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June 3, 2014 12:45 PM   Subscribe

What Really Happened in Chile '“A coup attempt will be initiated on 11 September,” the cable read. “All three branches of the armed forces and the carabineros [Chile’s national police] are involved in this action. A declaration will be read on Radio Agricultura at 7 a.m. on 11 September. . . . The carabineros have the responsibility for seizing President Salvador Allende.”' "That is how the U.S. government learned of the coup in Chile. This might be hard for many Americans, Chileans, and people elsewhere to believe, since it has become conventional wisdom, especially on the left, that Washington played a crucial role in the military-led overthrow of the democratically elected Allende, which resulted in the nearly 17-year authoritarian rule of General Augusto Pinochet."

Commentary: What really happened in Chile – the CIA version

The National Security Archive: "U.S. Covert Intervention in Chile: Planning to Block Allende Began Long before September 1970 Election": "Devine asserts that the CIA "did not plot with the Chilean military to overthrow Allende in 1973."

However, according to a transcript of the first phone conversation between Kissinger and Nixon following the coup, when the President asked if "our hand" showed in the coup, Kissinger explained that "we didn't do it," in terms of direct participation in the military actions: "I mean we helped them," Kissinger continued. "[deleted word] created the conditions as great as possible.""
posted by MisantropicPainforest (41 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
The US involvement with the Chilean coup:

1) sponsoring of the Christian Democratic parties in the elections prior and including the election which Allende won
2) sponsoring of anti-Allende propaganda
3) Involvement with the assassination of the head of the Chilean military, making the way clear for Pinochet to take over
4) various economic sanctions, officially and unofficially, "making the economy scream" as Kissinger puts it
5) training of Chilean military and police, including in the arts of torture
6) post-coup support of various means

That the coup as it happened on 11 september 1973 came as a surprise to Washington may be true, but that doesn't make the US innocent.

And taking the word of a CIA agent on how anything really happened is of course laughably naive.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:55 PM on June 3 [53 favorites]


There is no structure sufficiently high such that I could suspend my disbelief enough to accept this version of events. The USA was busy illegally screwing around with internal matters in foreign countries all over the world to basically the same effect at that time, but on this one we're innocent? Pull the other one, it's got bells on it.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:01 PM on June 3 [6 favorites]


And taking the word of a CIA agent on how anything really happened is of course laughably naive.

The CIA has to write down the truth somewhere for operational reasons.
posted by ocschwar at 1:03 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


The real question is what's coming up for revelation that this little bit of pro-CIA propaganda is meant to cushion the blow for.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:04 PM on June 3 [18 favorites]


So Nixon and Kissinger saw the error of their ways after the first coup failed? OK, talk to you later.
posted by thelonius at 1:06 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


You have only to read Marc Cooper's account of being in Chile during the coup, working as one of Allende's translators, to realize that the US embassy in Chile knew what was going down. More, the embassy turned away US citizens who were involved with the Allende government, probably leading to deaths at the hands of the security services. Cooper turned into a total keyboard commando/Iraq war apologist, but his book Pinochet and Me is really gripping, and contains IIRC a good account of the subsequent privatization of the Chilean pension system and how it fucked everyone over.
posted by Frowner at 1:10 PM on June 3 [6 favorites]


lest we forget, some of these fine fellows also murdered an american citizen, ronni moffitt, and the former chilean diplomat she was assisting, orlando letelier, on the streets of washington dc, with a car bomb. this was an act of war, and it would have been treated as such had we not already been fatally compromised.
posted by bruce at 1:11 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


The real question is what's coming up for revelation that this little bit of pro-CIA propaganda is meant to cushion the blow for.

All that's left now is multiple Oscars for the inevitable Ben Affleck or Katheryn Bigelow movie full of wise, heroic white CIA agents and "Screaming crazy leftist Chilean #1-18."
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:11 PM on June 3 [16 favorites]


And it just shows to go you that you might as well be a Lenin, because when you try to create social change legitimately and with reasonable concessions to the elites, those same elites and their US assistants come and murder you.
posted by Frowner at 1:13 PM on June 3 [18 favorites]


since it has become conventional wisdom, especially on the left, that Washington played a crucial role in the military-led overthrow of the democratically elected Allende,

Possibly because of the abundance of evidence of exactly that, including in the next few sentences of the post? Also, what is the "the left?"
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:15 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


it has become conventional wisdom, especially on the left, that Washington played a crucial role in the military-led overthrow of the democratically elected Allende

That phrase right there perfectly demonstrates the questionable veracity of the article... because for many "on the right" the "crucial role in the military-led overthrow of the democratically elected Allende" is not only conventional wisdom but a point of pride!

NOT the best of ForeignAffairs.com
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:17 PM on June 3 [9 favorites]


because for many "on the right" the "crucial role in the military-led overthrow of the democratically elected Allende" is not only conventional wisdom but a point of pride!

