Saturday, 9 December 2006

Should we have a heart for Pinochet?

Former dictator General Augusto Pinochet just refuses to go away. His heart attack has him back in the news, but still there is no-one who can find a good word for the murderer of 10,000, maybe even 30,000 of his countrymen.

Why should there be a good word for such a man? Well, ponder at least why there are so many bad words for him when there are so many good words for worse folk like Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Mikhail Gorbachev, and so many not-so-bad words (given their even worse crimes) for other folk like Robert Mugabe, Pol Pot, Mengistu and Idi Amin. "One must ask," asked democide researcher RJ Rummel a couple of years ago, "why in a world of mass murderers that have killed far more people than Pinochet, do the media and human rights organizations devote so much attention to him?"
Elsewhere, many former mass murdering dictators and their henchmen walk the streets free from publicity or have died in their sleep never having faced justice. Uganda’s former President Idi Amin [for example], who murdered 255,000 people, some with his own hands, fled Uganda into exile and lived in Saudi Arabia with his four wives and with a government stipend until he died peacefully in 2003... [Or] Pol Pot, the worst of the lot over this period, responsible for the murder of 2,000,000 Cambodians in four years, was arrested in 1997, charged with treason, and sentenced . . . get this now . . . to house arrest.
Why indeed? Writing when both Pinochet and Gorbachev were still in power, Tibor Machan pondered why the latter received praise, plaudits and the love of liberals everywhere, while Pinochet received only approbation.
The question is, why? While he has been a ruthless opponent of political freedom in Chile for almost as long as he has been in power, in 1980 he helped forge a new constitution for that country that paves the way to full-scale political democracy... Pinochet has also established an economy in Chile that has led to greater prosperity there than in any other Central and Latin American country. While Chile has pockets of poverty, the country nevertheless has had lower inflation and higher employment than its neighbors.
And now in fact Chile has perhaps the freest economy and the freest press of all Latin America -- yet while Mikhail Gorbachev gets credit for reluctantly (and only tentatively) transforming the Soviet Union (he never forswore his desire to save what he called Lenin's "genuine socialism"), and only inadvertently freeing it and Eastern Europe from the yoke of dictatorship, Pinochet gets none at all for partially embracing capitalism and setting Chile on the road to something better than he and his confrères. Crikey, he's got to be one of the few political mass-murderers who at least admits some blame. RJ Rummel has a theory for "the huge difference in attention [and popularity]":
I suspect it is because Pinochet was a victorious enemy of the left. He seized power from Chile’s Marxist president who was maneuvering his own revolutionary overthrow of the democratic system, and eventually succeeded in setting the stage for a return to a moderate democratic government and full capitalism (this is a description, and not praise of his mass murders to achieve this). Most of the other killers on [Rummel's] list, including Pol Pot, however, were Marxist or socialist of some favor (Amin was praised by the left as an anti-imperialist, particularly his nationalization of foreign businesses; in 1975 he was elected president of the Organization of African Unity). To coin a phrase, for the Marxist and left, which dominate the major Western media, academic studies, and human rights organizations, which is the worst of the worst seems to depend on whether their ox is gored.
As Tibor Machan asked, "Is it that for most [western] intellectuals there are no enemies to the left?" Anyone like to answer that? Can we get a resounding condemnation for all the mass-murders on Rummel's list?

LINKS: Pol Pot? Idi Amin? No, it's Pinochet again - RJ Rummell
Glasnost in Chile? - Tibor Machan (1989) [page 23 of the PDF]
Pinochet to undergo heart surgery - Ireland Online
Pinochet admits dictatorship blame - CNN.Com

RELATED: Politics-World, History-Modern, History-Twentieth Century


  1. More importantly, the anti-Pinochet project was inspired by Moscow. Moscow, in cahoots with leftwing groups in the West, took what was bad about Pinochet and exagerrated and publicised it. It became the cause celebre of the left - the example of how the West encouraged brutal dictatorship. They completely ignored the murder in the communist world, or the socialism that Allende would have enforced.

    Pinochet was bad, but not as bad as is made out.

  2. I agree with libertyscott's analysis. Pinochet is targetted because he was an ally of the WEST. He aligned himself with former Prime Minister Thatcher during the Falkland war. So the result of this alliance saved alot of British service persons during the war, according to Mrs Thatcher's BBC interview in defending of Pinochet. If Pinochet was an enemy of the WEST, no one in the world would give a toss about him if he murdered millions or not.

  3. Yup. According to the left, the end justifies the means--provided the end is their Socialist Paradise, that is.

  4. son of the southern cross5 Dec 2006, 04:36:00

    Having lived in Chile before, during and after Pinochet's reign, I can only see revisionist history in these views. Saying that Chavez--who has not killed anyone and who has been democratically elected three times, is worse than Pinochet, is just nuts. Saying that the anti-Pinochet campaigns were orchestrated by Moscow is a paranoid delusion. Do you really think that Jimmy Carter was a Moscow dupe? Because it was his administration that was most severely critical of the dictatorship. Moreover, the Reagan adinistration repudiated Pinochet in the late 1980s when the general tried to rig the 1989 re-foundational elections in his favour. Is that evidence of a Commie conspiracy?
    Saying that he was criticized more heavily than anti-Western despots because he was pro-Western is similarly confused or ignorant. Stating that Allende was about to kill Chilean democracy ignores the activities of the CIA and right-wing paramilitary groups in bringing about the Sept. 11, 1973 coup. Saying that Pinochet paved the way for democracy ignores the fact that the 1979 constitution he enacted was designed to set him up as president for life, with military veto over all civilian government decisions (something that continued until 1999), with a rigged Sentate with so-called "Senators for Life" named by him, with military control of several industries and taking 6% of copper profits directly into its budget, which to this day is not scrutinised by parliament (Copper being Chile's biggest hard currency earner). Implying that Pinochet was/is somehow "cleaner" than other despots ignores the fact that he has been indicted on corruption charges because of his stashing tens of millions of dollars in off-shore bank accounts, which is why the Chilean military turned its back on him in 2000 (I know of this personally because I am closely acquainted with the lead bankers now attempting to negotiate the issue of repayment with the Chilean government and have spoken with senior military officers who are now undertaking the post-Pinochet transformation of the Chilean armed forces).

