Today is the anniversary of two massive assaults on civilian populations. The first, in Santiago, Chile 34 years ago, caused a proportionally greater loss of life (Chile was a country of only 10 million) and especially deep damage to the institutions of civil society, ushering in a dictatorship that endured for 17 years. The second, in 2001 in Manhattan, was much more concentrated, its effect magnified by its location in the media capital of the world. The two planes that struck the towers killed in a few hours about as many people as the Chilean counterrevolution killed in its much more prolonged assault, beginning on September 11, 1973 and continuing its ferocity for months.
The Chile events were very close to me. Before the coup, I had been a close observer, hopeful but fearful for the success of the country's peaceful revolution. Then, when the horror occurred, as soon as possible -- in February, 1974 -- I got to Chile as part of the ten-person Chicago Committee to Save Lives in Chile, getting into prisons, interviewing survivors, and even meeting with trade union and political activists in hiding.
The other September 11 was also very close. In 2001, I lived close enough to hear the impact of the first plane against the World Trade Center and then to watch from our rooftop the burning and the appalling, sickening collapse of the second tower, to breathe the air thick with incinerated cement, metal, plastic and human flesh.
And so, every year on this date, I cannot help remembering both of them. And this morning, I was wondering how they might be connected. Suddenly it seems obvious. Two sides of the same coin. The assault on democracy in Chile was a continuation of the long-standing, and continuing, United States practice of suppressing the popular will in foreign states. The Al-Qaeda attack was a response to that practice.
The most visible dirty work in Chile was done by reactionary Chilean generals and their far-right supporters, but they had been set in motion by Nixon and Henry Kissinger and K's subordinates, who provided them the money, weapons, technical assistance to create chaos (manipulated strikes, shortages, etc.) and then, when that proved insufficient, to strike by land, air and sea the center of government and all other points expected to put up resistance (including factories, community centers, schools).
All hegemonic powers act to suppress the popular will whenever it challenges the system of subjugation -- Rome, France, Belgium, Great Britain, the Ottomans, the Chinese, the Russians before, during and after the USSR, the USA at least since the Mexican War. Often they cloak their aggression by claiming to act in defense of "democracy," "the rights of man" or "socialist brotherhood." Those who oppose them are labeled "extremists."
And sometimes, finding no legal, institutional way to realize their goals or even to lead what they consider dignified lives, those opponents become extremists in fact, attempting suicidal violence against what they see as the foreign oppressor.
And when that foreign power has degraded the notions of "democracy" or "socialism" or "the rights of man" by its cluster bombs, SAM missiles, air raids, tortures of prisoners and other horrors, the rebels look for some uncompromisingly opposite doctrine to explain themselves. Whatever seems most likely to horrify the enemy. A century ago, in most of Europe and much of the U.S., that was anarchism. Today in a large part of the world, and for the young Arabs who rammed the planes into the World Trade Center, it's a rigid form of Islam.