This week marks the 50th anniversary of the democratic election in Chile of Salvador Allende, a self-proclaimed socialist who was, three years later, ousted from power in a CIA-inspired coup and replaced with a violent and brutal rightwing military general named Augusto Pinochet.
Not surprisingly, leftwing publications and Internet sites are filled with paeans to Allende, suggesting that he was creating a socialist paradise through democratic vote.
Of course, it’s all liberal (i.e., progressive) nonsense. Socialism produces hellholes, not paradises. Just ask the people who live in Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. Allende’s socialist policies produced massive economic crises and chaos in Chile.
But what did socialism in Chile have to do with the United States? Chile is an independent country, one situated thousands of miles away from the United States. Why was the Chilean people’s election of a socialist any business of the U.S. national-security establishment as well as other members of the U.S. government?
The reason lies in the Cold War mindset that held the United States in its grip ever since the federal government was converted to a national-security state after World War II.
The officials in the national-security establishment — e.g., the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA — were convinced that there was a worldwide communist conspiracy based in Moscow, Russia, that was hell-bent on conquering the world, including the United States. That’s why U.S. officials adopted the national-security form of government after World War II — to prevent this supposed conspiracy from succeeding.
That’s also why the U.S. national-security establishment intervened in Korea’s civil war and, then later, in Vietnam’s civil war. U.S. officials were convinced that interventionism was necessary to stop the Reds from coming to the United States and getting us.
That’s what the CIA’s coups in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954 were all about.
Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh had nationalized British oil interests in Iran. “The CIA viewed that as communistic and decided that Mossadegh had to be taken out to protect U.S. “national security.” That’s how the Iranian people ended up with a brutal tyrant, the Shah of Iran.
The Guatemalan people democratically elected a socialist, just like the Chilean people would do nine years later. Like Allende later on , President Jacobo Arbenz had no interest in participating in the U.S. government’s Cold War against the Soviet Union, Red China, Cuba, or the communist world. Arbenz, like Allende, befriended the Soviets, Chinese, Cubans, and other communist nations.
That’s what made Arbenz and Allende threats to U.S. “national security.” The democratic elections of self-avowed socialists who wanted to normalize relations with the communist world showed that the communist conspiracy was getting closer to enveloping the United States.
Don’t forget Cuba in all this. Although Fidel Castro had not been democratically elected, he was seen as grave a threat to U.S. “national security” as Mossadegh and Arbenz and, later, Allende. That’s what the CIA invasion at the Bay of Pigs and the CIA-Mafia conspiracy to assassinate Castro were all about.
Today, there are people who just cannot bring themselves to believe that the CIA and U.S. military would conspire to oust President John Kennedy from office. But once Kennedy shifted directions and declared an end to what he concluded was a Cold War racket and once he announced a policy of friendly and peaceful coexistence with the communist world, his fate was sealed. If the U.S. national-security establishment considered foreign rulers who befriended the Soviet Union and Cuba to be threats to “national security,” how could they think any differently when a U.S. president did the same thing?
The CIA had helped defeat Allende in Chile’s 1964 presidential election with massive infusions of U.S. taxpayer money into the campaign of his opponent, Eduardo Frei. But in the 1970 election, the CIA’s efforts came to naught. Allende won a plurality of the votes.
The CIA, with the cooperation of President Nixon and other U.S. officials, immediately went into overdrive to ensure that Allende didn’t take office and, later, to ensure that he was removed from office. Such efforts included bribery, kidnapping, assassination, fomenting strikes and other economic chaos, and, finally, a military coup that left Allende dead.
The new leader of Chile, Gen. Pinochet, proceeded to round up tens of thousands of Chileans who, like Allende (and like many Americans today) believed in and supported socialism. Pinochet had his goons torture, rape, brutalize, reeducate, or execute them. His U.S.-supported reign of terror lasted 17 years.
U.S. officials thought that Pinochet was terrific and that what he was doing to those Chilean Reds was terrific too. After all, don’t forget that the Chilean coup came in 1973, about the time the the Vietnamese Reds were defeating U.S. forces in that part of the supposed worldwide communist conspiracy. What Pinochet was doing was helping to defeat the Red conspiracy over in this part of the world.
Meanwhile, American conservatives also celebrated Pinochet’s ascendancy to power and his 17 years of military dictatorship because he brought in the so-called Chicago Boys into his government. Even today, conservatives adore Pinochet because of the Chicago Boys’ policies of free-market central planning and because he converted Chile’s socialist Social Security system to a fascist Social Security System.
In retrospect, President Kennedy has been proven right. The Cold Was was nothing but one great big racket, one that he was determined to bring to an end. Unfortunately, he lost the war with the U.S. national-security establishment. The people of Vietnam, Cuba, Chile, the United States, along with many others round the world, have suffered the consequences. See FFF’s e book JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne, which will soon be in print format as well.