May 31, 2004

CIA & Chile 

One of the lefty mantras is "The USA supported Augusto Pinochet in his coup to overthrow democratically-elected Salvador Allende!". For years, being too lazy to look it up I accepted this fact. But recently I stumbled across this article of FrontPage Magazine, which brings evidence of a different story. In short, while President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger did not like Allende at all, and tried to get rid of him, the USA did not support the coup.

First of all, Allende was yes democratically elected, but definitely not by a large majority. Indeed, the candidate of the Right obtained just a little less votes:

The starting point for the Chilean drama was a presidential election that took place in September 1970, three full years before the military coup whose anniversary was recently marked. There were several candidates. One--Salvador Allende, a socialist and avowed Marxist running in coalition with the Communist party--came in first, with 36.3 percent of the vote. Within a razor's edge behind him was former President Jorge Alessandri, the candidate of the Right, who received 34.9 percent. Radomiro Tomic, of the ruling Christian Democrats, came in third with 27.8 percent.

Such presidential elections, with no candidate receiving an absolute majority, were common in Chile. The constitutional procedures of the day specifically mandated that, instead of a runoff between the two leading candidates, the winner was to be selected by the Chilean congress, scheduled to meet several weeks hence. Although the legislature was not strictly required to opt for the frontrunner, firm custom suggested that it would do so. What raised the stakes in the 1970 race was the presence of Allende himself, a man with strong Soviet-bloc and Cuban connections and even more sinister associations within Chile's far Left. Consequently, between the election on September 4 and the congressional vote on October 24, Chile was awash in rumors and plots, most of them related to efforts to block Allende's accession to power.

In truth, Chile was already deeply unstable for internal reasons. Many people distrusted Allende's association with URSS and Cuba (I have read on other sources that Castro financed the Chilean lefty extremists... I wonder why no-one calls this a "war crime" or an "illegal intervention"), and his association with the revolutionary Left.

On November 4, 1970, Salvador Allende assumed the presidency in an atmosphere of euphoria and even good will almost unimaginable in retrospect. Apart from his own four-party coalition (Popular Unity) headed by the Socialist and Communist parties, the new president could count on the "critical support" of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR), which historically had questioned the possibility of social change in Chile through peaceful electoral means. [...] After his inauguration, Allende met with the Christian Democratic leadership in an atmosphere of good humor and camaraderie; the chief of the delegation even urged the president to "help us be good allendistas."
Instead, intoxicated by ideological triumphalism, Allende's people did everything they could to split the Christian Democrats, luring the party's left wing over to the governing coalition while wreaking political vengeance on the rest. As Allende supporters seized factories and farms throughout Chile, Christian Democratic workers were dismissed and their union leaders refused access to the premises.[...]

The net effect of these actions was, paradoxically, to discredit the "collaborationist" leadership of the Christian Democrats and bring about its replacement with more conservative figures. By 1973, the party had been pushed into a tactical electoral alliance with the Right, a development that would have been unthinkable three years earlier. In March 1973, in the last parliamentary election held under Allende, the combined Christian Democratic-Conservative list won a thumping 56 percent of the vote.

A coup was breeding in Chile from early 1973, and the USA was only marginally involved.
Kissinger's line of action was in fact to finance the Chilean democratic opposition:

The United States did play a role in Chile, though not precisely the one ascribed to it. It attempted--unsuccessfully--to forestall Allende's confirmation by the Chilean congress. But once he was in office, the thrust of U.S. policy shifted to sustaining a democratic opposition and an independent press until Allende could be defeated in the presidential elections scheduled for 1976. To the extent that this opposition was able to survive under extraordinarily difficult economic circumstances--winning control of the Chilean congress in March 1973--one might even credit the Nixon administration with preventing the consolidation of Allende's "totalitarian project" (to use the apt expression of Eduardo Frei).

What then followed--a right-wing dictatorship that crushed not merely the Allende regime but Chilean democracy itself--was not and could not have been predicted, partly because of the military's own apolitical traditions and partly because, by mid-1973, the opposition to Allende was dominated by forces of proved democratic provenance. To the contrary, Washington's presumption--that in the 1976 elections, if they were allowed to take place, the opposition would win decisively--was amply supported by the facts. It was only the savagery of the subsequent Pinochet dictatorship that in hindsight altered the historical picture.

Read the whole thing, and ponder the final paragraph:

Such are a few of the pesky but all-important details that "revisionists" like Hitchens and the makers of The Trials of Henry Kissinger are at pains to avoid, if indeed they were ever aware of them in the first place. Those who mourn the loss of a Marxist regime in Chile are free to denounce the adversarial efforts undertaken by Nixon, Kissinger, and the CIA, as are the legions of marchers with their placards equating American officials with Nazis and mass murderers. Those, like the editorialists of the New York Times, who are indifferent to the uses of anti-Americanism are likewise free to join the chorus. But anyone with a serious concern for historical truth--or for the long-term survival of democracy in Chile--or for the reputation of the United States and the policy it endeavored with honor to implement during the tortuous decades of the cold war--might well be moved to reexamine the record.

The basic reason of the anti-American bias in the lefty circles is that American society is, form its roots, strongly individualistic and capitalist: the nemesis of Marxism. Whoever the President is, America is the place where liberal democracy has found its best realization to date (that is, not perfect, sadly). But Marxists believe that capitalism is Evil, no matter what. Thus, the most capitalist country must be the incarnation of evil: actual Italian marxists will barely thank the USA for the defeat of Hitler and Mussolini. For certain people, there is no hope of redemption. Others, not so deeply immersed in ideology, might consider the true facts and take logic decisions.

Updated on 16 June to correct a few typos.


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