No Place To Hide

by Matthew Rothschild

The Progressive magazine, December 1998


The arrest of Augusto Pinochet, regardless of the outcome, was a balm to the spirit. I spoke with friends from the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., who were practically popping the champagne bottles.

In 1976, Pinochet sent an assassination squad to Washington, D.C., to bump off Orlando Letelier, formerly the defense minister in the government of Salvador Allende. Letelier was then working at the Institute for Policy Studies. The assassins blew up the car he was riding in, killing him and Ronni Moffitt, also a staff member at IPS.

These were just two of the thousands of Pinochet's victims. And yet, for twenty-five years, Pinochet has preened himself on the world stage, above the claims of justice, oblivious to his victims (he once ordered the dead thrown into a mass grave instead of buried in coffins because he said he wanted to save the Chilean treasury the cost of the nails).

Now, no matter what the final disposition of his case may be, Pinochet has at least been made aware that he has something to account for, that he cannot simply glide around the globe receiving the blessings of liberty from every country he visits.


But what of U.S. responsibility for Pinochet? When will the American leaders who systematically sabotaged the Allende government be arrested? In September 1970, National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger said, "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people." Kissinger and Nixon then gave CIA Director Richard Helms "the marshal's baton" to destabilize the country, Helms testified in 1975. And so the United States paved the way for Pinochet.

When are we going to own up to that? The Spanish judge who sought Pinochet's extradition also sought documents from U.S. files. But the Clinton Administration was not forthcoming.

No surprise there. The Clinton Administration doesn't go in for international law: It did all it could to undermine the creation of a strong world court a few months ago. I guess the White House doesn't think it would look good for Henry Kissinger to be in the dock alongside Pinochet. But it's a consummation devoutly to be wished.

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