Saturday, August 1, 2009

Heraldo Munoz, The Dictator's Shadow and the Inter-Democratic Peace Hypothesis

             

  .             Below  is a chapter from Heraldo Munoz’s book on the Nixon-Kissinger destruction of Chilean democracy.  Every political scientist who believes in the inter-democratic peace hypothesis – see here and here - and of course, all those concerned about democracy and just plain non-murderousness should read it.   This book tells the frightening story of how the American democracy was inimical to and overthrew one of the world’s great democracies. Certainly, no science, but further, no view that purports to be taken seriously should say: stable or established democracies – more accurately, oligarchies with parliamentary forms - do not go to war with one another. War with the stable democracies of nonwhite peoples, torture of reformers, cutting off the hands of artists like Victor Jarra and the murder of thousands of ordinary people, has been, with a few blips, the settled and bipartisan policy of the American regime.  Democracy has been seen as associated with Communism or with enemies of the tyrannical  friends of the American regime (consider Mubarak of Egypt or the royal family in Saudi Arabia).   Only very briefly in Latin America under Truman did the US favor some democratic movements. Even during the Cold War, this was possible.   See my nephew Steven Schwartzberg’s  intriguing Democracy and US Foreign Policy during the Truman Years. which speaks of a (compared to every other epoch) “civility of Yankee imperialism.” Even then, American efforts to support a kind of democracy were circumscribed.  FDR had said that the era of colonialism was over in Indochina. He had hailed the American allies from below against Japanese aggression, the Vietminh, led by Ho Chi Minh. But President Truman aided French colonialism against the Vietnamese nationalist, communist-led peasant movement.  By the time of the French defeat at Dienbienphu in 1954, President Eisenhower was paying 80% of the French war budget. After the Pinochet coup, Kissinger would infamously remark of Chile,  “I don’t see why the US has to let a country go Marxist just because its people is irresponsible.”   But the comparatively moderate Eisenhower made the same anti-democratic statement in Vietnam, refusing to honor the Geneva Accords – the Supreme Law of the Land, according to Article 6, section 2 of the Constitution, and blocking  reunifying elections in 1956 because Ho Chi Minh would win.  Truman (Latin America excepted) – Eisenhower – Kissinger/Nixon – powerful Democrats in Congress.   Support for colonialism was bipartisan, as American as apple pie. The violent destruction of other democracies, and the murder of ordinary people seeking organization from below, pluralism and a better life, has long  been  American foreign and mainstream media policy.  In addition, in the post-Cold War era and before, political science and the policy studies of would-be American academic advisors have provided a fig leaf for American imperialism.  As I emphasize in Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy?, following Aristotle and others,  Nixon’s coup against democracy in Chile was integral to Watergate.  If a man creates tyranny abroad, Aristotle says in book 7 of the Politics, as Nixon ordered Kissinger to remove Allende before his inauguration, what will stop him from creating tyranny at home?   That is what I name anti-democratic feedback.   Read Heraldo’s book from the beginning.  The insights of a Chilean socialist and diplomat who was nearly killed by the United States, stood with it at the UN against the perpetrators of 9/11 and just yesterday, did his best to stop the madness of an American regime, now become authoritarian and imperial, in Iraq are worth considering.  Political science is not yet up to these words.

