Election '08: Remembering Kissinger and the Original September 11th

BY MARC COOPER

I'll leave the exploitation of 9/11 to the professional pols. The date -- and its surrounding commemoration -- has become about as meaningless as Thanksgiving, except you don't get a day off from school or work.

We all know we are not an iota safer than we were seven years ago. Quite to the contrary. Our global position continues to degrade and everyday we remain as an occupier in an Arab nation we merely generate that many more determined enemies. The degradation of our economy is also a threat to our national security. Ditto the irrational stretch of our military. Equally diseased: our respect for our own constitution and for the humanitarian values we like to think are embodied in the American ideal.

As many of you know, I prefer to remember the original September 11th. The CIA-backed Chilean coup of 35 years ago that installed one of the most barbaric military dictatorships of modern times and that I was fortunate enough to survive. You can lay a great measure of the responsibility for that dictatorship at the well-heeled feet of Henry A. Kissinger. Who, unfortunately, still walks among us impugn.

Almost totally un-remarked by a media that prefers pigs-with-lipstick stories, a new set of telephone transcripts of some of Kissinger's calls at the time have just been declassified and released to the public. My good bud, Peter Kornbluh, who works at the National Security Archive works full time assembling and analyzing these sort of documents. He has a new story out detailing --as never before-- the depth of Kissinger's involvement in that bloody, butcherous coup of 1973.

Peter takes us back to September 12, 1970, barely a week after Salvador Allende's election to the presidency of Chile. There would still be two more months before his inauguration. But the Republican administration -- you know the same party that now claims to be spending our $500 billion a year to bring democracy to Iraq-- immediately began plotting to subvert the outcome of totally democratic elections in Chile:

At noon on that day, Kissinger called Helms to schedule an urgent meeting of the "40 Committee"--an elite group that oversaw covert operations. And approximately 35 minutes later, in the middle of briefing Nixon on a major terrorist hijacking/hostage crisis in Amman, Jordan, Kissinger is recorded as telling the President: "The big problem today is Chile."

The transcript of their conversation, kept secret for 35 years, reveals just how focused the U.S. president became on overseeing the effort to block Allende. In that call, Nixon demanded to see all instructions being sent to U.S. ambassador Edward Korry in Santiago; indeed, he ordered that the State Department be alerted that "I want to see all cables to Chile."

"I want an appraisal of what the options are," Nixon told Kissinger. When Kissinger told him that the State Department's position was to "let Allende come in and see what we can work out," Nixon immediately vetoed the idea: "Like against Castro? Like in Czechoslovakia? The same people said the same thing. Don't let them do that."

But Nixon cautioned: "We don't want a big story leaking out that we are trying to overthrow the Govt."

Secretary of State William Rogers, who Nixon and Kissinger largely excluded from deliberations over Chile, was similarly sensitive to such a story leaking out. Indeed, the transcript of his conversation with Kissinger two days later underscored just how concerned the State Department was to the possibility that Washington might get caught trying to undermine Chile's electoral democracy. In their September 14th discussion, Rogers accurately predicted that "no matter what we do it will probably end up dismal." He also cautioned Kissinger to cover up any paper trail on U.S. operations "to be sure the paper record doesn't look bad."

"My feeling--and I think it coincides with the President's--is that we ought to encourage a different result from the [censored reference]," Rogers conceded to Kissinger, "but should do so discretely so that it doesn't backfire." Their conversation continues:

Kissinger: The only question is how one defines 'backfire.'

Rogers: Getting caught doing something. After all we've said about elections, if the first time a Communist wins the U.S. tries to prevent the constitutional process from coming into play we will look very bad.

Kissinger: the President's view is to do the maximum possible to prevent an Allende takeover, but through Chilean sources and with a low posture."

The next day, during a 15 minute meeting at the White House attended by Kissinger, Nixon instructed CIA director Helms that Allende's election was "not acceptable" and ordered the agency to "make the economy scream" and "save Chile," as Helms recorded in his notes. The CIA launched a massive set of covert operations--first to block Allende's inauguration, and, when that failed, to undermine his ability to successfully govern.

The rest is history.

To see the results of the Nixon-Kissinger-GOP formula for democracy, see the photo at http://marccooper.com. My office was just inside the main doors in the middle and down the right-hand aisle.


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