See also: Margaret Thatcher aka Pinochet's BFF.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:24 PM on June 3 [11 favorites]


All that's left now is multiple Oscars for the inevitable Ben Affleck or Katheryn Bigelow movie full of wise, heroic white CIA agents and "Screaming crazy leftist Chilean #1-18."

Well . . . I guess it'd make an interesting double-bill with the Constantin Costa-Gavras film, Missing (1982), starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek.

The film itself also went missing for a number of years.


 
posted by Herodios at 1:40 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Re the Foreign Affairs article, What a bunch of self serving bullshit.
posted by dougzilla at 1:43 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Consider the source.
posted by telstar at 1:46 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


We expected that Pinochet’s junta would hold on to power only long enough to stabilize the economy and would soon thereafter call for elections and step aside.

I actually LOLed at this, albeit grimly. The winking lies that preserve the thin deniability of the higher-level policymakers — the ones who bear the ultimate guilt, like Kissinger — is one thing, but this guy is such a willing, enthusiastic, tenacious dupe, such a cheerfully oblivious barbarian, that his version of the story is almost scarier.
posted by RogerB at 1:53 PM on June 3 [13 favorites]


What make's Jack Devine's version of events so completely unbelievable is that he'd think that he was the definitive source for information in Chile. "Oh, yeah, I was definitely the CIA's guy on the ground and knew everything that was going on!"

That sort of affected naïveté either indicates that the CIA has been completely bumblingly incompetent for over 40 years, or that he thinks the readers of Foreign Affairs are idiots.
posted by straw at 1:57 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


That sort of affected naïveté either indicates that the CIA has been completely bumblingly incompetent for over 40 years

Q: How do you know the CIA didn't kill JFK?

A: He's dead, isn't he?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:00 PM on June 3 [12 favorites]


One of the things that surprised me about this US backed coup was ITT's involvement in not only controlling Chitelco, tapping the phones of Allende and supporters but publishing a propaganda newspaper and otherwise getting way too involved and biased in the affairs of a foreign country.

This is, in the modern vernacular, pretty fucked up.
posted by loquacious at 2:03 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


The CIA has to write down the truth somewhere for operational reasons.


I'm having a hard time parsing if this is sarcastic or not.
posted by ssg at 2:08 PM on June 3


So we tried to get rid of him in 1970 and then we help fabricate evidence against him after his death and supported efforts of the Junta to find, torture and kill dissidents. We also let it be known that we really really really liked the idea of him being taken out back and shot. I can accept that the coup was homegrown, but the Junta would not have lasted without the support of the United States.

The common wisdom that I received was that the coup was done on a shoestring budget, one of the CIAs major successes (as they judge them). It still leaves Guatemala, Iran, Syria, Brazil, etc. as democratically elected governments that we helped overthrow as opposed to dictators we supported after the fact. I was going to include South Vietnam, but Diem was anything but democratically elected.

Anyway, the CIA and its operatives lost any and all license to pretend to be the good guys back in the 50's. By the time the Chilean coup rolled along, they were a dueling scar and a white cat away from being a Bond villain. (Torture and kill kids? Sure, why not!)

For added stomach churning fun, here's a video of Baroness Thatcher appreciating Pinochet for bringing democracy to Chile.
posted by Hactar at 2:14 PM on June 3 [9 favorites]


Henry Kissinger is a disgrace to America; he should have been tried and jailed as a war criminal instead of basking in retirement propped up by legions of killer politicians and other political operatives who profited from the blood spilled in Chile, SE Asia, etc. etc. etc.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:33 PM on June 3 [10 favorites]


One of the things that surprised me about this US backed coup was ITT's involvement in not only controlling Chitelco, tapping the phones of Allende and supporters but publishing a propaganda newspaper and otherwise getting way too involved and biased in the affairs of a foreign country.

Interestingly enough Disney had a role too. Anti-Allende comics were published featuring the lesser-known crows, "Hegel" and "Marx." From the fascinating How to Read Donald Duck
posted by gorbweaver at 3:02 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


killer politicians and other political operatives profited from the blood spilled in Chile, SE Asia
Pol Pot killed 1.7 million Cambodians, died under house arrest at age 72, well done indeed! And the reason we let them get away with it is because they killed their own people, and we're sort of fine with that. "Ah, help yourself," you know? "We've been trying to kill you for ages!" So kill your own people, right on there. Seems to be… Hitler killed people next door. "Oh, stupid man." After a couple of years, we won't stand for that, will we?
posted by scody at 3:09 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


Revisionist claptrap at its worst.
posted by aydeejones at 3:16 PM on June 3


Washington hailed Allende’s demise as a major victory. Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kis-singer, were pleased. So was the CIA: against all odds, the Santiago station had helped create a climate for the coup without tainting the effort by becoming directly involved. In the heady days immediately following, we took pride in having helped thwart the development of Cuban-style socialism in Chile and having prevented the country’s drift into the Soviet orbit. We expected that Pinochet’s junta would hold on to power only long enough to stabilize the economy and would soon thereafter call for elections and step aside.

