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Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

The US 9/11 isn't the only 9/11.

Or the first 9/11, either.

To provide some perspective amidst the Dubya administration's jingoistic terror extravaganza going on today, this magpie humbly suggests that we remember the 9/11 that happened in 1970 — one that had its origin not in some cave in Pakistan, but in Richard Nixon's White House.

In 1970, the people of Chile sent socialist Salvador Allende to the Moneda palace as their new president. Allende's Popular Unity (UP) coalition of socialists and communists polled 36 percent of the vote, which was enough to win the presidency in a three-way race against candidates from the centrist Christian Democrats (who received extensive covert funding from the US) and right-wing Nationalist parties.

Socialist candidate Salvador Allende addresses an election rally during Chile's 1970 presidential campaign

Socialist candidate Salvador Allende addresses an election rally
during Chile's 1970 presidential campaign.
[Photographer unknown]

The US viewed the prospect of a UP government with horror, believing it would ultimately give Cuban-style communism a foothold in South America. It was also under pressure from US corporations who knew they would face nationalization of their Chilean properties under an Allende government. As a result, the US did its best to ensure Allende would never take power. It intervened covertly in the 1970 election, giving money and other aid to the center and right parties, and spreading 'black' propaganda to discredit Allende and the UP. These efforts had failed. After the election, but before Allende took office, the US encouraged the Chilean military to prevent Allende from taking office, but that coup attempt was unsuccesful. These failures only spurred stronger US efforts to destabilze the new government once it took office.

[In the late 1990s, the US government was forced to release cables sent to and from the US embassy in Chile during the Allende years. Excerpts from some of these documents are here. They include stuff like this:

On Sept. 16, William Broe, chief of the CIA's Western Hemisphere division, met with Helms and other senior CIA officers.

The Director (of Central Intelligence) told the group that President Nixon had decided that an Allende regime in Chile was not acceptable to the United States. The President asked the Agency to prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him. The President authorized ten million dollars for this purpose, if needed. Further, the Agency is to carry out this mission without coordination with the Departments of State or Defense. . . . The Director said he had been asked by Dr. Henry Kissinger . . . to meet with him on Friday, 18 September, to give him the Agency's views on how this mission could be accomplished.

You can see images of many of the cables if you go here.]

From the beginning, Allende's presidency was made difficult by forces both inside and outside of Chile. Externally, the US leaned on international lenders to make it difficult or impossible for the Allende government to obtain needed foreign loans. (President Nixon reportedly said that he wanted to make Chile's economy 'scream.') Internally, Allende had to deal with intransigent center and right political parties, with economic sabotage, and with groups inside his own coalition who felt he was not moving fast enough to bring socialism to Chile. But, fatally for Allende, the US was again encouraging officers in the Chilean military to attempt a coup against the elected government.

The Allende experiment enjoyed a triumphant first year, followed by two disastrous final years. According to the Popular Unity coalition, Chile was being exploited by parasitic foreign and domestic capitalists. The government therefore moved quickly to socialize the economy, taking over the copper mines, other foreign firms, oligopolistic industries, banks, and large estates. By a unanimous vote of Congress in 1971, the government totally nationalized the foreign copper firms, which were mainly owned by two United States companies, Kennecott and Anaconda. The nationalization measure was one of the few bills Allende ever got through the opposition-controlled legislature, where the Christian Democrats constituted the largest single party.

Socialization of the means of production spread rapidly and widely. The government took over virtually all the great estates. It turned the lands over to the resident workers, who benefited far more than the owners of tiny plots or the numerous migrant laborers. By 1972 food production had fallen and food imports had risen. Also during 1971-72, the government dusted off emergency legislation from the 1932 Socialist Republic to allow it to expropriate industries without congressional approval. It turned many factories over to management by the workers and the state.

In his first year, Allende also employed Keynesian measures to hike salaries and wages, thus pumping up the purchasing power of the middle and working classes. This "consumer revolution" benefited 95 percent of the population in the short run because prices were held down and employment went up. Producers responded to rising demand by employing previously underused capacity. [...]

