Monday, December 11, 2006

Pinochet, Thatcher, Kirkpatrick and Galtieri

Pinochet, Thatcher, Kirkpatrick and Galtieri in perspective

Augusto Pinochet was evil and few will mourn his passing, although there is room to mourn that he spent his declining years outside a prison cell. Even his former supporters were disappointed when they discovered that he had been dipping the till. There was nothing pure about this evil! No one who watched what Margaret Thatcher did to Britain in the eighties will be too surprised that both she and the Murdoch press are the only ones with tears to spare, in public at least. Thatcher reputedly suffers from Alzheimer's, and so she has an excuse, but one feels that she would have said the same with her full faculties.
See Marc Cooper for more details from someone who knew Pinochet's victim Allende well.

In fact, it is to the credit of the often-disparaged Labour government of Harold Wilson that they offered asylum to many Chileans fleeing Pinochet's Kissinger-backed civilization effort. I had one staying with me in Liverpool, traumatized by the torture he had undergone.

But ever since, the disparity of treatment between Chile and Argentina has intrigued me. While the Argentinian military did nothing so spectacularly thuggish as bombing the presidential palace and killing the president, according to Human Rights groups, they ended up killing ten times as many Argentineans as the Chilean Junta killed Chileans, and often in gruesomely imaginative ways that betoken seriously twisted minds.

Yet, as I remember, Chile was the cause celebre for the decade, and Argentina was an afterthought.

I cannot help suspecting that it was to do with international relations. While the Chilean Junta was fervently anti-communist, the Argentinians happily carried on trade relations with the Soviet Union, selling wheat, for example. Was the disparity in publicity as demonstration of the power of the Soviet led communist parties in the world's left? I really cannot think of any other explanation.

Margaret Thatcher's affection for Pinochet is, of course, also based on personal gratitude for his regime's covert help against Argentina during the Falklands War. Certainly, Mrs. T showed no signs of disaffection with Galtieri's regime before the Argentinian invasion, and the Junta could be forgiven for mistaking the signals London was sending, that it really did not care too much. Thatcher was running down the British presence in the South Atlantic, and indeed the Navy. If Galtieri had had any sense, and was really worried about liberating the islands, all he had to do was to wait a few years and her penny-pinching policies would have handed them to him on plate. Jeane Kirkpatrick, who beat her protégé Pinochet to the pearly gates by a few days, was deeply reluctant to back even Thatcher against Galtieri, and Reagan had to order her to back Britain in the UN Security Council. You may remember Kirkpatrick distinguished between "authoritarian" regimes, which imprisoned, killed and tortured people, and totalitarian regimes, which did the same, but disagreed with her.

Sadly, in the trade off from Galtieri's stupidity, Britain lost and Argentina won. The Junta fell and Thatcher was re-elected despite her disastrous economic and industrial policies. Her spectacular success was then to rebuild the British economy back to where it was when she took over, for which economic pundits with short term memories applauded her.

But then, amnesia is such a general phenomenon nowadays. How many of us think back to the descriptions of life and painful death in the Argentinean and Chilean generals, and see the repressive technology of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. People kidnapped, "rendered," shackled, hooded, and tortured. Can it just be a coincidence that the same people in Washington who applauded Pinochet are now implementing his policies and practices on a global scale?


Anonymous said...

Great post, thanks. Don't know if you've seen these two short videos from Iraq yet or not, but both show the US Military engaging in some very dubious actions. I have them up on my site at ..You have to wonder what these soldiers were thinking when videotaping this stuff...

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