      The American regime has been ambiguous about the recent coup against President Zelaya in Honduras.  But the coup has been intransigent in refusing a settlement proposed by the former Costa Rican President, negotiator and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias (President Zelaya, who committed the “crime” like Allende of siding with the poor, has been  amenable). It is increasingly shooting and jailing supporters of democracy.   That Obama cancelled the visas of four representatives of the coup this week is a striking thing; the  State Department has also put a hold on military aid.  But America has a law about cutting off aid and trade to what it names an illegal or coup regime.  Obama has not yet done this.  In addition, as Lindsay Shade writes in “Honduras Crisis Exposes Weakness of US Democracy” today on Commondreams.org here,  Senator Richard Lugar, the experienced “moderate” Republican foreign policy expert in the Senate as well as Senator Demint have threatened to hold up approval of Obama’s ambassadors to Latin America if the seemingly settled policy – gunboat diplomacy - changes.   America has not stopped being an empire.  But perhaps against the brutality of the Monroe doctrine, extended until just yesterday in the unsuccessful coup against the elected Chavez regime in Venezuela in 2002 and the successful one – the second time - against Aristide in Haiti in 2004,  it will genuinely enter a period of peace, legality and negotiations with other regimes.  In such a world, a utopia just yesterday, McDonald’s and Coca Cola would still make unheard of profits and damage the health and life-expectancy of ordinary people internationally (not too attractive a utopia, just a long way up from here).  Unheard of inequality, as we see in the United States, would still be a fact of life.  In Honduras, the US is not forceful enough on behalf of peace and elections and law.  But that Obama takes steps on behalf of democracy and decency is a fresh start. Listen to Senator Lugar’s threats - these tentative steps toward something new and decent are  constantly endangered.  The security apparatus is deep in criminality and insecure.   For instance, America is now making war on Pakistan, currently a democracy, whose leadership rejects its drone missiles destroying civilians and inadvertently helping Al-Qaida-like reactionaries.  This is an evil,  counterproductive and extraordinarily foolish American policy.  That the President is a decent person does not mean that the Empire can yet be decent.  Nonetheless, the democratic movement from below that brought Obama to power and which, in a new situation and with striking leadership, is trying to make a new start for the American regime generally, may at last achieve tentatively a tenuous version of perhaps not democratic peace but minimal civilization. Perhaps it could even save the rule of law at home.

       Remember Kant, who said there was a difference between citizens and subjects, between republics and the Cheneys and Bushes who engage in a frivolous “pleasure party of war.”   If democratic movements press Obama and the American regime from below… 

4

Pinochet’s Global Reach

            Kissinger wasn’t sure if he should go to Chile to meet Pinochet during the spring of 1976. It wasn't an ethical issue. Secretaries of State rarely attended Organization of American States (OAS) General Assemblies unless there was a real crisis in the region. But Pinochet was a loyal anti-Communist and he was facing increasing opposition in the U.S. Congress, which was seeking to cut off military sales to his regime.

            An anti-leftist leader who had overthrown a “Communist-leaning president” had to be allowed to succeed—and could not be permitted to fail. For good or ill, the repercussions of either alternative would be felt around the world. And there was another domino-effect Kissinger worried about as well: if Pinochet did not buy his weapons and military hardware from the United States, he would buy them elsewhere. Plus, there was the war at home to worry about—the turf war that went on in Washington, between the White House and the Congress over the conduct of foreign policy. Nixon and Kissinger could not allow Congress to set limits on their policy toward Pinochet’s government.  If it was Chile today, it might be a much bigger country tomorrow (like South Korea, Kissinger believed).  Chile might have just been a pawn in the global realpolitik chess game that the Secretary of State was constantly waging against his domestic and foreign adversaries; but for Pinochet Kissinger's visit marked a great personal victory.

In his 1979 volume of memoirs, Kissinger asserted that human rights were the "underlying theme" of the conversations he held with Pinochet in the course of his visit. He wrote that he warned Pinochet that "any major help from us would realistically depend on progress on human rights." In his 1999 Years of Renewal, Kissinger returned to the subject, dedicating a whole section of the book to that same 1976 trip. Challenging even the most minimally balanced evaluations of Pinochet’s democratically-elected predecessor, Kissinger alleged that Allende’s government was characterized by “incompetence, corruption and violation of democratic rights.” “We considered Allende the most inimical to our interests,” he asserted, adding that the Chilean president represented “a danger [of] a Communist state on the mainland” of the Americas.

