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Make the CIA Release Its Chile Torture Files

Chile Torture Files

With the long-awaited release of the U.S. Senate’s Torture Report, it would be tempting to believe that the CIA’s torture regime began after 9/11 2001.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s not forget the torture regime in Chile that began on 9/11 1973 and continued for years after that.

From 1970 to 1973, the CIA did everything it could to bring about a military coup in Chile, one designed to oust the democratically elected president of the country, Salvador Allende, a self-proclaimed Marxist, from office and install a military dictatorship in his stead.

Since the election had been thrown into the Chilean congress given that no candidate had won a majority of votes, the CIA first tried to bribe the members of congress with U.S. taxpayer money to vote against Allende.

When that didn’t succeed, the CIA orchestrated the kidnapping of the commanding officer of the entire Chilean armed forces, a man named General Rene Schneider.

Why Schneider? Schneider was standing in the way of a coup. He took the position that he should fulfill his oath to support and defend the Chilean constitution, which provided for elections and impeachment as a way to remove a president from office, but not a military coup.

The CIA’s plan was to remove Schneider from the scene in the hopes that President Allende would install a more compliant officer in his stead — i.e., a military man who would be willing to accede to the CIA’s desire for a military coup.

When the kidnap team attempted to grab Schneider, not surprisingly, given his military position, he fought back. The would-be kidnappers shot him dead, leaving a widow and four children to grieve his death.

The CIA long denied any complicity in the kidnapping and murder of Rene Schneider. The denials turned out to be lies. In actuality, the CIA did conspire to kidnap Schneider, even secretly furnishing high-powered weapons for the job. It was also later discovered that the CIA had furnished hush money to at least one of the would-be kidnappers after the failed kidnapping attempt.

It’s important to remember that Schneider was an entirely innocent man. He did nothing except fulfill the oath that every CIA agent and U.S. soldier makes here in the United States: to support and defend the constitution of his country.

The CIA also engaged in efforts to bring maximum economic harm to the Chilean people, in the hopes that the economic situation would become so horrific that the Chilean people would eagerly welcome a military coup to save the country. As President Richard Nixon put it in his orders to the CIA, “Make the economy scream.” Among the things the CIA secretly did to achieve its aim was to finance a nationwide truckers’ strike to prevent food from reaching the Chilean people.

Ultimately, the CIA’s scheme worked. The CIA’s intentional efforts to strangle the Chilean economy, combined with the Allende administration’s misguided socialist economic policies, operated like a vise that sent the Chilean economy into a tailspin, thereby creating the conditions of crisis and chaos for welcoming the military coup that succeeded in ousting Allende from office.

But none of that was the worst of it. The worst part of it was what happened during and after the coup. It’s been estimated that some 250,000 people were rounded up and placed into military dungeons and concentration camps, thousands of whom were subjected to the most unspeakable acts of torture that one can ever imagine.

Needless to say, they did horrific things to the men, including electric shocks on various parts of the body and brutal beatings. I cannot even think of putting into this article what was done to Chilean women who were, as prisoners, totally defenseless. It is just too gruesome. If you do want to read about some of the things they did to women as well as men, you can read about them here:

Some 3,000 of the prisoners were murdered or disappeared. Among the victims were lots of young people, including idealistic students who believed in such socialistic programs as Social Security, national health care, public schooling, and free milk for schoolchildren.

There is something important to keep in mind about all this: Every single person who was rounded up, tortured, and murdered by the regime that the CIA helped bring to power was innocent.

No, not because a trial adjudged them innocent because there were no trials. They were innocent because of the reason they were tortured, brutalized, and murdered: because they had committed the heinous “crime” of believing in socialism, communism, or Marxism.

No, we are not talking about acts of “terrorism” and, no, we are not talking about “ticking time bombs.” These people were tortured so that they would provide evidence of other people, including family members and friends, who had expressed any sympathy for Marxism, socialism, or communism. Those people were then rounded up and tortured to provide information leading to more family and friends.

Anyone who knows me and who is familiar with the work of The Future of Freedom Foundation knows that it would be difficult to find anyone more fiercely opposed to Marxism, socialism, and communism than I am. But as a libertarian, I also happen to believe that everyone has the fundamental, God-given right to believe in anything he wants to believe in, including Marxism, socialism, and communism.

Did the CIA participate in the Chilean torture sessions? We don’t know because the CIA refuses to release its records relating to the Chilean coup. “National security!” the CIA exclaims.

But given the CIA’s longtime interest in and fascination with torture and given the fact that the CIA viewed anyone that believed in Marxism, communism, and socialism the way that Pinochet did — i.e., as worthless scum — it defies credulity that the CIA wasn’t at least monitoring the torture sessions of its coup partner.

We do know that the CIA set the basis for the coup. We also know that the CIA was willing to kidnap and remove from the scene a military general who only “crime” was standing up against the CIA and standing up for the constitution of Chile.

We also know that the State Department conducted an official investigation that concluded “U.S. intelligence” may have played an “unfortunate role” in the murders of American citizens Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi during the coup.

We also know that after the coup the CIA became a partner in Pinochet’s international torture and assassination ring known as DINA, a ring that succeeded in murdering even more innocent people, such as former Allende official Orlando Letelier and his young American assistant Ronni Moffitt, both of whom were killed by a DINA car bomb on the streets of Washington, D.C.

We also know that are similarities between the CIA’s torture techniques and those of Pinochet, such as disrobing prisoners prior to torture.

We also know that Chilean military officials were being trained at the U.S. military’s School of the Americas in Panama prior to the coup, where the instructors were using torture manuals in their classes.

What are the chances that the CIA did not participate in Pinochet’s torture sessions? In my opinion, slim and none. I think that’s the real reason for continued secrecy on the part of the CIA. After all, what could be more ridiculous than a claim of “national security” for keeping things secret about an event that happened more than four decades years ago?

Equally important, through transparency and disclosure, the Chilean people have already discovered what Pinochet’s goons did to tens of thousands of innocent people and Chile is still standing.

In fact, many of the Chilean officials who engaged in Pinochet’s regime are now sitting in Chilean penitentiaries for kidnapping, torture, murder, and disappearances, including the head goon of DINA, a man named Manuel Contreras, a brutal official who was made a paid asset of the CIA after the coup.

Whatever meaning one wants to put on the amorphous term “national security,” it certainly wasn’t threatened in Chile through transparency and disclosure of Pinochet’s system of torture and assassination. On the contrary, notwithstanding the terrible pain suffered by the families who had to relive the horrors of the coup and its aftermath, most Chileans would agree that transparency and disclosure have been an important step in the rehabilitation of the country.

Why not start America’s process of rehabilitation by forcing the CIA to divulge everything relating to what happened in Chile on 9/11 1973? If the Chilean people could do it, so can we.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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