During the second and third years of the UP, demand outstripped supply, the economy shrank, deficit spending snowballed, new investments and foreign exchange became scarce, the value of copper sales dropped, shortages appeared, and inflation skyrocketed, eroding the previous gains for the working class. A thriving black market sprang up. The government responded with direct distribution systems in working-class neighborhoods. Worker participation in the management of enterprises reached unprecedented proportions. The strapped government could not keep the economy from going into free fall because it could not impose austerity measures on its supporters in the working class, get new taxes approved by Congress, or borrow enough money abroad to cover the deficit.

Although the right was on the defensive in Allende's first year, it moved on the offensive and forged an alliance with the center in the next two years. In Congress this center-right coalition erected a blockade against all Popular Unity initiatives, harassed Popular Unity cabinet ministers, and denounced the administration as illegitimate and unconstitutional, thus setting the stage for a military takeover. [...]

Allende tried to stabilize the situation by organizing a succession of cabinets, but none of them guaranteed order. His appointment of military officers to cabinet posts in 1972 and 1973 also failed to stifle the opposition. Instead, it helped politicize the armed services. Outside the government, Allende's supporters continued direct takeovers of land and businesses, further disrupting the economy and frightening the propertied class.

The two sides reached a showdown in the March 1973 congressional elections. The opposition expected the Allende coalition to suffer the typical losses of Chilean governments in midterm elections, especially with the economy in a tailspin. The National Party and PDC hoped to win two-thirds of the seats, enough to impeach Allende. They netted 55 percent of the votes, not enough of a majority to end the stalemate. Moreover, the Popular Unity's 43 percent share represented an increase over the presidential tally of 36.2 percent and gave Allende's coalition six additional congressional seats; therefore, many of his adherents were encouraged to forge ahead.

In the aftermath of the indecisive 1973 congressional elections, both sides escalated the confrontation and hurled threats of insurgency. Street demonstrations became almost daily events and increasingly violent. Right-wing groups, such as Fatherland and Liberty, and left-wing groups, such as the MIR, brandished arms and called for a cataclysmic solution. The most militant workers formed committees in their neighborhoods and workplaces to press for accelerated social change and to defend their gains. The opposition began openly knocking on the doors of the barracks in hopes that the military would provide a solution.

The regular armed forces halted an attempted coup by tank commanders in June 1973, but that incident warned the nation that the military was getting restless. Thereafter, the armed forces prepared for a massive coup by stepping up raids to search for arms among Popular Unity's supporters. Conditions worsened in June, July, and August, as middle- and upper-class business proprietors and professionals launched another wave of workplace shutdowns and lockouts, as they had in late 1972. Their 1973 protests against the government coincided with strikes by the trucking industry and by the left's erstwhile allies among the copper workers. The Nationalists, the Christian Democrats, and conservative students backed the increasingly subversive strikers. They called for Allende's resignation or military intervention. Attempts by the Catholic Church to get the PDC and Popular Unity to negotiate a compromise came to naught. Meanwhile, inflation reached an annual rate of more than 500 percent. By mid-1973 the economy and the government were paralyzed.

In August 1973, the rightist and centrist representatives in the Chamber of Deputies undermined the president's legitimacy by accusing him of systematically violating the constitution and by urging the armed forces to intervene. In early September, Allende was preparing to call for a rare national plebiscite to resolve the impasse between Popular Unity and the opposition. The military obviated that strategy by launching its attack on civilian authority on the morning of September 11. Just prior to the assault, the commanders in chief, headed by the newly appointed army commander, General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, had purged officers sympathetic to the president or the constitution.
(Source: John Pike, 'Allende's Leftist Regime.')

Chilean jets bomb the Moneda palace during the 1973 military coup

The Chilean air force bombs the presidential palace
during the US-backed coup against the Allende government in 1973.
[Photographer unknown]

In 1973, Marc Cooper (these days at The Nation) was a freelance reporter in Chile, filing stories for Pacifica and other left media. In a 1998 piece for Salon, he remembered the Allende years and the morning of the coup:

Through the haze of a quarter-century, I still remember Allende as a political leader of a breed virtually unknown today -- one of enormous moral dimension, of unimpeachable integrity and absolute honesty. I cannot claim he was a friend of mine. He was the president, and he was my boss. But I remember him in human terms as warm, compassionate and patient -- the authentic "people" traits that modern day pols like President Clinton assume as a rehearsed stage identity.