Absurdly, Kissinger asserts: “After Allende entered office in November 3, 1970, the covert programs seeking to block his inauguration were terminated (sic).” Indeed. Why would U.S. covert activities to impede Allende’s inauguration have continued once he was already in office? Moreover, contrary to every serious historical account of the era, he declares that “human rights abuses [under Pinochet] subsided” after the dissolution of the DINA secret police. Not a word is said about the Letelier assassination. The 1999 volume reiterates his earlier claim that in his meetings with Pinochet he had “made it clear as to where we stood on human rights,” selectively quoting phrases from his speech to the OAS General Assembly to buttress his point.

            But the declassified transcripts of the talks between Kissinger and Pinochet, released in 2000, reveal a starkly different picture than the one presented by the former Secretary of State. Kissinger and Assistant Secretary William D. Rogers, along with an interpreter, visited Pinochet at his office at noon on June 8, 1976. 

"I want to tell you that we are grateful that you have come to the conference," Pinochet said as their meeting began.

            "It is an honor," Kissinger responded diplomatically, knowing full well that the presence in Chile of the U.S. Secretary of State was an invaluable image booster for the internationally isolated dictator.

            "I have always been against Communism," Pinochet declared, getting straight to the point.  "During the Vietnam War, I met with some of your military and made my anti-Communism clear to them. I told them I hoped they would defeat it.” 

"We defeated ourselves in Vietnam because our country was so divided," Kissinger responded. "In the United States, as you know, we are sympathetic with what you are trying to do here…we wish your government well.  At the same time,” he continued, “A lot of pressure is being exerted on our Government, especially Congress, but also the Executive branch, over the issue of human rights." Kissinger assured Pinochet that the White House opposed further constraints on aid to Chile. Almost apologetically, Kissinger explained that while he would inevitably have to address the issue of human rights at the OAS General Assembly, he would be sure to do so in the most general way. "The speech is not aimed at Chile,” Kissinger explained. “I wanted to tell you about this. My evaluation is that you are a victim of left-wing groups around the world, and that your greatest sin was that you overthrew a government that was going Communist." Nevertheless, human rights posed a "practical problem" that had to be addressed, if for no other reason than to mollify the U.S. Congress. Of course, he added, "none of this is said with the hope of undermining your government."

            "We are returning to institutionalization step-by-step," Pinochet replied, obviously unenthusiastic about the subject. "But, we are constantly under attack by the Christian Democrats. They have a strong voice in Washington…Gabriel Valdés has access. Also Letelier," Pinochet complained.

            Kissinger was surprised.  "I have not seen a Christian Democrat in years," he reacted.

            "Letelier has access to the Congress," Pinochet insisted. "We know they are giving false information."

            Kissinger reiterated that while his statement in the OAS General Assembly would be designed to please Congress it would not be "offensive to Chile."

            "We are behind you.  You are the leader," Pinochet said.  "But, you have a punitive system for your friends."

            "It is unfortunate," Kissinger reflected. "We welcomed the overthrow of the Communist-inclined government here."  "I want to see our relations and friendship improve. We want to help, not undermine you," Kissinger concluded.

             Not long after the coup, on September 21, 1973, Pinochet had held his first press conference. A CBS reporter asked him about the rumors of American involvement in the coup and whether the White House had had advance knowledge of it. Pinochet insisted that the coup had been "a national movement."

"Not even my wife knew about what I was about to do on 9/11,” he said. “The U.S. had nothing to do with it, nor any other country.”

            Of course Pinochet was being disingenuous. He knew that Nixon had done everything in his power to destabilize the Allende government. The coup might have been Chilean-made, but it was undoubtedly U.S.-sponsored. In private transcripts of Kissinger’s conversations with Nixon --which were made public only in 2004, in the midst of a new controversy about the U.S. role in the breakdown of Chilean democracy— the two men exchange words about the coup.

            “Our hand doesn’t show on this one,” Nixon states.

