THE OTHER 9/11
By Kenneth G. Crosby
To Americans, 9/11 means September 11, 2001, the day on which terrorists crashed two hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon, with the fourth, aiming for the White House, crashing to the ground in Pennsylvania due to heroic intervention by its passengers and crew. The hideous event was organized by Al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden, and it has subsequently been memorialized in the U.S. each September 11.
But to Chileans and many other Latin Americans, 9/11 also means September 11, 1973, the day on which Salvador Allende, the freely and democratically elected President of Chile was overthrown in a coup orchestrated by the U.S. CIA at the direction of U.S. President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. Whether Allende committed suicide or was murdered during the coup remains unclear.
Al-Qaeda began with the Afghan mujahideen, Islamic guerrillas armed and supported by the U.S. as its proxies to fight against the Soviet army that invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to support its Marxist government. After the defeated Russians withdrew in 1989, the mujahideen morphed into the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban, which seized control of the Afghan government and imposed harsh sharia law, and Al-Qaeda declared worldwide jihad against the U.S. and other Western governments that it claimed were waging war on Islam. Al-Qaeda demanded that the U.S. remove its troops stationed in Saudi Arabia to protect its access to oil and end its support of Israel, which had seized Muslim land and subjugated its inhabitants, which the U.S. refused to do. The 9/11 hijackers believed that they were retaliating for U.S. policies then widely viewed as anti-Muslim in the Muslim world. and perhaps even more so today.
The U.S. intervention in Chile began with the fear of Nixon and Kissinger that the announced intentions of Allende, an avowed Marxist, to nationalize industries and establish closer relations with Cuba would harm U.S. interests, especially the interests of large U.S. corporations operating in Chile, including the Anaconda and Kennecott copper mining companies, and the International Telephone and Telegraph Company, which owned 70% of Chile’s telephone service. They therefore directed the CIA Director, Richard Helms, to instigate a military coup to prevent Allende from being inaugurated.
Despite the assassination of the commander of Chile’s army, because he opposed the army’s intervening in the country’s political affairs, or perhaps because of the nation’s reaction to that act, the effort was unsuccessful, and the CIA then turned its efforts to destabilizing Allende’s government, including by funding general strikes. Finally, the army was persuaded to perform the coup, and General Augusto Pinochet, who, ironically, had been appointed commander of the army by Allende, was declared President and began a notoriously brutal dictatorship that lasted 17 years. Many of Pinochet’s officers, known to be involved in extreme human rights abuses, were placed on the CIA’s payroll.
Almost 3,000 persons were killed in the 2001 event.. As many as 3,200 Chileans are estimated to have been killed or disappeared during the Pinochet regime, some 80,000 interned, and up to 30,000, including children, tortured, because of their alleged leftist sympathies. Wealthy Chileans, restored to their positions of power, prospered, and Pinochet amassed at least 28 million U.S. dollars during his rule, some of it deposited in the Riggs National Bank of Washington, DC, under a false name.
The 2001 event was clearly a terrorist attack. Was the U.S. action in 1973 also an act of terrorism? Henry Kissinger stated that “the issues [regarding Chile] are too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves,” and that “we don’t need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its people.” In 2003 Colin Powell, then U.S. Secretary of State, said that the Chilean coup “is not a part of American history that we’re proud of.” Nevertheless, since 1973 the U.S. has intervened overtly, most often to aid U.S. corporate interests, in six other Latin American countries–Argentina, 1976; El Salvador, 1980-92; Nicaragua, 1981-90; Grenada, 1983; Panama, 1988; and Guatemala, 1993–and its covert operations in at least four others–Bolivia, Colombia, Honduras, and Venezuela–continue.