The Other 9/11:
September, the Cruelest Month in Chile
by Saul Landau
(Sept. 28, 2007) On September 10, 1810,
Chile declared independence from Spain. On September 4 1970, Chile's
Popular Unity coalition of left parties under the leadership of
Dr. Salvador Allende won the presidential elections with a plurality
of 36.4 percent. On September 11, 1973, Army Chief General Augusto
Pinochet led a US-backed military coup that killed Allende and
Chilean democracy. The military dictatorship endured for 17 years.
US interference in Chile's elections began in the 1950s and 1960s
when the CIA poured money into the right wing opposition. Less
than a week after Nixon received the disappointing news about
the presidential vote, he decided to annul the Chilean vote. A
quote widely attributed to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
explained Nixon's morality: "I don't see why we need to stand
by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility
of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean
voters to be left to decide for themselves."
Nixon ordered CIA Director Richard Helms, according to Helms'
subsequently published notes, to use violence, economic warfare
and whatever else it took to prevent Allende's inauguration and,
failing that, to unseat his government. Nixon and Kissinger's
sense of "responsibility" meant breaking the law --
in the name of "national security."
Following the bloody 9/11/73 coup in Chile, Kissinger eagerly
recognized the Pinochet-led coup's illegitimate "junta"
and offered it economic aid as well. He also pressured international
lending organizations to open their wallets to Pinochet.
The US government has yet to declassify documents related to the
role in the coup of US Navy spy ships docked in the Valparaiso
harbor _ by coincidence? _ on Septmber 11. The ships monitored
Chilean military phone and radio traffic on the day of the golpe
and provided coup organizers with information about units loyal
to Allende that might resist; thus, the coup plotters could repress
them and avoid civil war.
The coup script also called for Allende to surrender. Since he
refused to play his assigned part, the generals ordered Chilean
Air Force jets to fire rockets into the Moneda Palace. (Think
of the Pentagon 28 years later _ only the Chilean pilots did not
sacrifice themselves, but flew their military jets to safety!)
The assault on the President's office killed Chilean democracy
_ and President Allende. The high command of the Chilean armed
forces _ unlike the fiends who flew commercial aircraft into office
buildings and the Pentagon _ acted at the behest of "higher
powers" in Washington, not in Heaven, although no one should
doubt the intensity of US support for the coup.
General Carlos Prats, former Chilean Chief of Staff, identified
Lt. Col. Patrick Ryan, a Naval Attache, as the key US military
liason officer assigned to the coup plotters. (Prats was assassinated
in 1974 in Buenos Aires by agents of Pinochet's secret police.)
Ryan called the day of the coup "our D-Day." He described
the military operation as "close to perfect." (Department
of Defense, U.S. Milgroup, Situation Report #2, October 1, 1973
Perfection for Ryan included the reestablishment of "liberty."
In the weeks following the coup, the military dictatorship showed
its understanding of liberty: its troops murdered, kidnapped and
tortured tens of thousands and forced hundreds of thousands to
flee the country. Pinochet's dictatorship endured for 17 years.
Thirty years later, Secretary of State Colin Powell offered sort
of an apology: "what happened with Mr. Allendeis not a part
of American history that we're proud of." (Interview on Black
Entertainment Television's Youth Town Hall, Feb. 20, 1973)
A typical congressional responses to imperial crimes came in 1975:
post mortem hearings about the CIA's role in Chile. In the testimony,
the Solons "discovered" that Nixon and Kissinger had
ordered the CIA to "destabilize" the Allende government.
(United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations
with Respect to Intelligence Activities, a U.S. Senate committee
chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-ID).
Sanctimonious Senators and haughty House Members declared their
outrage. Yes, once again, the President had broken US laws by
conspiring to overthrow governments and kidnap and murder people.
This "shocking" behavior occurred just as Congress voted
no more funds to continue the Vietnam War where such behavior
had become routine.
