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Asking the Chileans for Forgiveness on September 11

September 11, 2012

Critiquing the news is not just about what they report on, but what they don’t report on.

It is eleven years since planes were flown into the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, in what has become known as 9/11. There will be memorial services today, Patriot Day parades and the news media might even provide some kind of retrospective on what happened on September 11, 2001.

We always need to say 2001, because September 11 is not just a day for Americans to stop and reflect, it is a day that continues to haunt the people of Chile.

On September 11, 1973, the CIA led a coup against the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende and put in power one of the worst dictators in Latin American history, Augusto Pinochet.

Pinochet rounded up thousands of people who were identified as dissidents, had thousands of them tortured and murdered. These atrocities happened with US government support. In fact, according to declassified documents, we know how high ranking US government official responded to the first reports of Chilean army massacres.

According to the first transcript dated October 1, 1973, when Kissinger was informed by his assistant secretary of inter-American affairs of initial reports of massacres following the coup he told his staff that the U.S. should not defend what the regime was doing. However, he emphasized: “But I think we should understand our policy–that however unpleasant they act, the [military] government is better for us than Allende was.”

The US government could not tolerate an independent government operating in the Western hemisphere and had been working for years to undermine the Allende government. The effort to rid the Western hemisphere of Allende was motivated in part because of his Socialist leanings, but also because the Chilean government dared to nationalize some of the industries, which resulted in US-based corporations losing profits. The ITT Corporation became the lead private entity to assist the Nixon administration in anti-Allende activities.

The US economic interest in Chile did not end with he September 11, 1973 coup. It continued for years with Chile being somewhat of a laboratory for Milton Friedman’s economic shock doctrine, as is well documented in Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine. Friedman himself made visits to Chile after the 1973 coup and then sent a team of his best young economists, known as the Chicago Boys, to ply their trade on the South American country.

The application of an economic shock doctrine in Chile was great for US corporations and the wealthy residents, but would mean poverty for many. Pinochet was eventually removed from power and a campaign began to try him for war crimes in a European court. The US government intervened as they knew that any legal proceedings against Pinochet would ultimately result of charges being brought against Kissinger and other high ranking US officials. Pinochet died in 2006, without ever being punished for the human rights abuses he oversaw.

On this September 11, we ask forgiveness from the Chilean people.

We ask forgiveness for the thousands of murders and tortured bodies.

We ask forgiveness for the families that were destroyed through the violence of the coup and the Pinochet dictatorship.

We ask forgiveness for the economic devastation brought about because of the US intervention and the implementation of the Shock Doctrine.

We ask for forgiveness on September 11, for the torture and death of some many young people, like the great musician Victor Jara, who was tortured and murder in the soccer stadium. We honor those that were murdered on September 11, the other September 11, with this music video by Victor Jara.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Paul permalink
    September 11, 2012 6:42 pm

    Thank you Jeff for this message.

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