    As for the Malvinas/Thatcher issue, the fact is that Chile violated both the OAS Charter and the Rio Treaty (on hemispheric defence) by allowing the British SAS to conduct ops from its southern territories, and did so because it was embroiled at the time in a border dispute with Argentina that it hoped to resolve in its favor by the Argentine's defeat. It did not do so because it was "pro-Western."

    I could go on but my point is this: it is distressing to see people like PC attempt to split hairs and state that, for one conservative reason or another, thugs like Pinochet are somehow "better" than thugs like Mugabe. Just because Pinochet was pro-capitalist does not mean he was pro-democracy or pro-Western. Heck, Hitler was a supreme anti-communist, but that did not make him an ally of the west. In fact, Pinochet not only regularly denounced liberal democracy as weak, licentious and bankrupt, arguing for his version of "protected" democracy in which Catholic church teachings would be the basis of school curricula, etc., but he also protected Nazis who fled after WW2, some of whom held positions in his administration!

    PC, you can do better than this. The bottom line for me is simple: authoritarians suck, regardless of the specific ideology they espouse. Trying to say that some are better than the others because of your ideological affinity for some of their policies is problematic because if anything, lefties like Fidel and Chavez work to redistribute income to the masses while Pinochet and his ilk concentrated wealth in their own hands and those of their elite backers. On those grounds many in Latin American and elsewhere would argue that if one has to suffer dictatorship, better that it be by the few for the many than by the few and for the few.

  5. Thanks for your comment, Son of the Southern Cross. I do appreciate it.

    Let me just confirm that I see no reason not to denounce Pinochet -- and no reason, as Thatcher did so disgracefully, to praise him -- and there is no revisionism intended in my comments here.

    Nor was I suggesting any "anti-Pinochet campaigns ... orchestrated by Moscow." As you say, that would be silly.

    On this, however, we agree: "authoritarians suck, regardless of the specific ideology they espouse." Absolutely true.

    It seems to me, however, (and to Rummel and Machan) that the evidence from the castigation of Pinochet, and inversely, the praise for Castro and the like is that 'authoritarians sucking' is not sufficiently widely recognised, and all too unfortunately the ideology of the authoritarian plays all-too big a part to play in the degree of castigation the authoritarian has to bear.

    All too often, it seems to me, the castigation is not so much for the crime of dictatarship and mass-murder (for both Castro, for example, and Pinochet were rather partial to both) as for the the worse 'crime' of having the wrong ideology -- in Pinochet's case it sometimes seems the violent hatred is not so much for being a murderous dictator (in Latin America that's almost expected), but for being a murderous dictator who was rather partial to free-ish markets, privatisation, and giving Chile a chance at (relative) economic freedom.

    Democide is okay, it seems, as long as the dictator is of the right political 'hue.' If, for example Pinochet had been a different kind of murderous dictator, one who "redistributed" the country's wealth until there was no more left, would he be embraced as Castro has been, who has done just that? Or Che Guevara, who set out on that very path?

    I strongly suspect so.

    My point is that it would be nice if all authoritarians were castigated equally, something that is not too richly in evidence.

  6. I don't see why, PC, you want all authoritarians castigated equally, since they do not behave equally.

    You appear to be upset that Pinochet is viewed "worse" than Castro. So let's compare them.

    Pinochet overthrew a democratically elected government, that of Allende. The fact that it was a socialist government does not remove the fact that it was democratically elected. "The socialism that Allende would have enforced"??? Really libertyscott, don't you mean, that "Allende was elected for"?

    Castro overthrew a dictator - Batista overthrew the elected Carlos Prío Socarrás in 1952 in a coup.

    Pinochets revolution killed thousands of the public - you've seen the estimates of 10-30,000. Castro's revolution tried hundreds of agents and soldiers for crimes. Some, not all, were executed and many were sentenced to prison.

    I'm not necessarily saying that he's a great guy, demonstrably he is not, just that it is not a surprise, or evidence of some secret conspiracy against the right/left/whatever, that different leaders are viewed differently. This would be because they have behaved differently.

  7. No, they don't behave equally.

    Not all dictators kill as many.

    I quoted Democide researcher RJ Rummel's figures for Pinochet: 10,30,000 people killed.

    His figures for Castro are 71,000 to 141,000.

    They behaved differently? I sometimes think Pinochet's greatest crime for some people isn't the people that he killed but the free market that he introduced -- and conversely for Castro.

  8. Saddam was a top man in Washington during the Carter & Reagan Administrations. They helped him out during his war with the Iranians. He went offside with Washington by invading Kuwait. So, I guess that in the real world, you sometimes have to befriend some dictators so that you can achieve some goals in the name of national interests (or national security). You can't fight the whole world on your own, but at least you can cosy up to some dictators somewhere that might help you in the short term.


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