Tomorrow, September 11, marks the 40th anniversary of the 1973 military coup in Chile that ousted the democratically elected socialist-communist Salvador Allende from power and installed the brutal right-wing military dictator General Augusto Pinochet. It was a coup that was not only supported by the U.S. national-security state but also one that the CIA actually helped to foment. Even worse, there is strong evidence indicating that the national-security state actually played a role during the coup in the execution of two young Americans, Charles Horman and Frank Terrugi.
As longtime supporters of The Future of Freedom Foundation know, I have long taken an interest in the Chilean coup, owing not just to the horrors that came with Chile’s military tyranny but also to the strong support that the U.S. government gave to such tyranny. Even more shocking for me, however, has always been the indifference that the Congress, the Justice Department, and the U.S. federal judiciary have given to the murders of two American citizens. I’ve never been able to understand that mindset of deference to authority to the military and the CIA, especially since we’re talking about the murder of two innocent American citizens.
As a libertarian, it’s clear to me why Allende was not a good choice as president. Since he was a socialist-communist, it was no surprise that his economic policies were a disaster for the Chilean people. The fact is that socialism brings impoverishment, sometimes gradually and sometimes very quickly.
But the fact is that he garnered a sufficient number of votes to win the presidency. Allende was democratically elected in a country that had a long tradition of democracy. Democracy doesn’t guarantee freedom and prosperity. It simply provides a means by which people can shift administrations in a peaceful fashion.
Consider, for example, the Franklin Roosevelt administration. It revolutionized America’s economic system through its embrace of the welfare state and the regulated economy, which are really nothing more than variations of socialism and fascism. Combined with Federal Reserve shenanigans, FDR’s New Deal brought misery and impoverishment to millions of Americans. Roosevelt himself assumed massive dictatorial powers in the process of waging “war” against the Great Depression, a depression that had been caused by the Fed itself.
In principle, Roosevelt’s economic philosophy and programs were no different from those of Allende. Yet, would this have justified a military coup to save America by ousting FDR from power and installing a brutal pro-free enterprise military dictator into the presidency? I think most Americans (but certainly not all) would oppose such action. Again, democracy doesn’t necessarily guarantee the best results, but the problem is best solved in the next election or, even better, by a strong and independent federal judiciary that is unafraid to declare socialist and fascist programs in violation of the U.S. Constitution, something that the Supreme Court started to do but ended up abandoning after FDR’s totalitarian-like court-packing scheme.
But one thing is clear: The U.S. government had no business fomenting an economic crisis in Chile to provide the excuse for the Chilean military to take power in that country. Once it partnered with the Chilean military in that endeavor, the U.S. government became morally complicit for all of the evil and horrific consequences of military tyranny in Chile, including the rapes, torture, abuse, or executions of tens of thousands of people, most of whom were guilty of nothing more than holding the same types of pro-socialism beliefs that Roosevelt and other people of the left held (and which most conservatives of today hold).
Among the most shocking parts of the Chilean coup were the executions of Charles Horman and Frank Terrugi, both of whom were innocent American citizens. Given the participation of the U.S. government in the coup, the possibility that Pinochet and his henchmen would have killed two Americans without the consent of the U.S. government is virtually nil.
So, why were they killed?
Horman was a journalist (with leftist views) who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He and a friend had traveled to Vina del Mar as tourists. That was where the coup got started, and they were there when it started. As such, they witnessed American warships out in the bay and several American military personnel freely going about their business in Vina del Mar.
Why was that a problem? Because the U.S. government’s participation in the operation was supposed to be “covert.” That means an operation in which the U.S. government’s participation is kept a secret, enabling U.S. officials to dishonestly claim they had nothing to do with it. In fact, that’s exactly what U.S. officials did.
But obviously Horman was an obstacle to that plan, especially if he were permitted to return to the United States and write an article telling what he had seen. That, along with his leftist beliefs, is the most likely reason he was murdered.
Some twenty-five years after his murder and the murder of his friend Frank Terrugi, and after the U.S. national-security state had steadfastly denied any role in the murder, the State Department released a document indicating that the CIA had, in fact, played some undefined role in Horman’s murder. Then, a couple of years ago, a Chilean court indicted the U.S. military official who gave Horman and his friend a ride back to Santiago from Vina del Mar.
The horrifying disgrace in all this is the indifference that Congress, the Justice Department, and the federal judiciary have showed to Horman’s murder for the past 40 years. I say indifference, but it could also be fear of the CIA and the Pentagon, which, as everyone knows, now constitute, along with the NSA, the most powerful branch of the U.S. government. Shamefully, both Congress and U.S. federal judges have long shown the same deference to the authority of the CIA and the Pentagon that the Chilean legislature, the Justice Department, and the federal judiciary showed to Pinochet and his military-intelligence apparatus.
During the past 40 years, Congress could have held formal hearings on the Chilean coup and Horman’s and Terrugi’s murders. It could have subpoenaed CIA officials to determine who actually participated in the murder and why. The Justice Department could have convened a federal grand jury and done the same thing.
When Joyce Horman, Charles Horman’s widow, filed suit against U.S. officials, take a wild guess what the federal judiciary said to her. Citing the two magic words of our lifetime — “national security” — they said that she lacked sufficient evidence to prove her case and then, protecting the national-security state and its secrets, denied her the right to take depositions of the CIA and the Pentagon. In one of the most disgraceful actions in the history of the federal judiciary, the courts dismissed Joyce Horman’s suit for lack of evidence.
And so 40 years later, even as Chile confronts the horrors of the Pinochet regime, the U.S. crimes and their cover-ups involving the coup just continue to fester. It’s just part of the dark-side legacy of immunity and impunity that has come with the national-security state cancer that continues to kill America today.
Yesterday, there was a moving segment on the television program that is hosted by Amy Goodman on the Democracy Now television network. It included an interview of Joyce Gordon, Charles Horman’s widow who is still seeking justice 40 years after the murder of her husband. The segment can be seen here.
Hopefully, the 9/11 anniversary will cause Americans to reflect on what their national-security state apparatus has wrought for America and the people of the world.
Posted below are some of the articles I’ve written over the years on the U.S.-backed Chilean coup and on the unpunished murders of Americans Charles Horman and Frank Terrugi:
The Fascinating Interventionist Mindset by Jacob G. Hornberger (August 2013)
The Evil of the National-Security State, Part 11 by Jacob G. Hornberger (February 2103)
What Were the Standards for Executing Charles Horman? by Jacob G. Hornberger (February 2013)
National-Security Assassinations of Americans in 1973 by Jacob G. Hornberger (January 2012)
Resembling the Pinochet Regime by Jacob G. Hornberger (May 2012)
Time for the United States to Confront Its Coups by Jacob G. Hornberger (May 2011)
U.S. Darkness in Chile by Jacob G. Hornberger (March 2011)
Why the CIA Might Oppose Disclosing the Pinochet Files by Jacob G. Hornberger (March 2011)
Kissinger’s Role in Operation Condor by Jacob G. Hornberger (April 2010)
Murder Is Murder, Whether by Pinochet or the CIA by Jacob G. Hornberger (December 2009)
Shades of Operation Condor by Jacob G. Hornberger (July 2009)
Let’s Not Forget CIA Victim Charles Horman by Jacob G. Hornberger (April 2009)
“It Can’t Happen Here” by Jacob G. Hornberger (March 2007)
Augusto Pinochet and the Conservative Threat to America (January 2005)
U.S. Regime Change, Torture, and Murder in Chile by Jacob G. Hornberger (November 2004)