As journalist William
Blum notes, there¹s one thing the United States hates more than a Marxist in
power, and that¹s a democratically elected Marxist in power. A prime example was
Salvador Allende of Chile. September 4 marks 31 years since his election.
September 11 marks 28 years since his death in a U.S.-sponsored coup.
"I don¹t see why we
need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the
irresponsibility of its own people." ‹Henry Kissinger, June 27,1970
Salvador Allende, a
physician by trade, first gained worldwide attention when he came within three
percent of winning Chile¹s 1958 presidential election. Six years later, the
United States decided to no longer leave such elections to chance. It was time
to introduce the Chilean people to democracy, American-style.
The U.S. government,
mostly through the covert efforts of the Central Intelligence Agency, spent more
money per capita to support Allende¹s opponent, Eduardo Frei, than Lyndon
Johnson and Barry Goldwater combined to spend that same year in the American
With an estimated $20
million of U.S. taxpayer money to work with, the CIA embarked on a program of
anti-communist propaganda and disinformation designed to scare Chilean
citizens‹specifically mothers‹into believing that an Allende victory would
result in direct Russian control of their country and their lives. “No religious
activity would be possible,” they were told. Their children, hammer and sickle
stamped on their foreheads, would be shipped to the USSR to be used as slaves,
the radio and newspapers direly warned.
The scare tactics
worked. While Allende won the male vote by a small margin, 469,000 more Chilean
women chose Frei. Cleverly manipulated to fear the “blood and pain” of “godless,
atheist communism,” the mothers of Chile voted against the man who promised to
“redistribute income and reshape the . . . economy” through the nationalization
of some major industries, like copper mining, and the expansion of agrarian
reform. A far cry from Leninism, Allende¹s policy of “eurocommunism,” i.e.
communists linking with social democratic parties into a united front, was for
the most part, as unacceptable to the Kremlin as it was to the White House.
When the 1970 Chilean
presidential election rolled around, Allende was still a major player. However,
he had a new and powerful enemy: Dr. Henry Kissinger.
Despite another wave of
U.S.-funded propaganda, Salvador Allende was elected president of South
America¹s longest functioning democracy on Sept. 4, 1970 with Henry Kissinger
(HK) and his cohorts had to act. The 40 Committee was formed with HK as chair.
The goal was not only to save Chile from its irresponsible populace but to yet
again stave off the red tide.
“Chile is a fairly big
place, with a lot of natural resources,” says Noam Chomsky, “but the United
States wasn¹t going to collapse if Chile became independent. Why were we so
concerned about it? According to Kissinger, Chile was a Œvirus¹ that would
Œinfect¹ the region with effects all the way to Italy.”
At a Sept. 15 meeting
called to halt the spread of infection, Kissinger and President Nixon told CIA
Director Richard Helms it would be necessary to “make the [Chilean] economy
scream.” While allocating at least $10 million to assist in sabotaging Allende¹s
presidency, outright assassination was also considered a serious and welcome
The respect held by the
Chilean military for the democratic process led Kissinger to pick as his first
assassination target not Allende himself, but General René Schneider, head of
the Chilean Armed Forces. Schneider, it seems, had long believed that politics
and the military should remain discrete. Despite warnings from Helms that a coup
might not be possible in such a stable democracy, HK urged the plan to proceed.
“Kissinger had direct
personal knowledge of the CIA¹s plan to kidnap and murder Schneider,” declares
journalist Christopher Hitchens. “The is one of the relatively few times when
Mr. Kissinger involved himself in the assassination of a single named individual
rather than the slaughter of anonymous thousands.”
When the killing of
Schneider only served to solidify Allende¹s support, a CIA-sponsored media blitz
similar to that of 1964 commenced. Citizens were faced with daily “reports” of
Marxist atrocities and Soviet bases supposedly being built in Chile. U.S.
threats to sever economic and military aid were also used to help cultivate a
“coup climate” among those in the military. These two approaches represented the
hard and soft lines outlined by Nixon and HK.
How soft was soft?
Edward Korry, U.S. ambassador to Chile at the time, articulated the soft sell by
declaring that the U.S. task was “ to do all within our power to condemn Chile
and the Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty.” Korry warned, “not a nut or
bolt [will] be allowed to reach Chile under Allende.”
On the hard side, Dr.
Henry began securing support for a possible military coup.
“In 1970,” writes
historian Howard Zinn, “an ITT director, John McCone, who had also been head of
the CIA, told Kissinger and Helms that ITT was willing to give $1 million to
help the U.S. government in its plans to overthrow the Allende government.”
“The stage was set for
a clash of two experiments,” says Blum. Allende¹s socialism was pitted against
what was later called a “prototype or laboratory experiment to test the
techniques of heavy financial investment in an effort to discredit and bring
down a government.” This clash would reach its climax on Sept. 11, 1973.
experiment ended in violence on that day and Allende himself was said to have
committed suicide . . . with a machine gun. Of course, the U.S. claimed no
complicity in or even knowledge of the coup at the time. However, when the State
Department declassified 5000 documents in 1999, a different story was told.
For example, a CIA
document from the day before the coup stated bluntly, “The coup attempt will
begin September 11.” Ten days later, the Agency announced, “severe repression is
planned.” With thousands of opponents of the new regime gathered in soccer
stadiums, a Sept. 28 State Department document detailed a request from Chile¹s
new defense minister for Washington to send an expert advisor on detention
Allende was dead. In
his place, the people of Chile now faced brutal repression and human rights
violations, book burnings, dogs trained to sexually molest females, a powerful
secret police, and more than 3000 executions. Tens of thousands more were
tortured and/or disappeared. Shortly after the coup, U.S. economic and military
aid once again began to flow into Chile.
The man in charge of
all this was General Augusto Pinochet, a man Dr. Kissinger could really get
behind. “In the United States, as you know, we are sympathetic to what you are
trying to do,” HK told the Chilean dictator in 1975. “We wish your government
“My evaluation” he
continued to Pinochet, “is that you are the victim of all the left-wing groups
around the world and that your greatest sin was that you overthrew a government
that was going communist.” Later that same year, when facing a roomful of
Chilean diplomats concerned about the effect Pinochet¹s human rights violations
might have on world opinion, Henry was in top form:
Well, I read the
briefing paper for this meeting and it was nothing but human rights. The State
Department is made up of people who have a vocation for the ministry. Because
there were not enough churches for them, they went into the Department of State.
Was HK really that
concerned with the minor nationalization of industry proposed by Salvador
Allende or were other forces at work here?
Here¹s how the CIA saw
it three days after Allende won the election: “The U.S. has no vital national
interests within Chile. The world military balance of power would not be
significantly altered by an Allende government. [But] an Allende victory would
represent a definite psychological advantage for the Marxist idea.”
“Even Kissinger, mad as
he is, didn¹t believe that Chilean armies were going to descend on Rome,”
explains Chomsky. “It wasn¹t going to be that kind of an influence. He was
worried that successful economic development, where the economy produces
benefits for the general population‹not just profits for private
corporations‹would have a contagious effect. In those comments, Kissinger
revealed the basic story of U.S. foreign policy for decades.” Accordingly, in
1974, when the new U.S. ambassador to Chile, David Popper, complained about
Chile¹s human rights violations, Dr. Kissinger promptly sent these orders:
“Tell Popper to cut out
the political science lectures.”
Mickey Z. (Michael
Zezima) is the author of Saving Private Power: The Hidden History of “The Good
War” (Soft Skull Press) and a contributor to You Are Being Lied To
(Disinformation Books). He lives in New York City and can be reached at [email protected]