The fiery death of Allende's revolution three years after his election turned out to be much more than a temporary setback in what we thought was the great unstoppable forward sweep of history. Then came the massacres in Cambodia and East Timor, the dirty wars in Argentina and Guatemala, CIA Central American murder manuals, the rise of Thatcherism in Europe, the Reagan regime here at home.

For all these reasons, and more, that September 1973 morning of Pinochet's coup is hard-wired into my memory. I can still feel the fledgling sun, the fresh chill in the air, even smell the thickly sweet scent of newborn jacaranda in that Santiago spring. But what has lingered most indelibly were Allende's last words.

Since daybreak, Pinochet's troops had been shooting their way into power -- occupying shanty towns, universities and government buildings. He choked the capital with a ring of steel and armor. The coastal cities squirmed under naval infantry occupation while U.S. gunboats smiled on from just offshore.

Learning of the coup under way, I turned the big tuning wheel of a friend's Grundig radio and heard a wall of military marches. Then came two Orwellian communiqués from Pinochet's junta: Allende must surrender or face bombardment. And the same punishment for any radio station not linking up with the military broadcast network.

Rolling the Grundig dial another quarter-turn I found the last electronic holdout. The left-wing Radio Magallanes was still defiantly on the air. Via a primitive telephone link-up from inside the Moneda Palace, President Allende addressed the nation. Knowing he was doomed, Allende's metallic voice assured us that one day there would be a "moral sanction" for the "treachery and felony" being imposed that morning. Within an hour, two Hawker Hunter jets dive-bombed and strafed the Moneda. Soon, Allende -- along with 100 years of Chilean democracy -- was dead.

Allende had warned of the encroaching darkness in that farewell speech. But the full horror imposed by Augusto Pinochet and his collaborators could never have been completely anticipated.

I was lucky. Given refuge in a diplomat's house, and with help from the Mexican Embassy and the United Nations, I escaped alive. But many of my friends didn't. Some were herded into the National Stadium, tortured and murdered. Others were "disappeared" by Pinochet's men.

(Cooper gives a longer account of that day here.)

As the coup unfolded, President Allende was offered, but refused, safe passage out of the country, remaining in the Moneda. This is the transcript of his last speech, made shortly before he was either killed by a bomb dropped by planes from the Chilean air force or committed suicide. (To this day, no one is sure.)

I will offer my life to defend the principles of this nation. A deluge will fall on those who have broken their word and torn to pieces the honor of the Armed Forces.

The nation must be alert and vigilant. The people must not be provoked and allow themselves to be massacred, but must also defend their conquests. The people must defend their right to live with dignity and to lead a better life. I call on you to have faith in the name of the most sacred interests of the people and in the name of our beloved nation. The march of history does not stop with crime or repression. We will overcome this most difficult chapter. It is possible they will crush us but the future will belong to the people, it will belong to the workers. Humanity marches on towards better living conditions.

Fellow countrymen: it is possible they will silence the radios and so I bid you farewell. At this moment, jet planes are passing overhead. It is possible a rain of bullets will fall upon us. But let me tell you that we remain here to show that there are still men in this country who know how to carry out their duties and obligations. I will do my duty as mandated by the people and with the conscious will of a president who is equal to the dignity of the title...

This might be the last time I will be able speak to you. The Air Force has bombarded the towers of Radio Portales and Radio Corporacion. My words do not taste of bitterness but of deception, and those same words will be the moral punishment for those who have betrayed their sworn duties.

Workers of the nation: I want to thank you for your loyalty and the confidence you always had in a man who was only the interpreter of your great yearnings for justice, and who gave his word that he would respect the Constitution and the law, and did so. This is the definitive moment, the last time I will be able to address you. I hope you make the most of the lesson. Foreign capital, imperialism and reactionary forces created the conditions by which the Armed Forces broke with tradition.... Most of all, I want to direct my words to the modest woman of our country: the farm woman who believed in us; the laborer who worked a little more; the mother who knew how to take care of her children. I want to speak to the country's professionals, professional patriots, who battle the sedition sponsored by their professional colleges, institutions which are working to protect their capitalist privileges.

I want to direct my words to the youth of this nation, to those who sang and who shared their happiness and fighting spirit. I want to speak to the men of Chile, the worker, the farm laborer, the intellectual, and to those who will be persecuted by forces of fascism, forces which were present in terrorist attempts, blown bridges, cut off railway, the destruction of oil and gas pipelines, in the face of the silence of those who had the obligation to stop them... History will judge them.

