Misplaced Hysteria


The radical left is a hysterical, hypocritical and unforgiving bunch of wretches. They’re going crazy because Augusto Pinochet, a former Chilean dictator, outran his pursuers and hobbled through the Pearly Gates before they could hang or shoot him.

Personally, I’ve never believed the Chilean Army would allow Pinochet to be executed. If they would have, they are men with no honor.

His worst enemies put the death toll during his 17-year reign at about 3,000. That’s less than the number of people killed in one year in this country by ordinary thugs and fruitcakes. Even assuming all 3,000 were innocent — and it’s a dead certainty most of them had it coming — his was one of the mildest dictatorships in the 20th century. Most of the deaths probably occurred in 1973, when the army overthrew the government of Salvador Allende, a radical leftist.

It should also be noted that Pinochet restored the Chilean economy to prosperity, oversaw the writing and adoption of a new, democratic constitution and voluntarily surrendered power to the civilians in a democratic process. That was in 1990, so if the Chilean left has diddled around for almost 17 years without bringing him to justice, they have only themselves to blame for that. After all, Pinochet wasn’t a suicide. The tough old bird hung in there through heart attacks and strokes until the last minute.

Now, let’s see how Pinochet compares with Fidel Castro: More blood, more deaths, more suppression, and he isn’t ever going to voluntarily loosen his grip on power until the death angels drag him away.

How about Pol Pot? He murdered some 2.5 million people, including women and children. His men liked to bury people up to their necks and refer to the rotting heads as "American dandruff." I never recall hearing the radical left scream about him.

How about Mao Tse-tung? The death toll he’s credited with ranges around 60 million to 70 million, and of course he never surrendered power or did much for the Chinese economy.

Then there’s old Uncle Joe Stalin, the hero of so many American leftists in the 1930s and 1940s. His murder toll is somewhere between 40 million and 50 million, and he never voluntarily surrendered power either.

So what’s with all this screaming and vitriol that pasty little American leftists are spraying all over a man who, as far as America is concerned, was never anything but a staunch ally? Part of it is the usual cowardice — dead men can’t get you — but I think part of it is the fact that Pinochet, a rough old soldier, demonstrated that he knew more about economics than all these tenured Marxists in American universities.

What they can’t forgive is that he was successful — he rescued the country from leftist chaos, restored the economy, got the people to pass a new constitution, and then voluntarily surrendered power when the people chose a new president. And he did all that without a bloodbath, as so many heroes of the left have caused even while they failed.

Gen. Pinochet was a well-educated man who continued his education as he rose through the ranks. After surrendering power in 1990, he concentrated on improving the training, equipment and benefits of the Chilean Army. He has also published a number of books.

Most important for Americans to remember is that he was a Chilean, and he did what he did in Chile. It is, after all, none of our business. If the American left wants something to do, then, rather than crow over the death of a foreign leader, they should ask themselves why they are so all-fired ineffective at everything they do except talk. The war in Iraq, which we started, has caused the deaths of 650,000 people, if you want to believe the high estimate, which is considerably more than the number attributed to Pinochet’s rule.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.