Martin Luther King pointed out that the U.S. government is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” While King’s memory has been honored with accolades, monuments, street names, and the like, I can’t help but wonder how many Americans have truly pondered his astute and discomforting observation about the U.S. government. After all, it seems to me that to be living under a government that is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world” is not something to be proud of or pleased with.
Today many Chileans might well be pondering King’s statement. That’s because today — 9/11 — is the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Chilean coup that the U.S. government inspired and encouraged. It was a coup that left thousands of innocent people dead, including the democratically elected president of the country, Salvador Allende, two American citizens — Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi — and some 3,000 other innocent people. It also resulted in the brutal torture or rape of tens of thousands of other innocent people. That was followed by 17 years of one of the world’s most brutal and tyrannical military dictatorships, not to mention the infamous secret international kidnapping, torture, and assassination ring called Operation Condor, which included the national-security establishments of the U.S., Chile, other rightwing Latin American military dictatorships.
Of course, in the eyes of Pinochet, the Pentagon, and the CIA, the victims of all this violence were not innocent at all. In their eyes, they were nothing more than vermin, no different from the “gooks” that the Pentagon and the CIA were killing in Vietnam. Keep in mind that this was 1973, when the U.S. national-security establishment was losing its brutal war in Vietnam.
What did that war have to do with the horrific violence inflicted by Pinochet’s goons against people in Chile?
You see, in the eyes of the U.S. national-security establishment, there was a worldwide communist conspiracy to take over the United States and the world that was supposedly based in Moscow, Russia. Yes, that Russia — the Russia for whom a deep hatred has been inculcated into every American today, just as it was during the Cold War.
In fact, it’s rather ironic that whenever someone condemns the U.S. national-security establishment for its assassination of President Kennedy, he is smeared as a “conspiracy theorist.” Yet, what could be more ridiculous than the notion of an international communist conspiracy to take over the world that was supposedly based in Moscow, Russia?
John Kennedy understood how ludicrous this conspiracy theory was. That’s was why he told his wife Jackie on the morning of his assassination that they were heading into “nut country” later that day. He was referring to an advertisement in the Dallas Morning News that perfectly reflected the mindset of the Pentagon and the CIA, including the accusation that JFK had “scrapped the Monroe Doctrine for the ‘Spirit of Moscow.’”
What Kennedy should have told Jackie is that it wasn’t just rightwing Dallas that was “nut country.” It was also the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA that were “nut country.”
Their nuttiness was why they were insistent on embroiling the United States in Vietnam’s civil war, a war that JFK was doing his best to avoid at the time he was assassinated. The Pentagon and the CIA were convinced that if the U.S. didn’t stop the Reds in Vietnam, the communists would soon be invading and conquering the United States and teaching communism in America’s socialist system of public schooling. Needless to say, when the Reds defeated the U.S. in Vietnam, there was no Red invasion or conquest of the U.S.
But unfortunately their nuttiness didn’t end there. When the self-avowed socialist Allende won the presidency of Chile in 1970, U.S. officials were convinced that the United States was now in even graver danger of falling to the Reds. That’s when the Pentagon and the CIA began paving the way for the military coup that would ultimately occur in 1973.
One big obstacle, however, was Gen. Rene Schneider, the commanding general of the Chilean armed forces. He took the position that there would be no coup. He pointed out that the Chilean constitution did not permit a coup as a way to remove a democratically elected president. His responsibility, he said, was to fulfill his vow to support and defend the constitution of Chile. The Chilean people would have to wait until the next election to remove Allende from office.
The position of the Pentagon and the CIA was exactly the opposite. Their position was the same position they had taken several years before here in the United States — that when a president is supposedly leading a nation to destruction, it is the moral duty of the nation’s national-security establishment to violently remove him from office in order to save the country.
Thus, the CIA orchestrated the violent kidnapping of Schneider that left him shot dead on the streets of Santiago. He was an entirely innocent man, one with a family. The “greatest purveyor of violence in the world” took him out to remove him as an obstacle to the violent removal of Allende from office. Later, evidence was uncovered establishing that the CIA had paid hush money to its kidnappers and assassins in the hope of keeping them quiet about the role that the CIA had played in Schneider’s murder.
Once Schneider was violently removed from the scene, it was just a matter of time before the Pentagon and the CIA could induce their counterparts in the Chilean national-security establishment to violently remove Allende from power. Chile’s national-security branch of the federal government launched its war against Allende and the executive branch of the Chilean government on September 11, 1973, by targeting Allende with assassination with military missiles and bullets fired at him. The executive branch proved to be no match for the national-security branch, just as the Kennedy had proved to be no match for the U.S. national-security branch ten years before. At the end of the war, Allende was left dead, just as Kennedy had been ten years before. (See FFF’s book JFK’s War with the National-Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne.)
Once the Chilean national-security branch had quickly disposed of Allende, it rounded up tens of thousands of his supporters, with the full support of the U.S. national-security establishment. Since they were supporters of their socialist president, the victims were considered to be part of the supposed international communist conspiracy that was supposedly based in Moscow. Like the gooks in Vietnam, they were all considered to be nothing more than vermin. Therefore, the Chilean national-security state goons, along with their U.S. national-security counterparts, considered it to be no big deal to round them up, take them into custody, and torture, rape, and kill them.
Yes, Martin Luther King, who himself was deemed by the U.S. national-security establishment to be an agent of that supposed international communist conspiracy that was supposedly based in Moscow, got it right when he pointed out that the U.S. government is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” The victims of the Chilean coup 50 years ago can attest to the accuracy of King’s assessment.
Reprinted with permission from The Future of Freedom Foundation.