MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
New revelations about the Chilean military overthrow of the popularly elected Salvador Allende regime in 1973 once again confirm that the US is supportive of democracies that enhance US economic interests, but it is the enemy of those that don't.
According to a May 23 article on the History News Network website:
Covert U.S. planning to block the democratic election of Salvador Allende in Chile began weeks before his September 4, 1970, victory, according to just declassified minutes of an August 19, 1970, meeting of the high-level interagency committee known as the Special Review Group, chaired by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. "Kissinger asked that the plan be as precise as possible and include what orders would be given September 5, to whom, and in what way," as the summary recorded Kissinger's instructions to CIA Director Richard Helms. "Kissinger said we should present to the President an action plan to prevent [the Chilean Congress from ratifying] an Allende victory and noted that the President may decide to move even if we do not recommend it."
The document is one of a compendium of some 366 records released by the State Department as part of its Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series. The much-delayed collection, titled "Chile: 1969-1973," addresses Richard Nixon's and Kissinger's efforts to destabilize the democratically elected Socialist government of Salvador Allende, and the U.S.-supported coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973.
The placement of Pinochet in power led to a brutal reign that resulted in the imprisonment, torture and murder of thousands of Chilean citizens considered Allende supporters.
In addition, Henry Kissinger (in his roles as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State) oversaw US support for the heinous and barbaric Operation Condor. This was a US-approved (although Kissinger denies it, of course) backing of military governments in the Southern Cone nations in South America. The result was a murderous purge of anyone suspected of sympathizing with alternative economic systems to capitalism or even of populist governments that were run by the non-ruling elite.
In Argentina, the unimaginable horrors included torturing pregnant women until they gave birth. After a woman delivered, she was killed and her child given up for adoption to a military family. Argentina also flew regular flights over the the Rio de la Plata during which suspected "subversives" were bound, drugged and then dropped from a high altitude into the water below.
Many families in Chile still do not know the fate of the "disappeared ones," who were often taken from their homes at night and never heard from again. Estimates of persons tortured and executed during Operation Condor in the Southern Cone countries range up to 50,000 (a firm figure is not available due to the covert nature of the atrocities).
This is only a sampling of the horror that the US unleashed in aiding the suppression of populist democracies in South America in the '70s.
However, South America at that time was just a representative example of how the US has historically treated democracies that choose to follow a different economic path than unfettered capitalism - or that get in the way of the US need for natural resources. (Remember that the US consumes 25% of the world's resources, but only has 4% of the planet's population.) That is why it was a US CIA operative who led the overthrow of the democratically-elected pro-Western government of Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, replacing him with the notorious Shah and his secret service of barbarity, SAVAK.
What was Mossadegh's transgression in the eyes of the US? He oversaw the nationalization of the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now British Petroleum, in essence) fields in Iran. Even though he was secular, the UK successfully appealed to the CIA for assistance. Eisenhower approved the coup with the Shah being flown in to assume power and reverse the nationalization of the oil concession.
The blowback to this suppression of a moderate democratic government in Iran in 1953 was the emergence of the anti-US Islamic Republic in 1979.
Iran was also only one case study of the US empire assisting in the overthrow of democracies and suppressing populist movements (think of the military and paramilitary massacres that the US supported in Central America during the Reagan years). Although today's neocons might argue that such actions were and are necessary to protect the US from hostile democratically-elected governments that might pose a threat to our national security, one can also propose that the real issue here is ensuring that alternative models to Milton Friedman hyper-capitalism economics are not allowed to prosper.
In his historically insightful book on two brothers who were pivotal in molding American foreign policy since World War II (John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under Eisenhower and Allen Dulles, director of the CIA under Eisenhower), Stephen Kinzer writes in Brothers that one of their key tenets was "the presumption that protecting the right of large American corporations to operate freely in the world is good for everyone."
That presumption pretty much explains an essential component of US actions against populist movements and democracies with alternative-economic models (or ones that nationalize the ownership of their own natural resources).
Better a military dictatorship - or a neoliberal government that backs paramilitary forces that crack down on threats to corporate profits such as trade unionism, as is occurring now in Colombia through the assassination of union activists - than a popularly-elected democracy that seeks to craft its own economic destiny.
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