Thanks to information made available in documents declassified in 1999, we can coherently discuss the September 11, 1973 coup in Chile-an event cloaked in secrecy and obscured by Cold War paranoia. But those roughly 5000 documents don't begin to explain how the toppling of Salvador Allende fits within the context of today's foreign entanglements. After all, what the U.S. did by replacing Allende with General Augusto Pinochet 31 years ago would today be termed a "regime change" (As Henry Kissinger explained at the time: "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people").
Ten days after the Allende government was overthrown, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jack Kubisch told the House Subcommittee on Inter-American Affairs: "Gentlemen, I wish to state as flatly and as categorically as I possibly can that we did not have advance knowledge of the coup." The documents declassified in 1999, of course, told a vastly different story which makes me wonder what might happen if Allende were elected in 2006? Would Bush and Rumsfeld follow the same clandestine path Kissinger and Nixon opted for in 1973 or would the U.S. government be tad more forthcoming about their plans?
Based on their public posturing and subsequent actions vis-├-vis Iraq, one might safely assume that the Bush administration (or for that matter, a Democratic administration) would declare Chile a clear and present danger, impose brutal sanctions, and then pronounce the need for regime change in the name of freedom and democracy. Next would come the brazen threats to "shock and awe" Santiago with 3000 cruise missiles in the first two or three days of the "liberation". With or without the approval of the UN, Operation Chile Out would commence.
In other words, there would be little or no need for the curious to wait 25 years for documents to be declassified. Today's architects of war-from both parties-would merely rely on the seductive power of spin to paint Allende as the "next Stalin," Pinochet would hire a PR firm, CNN would design a nifty "Showdown with Salvador" logo, and reading books by Isabel Allende in the airport would be reason for a bag search.
As sentiments sizzle, you never know: a new moniker might even be needed for The Red Hot Chili Peppers and cartoon character Chilly Willy would become "Free Willy" and enjoy a unexpected career resurgence.
Rightfully, there is much hand wringing today when looking back at U.S. involvement in the 1973 coup in Chile. In 33 years, will others be equally persistent in attempting to comprehend how this generation tolerated-and perhaps offered tacit support for-a culture that made the Freedom of Information Act superfluous?
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.