2001, 1973, 1953

Well, I know, it’s all too obvious, everyone is saying it, it’s in the air this year (it wasn’t last year, as far as I remember). Maybe because the anniversary is a round 30 instead of 29, and clearly also because of Peter Kornbluh’s book. But however obvious it is, I’m going to say it anyway. September 11 is a horror-anniversary for Chile as well as for the US. And, stomach-churningly for an American, the Chilean horror show was in large part caused and helped and funded and backed by the US. Which emphatically does not mean that I’m saying we got what we deserved or that Osama bin Laden and his disgusting pals were avenging Allende. But it does mean that the US has done its share (well no, more than its share really) of massacring innocents, abusing human rights, turning a blind eye to murder and torture, and overthrowing democratically elected governments.

And that’s not widely known here. We’re famously amnesiac about history, and history is anything that happened more than about five years ago. But it’s not entirely our fault: it’s not as if the popular media remind us every few days of Pinochet’s coup against Allende and the role Nixon and Kissinger played in the whole thing. And if Chile isn’t discussed a lot, what happened in Iran two decades earlier is even less well-known – and that CIA coup could possibly have more connection to al Qaeda than the Chilean one does. If Iran had been allowed to keep its democratically elected government in 1953 instead of having it snatched away by the CIA and replaced with the Shah and his secret police…who knows what might have happened, who knows whether the idea might have caught on and spread or not. We seem to think that democracy in Iraq will be catching, so maybe it would have been equally catching in Iran fifty years ago. Maybe the whole Middle East would have become democratic, peaceful, prosperous, happy – and thus gutted the pool of recruits for al Qaeda. Who knows. I don’t know, but I do wonder. So even apart from the obvious moral questions, it also seems highly likely that the Iranian coup was a truly terrible idea on consequentialist grounds, for us as well as for the people of the region.

There’s an interesting discussion of the Chilean matter at Crooked Timber today.

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