In one "responsible" gambit, the Agency paid $50 thousand
to Patria y Libertad thugs. The extreme right wing "action"
group tried to kidnap Army Chief General Rene Schneider, but the
abductors shot and killed the General and his chauffer.
The CIA also organized strikes in strategic sectors of the economy,
orchestrated Chilean media propaganda campaigns to smear Allende
and paid saboteurs to attack power plants and other infrastructural
The Treasury Department pressured international agencies and foreign
"allies" to curtail Chile's foreign credit. "Make
the economy scream," wrote CIA Chief Richard Helms in his
notes taken from a meeting with Nixon and Kissinger about what
the Agency should do to bring down the Alllende government.
Nixon had to resign in 1974, not because of his criminal acts
against Chile, but rather for showing his contempt for US laws
at home as well. Kissinger, however, continues to receive honorific
deference and high consulting fees. In addition, he still gets
his pompous commentaries published in leading newspapers. Like
Nixon before he died, Kissinger deserves his proper place: in
the dock facing charges of war crimes for conspiracy to commit
mass murder and other crimes against the people of Chile. (Add
to his crimes orders to bomb civilian targets in Vietnam and his
support for massive killing in Indonesia. Kissinger represents
the obvious dark side of empire _ that Metternichian balance to
"democracy spreaders" who paint noble intentions over
Even after four and a half years of war in Iraq, "naïve
Members still feign "shock" when confronted by daily
illegal behavior. Imagine, the President dares violate the very
laws and treaties that state Congress must declare war and outlaws
interference in other nations' destinies! Haven't they learned
the unwritten clause attached to US laws that says they apply
to everyone else, not the empire's rulers. Indeed, how would the
empire "punish" naughty _ disobedient -- nations if
it had to abide by such restrictions as non-intervention?
Others count much less. The US media paid little or no attention
to the 34th anniversary of Allende's election, or the military
coup in Chile. When TV or print news cover that Andean nation
_ rarely _ reporters often fail to mention the coup and the US
role in it. Instead, Chile gets characterized as a "successful
democracy," an example of "free market" success,
where neo liberal economics brought economic growth.
Amnesia exists in some Chilean minds as well; not just young people,
but those who don't want to recall the "unpleasantness"
of that aberrant period. How long does it take to heal from the
trauma of a coup and 17 years of military rule? I asked a Chilean
"I'll let you know," he said.
September 18 is Chile's national day, a week after September 11.
Chileans count more dead from their 9/11 than the US does from
its trauma _ plus the loss of liberties, the constitution, university
system and other institutions deemed dangerous by the military
plotters. Chileans have recovered some freedom, some confidence
in old institutions. Fools anywhere may continue to trust the
military to accept its subordinate role, but only idiots will
rely on Washington's repeated assurances that it will obey international
The loss of innocence is painful and permanent. Salvador Allende,
one of the last true democrats, perished with gun in hand, defending
the Constitution, the people's document.
In his last radio speech, tanks surrounding the Moneda Palace,
"My words do not have bitterness but disappointment."
He refused to resign. "I will pay for loyalty to the people
with my life. And I say to them that I am certain that the seeds
which we have planted in the good conscience of thousands and
thousands of Chileans will not be shriveled forever."
Allende asked Chile's workers to grasp the lesson: "foreign
capital, imperialism, together with the reaction, created the
climate in which the Armed Forces broke their traditionThe people
must defend themselves, but they must not sacrifice themselves.
The people must not let themselves be destroyed or riddled with
bullets, but they cannot be humiliated eitherThese are my last
words, and I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain,
I am certain that, at the very least, it will be a moral lesson
that will punish felony, cowardice, and treason."
One day, the majority will absorb Allende's warning.
Saul Landau writes a regular column for CounterPunch and progresoweekly.com.
His new Counterpunch Press book is A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD. His
new film, WE DON'T PLAY GOLF HERE (on globalization in Mexico)
is available through firstname.lastname@example.org