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Chile’s Brutal 9/11 In ’73 – OpEd

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It was the same date, September 11, in 1973 that the Chilean President, Salvador Allande, was overthrown by an Army General,  Augusto Pinochet, with the Presidential Palace bombarded on Pinochet’s orders. Allende committed suicide before surrendering to Pinochet’s men and Chile, along with five other South American states, entered into a phase of tyranny and supression.

During his rule, Pinochet ordered strict measures against dissidents, especially the Marxists. He was responsible for murder of more than 3000 Chileans, whereas his alliance with South American dictatorships, such as Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay – the Operation Condor – resulted in deaths of more than 60,000 people. The major purpose of this alliance was to root out socialist and communist influence from the region and suppress any potential opposition. The United States was again the chief supporter of this alliance providing the countries with important Intel and technological support.

Junta session one week after the 1973 coup.
Junta session one week after the 1973 coup.

In all these states, citizens were abducted, murdered and extra-judicially killed to silence and curb any possible opposition. Some 200,000 Chileans went into exile to different parts of Europe. Many of them took up murder charges against Pinochet in European courts but all their efforts went in vain.

This Condor alliance was initially encouraged by the CIA but later backfired on the Unites States as it received criticisms from all sections of media and society for supporting these dictators. John Dinges, the award winning journalist, writes in his book, The Condor Years, that initially tagged as “remarkable” by the Foreign Affairs magazine, this association of America, CIA and the South American dictators was nothing less than a terrorist organization responsible for massacre of thousands of innocent civilians.

A famous Chilean journalist and writer, Antonio Castillo, tells his childhood story in the following words, ” Soon we realised that the brutality of the armed forces would reach us too. On 13 September, my father did not come home from work. He had been arrested, and his workplace — a nido de comunistas (nest of communists) for the new authorities — became a military concentration camp, where the cancer marxista (Marxist cancer) would be extirpated. My father survived. Many of my friends’ fathers or mothers didn’t.”

The Pinochet Files, a classified document of US-Chile transactions, proved that the United States’ policy makers and securocarts – military officers having policy making power – backed Pinochet to overthrow Allende. “It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup,” reads a CIA document from October 1970 leaked in these files. “It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG [US government] and American hand be well hidden”, stated another document. Two days after this document was written, the top US intelligence officials ordered to launch campaigns to makeup peoples’ minds in accepting a military coup. “Concur giving tear gas canisters and gas masks … working on obtaining machine guns,” read another CIA memo dated October 18 1970.

Another hand written note by the then CIA Director, Richard Helms, having President Nixon’s orders, stated: ‘1 in 10 chance perhaps, but save Chile!; worth spending; not concerned; no involvement of embassy; $10,000,00 available, more if necessary; full-time job-best men we have; game plan; make the economy scream; 48 hours for plan of action. This presidential directive initiates major covert operations to block Allende’s ascension to office, and promote a coup in Chile.’

Although publically disowning the Pinochet regime amid criticisms of human rights abuse, the US still helped Chile in international business transactions. Manuel Contreras, the Chilean secret police Chief and also allegedly on CIA’s payroll, when visited Washington, was asked to meet officials from Anaconda(Copper) and General motors for possible investments in Chile.

It was not because the US had a threat from Allende, being a Marxist and pro-USSR, but because he was elected by a narrow margin, represented a weak Left Wing in the country, and his economic policies were gaining unpopularity among the masses. That is why, overthrowing a weak President was never a hard task to achieve backing a strong military general, such as Pinochet.

It is indeed amusing to see that many of the Condor’s perpetrators and murderers were never brought to justice with many of them enjoying a dignified retired life in America. So much so that criminal charges could never be brought up even against Pinochet as before any level of conviction, he died. Support for such a dictator by the then Nixon administration may fox many minds as Pinochet was well known for his human rights violations.

Furthermore, overthrowing a democratically elected President by backing a dictator was another example of an indirect intervention in a sovereign county by the US. The western media, as always, remains silent on the first major 9/11 and the human atrocities committed as a result. With no statement or report covering the grief of Chileans, it won’t be wrong to say that the modern day media works on its own agenda and narrative.

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Farooq Yousaf

Farooq Yousaf is is  working as a research analyst, programme consultant and editor at the Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad along with pursuing his Masters in Public Policy from Germany. He can be reached at [email protected] He regularly contributes to national and international news sources such as The Express Tribune, We Speak News, Weekly Pulse, and Pravda along with managing a newsblog by the name of The Faultlines (www.thefaultlines.com) .

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