Name That Criminal
by Greg Guma
Toward Freedom magazine, August 1999
In London recently to promote the latest installment of' his
memoirs, Henry Kissinger stormed out of a widely heard radio interview
when the questioning turned to his complicity in war crimes. Radio
4 host Jeremy Paxman had asked the former secretary of state whether
he felt like a fraud for getting a Nobel Peace Prize after plotting
a coup in Chile and orchestrating slaughter in Cambodia. Kissinger
denied everything, of course, and said his host was woefully misinformed,
yet declined to show up for a BBC roundtable discussion scheduled
for later that day.
Kissinger isn't the only member of the political old guard
who's nervous at the moment. As former Chilean dictator Augusto
Pinochet fights extradition to Spain, where he may eventually
stand trial for his crimes, other potential defendants fret about
the precedent being set. And the Clinton administration hasn't
been helping. In fact, its release of documents on Chile not only
confirms what many have suspected-that the US actively promoted
the coup against Salvador Allende and sanctioned the subsequent
repression-it could also spark a hailstorm of damaging revelations.
The administration's motives aren't exactly pure. Bowing to
pressure from the Spanish judge, human rights groups, and the
families of victims, Clinton opted to "declassify what we
can, so that we can say we did our share," explained one
White House aide. But the potential to embarrass political opponents
surely didn't escape notice. Given the status of Texas Gov. George
W. Bush as Republican presidential front-runner, his father's
connection to Pinochet's crimes could become a factor-or at least
a useful distraction-in the 2000 election. It's never been clear
precisely what Bush knew and did while CIA chief in the mid-1970s,
when Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and US co-worker
Ronni Moffitt were assassinated in Washington and Chile's intelligence
arm, DINA, was sponsoring international terror.
What we do know is this: According to declassified documents
that anyone can read on the National Security Archive website,
Kissinger, Nixon, and CIA Director Richard Helms ordered a coup
even before Allende assumed office. Kissinger and Alexander Haig
worked out the details, described in an October 15, 1970, memo.
"It is the firm and consistent policy that Allende be overthrown
by a coup," wrote CIA Deputy Director of Plans Thomas Karamessines,
who coordinated the operation. "We are to continue to generate
maximum pressure toward this end utilizing every appropriate resource.
It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely
and securely so that the USG and American hand be well hidden."
It took two years, but the goal was achieved. In a victory
report, Naval attache' Patrick Ryan called September 11, 1972,
"our D-day," noting that the coup "was close to
perfect." Over the next few years, the State Department received
detailed reports on the escalating death toll under Pinochet.
Yet, a memo has Kissinger telling the general that the US is "sympathetic
with what you are trying to do here."
So, if Pinochet can be prosecuted for murder, torture, disappearances,
rape, and genocide, why not the "sympathetic" Kissinger
or those responsible for mass mayhem elsewhere? As more documents
are declassified, the list of possible defendants could grow.
Pinochet's case is slowly peeling away the veil of deniability,
exposing high US officials who provided weapons, training, financial
support, and even direct guidance for some of the worst modern
violations of political and civil rights. It's no wonder the US
opposes the International Criminal Court, which could prosecute
powerful individuals when domestic courts fail to act.
And if the Kissinger bunch can be exposed, albeit 25 years
late, maybe we'll get the truth about the Clinton gang someday.
Right now, the focus is on Chile. But recent meddling in Mexico
and the Sudan, not to mention atrocities committed in Iraq and
Kosovo, will be equally damning when more of the story is revealed.
Too bad it so often takes a generation-and political convenience-to
get past the disinformation.
In any case, it's encouraging to see Kissinger squirm and
realize Bush could be next. Predictably, the ex-president calls
the case against Pinochet "a travesty of justice." Even
Britain's Maggie Thatcher is edgy. The former prime minister has
reportedly been making discreet inquiries to the Interior Ministry
on the likelihood of being arrested while traveling abroad. An
old friend of Pinochet, the Iron Lady is worried about being charged
as a war criminal for her actions in Northern Ireland and the
At least they're on the defensive. Now the trick is to keep
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