            “We didn’t do it,” Kissinger replies. “I mean we helped them…created the conditions as great as possible,” he adds.

            Kissinger and Nixon became obsessed with Chile. Although U.S. Ambassador to Santiago Edward Korry had cabled Washington in 1970 hailing Chile’s democracy and defining the country as “one of the more decent places on earth,” Nixon and Kissinger believed that Allende’s election “was a challenge to our national interests.” Kissinger feared that Chile’s domino effect could spread throughout the rest of the Hemisphere, and even to countries like France or Italy where a Socialist-Communist coalition winning a presidential election was not unthinkable.

            On September 15, 1970, ten days after Allende’s election, a meeting was held at the Oval Office, chaired by Nixon, in which he issued the famous order to move against the president-elect.  CIA Director Richard Helms’ handwritten notes read: "1 in 10 chances perhaps, but save Chile!...Not concerned risks involved…$10,000,000 available, more if necessary. Full-time job --best men we have." Years later, in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee Helms remarked, "If I ever carried a martial baton in my knapsack out of the Oval Office, it was that day." Kissinger had set the policy tone when he had pronounced his infamous dictum: "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its people."

          Ambassador Edward Korry had warned the outgoing Eduardo Frei administration—which, as a model democratic and reformist alternative to Cuba had been a recipient of lavish U.S. aid—that "not a nut or bolt [would] be allowed to reach Chile under Allende.”  The idea was to pressure President Frei into joining a plot to foil Congressional ratification of Allende’s election, which was scheduled for October 24, 1970.

          On October 6 Kissinger summoned Richard Helms to the White House so that a clear message would be sent to the local CIA station: “Contact the military and let them know that the U.S government wants a military solution, and that we will support them now and later (author’s emphasis).” When Frei Montalva and the Christian Democrats did not support what became known as the “Rube Goldberg” gambit to impede Congressional ratification, the White House decided to pursue a secret Track II approach: the violent option to get rid of Allende.

            The CIA contacted Chilean military officers to provoke a coup in advance of Allende's inauguration on November 4, 1970. Money and weapons were supplied to two terrorist groups, one led by retired General Roberto Viaux and one commanded by Army General Camilo Valenzuela, head of the Santiago Army garrison. The idea was to kidnap Army Commander René Schneider and blame the action on the left, creating a chaos that would block Allende’s inauguration. In the early morning hours of October 22, General Viaux and his right-wing extremists cut off General Schneider's car and shot him to death. Schneider’s assassination backfired as the nation rallied behind constitutional rule.

            On November 6, 1970, only days after Allende's inauguration, Nixon presided over an NSC meeting on Chile in the White House Cabinet Room.  Kissinger opened the meeting.

"All of the agencies are agreed that Allende will try to create a Socialist State," he said.  A modus vivendi might be possible, but at the “risk that he will consolidate his position and then move ahead against us."  "If we have to be hostile, we want to do it right,” Secretary of State William P. Rogers suggested. “We can put an economic squeeze on him.” "Our main concern in Chile is the prospect that [Allende] can consolidate himself, and the picture projected to the world will be his success," affirmed Nixon.  "If we let….leaders in South America think that they can move like Chile and have it both ways, we will be in trouble. Latin America is not gone, and we want to keep it,” he concluded.

Following this meeting, the White House issued National Security Decision Memorandum 93, "Policy towards Chile," which outlined the ensuing economic warfare against Allende's government. Henceforth no new federal loan guarantees would be extended to Chile and existing subsidies would be terminated. Private investments from American businesses would be actively discouraged; maximum pressure would be brought to bear on foreign financial institutions to discourage them from making loans to Chile as well.  On Nixon's explicit order, the U.S. would sell off part of its copper holdings, flooding the market and depressing worldwide prices—a painful measure indeed, since copper was Chile’s chief export.

