderers "Take Responsibility" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's the same with Right-wing authoritarians everywhere.

    They're victims.  Even if they've killed thousands and "disappeared" hundreds of thousands.

    They're persecuted.  Even if their "enemies" hold zero power.

    Augusto Pinochet, former dictator of Chile who overthrew democratically elected "Leftist" Dr. Salvador Allende in a Right-wing military coup that was backed by the CIA, is stepping forward to "take responsibility" -- but that doesn't mean "show remorse."

    Allende's method of taking responsibility -- for the disappearances & torture & murder of thousands of Chilean citizens -- is to engage in a campaign of attempting to justify his actions as "defensive."

    Sound familiar?

    And this is from a man who, until weeks ago, was considered too "frail" and perhaps "mentally weak" (with a "failing memory," the old Iran-Contra defense strategy) to stand trial for war crimes.  The old wolf has spent years dodging extradition & dodging trials & dodging justice, but now is on the attack.

    He "takes responsibility," but it was the liberals' fault.  He was forced to torture & kill thousands, and disappear hundreds of thousands.

    Ain't it a hoot.

    Do Right-wing authoritarians around the world have some sort of Universal Playbook?

    How many examples of this must we see, before we detect a pattern?

    How shall we count the examples of this strategy of "Remorse Via Justification" of the Right-wing purveyors of "America's Moral Values"?

    "Today, near the end of my days," said General Pinochet, "I want to say that I harbor no rancor against anybody, that I love my fatherland above all and that I take political responsibility for everything that was done which had no other goal than making Chile greater and avoiding its disintegration," he said in a statement read aloud by his wife as he sat by her side. "I assume full political responsibility for what happened."

    "Fatherland" and "Heimat" and other such manipulative language aside, the good General never meant to hurt anybody, you see.

    He also sent "a message of support to my comrades in arms, many of whom are imprisoned, suffering persecution and revenge," a clear reference to the scores of military officers facing trials, initiated since the restoration of democratic rule, for human rights abuses.
    "It is not fair to demand punishment for those who prevented the continuation and worsening of the worst political and economic crisis that one can remember," he added.

    Chile's "worst political and economic crisis" was... a depression?  A war?  No, it was a democratically-elected physician who nationalized the copper mines, and in retaliation from the wealthy classes was hit with a general strike (which, like the 2003 Venezuelan general strike, didn't work in the oligarchs' favor) in a bid to destabilize Allende's presidency.

    Even so, Pinochet feels the mass-murder of thousands using the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile as a concentration camp for torture & execution, the secret disappearances of hundreds of thousands more, the mass graves, and innumerable other atrocities?  Those were justifiable.

    I hear the echo of Pinochetism in the defenses of Right-wing authoritarians from Oliver North to Dick Cheney to Alberto Gonzales.

    I hear the echo of Pinochetism in the defenses of Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton & Antonin Scalia.

    I foresee no surcease of U.S. Pinochetism until its natural conclusion.  Because most refuse to acknowledge it's actually happening and prefer to quash discussion with "Tin Foil Hat" charges.

    Allende's niece, Isabel Allende, disagrees, and warns that the U.S. could be headed for a Chile-style showdown if the U.S. doesn't heed Chile's lessons.

    But we all can see the examples of Pinochetism here at home.

    The psychology is plain and clear and abundant.

    Perhaps you have some examples to add.

  •  A good shock of enegy can bring needed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    illumination to another dark and bloody corner of American and (Latin) world history.

    It's an ironic pleasure to see that Chile again has a Socialist President.I dare hop[e the U.S. won't have this one murdered too.

    Again, thank you shock.

    By the bye, as  one trained as a historian, you'd be amazed (or I hope, possibly not) at the number of those who call themselves historians and are just not.

    Being a historian is hard work (but not like Bush's ("be'in Presnit is harred wo'k".) It's more like being a great lawyer,  doctor or artist or scientist.

    Hard work to get a solid grounding first in the facts and theory. An understanding of the problems and finally the challenges and hopes --a flash of inspiraation and deep keen insight -- and the new hard work to deliver solution that is right and brings  greater understanding.

    Some great amateurs have contributions in all fields of discipline.

    Nobody ever gave Thucidydides, Copernicus, Lincoln or Mark Twain a college degree (except honorary after the fact).

    So keep up the hard work. I'm sure we  will be rewarded by shock's  insights.

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