I don't think that writer is making the point he thinks he's making.

So they approved of it happening, were pleased with it happening, had made a climate for it to happen (whatever that means), took pride in it happening and were happy that, in happening, it met their strategic goals.

But oh no they weren't responsible for it that is a VILE CALUMNY SUH
posted by Sebmojo at 4:10 PM on June 3 [12 favorites]


For added stomach churning fun, here's a video of Baroness Thatcher appreciating Pinochet for bringing democracy to Chile

I can't even. Someone ought to dig up Thatcher and Nixon's bodies and shoot them in the back of the head and put them in unmarked graves.
posted by crayz at 4:29 PM on June 3


NOT the best of ForeignAffairs.com

True, but that's also what I like about Foreign Affairs, in that it's a forum for various interesting personal geopolitical views, which are then subject to critique.

Aside from the CIA stuff, the Pinochet Regime was the essential test run for the Chicago Boys modern Neoliberalism economic experiments, which Reagan and Thatcher later explored more fully. The Baroness loved Augusto, most dearly.

The later transition to democracy is another story. I was just thinking earlier today that I really should try to see the movie.
posted by ovvl at 6:20 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Required listening for this thread
posted by pxe2000 at 7:10 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I still have a lot of difficulty trying to square the claim that Pinochet's great achievement was a rapid and robust economic expansion that made Chile the shining light of Latin America with the experience that when I lived in Santiago 25 years after the coup, it was one of the dirtiest and most depressing cities I've ever seen.

I was just thinking earlier today that I really should try to see the movie.

I had high hopes for No. I found it really dull.

posted by psoas at 7:25 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


The CIA -- all powerful when we want to be, and simply powerless spectators when it's convenient.
posted by lslelel at 7:39 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


"A coup attempt will be initiated on 11 September"

My, my, what a coincidence.
posted by carping demon at 7:54 PM on June 3


Colony Dignidad was a scream
posted by hortense at 12:18 AM on June 4


Rewrite History. I would; for purely aesthetic reasons.
posted by vicx at 12:35 AM on June 4


I still have a lot of difficulty trying to square the claim that Pinochet's great achievement was a rapid and robust economic expansion that made Chile the shining light of Latin America with the experience that when I lived in Santiago 25 years after the coup, it was one of the dirtiest and most depressing cities I've ever seen.

When the sort of people who refer to Pinochet's Chile as having rapid and robust economic expansion say "rapid and robust economic expansion", they mean "people who cuddled up close to the brutal dictator were able to make bank".
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:49 AM on June 4


I still have a lot of difficulty trying to square the claim that Pinochet's great achievement was a rapid and robust economic expansion that made Chile the shining light of Latin America

Only made possible by the nationalisation of the Chilean copper mines by Allende, which Pinochet turned out to need to keep the lights on after the neoliberal experiment failed hard.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:48 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


While I find the author trying a bit too hard too excuse the US from the consequences of our actions, I don't see the same revisionism that others are seeing.

I think that the articles focus: that the US naively attempts to meddle in other's affairs but can't control the outcome, is far more realistic than the current leftie standard: that the US is behind it all and controls it all.

Where I differ is that the author seeks to absolve himself / us of too much the blame ... we certainly share in the guilt in helping create the right environment for disaster. But that doesn't mean that the coups (jihads, death squads, military takeovers, drug cartel wars, fill in the blank) were our willful creations.
posted by kanewai at 2:56 AM on June 4 [2 favorites]



We expected that Pinochet’s junta would hold on to power only long enough to stabilize the economy and would soon thereafter call for elections and step aside.


See also: Marx and Engels' “withering away of the state”.
posted by acb at 3:08 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


Kissinger, a big fan of soccer, is often pointed out to TV viewers in the crowd at the FA Cup Final. The commentators do not refer to him as the Executioner of Cambodia.

When he lived in England, Pinochet was a neighbour of Bruce Forsyth.

The banality of evil.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 3:34 AM on June 4


Aside from the CIA stuff, the Pinochet Regime was the essential test run for the Chicago Boys modern Neoliberalism economic experiments, which Reagan and Thatcher later explored more fully. The Baroness loved Augusto, most dearly.

Related thread.
posted by homunculus at 11:07 PM on June 6


Isn't it common knowledge that Saddam Hussein sought U.S. approval before invading Kuwait, but some incompetent U.S. official with the State Department or CIA said something like "We consider that a local/regional matter", the accepted code for "go ahead". And google yields :

Ron Paul : Classified Cable Proves US Ok’d Saddam’s Kuwait Invasion
posted by jeffburdges at 5:02 PM on June 24


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