by Marc Becker
On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, the first rocket slammed into the presidential palace. And then another. And another. Another. The building burst into flames and crumbled to the ground.
By the time the smoke had cleared, over 3000 people were dead and more were missing. The president was dead, and with him died our hopes and dreams for a better future.
Salvador Allende had been elected president of the South American country of Chile in 1970 on a platform of using Chile’s rich natural resources to alleviate the deep and persistent poverty that plagued the country’s poor worker and peasant majority. Under his government, worker income rose, unemployment fell, and people gained access to education and health care.
The novel idea of using the country’s copper mines and other resources to benefit the local population rather than to line the pockets of wealthy multinational corporations did not go over well with another president of richer and more powerful country.
“That SOB! That SOB!,” Richard M. Nixon shouted as he pounded his desk. “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people,” Henry Kissinger, his Assistant for National Security Affairs, stated. Kissinger warned that the U.S. would not be bound by pieces of paper cast into a ballot box in a faraway land. “Make the economy scream,” CIA Director Richard Helms simply noted on his pad of paper.
Nixon engaged in a variety of tactics to subvert the democratic will of the Chilean people, but they all failed, and Allende’s socialist government grew in popularity. Kissinger advocated a military coup to remove the government, something that was unheard of among Chileans who were deeply proud of their long and solid democratic tradition.
But finally on that dreadful Tuesday, September 11, 1973, Washington gained its wish with Augusto Pinochet’s bloody coup that abolished Chile’s congress, supreme court, and other instruments of constitutional governance. Far from being a force for peace, democracy, and civility in the world, the White House demonstrated that it ruled at the behest of corporate capitalism that always places profit over people.
The dark mark of September 11 that demonstrates the role of the U.S. government as one of the primary terrorist forces at play in the world is not distant history. Last year, on April 11, 2002, conservative business leaders led an attempted coup to remove Hugo Chavez from the presidency of Venezuela after he used the country’s rich oil reserves to fund education, health care, and land reform programs. Within days, an unprecedented wave of popular support placed Chavez back into power. Rather than denouncing this extra-constitutional power grab as required by the Organization of American States, The Observer in London reported that senior officials in the U.S. government were not only aware the coup was about to take place but also had sanctioned it. Statements from the Bush administration indicated that it would support democratic and constitutional systems only when it serves their own imperial purposes.
Peace, prosperity, and democracy will not flourish in our world until we rid ourselves of the thugs who have taken over our government and are using it to rule in their own selfish economic interests. That is the task that faces all decent and civilized people.