Calls for gun control after a mass shooting in America has, of course, become standard fare. But before Americans permit themselves to be stampeded into surrendering their right to own guns, it would be wise to keep Chile in mind.
In 1973, the Chilean national-security establishment, after winning a quick military battle against the president of the country, took power. The new ruler, a military general named Augusto Pinochet, established one of the most brutal dictatorships in modern history.
Tens of thousands of people were rounded up without arrest warrants, indictments, or other aspects of due process of law. Most of them were brutally tortured. What Pinochet’s people did to female prisoners, sexually, is so gruesome that it defies credulity. Some three thousand people were executed or disappeared.
What had these people done? Their only “crime” was being socialists or communists or supporters of the democratically elected president who had been ousted in the coup, Salvador Allende. That’s the reason they were rounded up, incarcerated, tortured, sexually abused, executed, or disappeared.
If anyone objected, he would be forcibly added to the ranks of the victims.
Chile’s federal courts? They went silent. The judges knew what would happen to them if they enforced the law and the Constitution against the country’s new military dictatorship.
The Pinochet regime was a model of the term “tyranny.” It would be difficult to find a better example of a tyrannical regime. The Chilean people had learned first-hand why President Eisenhower had warned Americans in 1961 of the grave danger that their own “military-industrial complex” posed to their liberties and democratic processes.
As Thomas Jefferson pointed out in the Declaration of Independence, people have the right to resist a tyrannical regime and even to overthrow it.
So, why didn’t those Chileans who were being victimized by the Pinochet dictatorship resist it by force?
One big reason: gun control. Due to gun-control laws, the Chilean people lacked the means to resist or overthrow Pinochet’s tyrannical regime. When the tyrants are the only ones who have the guns, citizens have two choices: Obey or be killed, incarcerated, tortured, or abused.
A gun-control advocate here in the United States is likely to respond, “That was Chile, not the United States. Our national-security establishment would never do such things.”
That response, however, overlooks an important point: Our national-security establishment loved what Pinochet was doing, supported what he was doing, and participated in what he was doing.
Don’t forget: From 1973, the Pentagon and the CIA worked scrupulously to oust Allende from power and install a military dictatorship in his stead, knowing full well how military dictatorships deal with socialists, communists, and dissenters.
As part of those efforts, U.S. officials even conspired to kidnap an innocent man, Gen. Rene Schneider, the overall commanding general of Chile’s armed forces. Schneider’s “crime”? He had refused to go along with U.S. plans for a coup, believing that his oath to Chile’s constitution trumped any allegiance to the CIA and the Pentagon. Schneider was murdered during the kidnapping attempt, and no U.S. officials were ever brought to justice for the crime.
During the coup, U.S. intelligence officials played a role in the murder of two Americans, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi. While their exact role is still being kept secret, it’s a virtual certainty that at the very least U.S. officials secretly requested Pinochet’s goons to execute Horman and Teruggi on their behalf. Their “crime”? Believing in socialism, supporting Allende, being opposed to the U.S. war on Vietnam, and discovering U.S. complicity in the coup, which the Pentagon and the CIA wanted to be kept secret.
After the coup, U.S. national-security state officials helped establish and train Pinochet’s top-secret police-military-intelligence force, called DINA, which was a combination Pentagon, CIA, and NSA, all wrapped into one. DINA became the principal force behind the regime’s kidnapping, torture, sex abuse, executions, and disappearances within Chile. The CIA made the head of DINA, Manuel Contreras, a paid asset of the CIA.
U.S. national-security state officials also became a founding partner in Operation Condor, a top-secret international assassination ring, headed by DINA, which ended up murdering tens of thousands of more innocent people, including former Allende official Orlando Letelier and his young assistant Ronni Moffitt on the streets of Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, U.S. foreign aid was flooding into Pinochet’s regime, thereby helping to fund all his tyrannical regime. After all, assassins, torturers, sex abusers, rapists, and executioners are ordinarily not going to work for free. They’ve got to be paid, just like any other government official.
Would U.S. officials ever replicate here in the United States what they and Pinochet and his goons did in Chile? It would depend on whether “national security” was at stake. If they were to conclude that U.S. “national security” was at stake, there is no doubt that they would not hesitate to do whatever was necessary to protect “national security,” just as they did in Chile. After all, that’s their job — to do whatever they deem necessary to protect “national security.”
As federal appellate judge Alex Kozinski pointed out in his dissenting opinion in Silveira v. Lockyer, when people permit themselves to be disarmed by their own government, it is a mistake that can only make once. That’s because once people realize the mistake, there is nothing they can to rectify it. Just ask the Chilean victims of Pinochet’s tyranny, a tyranny that was fully supported by the Pentagon and the CIA.