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Post John Dinges, The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three
Created by Ronald Hilton on 07/18/04 2:38 AM

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John Dinges, The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three (Ronald Hilton, USA, 07/18/04 2:38 am)

Regarding John Dinges, The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents, Christopher Jones said: "I would like to know if John Dinges mentions "PLAN Z" in his new book. As I have previously posted, it was a plan, concocted by the Cuban secret services to help Allende's Unidad Popular government to liquidate the upper echelons of the Chilean state (supreme court, military) and establish a communist dictatorship". John Dinges replies: "I hope Mr. Jones reads my book with an open mind and seriously considers my documentation. Mr. Jones writes about Plan Z as if it were a historic fact, but gives no source, because to give the source he would have to acknowledge that the putative existence of such a plan rests 100 percent on the unsubstantiated allegations of the military junta in the weeks following the 1973 coup. I do not know of a single reputable scholar who considers it anything other than a propaganda invention by the military to provide a justification for the coup.

The CIA agrees. The official "Church Committee" report in 1975 (p. 40) and more recently the "Hinchey Report," (p. 5) both based on CIA information, have discredited "Plan Z". I'll quote from the Hinchey Report: "Propaganda in support of Pinochet Regime. ... Chilean individuals who had collaborated with the CIA but were not acting at CIA direction assisted in the preparation of the "White Book", a document intended to justify overthrowing Allende. It contained an allegation that leftists had a secret "Plan Z" to murder the high command in the months before the coup, which CIA believed was probably disinformation by the Junta." Paul Sigmund, in his book, The Overthrow of Allende, says of Plan Z: "There is nothing in the plan to indicate that it had been approved by Popular Unity parties or by Allende himself. It is either a forgery or a document produced by the left wing of the Socialist Party or the MIR..."

Constable and Valenzuela, Nation of Enemies, say, "The evidence of this conspiracy was largely a fabrication, stitched together from assorted leftist party documents and false intelligence." I wrote briefly about Plan Z in my first book, Assassination on Embassy Row (1980), but do not mention it in my current book.

I can sympathize with Pinochet's devoted supporters in their determination even today to find some "moral equivalency" in the Allende government for the documented crimes against humanity that have been laid at Pinochet's feet by the Rettig commission of the Chilean government, and by judicial investigations in Spain, Italy, France, Argentina and Chile, to name the most prominent.

The bottom line, from a factual-historical point of view, is that you may choose to believe whatever fits your fancy about the imagined crimes a radicalized communist tyranny MIGHT have committed in Chile if Allende had been overthrown by extreme leftist revolutionaries, for example or became a dictator himself. But that is speculation, perhaps fueled by ideology; it is not history. In contrast, the historical facts are that under the Pinochet government there were thousands of ACTUAL deaths, actual torture of even more thousands of human beings, and --as I document in my book-- an actual international alliance of security forces from six military governments to track down and eliminate military rivals and political adversaries anywhere in the world.

Again, there are those who choose to justify that kind of behavior with moral or ideological reasoning of their own rendering. Thankfully, however, even in Chile it is becoming increasingly rare to hear that kind of moral argument. Most Chileans on the right avoid justifying or excusing the documented crimes of Pinochet, even though they argue that he is too old or demented to stand trial for them".

Pinochet is a very divisive figure. Some WAISers think he saved Chile, others despise him. The latter will be pleased by the very title of John Dinges, The Condor Years.How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents (New York: The New Press, 2004, pp.- 322). The black dust jacket, with a photo of a defiant Pinochet and a screeching condor, the black covers and the black end pages convey the message of death, Prize winning journalist Dinges was a special correspondent for the Washington Post in Chile and Central America during the Condor years, 1973-80. i-e- the time of Operation Condor, the joint operation of South American dictatorships to eradicate leftist activists. The account is colored by Dinges' experience (he himself was interrogated in a concentration camp), but it it is not simply a lurid account of atrocities. It is heavily documented, with 50 pages of notes. If you are looking for an easy read, like the books of John Gunther, you will be forced to concentrate. Gunther was accused of inaccuracies by Latin Americans who resented his criticisms. Dinges' documentation protects him against that charge. In sum, his book us more academic; Dinges now teaches journalism ay Colombia University-

In scholarship as in theology, there are sins of commission and omission. Defenders of Pinochet will accuse Dinges of the latter for failing to point out that Operation Condor was a response to a real Soviet threat in South America, However, even that does not justify the mass murders which marked Operation Condor. The American villain in this story is Henry Kissinger. A 1978 cable said "Kissinger explained his opinion that the Government of Argentina had done an outstanding job in wiping out terrorist forces". In 1976 as Secretary of State Kissinger addressed an OAS meeting in Santiago. His theme was the need to defend human rights, but in private he told Pinochet not to worry. For decades the story of US cooperation with Operation Condor was a carefully kept secret. The truth was revealed in a 1980 book Dinges wrote with my former student Saul Landau, Assassination on Embassy Row.

The story opens with a notorious episode which brought Chilean terrorism to Washington, DC: the car bomb which killed Chilean exile Orlando Letelier, who had served as Allende's Ambassador to Washingtton, Foreign Minister and then Defense Minister, which made him Pinochet's boss. This shocked America, and provided the Democrats with ammunition. New York Congressman Ed Koch, soon to be mayor of that city, was especially and typically loud in his attack on the Latin American dictatorships and was then himself the target of a failed assassination plot. Although the book focuses on Pinochet and Chile, Argentina receives ample attention, chapters 5, 9 and 12 being devoted to it. Especially vicious was the assassination there by Chilean agents of General Carlos Prats, who had been close to Allende. While the Chilean dictatorship received special publicity because of the complex international attempts to bring Pinochet to justice and because Chile had been respected as a democracy, the Argentine military loomed larger on the international scene. Chapter 6 is devoted to Paraguay, the fief of General Afredo Stroessner. Some space is devoted to Uruguay, which had been viewed as a model of democracy for Latin America. Under a military dictatorship, democratic leaders took refug in Argentina, where they were targets for assassination. Brazil, the most important country in Latin America, was also taken over by a military dictatorship, but, Brazil being Brazil, it was less brutal than those of Chile and Argentina.

The final chapter /14) is titled "The Pursuit pf Justice and U.S. Accountability. While Dinges does not think that the US deliberately connived in the killings, Kissinger personally comes in for a final criticism (p. 252): ""You are our leader" Pinochet said to Kissinger in the same month in which he, Pinochet, gave the go-ahead to commit an assassination in Washington, D.C." The book's final sentence reads:"The history of the Condor Years is not one we are condemned to repeat", i.e. "never again", On the one hand, this book is a serious well documented account which cannot simply be dismissed by partisans of Pinochet and co. On the other hand , its account of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara is restrained, while that of Allende is very benevolent. I knew Allende, and he impressed me as being humane and compassionate but who failed to realize that politics is the art of the possible. How do Chileans view him today? As a martyr?

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