"On September 16 1970 CIA Director Richard Helms informed a group of senior agency officers that on September 15 President Nixon had decided that an Allende regime was not acceptable to the United States. The President asked the Agency to prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him and authorized up to 10 million US for that purpose. A special task force was established to carry out this mandate and preliminary plans were discussed with Dr Kissinger on 18 September 1970"Last week I watched Costas Gavras's masterpiece Missing about the 1973 disappearance and murder of American journalist Charles Horman in Chile following the coup that led to the assassination and overthrow of Salvador Allende, the democratically elected President of Chile by General Pinochet and his right wing military forces. Gavras's film suggests that Charles Horman was murdered because he know too much about US involvement in the coup.
CIA internal memo cited in Dinges, The Condor Years, pp 19
"It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup. It would be much preferable to have this transpire prior to 24 October but efforts in this regard will continue vigorously beyond this date. We are to continue to generate maximum pressure toward this end, utilizing every appropriate resource. It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG and American hand be well hidden..." communique to the CIA base in Chile, issued on October 16, 1970.
Gavras's film is a fine political thriller that explores the attempt by Ed Horman (Charles Horman's father played by Jack Lemmon) and his son's wife Joyce Horman (played by Sissy Spacek) to find out the truth about the disappearance of his son . Joyce and Ed Horman spent decades trying to find out what happened to Charles and what role the US Government played in his death. There has never been an investigation by the US government into Horman's death.
After watching Gavras's movie I read Henry Kissinger's recent comment that he had nothing to do with the overthrow of the Allende Government. Kissinger claimed that he was too busy to be involved in such an event. But Kissinger was intimately involved as described here
Kissinger made the murder of Chilean socialist Salvador Allende his pet project. He was chairman of the Forty Committee, a CIA working group whose task was to cause chaos inside the country which would lead to a military coup. “The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves,” quipped Henry. “l don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.” Nixon and Kissinger made sure the Chilean fascist organization Patria y Libertad received training in guerrilla warfare and bombing.Kissinger and Nixon and their corporate collaborators succeeded. They got Pinochet into power and his first act was to order a nationwide roundup of tens of thousands of leftists and supporters of the Allende regime. Thousands were tortured in prison. Many were never seen again. One of those was Charles Horman. What we now know is that the United States government undertook a covert campaign to block the democratic election of President Salvador Allende. When Allende was elected by the Chilean people it undertook a successful campaign to remove Allende from office in 1973. It did so with the encouragement and support of major US corporations with business interests in Chile.
Books such as as Stephen Kinzer's Overthrow, William Blum's Rogue State, Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes and Chalmers Johnson's Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic show that the US government was actively involved in manipulating election results in Chile for over 10 years before the overthrow of Allende. The U.S. government and the CIA, with funding provided by large corporations with business interests in Chile, had used clandestine activity to manipulate, undermine and eventually overthrow a 40 year long democracy and sponsor violence against the populace. It was was one of the most blatant examples of foreign election manipulation perpetuated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Nixon-Kissinger Administration.
The work of John Perkins in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and The Secret History of the American Empire and Stephen Hiatt in A Game as Old as Empire shows the extent to which American corporations and financial institutions were central players in the overthrow of elected governments and the sponsorship of state violence and terrorism throughout Latin America and the world.
John Dinges's book The Condor Years takes us further into US involvement in Latin America. Operation Condor was a military alliance between General Pinochet and right wing governments in Latin America, who with covert American support, organized kidnappings, torture and political assassinations of their political opponents and leftist dissidents. As Dinges shows it was Pinochet and his allies, who with American support, bought terrorism to Central and Latin America and to the USA.
Alongside Dinges book and Gavras's film Greg Grandin's book Empire's Workshop shows how the USA used Chile and other Latin American countries as a"laboratory"for extending US hegemony through the support of right wing regimes, the sponsorship of coups to overthrow democratically elected governments, propping up dictators, sponsoring death squads and supporting paramilitary insurgencies.
An then there is Naomi Klein's fine book The Shock Doctrine which shows how the Pinochet regime and their American economic advisers (including Milton Friedman) used the coup to advance and test the neoliberal policies and free market fundamentalism that have come to dominate economic and public policy around the world for the last 25 years.
Gavras's film, like the books mentioned below, are a critical part of the struggle to tell the secret history of US imperialism in Latin America, a history that continues to this day as we watch the tragedy unfolding in Haiti and Honduras.
Books cited in this piece include:
John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
John Perkins, The Secret History of the American Empire
Steven Hiatt, A Game as Old as Empire
Chambers Johnson, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic
Greg Grandin, Empire's Workshop: Latin America, The United States and the Rise of the New imperialism
William Blum, Rogue State
Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine
John Dinges, The Condor Years
Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq
Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA