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Thailand, Chile, and U.S. Support of Military Coups

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Despite standard superficial expressions of indignation, U.S. officials are undoubtedly ecstatic over the military coup in Thailand. That’s because they believe that an essential step in the achievement of democracy is the smashing of democracy by a country’s military (that is, when the voters elect the wrong person), followed by a military dictatorship devoted to restoring democracy.

Chile provides a good example of this phenomenon.

In 1970 Chilean voters voted for the wrong person — that is, a person who U.S. officials didn’t approve of. Led by President Nixon, U.S. officials immediately went into action, doing everything they could to encourage and foment a military coup in Chile, with the aim of ousting the man who had legitimately been elected president and replacing him with an unelected military general.

U.S. taxpayer money was secretly funneled into the pockets of opposition political figures and political parties and, more important, directly into the hands of the Chilean military, with the aim of developing important secret alliances between U.S. and Chilean military officials.

U.S. officials also made sure that international loans to the Chilean government were canceled or not extended. American and foreign-owned businesses were secretly encouraged to boycott Chile.

More ominously, CIA officials secretly conspired with Chilean officials to commit the felony offense of kidnapping the commander in chief of the Chilean Army, Rene Schneider, owing to his opposition to a coup and his allegiance to Chile’s constitution and democratic system. Pursuant to that conspiracy, CIA officials furnished the guns that were to be used during the kidnapping. Since Schneider resisted his kidnapping, the kidnappers simply murdered him, thereby removing a huge obstacle to the U.S.-supported coup.

CIA officials paid bribes to keep transportation workers on strike so that people across the country would not get food. In the words of President Nixon, who was later impeached for being a crook, the objective was to make the Chilean economy “scream,” with the aim of producing an air of crisis and chaos, one in which people would then support a military coup to “save the country.”

When the coup finally came in 1973, U.S. officials stationed American warships off the Chilean coast, just in case the coup was in danger of failing. U.S. officials also walked freely through checkpoints within the coastal city where the coup began, where they were seen by a young American journalist named Charles Horman.

Since Horman had witnessed things that he wasn’t supposed to witness, U.S. national-security state officials conspired with Chilean officials to kill him, along with a friend of his named Frank Teruggi, another innocent American who fell victim to the coup. While Chilean officials later indicted a U.S. military official for conspiracy to murder Horman, U.S. officials, not surprisingly, never pursued the matter.

Keep in mind, also, that everything that Nixon, the Pentagon, and the CIA were doing in Chile was being kept top-secret. “National security,” they claimed, would be threatened if people were to find out that the U.S. national security state was doing everything it could to oust a democratically elected president of a foreign country through a military coup.

In fact, CIA Director Richard Helms was later asked under oath by Congress about U.S. participation in the events leading up to the Chilean coup. He lied. When his perjury was later discovered, he was prosecuted and convicted of a criminal offense, unlike Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, who has been given a pass after lying to Congress under oath about the NSA’s super-secret surveillance scheme on American citizens. Nonetheless, Helms was only given a mild slap on the wrist. He was allowed to plead no contest to a misdemeanor and was given a token $2,000 fine. The CIA, not surprisingly, threw a victory party after sentence was imposed.

Unfortunately, Horman and Teruggi weren’t the only ones killed by Pinochet and his goons. Some 50,000-60,000 innocent people — that is, people whose “crime” was nothing more than believing in socialism or communism — were rounded up, tortured, and raped, with some 3,000 of them being killed.

It is still impossible to know the full extent of CIA and U.S. military involvement in the wrongdoing, given that the CIA continues to steadfastly keep records on its participation in the Chilean coup secret from the American people. The CIA says that “national security” would be threatened if its 45-year-old records were disclosed to the American people, the Chilean people, and the rest of the world.

One thing is for sure though: The U.S. national-security state loved the military coup that it helped bring into power. U.S. officials immediately began flooding Chile’s new military dictatorship with U.S. taxpayer money and offering their effusive support of the troops. They thought that General Augusto Pinochet, who was the new unelected dictator of Chile, was fantastic. After all, this was 1973, when U.S. officials were still waging the Cold War. It was the period of time when the Pentagon and the CIA were ignominiously exiting Vietnam, where they were being defeated by the communists.

Yet here was a military general who was showing the world how to really deal with communists and socialists. Think about it: Rounding up, torturing, and raping tens of thousands of socialists and communists and killing some 3,000 of them, with nary a casualty being suffered by Chilean troops.

Pinochet was their hero. He was their model. He was their everything.

So what if Pinochet and his Chilean military, intelligence, and police forces had to smash democracy and establish a brutal military dictatorship? And so what if the tyranny, oppression, brutality, rapes, torture, disappearances, assassinations, and murders went on some 16 years? What matters is that after 16 years of brutal military dictatorship, the Chilean people ended up with a democratic system … one in which the Chilean people are again free to elect anyone they want … so long as the person they elect meets with the approval of the U.S. national-security state.

One can only hope that the Thai people will not have to suffer the extreme brutality that came with the Pinochet regime. If they do though, U.S. officials will no doubt advise them not to despair since, they will say, destruction of democracy and the establishment of military tyranny are important and essential steps toward achieving a democratic system.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.