Monday, September 11, 2006

The Anniversary

Today marks the anniversary of a terrible tragedy in our history when violence struck a nation. Yes, thirty-three years ago Chilean President Salvador Allende was assassinated.

Five years ago, of course, a significant event occurred in New York City; and today is almost the anniversary. Yes, on 9/10/2001, the family of Chilean General Rene Schneider filed a lawsuit against former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, accusing him and others of complicity in Schneider’s assassination. The suit didn’t get much coverage, however. The next day, it was pushed off the front page by major national security stories.

General Schneider was a strong supporter of Chile’s constitution, so he opposed military action against then president-elect Allende to keep him out of office. Schneider wasn’t supposed to die; the plan was to kidnap him. But when his car was ambushed on October 22, 1970, he drew a pistol to defend himself and was shot several times at point-blank range. Allende became President in November.

The United States spent a lot of money trying to prevent Allende’s election and worked diligently to undermine his government. The U.S. attacked Chile’s economy with measures designed — in President Nixon’s memorable phrase — “to make the economy scream.” Two groups within the military, aided by the U.S., organized a coup; and Allende was finally eliminated by gunfire on September 11, 1973.

(The Schneider lawsuit wasn't Kissinger's only problem in 2001. He took a trip to France that year and found himself confronted one evening by police officers bearing a request for answers to certain inquiries. Apparently, France has some questions about U.S. involvement in the Allende coup, which led to the murder of French citizens in Chile. So Kissinger flew to Italy. It seems that Kissinger may never be able to visit France again without risking arrest.)

September 11 also happens to be the anniversary of another historic occasion — this one in a theater in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 1906, before an audience of three thousand, Mahatma Gandhi proposed a strategy of nonviolent resistance against South Africa’s racist policies. Twenty-four years later, Gandhi ignited India's nonviolent resistance to British rule.

Happy Anniversary.

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