            Allende's speech at the U.N. General Assembly on December 4 denounced an "invisible blockade" and hostile actions towards Chile on the part of multinational corporations like ITT and Kennecott Copper Company.  Charles Bray, the spokesperson for the State Department, vehemently denied that the U.S. was blockading Chile and attributed the country’s difficulties to its lack of "creditworthiness."

            In fact Chile had suspended its debt service payments by late 1971, but in February 1972 it initiated talks with its principal creditor nations to renegotiate the terms of its loans. Deals were reached with European creditors, but Washington opposed the renegotiation of the Chilean external debt so long as Allende refused to pay for nationalized American copper companies.

Nationalization had been approved unanimously in the Chilean Congress in 1971, though the government’s coalition was in the minority. Following constitutional procedures, specifically the deduction of "excessive profits," from the amount of compensation due the expropriated firms, the two largest American companies, Kennecott and Anaconda, were left without any payment at all; the third-largest, Cerro Corporation, would be get reimbursement from the government.  Washington strongly advocated the rights of the American copper companies, which undertook a legal battle seizing shipments of nationalized Chilean copper in foreign ports, mainly in Europe.

Despite the Nixon administration’s blatant hostility to his presidency, Allende sought to cultivate a pragmatic relationship with Washington.  In February 1971, through visiting Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, he extended an invitation so that the aircraft carrier Enterprise would visit Valparaíso, an idea enthusiastically backed by Admiral Elmo Zumwalt but strongly opposed, and eventually declined, by Nixon and Kissinger.  Despite that rebuff, the Chilean president declared that Chile would "never provide a military base that might be used against the United States."

             Allende's pragmatism was in evidence during his visit to the United Nations in December 1972. A secret cable from the American embassy in Santiago had suggested that President Allende would welcome an invitation for a stopover in Washington to meet with Nixon; when Allende’s plane entered U.S. territory, he sent a cordial message to President Nixon, which the White House did not deign to answer.  Allende  had allowed the Peace Corps to continue operating freely in Chile and sought to negotiate disagreements over debt repayment and copper nationalization, offering to submit the copper dispute to the legal arbitration provided for in the bilateral 1914 Bryan Treaty, an option rejected by the White House. Several U.S. National Intelligence Estimates, from 1970 to 1973, show that Allende tried to avoid confrontation with the United States and kept lines open to solve the differences with the Nixon administration. Pinochet himself has borne witness to Allende’s conciliatory attitude towards the United States. In 1995 Pinochet was asked whether Allende had blamed the United States for his problems. “No, I never heard him say a word against the U.S.,” he replied.

              Robert Dallek in his book Nixon and Kissinger based on declassified archives on the Richard Nixon presidency concludes that “Kissinger became Nixon’s point man in managing the CIA’s Chilean operations.”  Looking back it is truly amazing that Chile occupied so much of the time of the U.S. President and his Secretary of State in the midst of an expanding Vietnam War, the Middle East conflict, the opening toward China and the SALT negotiations with Moscow.  In fact, in his memoirs Richard Nixon identifies Allende’s Chile as a top challenge of his foreign policy agenda: “America was being tested in the fall of 1970 – by war in Vietnam; by the threat of war in the Middle East; by the introduction of threatening nuclear capabilities in Cuba, In Chile the test was just as real, although much subtler,” wrote Nixon. Henry Kissinger advised Nixon in late 1971 that “Chile could end up being the worst failure of our administration—our Cuba.”  “Truman had lost China, Kennedy had lost Cuba. Nixon was not about to lose Chile,” commented Richard Helms. Four years after the coup, in the famous interviews of Richard Nixon with David Frost, the former president insisted that if he hadn’t acted against Allende, Chile and Cuba would have formed a “red sandwich” that eventually could have turned “all Latin America red.” The web of illegal actions, secret payments, distortions and cover-ups to destabilize Allende would become a kind of foreign policy Watergate of the Nixon administration. The rest of the story is well known.

 

  

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