U.S. Darkness in Chile
When President Obama visits Chile next month, he is going to be hit with a request that is certain to make people in the Pentagon, the CIA, and the U.S. State Department uncomfortable. According to an article in today’s Washington Post, survivors of Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet’s reign of terror are going to request that Obama declassify hundreds of secret U.S. government documents relating to the 1973 military coup that led to the ouster of democratically elected socialist-communist President Salvador Allende and the subsequent U.S.-supported brutal military dictatorship of Pinochet.
Why does the U.S. government persist on keeping documents secret that relate to a foreign coup almost 40 years ago, one in which the U.S. government has consistently maintained it had nothing to do with?
Several possible reasons arise:
1. U.S. officials, especially those in the Pentagon and the CIA, might still feel a sense of loyalty to Pinochet’s memory and his henchmen. Don’t forget that before the Pentagon and the CIA were partnering with and supporting the tyrannical dictators of the Middle East, they were celebrating Pinochet’s assumption to power. In fact, long before the CIA entered into its rendition-torture agreements with dictatorial regimes like Syria and Egypt and its war-on-terrorism assassination program, the CIA was participating with Pinochet’s anti-communist group known as DINA, whose agents assassinated former Chilean official Orlando Letelier and his young American assistant Ronni Moffitt on the streets of Washington, D.C., under the same basic “national security” rationale as the U.S. government’s torture and assassination programs.
2. There is always the possibility that the documents might reflect that the U.S. government’s denial of participation in Pinochet’s coup has been a lie from the get-go. Let’s not forget that for some 25 years U.S. officials, including those in the CIA, knowingly and intentionally lied about participating in the murder of a young American journalist named Charles Horman during the coup. Many years after the killing and the false denials, the State Department released a document that reflected that the CIA had in fact participated in the murder of that young American.
Were the CIA agents involved in the killing brought to justice? Nope. Do we know their names? Nope. Do we know why they helped to murder Horman? Nope. Did Congress ever issue subpoenas to the CIA and conduct hearings into the killing? Nope. Did the Justice Department ever seek grand jury indictments of the killers? Nope. Did the U.S. government ever ask the Chilean government to prosecute the killers? Nope. Hey, this is the CIA we’re talking about!
Question: How is it possible that the U.S. government, including the CIA, was not involved in the Chilean coup if it was involved in the murder of an American journalist during the coup?
3. The documents might reveal U.S. participation in the arbitrary arrests, torture, rapes, and killings by Pinochet’s goons. More than 3,000 people were killed by the Pinochet military-police-intelligence machine, many after being tortured and raped, all of which Pinochet justified under such popular rationales for government wrongdoing as “national security” and “the communist threat.”
4. The declassification of the documents and their possible use by Chilean investigators and prosecutors might cause the American people to begin asking why their own government doesn’t prosecute its own officials for such crimes as torture, indefinite detention, rape, abuse, and extra-judicial execution. According to the Post’s article, more than 600 military officials and civilian collaborators have been tried by Chilean officials. That’s a precedent that surely sends shivers up the spines of U.S. military officials, CIA officials, and civilian collaborators who have committed the same types of crimes under the rubric of the popular mantras “national security” and “the war on terrorism.”
The Chilean people deserve credit for confronting the darkness of their past. Some years ago, they came to the realization that their nation could not genuinely move forward by sweeping the horrible crimes of the Pinochet regime under the rug. Too bad Americans aren’t there yet, which is why Obama will likely get away with refusing to grant the Chilean people’s request to open up all the U.S. government’s files relating to the Chilean darkness.
In part 1, I provided four possible reasons why President Obama is likely to refuse to open up U.S. files on the 1973 Pinochet coup, in response to a probable request from Chilean officials when Obama visits Chile next month.
There’s actually another possible reason: The files might reveal CIA complicity in the murder of former Chilean official Orlando Letelier and his 25-year-old American assistant Ronni Moffitt in 1976. Here are pictures of them in case you would like to see what they looked like: Letelier and Moffitt.
Letelier and Moffitt were killed on the streets of Washington, D.C., by a bomb that had been planted under Letelier’s car. The bomb exploded, killing Letelier and Moffitt and seriously injuring Moffitt’s husband. Here’s a picture of their bombed-out car.
The man who orchestrated the bombing was a CIA operative in Chile named Michael Townley. Of course, the CIA denies that Townley was working for the CIA when he set off the bomb that killed Letelier and Moffitt, but we can safely assume that the CIA would deny complicity in the murder even if it were true. After all, don’t forget that the CIA denied any role in the murder of young American journalist Charles Horman for some 25 years, when a released State Department document showed that the CIA had been lying the whole time and that it had in fact played a still-undefined role in Horman’s murder.
Townley was ultimately extradited from Chile to the United States to stand trial. Townley confessed that he orchestrated the bombing by hiring a group of anti-Castro Cuban immigrants living here in the United States. As part of what has to be one of the sweetest plea bargains for murder in history, he only had to spend a few years in jail. He also got immunity from further prosecution, which gave the feds an excuse not to send him to Argentina to stand trial for an assassination attempt on former Chilean General Carlos Prats and his wife and to Italy to stand trial for the murder attempt in Rome on another Chilean opponent of the Pinochet regime living in exile, a man named Bernard Leighton.
Best of all, as part of the plea bargain, Townley got released into the Federal Witness Protection Program, where the feds helped him to change his identity and live out his life in peace, bliss, and obscurity.
Hey, don’t ever say that the CIA doesn’t look after its own!
Could the CIA have been involved in the Letelier-Moffitt murder?
Townley was working for Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet’s secret paramilitary-intelligence force known as DINA, whose mission included international assassination of suspected communists who threatened “national security” when he orchestrated the murder of Letelier.
Sharing the same concerns about the “communist threat” to “national security,” the CIA worked closely with DINA. In fact, the head of DINA, the much feared Manuel Contreras, was also serving as a CIA contact within Chile. Owing to the Chilean people’s courage in facing their dark past under the Pinochet military dictatorship, Contreras is now serving a sentence of 289 years in jail.
Letelier had served as ambassador to the United States under the Salvador Allende regime, a democratically elected communist-socialist regime that Pinochet had ousted with his military coup. Before Allende was elected, the CIA was doing everything it could to prevent him from coming to power. After he was elected, the CIA was doing everything it could to destabilize Chile in the hopes of removing him from power.
After the coup, Pinochet’s military goons took Letelier into custody and incarcerated him for about year, during which time they brutally tortured him. He was eventually released, and he came to Washington to lobby for the return of democracy to his country. Needless to say, Pinochet and DINA considered him a threat to “national security” that needed to be eliminated. Townley was assigned the task of assassinating Letelier.
Of course, simply because Townley was a CIA liaison to DINA, and simply because the CIA supported the Pinochet coup, and simply because the head of DINA was a CIA point man, and simply because the CIA shared DINA’s concerns about threats to “national security” from communists, and simply because the CIA participated in the murder of a young American journalist during the coup despite 25 years of false denials, and simply because Townley got a sweetheart deal in his criminal case, and simply because the CIA is currently engaged in the same type of international assassination program in which DINA was involved during the Letelier-Moffit murder, doesn’t automatically mean that the CIA was involved in the cold-blooded murder of an innocent Chilean man and an innocent young American woman on the streets of Washington, D.C.
But if the CIA was involved in the Letelier-Moffitt murder, one could easily understand why it might put a bit of quiet pressure on President Obama to continue keeping its files on the Pinochet coup under wraps despite the passage of some 40 years.
© Copyright 2011 by Ephemeris 360°.org
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