(1) George Leef has a great article on gun control and the Second Amendment, which cites my recent blog post How They Could Confiscate Your AR-15. His article, which is entitled “Law Professor Demands Repeal of ‘Outdated’ Second Amendment, Makes Very Weak Case,” is really worth reading.
A Florida jury has just awarded $28 million to Joan Jara, the widow of the popular Chilean folk singer Victor Jara, who was murdered during the Chilean military coup in 1973, which brought military strongman Augusto Pinochet to power. Jara is known as the Bob Dylan of his time and inspired such singers as Bruce Springstein, the Clash, and U2.
The defendant in the Florida civil suit is Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nunez, who the jury found was responsible for the brutal torture and execution of Jara in the early days of the coup. Like some 50,000 other Chileans, Jara was rounded up by Pinochet’s national-security goons, taken to the national stadium in Santiago, and then brutally tortured. At one point, his torturers intentionally smashed his hands and then mocked him by pointing out that he would never be able to play the guitar again. Then two bullets were fired into the back of his head, which the jury found were fired by Barrientos.
Jara wasn’t the only one executed. So were some 3,000 other Chileans. The 47,000 ones who weren’t executed were tortured or raped by Pinochet’s national-security state goons.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the U.S. federal judge who is presiding in the case will permit the verdict to stand and enter judgment in favor of the plaintiff. Keep in mind, after all, that Barrientos was acting within the scope and authority as an agent of Chile’s national-security state apparatus. While Chilean courts have taken the position that that doesn’t immunize Chilean officials from criminal prosecution, the U.S. government has long taken the position that U.S. national-security state officials who commit criminal acts while protecting “national security” will not be held liable for their actions.
For example, several years ago the CIA kidnapped a man on the streets of Milan, Italy, and transported him to Egypt so that Egyptian national-security state goons could torture him on behalf of the U.S. national-security establishment. Italy indicted, prosecuted, and convicted the CIA agents of the felony offense of kidnapping. But not one single CIA official was ever sent back to Italy to face justice and none of them ever voluntarily went back to face the music. The rationale was that since they were purportedly protecting “national security,” they were held to be immune from criminal prosecution.
Let’s come back to Chile. Consider the kidnapping-assassination of Rene Schneider. He was the commanding general of the entire Chilean armed forces under Salvador Allende, the socialist-communist president of Chile who was ousted by Pinochet. When U.S. national-security state officials exhorted Schneider to initiate a military coup, he said no. His position was that since he had taken an oath to support and defend the constitution of Chile, and since the Chilean constitution did not provide for a military coup, he would not permit such a coup to take place. The matter, Schneider said, would have to be resolved at the ballot box.
Schneider’s opposition to a military coup caused the CIA to enter into a conspiracy with Chilean terrorists to violently kidnap Schneider and remove him from the scene. The CIA even secretly shipped in high-powered rifles and gave them to its conspirators/partners. Not surprisingly, since he was a military man, Schneider fought back during the kidnapping attempt and was assassinated.
Not one single CIA official was ever indicted in a U.S. District Court for conspiracy, kidnapping, murder, assassination, or terrorism with respect to Rene Schneider. Since the CIA was ostensibly protecting “national security,” the agents who were involved in these felony offenses were permitted to escape justice.
In fact, when Schneider’s widow brought suit against U.S. officials in a U.S. District Court for the wrongful death of her husband, the federal judiciary threw her case out of court without permitting her to take one single deposition of the CIA.
The same happened in the U.S. national-security state’s participation in the murder of two young Americans during the Chilean coup — Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi. See my five-part article “The U.S. Executions of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi.” Needless to say, no U.S. national-security state official was ever indicted by a U.S. court for conspiracy and murder of Horman and Teruggi, notwithstanding the fact that a State Department official investigation found that U.S. intelligence officials in Chile had played a role in their execution. By the time a Chilean court indicted one U.S. military official in the murders, he had passed away.
When Joyce Horman, Charles’ wife, brought suit in federal district court for the wrongful death of her husband, she received the same treatment as Rene Schneider’s widow did.
Why were Victor Jara and all those other Chileans tortured, raped, or murdered? Because they were socialists or communists. Or they had supported their president Salvador Allende, who had been democratically elected in a legitimate presidential election. That’s it. Pinochet and his goons rounded up all those tens of thousands of people, including Jara, and tortured, raped, and executed them simply because of their belief in socialism or communism or because of their peaceful political activity. Don’t forget that these brutal acts took place in the midst of the U.S. national-security state’s Cold War anti-communist crusade and as U.S. military forces were being forced to exit Vietnam.
Pinochet and his fellow torturers, rapists, and murderers didn’t operate in a vacuum. They had a partner and co-conspirator in their coup — the U.S. government, including the national-security branch of the government, i.e., the Pentagon and the CIA.
In fact, if it hadn’t been for the U.S. government, it is a virtual certainty there never would have been a coup. Even before Allende was installed into the presidency, U.S. officials were conspiring and scheming to prevent his installation. Once he was sworn into office, U.S. officials were conspiring and scheming on how to remove him from office. At the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas, U.S. officials were telling Chilean officials that they had a solemn duty to remove their president from office when his policies pose a threat to national security, regardless of what the constitution said. (It’s an interesting standpoint — one that, needless to say, has ramifications for the Kennedy assassination, which took place ten years before the Chilean coup. See my ebooks The Kennedy Autopsy,Regime Change: The Kennedy Assassination, and The CIA, Terrorism, and the Cold War: The Evil of the National Security State and Douglas Horne’s ebook JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated.)
Once Schneider was removed from the scene by his kidnapping-assassination, the way was clear for the U.S. national-security state to get what it wanted — a violent military coup that would remove the democratically elected Allende from power and replace him with an unelected military brute, who would cleanse Chile of communists and socialists. To pave the way for popular acceptance of the coup, the CIA initiated actions that were designed to “make the economy scream,” as President Nixon (of Watergate fame) ordered them to do.
Defenders of the national-security state point to the fact that there is no evidence that the U.S. national-security state played a direct role on the day of the coup itself. Under the law of conspiracy and partnership, that’s quite irrelevant. The fact is that it was the U.S. government, specifically the Pentagon and the CIA, that was a partner and co-conspirator in the coup from the get-go. And after the coup, U.S. officials flooded Pinochet’s coffers with U.S. taxpayer money, thereby enabling him to fund his rape, torture, execution, and assassination operations. Moreover, as author Thomas Hauser details in his excellent book The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice, there is considerable circumstantial evidence of U.S. involvement in the immediate run-up to the coup. And there was, of course, the U.S. participation in the executions of Horman and Teruggi in the initial days of the coup.
When Pinochet and other Latin American dictators later formed Operation Condor, one of the biggest assassination rings in history, guess who the partner was that furnished the technology and communications equipment for the enterprise? Yes — the CIA, very secretly.
As a partner, co-conspirator, and promoter of the Chilean coup, the U.S. national-security state was as responsible for the torture and execution of Victor Jara as Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nunez, the man who put two bullets into the back of Jara’s head. But don’t count on the U.S. national-security establishment or anyone within it to ever be held liable. That principle applies only officials in national-security establishments of foreign regimes, like Barrientos, not U.S. national-security state officials.