As our leaders warn countries that harbor terrorists, who will warn our leaders about harboring terrorists here?
Twenty five years ago, on September 21, 1976, agents of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, fatally car bombed Orlando Letelier in Washington DC. Ronni Moffitt, Letelier’s young American colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies, also died in the bombing. Letelier had served as Chilean Defense Minister under the government of Dr. Salvador Allende until the 1973 US-backed coup overthrew him.
Pinochet, the FBI discovered, had targeted Letelier as a key enemy. Three months before his assassins struck, Pinochet had mentioned Letelier’s name twice to Henry Kissinger as the source of his regime’s troubles in Washington.
Senator Ted Kennedy had introduced a bill to ban US military supplies to human rights violators. In this conversation, according to a State Department “Memcom,” Kissinger had reassured the Chilean dictator that he would help him get some F5 fighters and that we “approved of his methods.”
Yet, Kissinger knew that Pinochet’s methods reached beyond the murder and torture of thousands of his political opponents in Chile. Indeed, in 1974 US intelligence officials had helped Pinochet set up Operation Condor, a network of Latin American secret police agencies to spy on and assassinate their enemies in other countries.
A week after the assassination in Washington, FBI Agent Robert Scherer reported in a cable to the FBI’s Washington Field Office that Operation Condor might have killed Letelier.
The CIA had named Pinochet as Condor I, an indication of his importance in that terrorist network. Tens of thousands of Condor documents discovered in Paraguay point to a high level of US involvement in this terrorist ring that operated for more than a decade in many countries around the world.
The FBI ultimately found the Letelier-Moffitt killers and the Department of Justice indicted them, including Pinochet’s secret police chief. But Pinochet, the terrorist in chief, eluded indictment.
Even the FBI agents and the Assistant US Attorneys publicly stated that it is “inconceivable” that the Letelier assassination could have occurred without Pinochet’s authorization. Yet, the indictment of Pinochet today sits unsigned on the desk of the Washington DC US Attorney. Why? Who is being protected? Who fears that Pinochet might testify in court and name certain prominent Americans as his terrorist collaborators?
This year, President Bush’s anti-Castro Cuban pals — to whom W owes a large debt — lobbied successfully to free Virgilio Paz and Jose Dionisio Suarez, two of the Letelier-Moffitt killers who had pled guilty and served a few years. After the Supreme Court decided that the INS could not hold aliens indefinitely for deportation, these two terrorists — their actions were not limited to killing Letelier and Moffitt — began walking the streets along with Michael Townley the bomber in chief for Pinochet’s secret police.
Townley had boasted to the FBI of the multiple ways he knew to murder people. This terrorist enjoys US protection from extradition for his other terrorist crimes — including the 1974 car bombing in Buenos Aires of exiled Chilean Chief of Staff, General Carlos Prats and his wife and the 1975 shooting of exiled Chilean politician Bernardo Leighton and his wife in Rome. Townley has confessed to his key role in both of those assassination plots. Yet, our tough talking Attorney General harbors him.
Orlando Bosch who boasted about his role in bombing a Cuban commercial airliner over Barbados with 73 people on board enjoys his Florida retirement thanks to President Bush the first, who welcomed this terrorist into our country from Venezuela where he faced charges for his dastardly deed. Lt.
Colonel Oliver North gleefully hired Luis Posada Carriles, Bosch’s cohort in the airplane bombing and subsequently the organizer of the bombings of Cuba’s tourist spots in the 1990s. High US officials like Eliot Abrams who holds the Latin America portfolio at the National Security Council, had regular and friendly dealings with people who mined Nicaragua’s harbors and plotted bombings and assassinations.
The list runs long of people who ordered bombings of other countries, assassinations of individuals and campaigns of terrorist violence against other nations. The case brought against Pinochet in Spain, as it moved to the House of Lords for final appeal, established a very important point for those who talk tough about terrorism but behave opportunistically when the terrorists are in their administration.
There is a clear difference, established in law and Treaty, between a political and a criminal act. So, as people remember the horrible September 21, 1975 car bombing in Washington DC, and the assassinations of countless of Pinochet’s victims and of those on board the downed Cuban airliner, let’s also begin to examine the harboring of a man who might well be labeled as one of the world’s most important terrorists: Henry Kissinger.