December 10, 2006 former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet dies. Pinochet came to power in 1973 through a CIA coup, overthrowing the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. Pinochet suspended the constitution and eliminated political opponents and dissidents to the tune of 30,000 during the 1970s. Pinochet also eliminated elections thus staying in power until the 1990s when he was unable to rule. All throughout his reign of terror, Pinochet was supported by US policy makers and in 1974 President Ford said that what the US had done in Chile was “in the best interest of the people in Chile and certainly in our best interest.” (Killing Hope, Blum 2004)
Now this is not exactly how the obituary for Augusto Pinochet ran in US media. There was some acknowledgement of his human rights violations — WZZM 13 reported “a few dozen” human rights violations. The obituary that ran in the Grand Rapids Press referred to Pinochet as a “controversial figure” and didn’t even mention the US role in the 1973 coup or the decades long support for Pinochet from Washington.
Former Chilean political prisoner under the Pinochet regime Fernando Torres in response to Pinochet’s death wrote an open letter to Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State in 1973, who was the main force behind the CIA coup to put Pinochet in power: “I do remember your reprimand to Chileans when they elected socialist Salvador Allende in 1970: “We cannot allow a country to go Marxist just because its people are irresponsible”
“Although we were used to this kind of rhetoric coming out from the White House those years, we couldn’t imagine that those opprobrious words of yours would eventually seal the future of Chile in one of the most horrendous episodes in Latin America’s history. Yes, I can say we underestimated you sir.
Mr. Kissinger, I was not an “irresponsible” Chilean because I was a 14 year old kid that couldn’t vote, but I did have to fully pay the heavy and bloody price of your words, sir. However thinking about your role not only in Chile but in Indochina, East Timor, Cyprus, your betrayal of the Kurds in Iraq, your unconditional support of South Africa’s Apartheid, etc. etc., I can say something you cannot: my hands are clean.”
Shill for the rich, Milton Friedman died on November 16, 2006. Friedman, who behind what is referred to as the Chicago school of economic thinking, was responsible for a great deal of the erosion of the government limitations on corporations that were put in place in the early part of the 20th century. Friedman, was a prostitute for corporate America and pimped the policy of “deregulation” as a means to restore the robber baron status of corporations. Friedman advocated no taxes for corporations, the end of social security, the end of minimum wage laws, the elimination of public education, and no more government assistance for disaster relief… just to name a few.
Business Week referred to Friedman as “a Giant” and most other obituaries had bestowed upon him sainthood. Friedman mentored hundreds of economists who were often referred to as the “Chicago Boys,” but acted more like shock troops for neo-liberal economic policies that have killed more people from poverty than Pinochet’s death squads. In fact, Friedman himself was in Chile in 1975 to provide counsel on economic policy for this “model country.” According to author Greg Grandin, Friedman defended his relationship with Pinochet by saying that if Allende had been allowed to remain in office Chileans would have suffered “the elimination of thousands and perhaps mass starvation… torture and unjust imprisonment.” Ironically, this is exactly what happened to the people of Chile under the brutality of Pinochet’s military repression and Friedman’s economic policies.
How is it that in a country that claims to have a free press that the media system continues to present only the “official” government version of history or current events? This is an important question, because the government doesn’t own the media in this country, nor do they threaten the press with consequences if they don’t print the “official” position. Here the Press has itself internalized the values of the system and this is a direct result of newsrooms being driven by stock market instead of democracy.
I mention all this, not only to prevent history from being determined by the rich and powerful, but because the same “official” reporting happens with current events. Take the case of the outgoing Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld and the incoming war chief, Robert Gates.
Upon the announcement of his resignation Bush said of Rumsfeld “History will record on Donald Rumsfeld’s watch that the men and women of our military overthrew two terrorist regimes and liberated some 50 million people.” So what was the response from US journalists to this claim??? Not a damn thing. If reporters at this Press conference had any independent thoughts in their brains they would have fallen over because they were laughing so hard at the absurdity of such a claim. Instead they reported this with straight faces.
In early December, Robert Gates was approved by the US Senate with a 94 – 2 vote, with the 2 dissenting votes coming from Republicans. Gates, the CIA director during Bush Sr.’s presidency, played a critical role in the Iran-Contra scandal, one of the worst cases of government abuse of power in recent decades. Did that issue get revisited during Gates’ nomination process? Nope, nada, zilch. Both the government and the news media decided not to go there and Gates was, in the words of former CIA official Ray McGovern (who spoke in GR in May), “given a free pass.”
The moral of the story — those who forget the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them in the future. Let’s make no mistake about what’s at stake here. Mistakes in the case of Pinochet, Friedman, Rumsfeld or Gates, means that lots of innocent people are going to die. I don’t want that to happen… do you?