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It's time again to recall the 'Other 9-11', the one in Chili in 1973

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

As the twelfth anniversary of September 11, 2001 approaches, we will remember with sadness what happened in the USA on that date. We will ask ourselves: "how could anyone hate us that much?"

Perhaps a place to begin that discussion is remembering that this September 11 is also the fortieth anniversary of "The Other 9-11" an act of terror what began on Tuesday, September 11, 1973 in Chile — terror for which the United States bears a great deal of responsibility. Many Americans do not remember this event and I have been criticized by writers to The Sun for bringing it up in the past.

But, I just returned from my sixth long-term visit to that beautiful and charming South American country. I remember Chile and will never stop remembering her. And, I have promised Chilean friends, some of whom were victims, that I will never allow my country to forget the "Other 9-11."

On that date, the Chilean military, with the support and involvement of the U.S.A., overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, a socialist considered a threat to U.S. corporate interests. Since the 1950s, the U.S. had poured millions into trying to prevent Allende's election. When he finally got elected in 1970, the U.S. tried to keep him from taking office. When he took office anyway, millions more were funneled through the C.I.A. to, in Nixon's words, "make the economy scream." The U.S. pressured other countries not to buy Chilean copper and for a cut–off of credit to Chile. Most aid was cut off but military aid continued to court the Chilean military.

Our dollars funded campaigns of violence and sabotage to destabilize the Allende government which nevertheless remained popular with the majority of Chileans. Allende himself rejected any violent or undemocratic means of reform and scheduled a referendum for mid-September, 1973 to let the Chilean people themselves decide if they wanted him to continue in office. Most historians think he would have probably won. The Chilean armed forces, and the U.S., would not take the chance that he would have won the referendum and therefore they staged a bloody coup on Tuesday, September 11 of that year.

The coup led to a 17 year military dictatorship. The leader of the military junta, General Augusto Pinochet (whose role model was Spain's Francisco Franco), claimed he was fighting "terrorism." In addition to the thousands killed, close to a million Chileans left their country for exile, including some of Chile's best artists, musicians, and academics. Of those killed were two American citizens, Frank Teruggi and Charles Horman. At best, they were not given lawful protection by the U.S. Consulate. At worst, U.S. diplomatic and military personal played a role in their deaths.

Over 100,000 were detained, some for months in concentration camps. At least 90 percent of those arrested were brutally tortured. I have debated whether the details of these tortures are appropriate for the pages of this newspaper. Some Chileans were brutally beaten. Others were burned with cigarettes. Some were submersed in human excrement. Both women and men were violated sexually.

Women and men had rats put in their bodies. Dogs were trained to rape. People were tortured in front of family. People were subjected to mock executions and variations on "waterboarding" were used by the Chileans. Many Latin-American torturers had been trained by the USA.
One of the worst tortures was the "barbeque grill" where men and women were chained naked to metal bed frames and had electrodes applied to their private parts and other sensitive parts of their bodies. This summer, I visited the new Human Rights Museum in Santiago and among the exhibits was the equipment used for this torture which bore the name of the manufacturer of the parts: General Electric.

Apologizing for a wrong done is not a sign of weakness but rather of strength. Perhaps this September 11 would be an appropriate time for the USA to formally apologize to the people of Chile for the role our country played in those horrors. Perhaps this September 11, our president or secretary of state could tenure that formal apology to the Chilean Ambassador in Washington?

E. Scott Cracraft