Can Henry Kissinger be Extradited?
by Martin McLaughlin
World Socialist Web Site
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21 October 1998
If Augusto Pinochet deserves detention, trial and punishment
for mass murder, then what about his American controllers--Henry
Kissinger, then-CIA director Richard Helms and other US government
officials who inspired, directed and supported the 1973 military
coup in Chile?
The official American reaction to the detention of Pinochet
has been sympathetic to the former dictator. The Clinton administration
is opposing his extradition out of concern that a public trial
in Spain would bring to light the extensive involvement of US
intelligence agencies in Pinochet's bloody deeds.
Pinochet's seizure of power on September 11, 1973 was the
product of a protracted US campaign of political manipulation
and destabilization in Chile. In 1964 the Johnson administration
poured tens of millions of dollars into a covert campaign to insure
the election of Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei as president,
over the Socialist Party candidate Salvador Allende.
In 1970, with Frei ineligible to succeed himself and Allende
the favorite to win the next election, Chile became a problem
for the Nixon administration. The super-secret 40 Committee, a
high-level body chaired by Henry Kissinger, with representatives
from the State Department, CIA and Pentagon, decided that a massive
electoral intervention would likely spark a backlash. US Ambassador
Edward Korry urgently recommended a CIA covert operation to prepare
a preemptive military coup.
Kissinger declared, "I don't see why we need to stand
by and watch a country go Communist because of the irresponsibility
of its own people." But he and CIA Director Helms blocked
the proposed pre-election coup as unworkable. More time was needed,
Allende won the election on a reformist program, but his victory
sparked a mass movement of the working class and poor peasants
which had immense revolutionary potential. Allende and his Stalinist
backers in the Chilean Communist Party spent the next three years
restraining, discouraging and disorienting the mass movement,
blocking any decisive challenge to the Chilean ruling class and
American imperialism, while the right-wing and fascist elements
prepared their counterattack. During this period there were six
unsuccessful right-wing coup attempts, most of them with direct
The US involvement in coup planning began even before Allende's
election victory, under the code-name FUBELT, with action plans
prepared for Kissinger's consideration. One group of officers
working under CIA direction carried out the assassination of General
Rene Schneider, a pro-Allende officer, in an unsuccessful attempt
to spark a full-scale coup before Allende could take office.
A CIA cable from October 16, 1970, released under the Freedom
of Information Act, spells out US government objectives: "It
is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a
coup.... 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."
The CIA set up a fascist organization, Fatherland and Liberty,
headed by a former public relations man for Ford Motor Company,
Federico Willoughby McDonald, who became Pinochet's press secretary
after the coup. It sponsored Operation Djakarta, a plan for the
systematic assassination of leaders of Allende's Popular Unity
government, named in honor of the CIA's bloodiest success, the
1965 military coup in Indonesia in which 1 million people were
As it had in Indonesia, the CIA helped the military in Chile
draw up lists of those to be exterminated. On September 10, 1973,
the day before the junta struck, the names of 3,000 high-level
and 20,000 mid-level leaders of popular organizations--trade unions,
student groups, tenants' groups, peasant committees, civil rights
and civil liberties groups, left-wing political parties--were
distributed to the death squads. Virtually all those who did not
flee the country were hunted down and murdered.
In later closed-door testimony before a congressional committee,
former CIA Director William Colby said that the mass executions
had done "some good" by making civil war in Chile unlikely.
Colby had followed a similar grisly logic in Vietnam, supervising
the Phoenix Program under which 20,000 suspected opponents of
the US military intervention were assassinated.
In his memoirs, Kissinger denied that the US government played
any role in the coup, brazenly dismissing this well-documented
fact as a communist-inspired "myth." But he could not
help solidarizing himself with the Pinochet regime, writing, "The
Chilean military had saved Chile from a totalitarian regime and
the United States from an enemy."
American media reports on Pinochet's arrest have been uniformly
silent on the responsibility of the US government for the 1973
coup, and have largely downplayed the scale of Pinochet's crimes--using,
for example, the CIA estimate of 3,000 people murdered during
the coup and its aftermath, although most independent estimates
place the total at upwards of 50,000 dead.
It is predictable that the Wall Street Journal should denounce
the arrest of one of its favorite world leaders. The Journal 's
editorial derides Spain and Britain for detaining Pinochet instead
of Fidel Castro, and declares, "General Pinochet headed the
coup that saved his country."
More significant is the response of such organs of official
liberalism as the New York Times and the Washington Post. While
giving grudging support to the actions of the British government,
the Times worries that it might set a precedent for "rogue
nations like Iraq" to seek international prosecution of "foreign
leaders who opposed them." This is a tacit admission that
the actions of Bush and Clinton, in enforcing a blockade that
has caused the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children,
could be prosecuted as a war crime.
The Post takes the occasion to praise Pinochet's record as
ruler of Chile: "He did remove a democratically elected government
and see to the killing of thousands and the detention of tens
of thousands in 1973-1990," the newspaper editorializes.
"But he also saw to the rescue of his country ... and to
its controlled evolution into a prosperous Latin democracy. So
it is not only Chile's military right but others grateful for
his positive role who are troubled now by his arrest."
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