Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Note to Washington Post: Nothing can justify Pinochet's killings and torture

John in DC at AMERICAblog commented on the bizarre Washington Post editorial glorifying the late Augusto Pinochet of Chile.
This is a disgusting editorial in today's Washington Post praising Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Per the Post, Chile has seen great economic growth since Pinochet left the scene, so that makes him not so bad. Forget the fact that Pinochet killed thousands of his own people and threw their bodies into the sea simply because of their political beliefs. I mean, who hasn't? From CNN:
According to an official report by the civilian government that succeeded Pinochet in 1990, at least 3,200 people were killed for political reasons and another 1,197 disappeared.
Chile had ten million citizens at the time that Pinochet was busy killing them. The US has 300 million citizens, that's 30 times the population of Chile at the time. To appreciate how many political prisoners Pinochet had put to death, an equivalent number in American terms would be nearly 100,000 Americans put to death for their political beliefs, and another 36,000 Americans mysteriously disappeared by the government. Is that a price you're willing to pay for economic growth?
Just in case these are just number to the editors of the Post -- to be weighed on the economic and political scales just like other numbers -- that is, in case they have forgotten that these were real human beings, let's look at just one of those thousands and his brutal fate in the days after "the other September 11," Pinochet's coup that took place on September 11, 1973.

Victor Jara was a beloved folksinger, political activist and supporter of Salvador Allende. In the soccer stadium renamed Estadio VĂ­ctor Jara in 2003, he was brutalized and killed in a manner worthy of Saddam Hussein.
Jara was repeatedly beaten and tortured, the bones in his hands were broken as were the bones of his ribs. Fellow political prisoners have testified that his captors mockingly suggested that he play guitar for them as he lay on the ground. Defiantly, he sang part of a song supporting the Popular Unity coalition. He was murdered on September 15 after further beatings were followed by being machine-gunned and left dead on a road on the outskirts of Santiago. Soon after, his body was taken to a city morgue.
What goes around, comes around. Until Iraq came along, one of the more shameful episodes in our history was the U.S. complicity in the coup and our continuing support for the brutal Pinochet regime -- to the extent of even tolerating the murder of American journalist Ronnie Moffitt in Washington, DC. So perhaps it's not surprising that the Post, a major cheerleader of the Iraq war, concludes with this tribute to the realpolitik of someone who in this context should be considered the mother of all neocons.
The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.
Just like Iraq, it was all about democracy. Yeah, right.


Gag Halfrunt said...

Greg Palast says that Pinochet's free market reforms made the Chilean economy collapse:

By 1982, the pyramid finance game was up. The Vial and Cruzat “Grupos” defaulted. Industry shut down, private pensions were worthless, the currency swooned. Riots and strikes by a population too hungry and desperate to fear bullets forced Pinochet to reverse course. He booted his beloved Chicago experimentalists. Reluctantly, the General restored the minimum wage and unions’ collective bargaining rights. Pinochet, who had previously decimated government ranks, authorized a program to create 500,000 jobs.
In other words, Chile was pulled from depression by dull old Keynesian remedies, all Franklin Roosevelt, zero Reagan/Thatcher.
New Deal tactics rescued Chile from the Panic of 1983, but the nation’s long-term recovery and growth since then is the result of - cover the children’s ears - a large dose of socialism.

To save the nation’s pension system, Pinochet nationalized banks and industry on a scale unimagined by Communist Allende. The General expropriated at will, offering little or no compensation. While most of these businesses were eventually re-privatized, the state retained ownership of one industry: copper.

Madison Guy said...

Thanks for posting the Palast link. I'd been going to do so, but was afraid I'd end up going in too many directions at once.

Even if Pinochet's economic policies had been a resounding success, they still would not have justified the suffering that resulted from his coup. But Palast convincingly makes the case that they were a resounding failure.

As was shown during our Social Security "reform" brouhaha, when advocates of privatizing our Social Security proudly cited Chile's pioneering efforts in that direction -- until it was pointed out what a disaster Chile's corruption-ridden experiment in pension privatization actually was. Then they stopped talking about it.