If you want to get a glimpse of what life is like under a military dictatorship that has been installed into power by the U.S. national-security establishment and that is later supported by U.S.-taxpayer-funded foreign aid, check out a great movie titled Colonia, a 2015 romantic thriller based on the 1973 military coup in Chile. Directed by Oscar winner Florian Gallenberger, the film stars Emma Watson, Daniel Bruhl, and Michael Nyqvist.
The film opens with the political chaos in Santiago leading up to the coup. Daniel is a young German man who has become embroiled in Chilean politics, supporting the country’s democratically elected president Salvador Allende. Lena, his girlfriend, is a flight attendant for Lufthansa who decides to play sick in order to stay an extra week in Santiago with her boyfriend.
What the film doesn’t point out is that the CIA, which is one of the three principal components of the U.S. national-security establishment (the other two being the vast military establishment and the NSA), was responsible for a large amount of the economic chaos in the country in the weeks preceding the coup. While Allende’s socialist economic policies were a principal cause of the economic crisis, the CIA, operating on orders of President Richard Nixon (of Watergate fame), secretly poured fuel on the fire by making things even worse than they already were. For example, the CIA secretly bribed national truckers to go on strike to prevent food from being delivered across the country to the Chilean people. The CIA’s goal? To improve the chances that the Chilean people would welcome the U.S.-inspired coup when it finally came.
On September 11, the national-security branch of the Chilean government, led by Chilean Army Gen. Augusto Pinochet, launched a military strike against the executive branch of the government. Although Allende and some of his advisors fought back, the outcome was never in doubt. Given the overwhelming might of the national-security branch — it had tanks and troops surrounding and firing on the National Palace and planes that were firing missiles on the president’s position — the military took control of the government and the nation.
David and Lena are quickly taken into custody by the troops who are loyally following orders of their commander in chief and patrolling the streets, establishing order, and looking for Allende supporters and sympathizers. Like tens of thousands of other Chileans, David and Lena are taken to the National Stadium, where most of them are tortured and some of them are raped or executed.
Identified by an anonymous snitch as an Allende supporter, David is transported to a real-life secretive religious cult in a remote part of Chile. Its name is Colonia Dignidad — Colony of Dignity. Populated by several families of German descent and run by a German religious fanatic, the walled-in camp becomes one of Pinochet’s torture facilities. In an attempt to get him to disclose other people who supported Allende, David is brutally tortured.
Meanwhile, Lena, who has been released, learns where David has been taken. Disguising herself as a religious fanatic, she gains admittance to Colonia Dignidad, in the hopes of finding her boyfriend and helping him to escape.
The problem is: No one escapes from Colonia Dignidad.
Why was the U.S. national-security establishment so intent on installing Chile’s national-security establishment into power? Because Allende was a communist and a socialist — that is, a person who believes in such things as government-provided retirement, healthcare, education, and other goods and services that American Democrats (and Republicans) also believe in.
More important, like President Kennedy before him (See my ebook Regime Change: The Kennedy Assassination), Allende was open to establishing friendly relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba, which marked him, in the eyes of the Nixon and the U.S. national-security establishment, as a grave threat to U.S. “national security.” Keep in mind, after all, that this was still within the period of the Cold War, the era in which the national-security establishment’s official enemy was communism (not terrorism or Islam), an era during which the Pentagon and the CIA had convinced Americans that the United States was in grave danger of being overrun by a far-reaching international communist conspiracy based in Moscow.
Had Allende ever attacked the United States or even threatened to do so? Nope. Like Cuba’s Fidel Castro, who had been the target of several CIA assassination attempts and even a paramilitary invasion, Allende had never intimated that he even had any interest in taking over the United States. But since he believed in communism, the Pentagon, the CIA, and other U.S. officials said that that made him a grave threat to “national security” (whatever that much-ballyhooed term means) in both Chile and the United States.
It was the same with Allende supporters. If they had voted for Allende or had supported him in any way or if they had displayed socialist or communist tendencies, they too were considered threats to “national security.”
On that basis, some 50,000 Chilean citizens were rounded up, tortured, raped, or executed, including famous Chilean songwriter Victor Lara, the “Bob Dylan” of Chile, who they executed in cold blood after intentionally breaking both of his hands while he was still alive. Thousands were tortured and raped, sometimes just to inflict pain and other times with the aim of getting them to disclose other Allende supporters, who would then be rounded up, tortured, raped, or executed.
Did I mention that Allende was democratically elected president of Chile by Chilean voters? Yes, the U.S. national-security establishment destroyed democracy in Chile because it didn’t like how Chilean voters had exercised democracy. As Nixon’s national security adviser Henry Kissinger put it bluntly, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.”
In other words, democracy is fine, so long as foreign voters vote the way U.S. national-security state officials want them to vote. Otherwise, they are subject to be targeted for a regime-change operation involving bribery, coup, assassination, or invasion, as a way to “transition” to a “real” democratic system — that is one in which voters elect a ruler who meets with the approval of the U.S. national-security establishment.
For those who think that the Chilean coup is ancient history, take a look at the brutal military dictatorship in Egypt, which the U.S. government has long supported and continues to support. Or consider the U.S. government’s strong support of the brutal dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, which continues to use U.S.-furnished weaponry in its vicious military intervention into Yemen. Or the many partnerships, including those involving torture and rendition, with brutal dictatorial regimes.
While tens of thousands of innocent people were being rounded up, raped, tortured, or executed, millions of dollars U.S. foreign aid poured into the Pinochet regime to help fortify the regime and its brutal control over the Chilean people. No amount of assistance was too small for a U.S. ally in the “war on communism.”
I won’t tell you what happens to David and Lena. You’ll have to watch this exciting film to find out. I will say though that in real life the religious fanatic who was running the camp ultimately got convicted of sexual molestation of young boys who lived in the camp and later died in a Chilean prison.
I will also share with you what happened to two young American men, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, who, like David and Lena, were quickly picked up by Pinochet’s goons. With the complicity of U.S. military and intelligence officials who were in Chile on 9/11l, 1973, they were both murdered by Chilean officials after having received a green light from U.S. national-security state officials. Since they were Allende supporters, they were considered communists who could be killed without due process or trial, just as the U.S. national-security establishment is doing today in its “war on terrorism.” You can read about what happened to them in my 5-part article, “The U.S. Executions of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi.”