Nothing But Human Rights
by Mickey Z.
August 16, 2001
[NB: This article was written just before September 11, 2001.]
As journalist William Blum notes, there’s one thing the United States
hates more than a Marxist in power, and that’s a democratically elected
Marxist in power. A prime example was Salvador Allende of Chile.
September 4 marks 31 years since his election. September 11 marks 28
years since his death in a U.S.-sponsored coup.
“I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go
communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.”
—Henry Kissinger, June 27, 1970
Salvador Allende, a physician by trade, first gained worldwide attention
when he came within three percent of winning Chile’s 1958 presidential
election. Six years later, the United States decided to no longer leave
such elections to chance. It was time to introduce the Chilean people to
The U.S. government, mostly through the covert efforts of the Central
Intelligence Agency, spent more money per capita to support Allende’s
opponent, Eduardo Frei, than Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater combined
to spend that same year in the American presidential election.
With an estimated $20 million of U.S. taxpayer money to work with, the
CIA embarked on a program of anti-communist propaganda and
disinformation designed to scare Chilean citizens — specifically
mothers — into believing that an Allende victory would result in direct
Russian control of their country and their lives. “No religious activity
would be possible,” they were told. Their children, hammer and sickle
stamped on their foreheads, would be shipped to the USSR to be used as
slaves, the radio and newspapers direly warned.
The scare tactics worked. While Allende won the male vote by a small
margin, 469,000 more Chilean women chose Frei. Cleverly manipulated to
fear the “blood and pain” of “godless, atheist communism,” the mothers
of Chile voted against the man who promised to “redistribute income and
reshape the … economy” through the nationalization of some major
industries, like copper mining, and the expansion of agrarian reform. A
far cry from Leninism, Allende’s policy of “eurocommunism,”
i.e., communists linking with social democratic parties into a united front,
was for the most part, as unacceptable to the Kremlin as it was to the
When the 1970 Chilean presidential election rolled around, Allende was
still a major player. However, he had a new and powerful enemy: Dr.
Despite another wave of U.S.-funded propaganda, Salvador Allende was
elected president of South America’s longest functioning democracy on
Sept. 4, 1970. Henry Kissinger (HK) and his cohorts had to act. The
40 Committee was formed with HK as chair. The goal was not only to save
Chile from its irresponsible populace but to yet again stave off the red
“Chile is a fairly big place, with a lot of natural resources,” says
Noam Chomsky, “but the United States wasn’t going to collapse if Chile
became independent. Why were we so concerned about it? According to
Kissinger, Chile was a ‘virus’ that would ‘infect’ the region with
effects all the way to Italy.”
At a Sept. 15 meeting called to halt the spread of infection, Kissinger
and President Nixon told CIA Director Richard Helms it would be
necessary to “make the [Chilean] economy scream.” While allocating at
least $10 million to assist in sabotaging Allende’s presidency, outright
assassination was also considered a serious and welcome option.
The respect held by the Chilean military for the democratic process led
Kissinger to pick as his first assassination target not Allende himself,
but General Rene Schneider, head of the Chilean Armed Forces. Schneider,
it seems, had long believed that politics and the military should remain
discrete. Despite warnings from Helms that a coup might not be possible
in such a stable democracy, HK urged the plan to proceed.
“Kissinger had direct personal knowledge of the CIA’s plan to kidnap and
murder Schneider,” declares journalist Christopher Hitchens. “The is one
of the relatively few times when Mr. Kissinger involved himself in the
assassination of a single named individual rather than the slaughter of
When the killing of Schneider only served to solidify Allende’s support,
a CIA-sponsored media blitz similar to that of 1964 commenced. Citizens
were faced with daily “reports” of Marxist atrocities and Soviet bases
supposedly being built in Chile. U.S. threats to sever economic and
military aid were also used to help cultivate a “coup climate” among
those in the military. These two approaches represented the hard and
soft lines outlined by Nixon and HK.
How soft was soft? Edward Korry, U.S. ambassador to Chile at the time,
articulated the soft sell by declaring that the U.S. task was “to do
all within our power to condemn Chile and the Chileans to utmost
deprivation and poverty.” Korry warned, “not a nut or bolt [will] be
allowed to reach Chile under Allende.”
On the hard side, Dr. Henry began securing support for a possible
“In 1970,” writes historian Howard Zinn, “an ITT director, John McCone,
who had also been head of the CIA, told Kissinger and Helms that ITT was
willing to give $1 million to help the U.S. government in its plans to
overthrow the Allende government.”
“The stage was set for a clash of two experiments,” says Blum. Allende’s
socialism was pitted against what was later called a “prototype or
laboratory experiment to test the techniques of heavy financial
investment in an effort to discredit and bring down a government.” This
clash would reach its climax on Sept. 11, 1973.
The socialist experiment ended in violence on that day and Allende
himself was said to have committed suicide … with a machine gun. Of
course, the U.S. claimed no complicity in or even knowledge of the coup
at the time. However, when the State Department declassified 5000
documents in 1999, a different story was told.
For example, a CIA document from the day before the coup stated bluntly,
“The coup attempt will begin September 11.” Ten days later, the Agency
announced, “severe repression is planned.” With thousands of opponents
of the new regime gathered in soccer stadiums, a Sept. 28 State
Department document detailed a request from Chile’s new defense minister
for Washington to send an expert advisor on detention centers.
Allende was dead. In his place, the people of Chile now faced brutal
repression and human rights violations, book burnings, dogs trained to
sexually molest females, a powerful secret police, and more than 3000
executions. Tens of thousands more were tortured and/or disappeared.
Shortly after the coup, U.S. economic and military aid once again began
to flow into Chile.
The man in charge of all this was General Augusto Pinochet, a man Dr.
Kissinger could really get behind. “In the United States, as you know,
we are sympathetic to what you are trying to do,” HK told the Chilean
dictator in 1975. “We wish your government well.
“My evaluation,” he continued to Pinochet, “is that you are the victim of
all the left-wing groups around the world and that your greatest sin was
that you overthrew a government that was going communist.”
Later that same year, when facing a roomful of Chilean diplomats
concerned about the effect Pinochet’s human rights violations might have
on world opinion, Henry was in top form:
“Well, I read the briefing paper for this meeting and it was nothing but
human rights. The State Department is made up of people who have a
vocation for the ministry. Because there were not enough churches for
them, they went into the Department of State.”
Was HK really that concerned with the minor nationalization of industry
proposed by Salvador Allende or were other forces at work here?
Here’s how the CIA saw it three days after Allende won the election:
“The U.S. has no vital national interests within Chile. The world
military balance of power would not be significantly altered by an
Allende government. [But] an Allende victory would represent a definite
psychological advantage for the Marxist idea.”
“Even Kissinger, mad as he is, didn’t believe that Chilean armies were
going to descend on Rome,” explains Chomsky. “It wasn’t going to be that
kind of an influence. He was worried that successful economic
development, where the economy produces benefits for the general
population — not just profits for private corporations — would have a
contagious effect. In those comments, Kissinger revealed the basic story
of U.S. foreign policy for decades.”
Accordingly, in 1974, when the new U.S. ambassador to Chile, David
Popper, complained about Chile’s human rights violations, Dr. Kissinger
promptly sent these orders:
“Tell Popper to cut out the political science lectures.”
Mickey Z. (Michael Zezima) is the author of Saving Private Power: The
Hidden History of “The Good War” (Soft Skull Press) and
a contributor to You Are Being Lied To (Disinformation Books). He
lives in New York City.