Surely Radio Magallanes will soon be silent and my quiet metallic voice will no longer reach you. It does not matter because you will continue to hear me. I will always be with you, (and) at least I will be remembered as a man of dignity who was loyal to his nation. The people must not allow themselves to be crushed or shot down, but nor must they allow themselves to be humiliated.

Workers of my country: I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other patriots will overcome this bitter and gray moment. Always keep in mind, that sooner rather than later, the grand avenues through which the free man passes will open up, to build a better society. Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!
(Source: CHIP News, 11 September 1997.)

The 1973 coup began 17 years of authoritarian rule by the military. More than 3,000 Chileans died during this period, even more were tortured, and at least a million people went into exile. The Congress and other civilian institutions were closed, and all non-religious organizations except those sanctioned by the government were banned during a good part of the post-coup years.

The US, of course, rewarded the military government of General Pinochet with grants, loans, and technical assistance.

US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and Chilean dictator Agosto Pinochet, 1976

US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and Chilean dictator Agosto Pinochet
during a secret 1976 meeting in Santiago, Chile.
[Photographer unknown]

Having thwarted the possibility that Chile would become a model of democratic socialism, the United States made Chile a model of dictatorial capitalism. Under the hands-on guidance of University of Chicago economists, the Chilean economy was restructured. Unions were outlawed. Real wages plunged. Social spending was slashed. Of 507 public enterprises in 1973 only 15 remained in government hands by 1980. Chile privatized its social security system.

The experiment failed. Unemployment soared. Malnutrition soared. In 1973 Chile had the second highest income in Latin America, next to oil rich Venezuela. By 1988, when the military relinquished the reigns of government, Chile's income had fallen behind that of many countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
(Source: David Morris, 'A Tale of Two Septembers.')

Pinochet's dictatorship lasted until the late 1980s, when Chilean voters (much to the dictator's suprise) failed to approve the extension of his term as president. A centrist civilian president took power in 1989, although Pinochet continued to hold considerable power as head of the army until 1996. The military was not formally removed from Chilean politics until the constitution was amended in 2005. Chile continues to recover from the economic and political setbacks that resulted from the US-backed coup in 1973.

The military violence of the Pinochet era remains an incompletely resolved issue in Chilean society. Under [former president Ricardo] Lagos investigations into human rights cases ... proceeded to a greater extent than his two civilian predecessors, although not with the vigor demanded by some leftists and rights advocates. In 2000 prosecutors successfully brought human-rights-related charges against Pinochet, but they were dismissed because of health issues. A new criminal investigation began in 2004, and revelations of hidden offshore bank accounts led to tax evasion charges as well; this time the charges were not dismissed. A government report (2004) on the Pinochet regime denounced its widespread use of torture and illegal imprisonment and led the Chilean congress to enact a compensation program for the victims of military rule. In addition, the army accepted institutional responsibility for the human rights abuses that occurred under Pinochet. [Source]

An interesting note: The current president of Chile, socialist Michelle Bachelet, was arrested and tortured by Pinochet's regime in 1975.

There is a lot of good information about Chile, Allende, the coup, and the years since the coup on the Web. Here are some of the sources I found:

  • The United Methodist Church has posted a good short history of Chile from European colonization to the beginning of the 21st century here. More extensive information and links can be found at this US Library of Congress page (although the information about the Allende years a bit dated in terms of what's known about US involvement in destabilzing and overthrowing the Allende government).

  • An excellent short history of the Allende years is here, on the website of the Federation of American Scientists.

  • Documents outlining the US involvement in the coup have been extracted from the government using the Freedom of Information Act. The Chile Project of the National Security Archive has more info about these documents here. In 2000, CNN did a story about those documents, which you can find here.

  • Derechos Human Rights has posted the full report on US covert activities in Chile put out by the US Senate Select Committee To Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities in 1975. It details the entire history of covert actions from 1963 through the 1973 coup.

Note: Much of the post above is a re-post of what I wrote on 11 Sept 2003. The links have been checked to ensure they're still live.

| | Posted by Magpie at 10:31 AM | Get permalink

Liar, liar, pants on fire!


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