Monday, January 01, 2007
REMEMBERING THE GENERAL Part I: Overview James S. Henry
I was born a Chilean, I am a Chilean,
I will die a Chilean.
They, the fascists, were born traitors,
live as traitors, and will be remembered forever as fascist traitors.
-- Orlando Letelier, 1932-76
Both Chile's General Augusto Pinochet and Saddam Hussein, two formerly US-backed dictators, have at last had to confront Higher Authorities that they were unable to intimidate, compromise, or evade.
However, unlike Saddam, who was hanged in the middle of a night on December 30, 2006, by a nervous Iraqi Government tribunal, Pinochet managed to escape human justice for his crimes, and died of natural causes at the age of 91.
How does the General deserve to be remembered? Did he not richly deserve the same fate as Saddam? And how did he manage to avoid it?
Was he simply a ruthless, corrupt right-wing tyrant, the puppet of foreign interests and their handmaidens, like ITT, Nixon, Kissinger, the CIA, George H.W. Bush, Margaret Thatcher, and Reagan?
If perhaps not exactly the world's staunchest defender of political liberalism, was he at least -- as Thatcher, some neoliberal economists, The Wall Street Journal, and even supposedly "liberal" newspapers like The Washington Post now maintain -- a staunch defender of "free markets" who deserves much of the credit for Chile's economic performance since the 1970s?
As we'll see, most conventional portraits of General Pinochet are flat-out wrong, not only with respect to his alleged role in combating Soviet expansionism, but also with respect to his regime's alleged beneficial influence on Chile's economy.
First, Pinochet was at best only a non-essential bit player in the anti-Soviet struggle. Allende's broad-based social democratic "revolution" was never taken seriously by Moscow or Havana. Nor was it strong enough to mount a Cuban-style revolution, or even to precipitate a civil war. Left to its own devices, Allende's "leftish" alliance would probably have burned itself out by the next election or plebiscite in 1974.
Furthermore, even if Chile's leftists had somehow managed to create a "Soviet Republic of Patagonia," tiny Chile was already completely surrounded by other countries that had much greater strategic importance to the West.
By 1973, they either already had their own right-wing dictatorships (Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia), or were well on the way (Argentina and Uruguay).
In short, killing off Chile's long-standing democracy was gratuitous -- the political equivalent of exaggeratinging Iraq's "slam dunk" WMD threat.
All the repression was for nothing.
Indeed, one key reason why Chile's so-called "economic miracle" has proved to be so successful in the long run -- with great help from human capital finally brought back home by many well-educated returning "Leftists" who were driven out of country in 1973-90 -- was precisely because Pinochet's first decade of experiments with "Los Chicago economics" proved to be so disastrous. Giving Pinochet credit for the subsequent corrective reforms is like crediting Leonid Brezhnev with last decade's revival of economic growth in Eastern Europe.
(For more details, see Parts II and III...)