By BILL ONASCH
America and the world are now commemorating “9/11,” the 2001 heinous crime responsible for 3000 deaths in New York, Washington, and rural Pennsylvania. Most of the victims were working people who had harmed no one. They reflected the gender, color, ethnic and religious diversity of where they lived, worked—and were murdered. In addition to those who perished on that day, more than 1100 involved in the clean up of the toxic debris left behind in New York have been diagnosed with work-related cancers.
This atrocity that inflamed understandable anger and vengeance was soon exploited by those whose hands and souls were not so pure—those in charge in Washington. 9/11 was cynically manipulated to rejuvenate an unpopular president who had finished second place in the 2000 election. His rallying cry of a War on Terror was used to justify first one, and then a second unjust war, based on lies abroad—and heightened totalitarian measures against civil liberties here at home.
Just as watching the live television coverage of the World Trade Center collapse is indelibly imprinted in my memory, I will never forget where I was on the morning of the other 9/11—Sept. 11, 1973. Then working evening shifts, I was at the neighborhood laundromat when I heard the news on the radio that the Presidential Palace in Santiago, Chile, was under attack in what appeared to be a military coup.
In September 1970 a free election—the results accepted by all major parties—chose the Socialist Salvador Allende to be president of Chile. He had run with the backing of the Popular Unity Alliance, including the Communist Party, and Alliance members began to run the executive branch of government.
While the concrete achievements of the Popular Unity government were modest, and many on the left were critical of its timid pace, the Allende government in the most industrialized South American country was a great symbolic victory that inspired the working class of not only Chile but throughout Latin America—and beyond.
It was a humiliating setback for the Central Intelligence Agency, which had continued their long tradition of injecting money and dirty tricks in to Chilean elections to assure a favorable outcome for Washington policy makers. It also enraged President Nixon who tasked Henry Kissinger with devising a plan for the CIA and embassy military attaches to reverse this defeat.
That plan was finally implemented in action on 9/11, 1973. A recent New York Times article about Chilean commemorations of the 40th anniversary gives a good nutshell description: “Sunday dawned with the dark shadow of a Hawker Hunter jet painted on a Santiago street, pointing toward the presidential palace. Hours later, tens of thousands of Chileans marched through the capital to commemorate when 40 years ago Chilean Air Force jets bombed the palace, helping to overthrow an elected socialist government and obliterate what had been one of South America’s healthiest democracies.
“The resulting military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who ruled for 17 years, suspended political and civil rights; censored the press; and imprisoned, tortured, exiled, abducted or killed tens of thousands of its opponents. Though there have been official reports about the human rights abuses since then, and some military officers have been prosecuted, many Chileans say the country has not yet fully come to grips with what happened.”
Chile is not alone in “not yet fully coming to grips” with this U.S. planned, financed, and otherwise assisted in many ways, horrible crime. CIA agents even helped target American citizens in Chile for murder. The father of one such American victim, Thomas Hauser, wrote a compelling book, “Missing” [no longer in print], which Costa-Gavras turned into the impressive 1982 film of the same name starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek, winning the Academy Award for best script.
There was a mainly campus-based protest in the USA at the time, and some refugees were able to go on speaking tours. Much more was done in Canada. But little has been heard over recent decades about this much more than episodic example of covert intervention by the U.S. government to serve the corporate agenda of America’s ruling class.
Nixon, of course, ultimately had to resign in disgrace. But it wasn’t the first 9/11 that did him in. Nor was it exposure of COINTELPRO spying on and disruption of civil rights, antiwar, and left groups, coordinated between the FBI and local police Red Squads. It wasn’t even the clandestine, illegal invasion of Cambodia, which led directly to massive U.S. protests—further fueled by the killing of student protesters at Kent State and Jackson State. Those scandals were accepted by the Establishment as part of a business government doing business.
But Nixon crossed a Red Line when he authorized the burglary of the national office of the other official party—the DNC headquarters in the Watergate complex. The exposure of that incident and its cover-up by the Washington Post unveiled Nixon’s conflicted character, exhibiting staged statesmanship while furtively relishing being a petty crook.
The present administration in Washington has not, at least so far, been involved in corruption like that of the Watergate era. But it otherwise continues the modus operandi of Nixon/Kissinger more aggressively than ever—including in our “homeland”—with the bipartisan blessing of Congress and the courts.
Courageous whistle-blowers in the best tradition of Daniel Ellsberg, such as Pfc. Manning and Edward Snowden, along with brave journalists like Glenn Greenwald, have exposed some of this. We now know that the U.S. has been spying on top governmental deliberations in not only “unfriendly” countries but staunch democratic allies such as Germany and Brazil—where there have been mass demonstrations expressing outrage. Most Americans were shocked to learn that the cover of every piece of U.S. mail is photographed and scanned in to a database. Government agencies have secretly demanded—and mostly received—the cooperation of Internet Service Providers, social media, and software companies to gain the ability to track all on-line activity of any American citizen they may target—including encrypted e-mail.
The American ruling class has so far had no need for a coup here such as the one they engineered in Chile 40 years ago but they have long used many of the methods of Pinochet with impunity because of the political monopoly they exercise. As the working class inevitably stirs in America, we can expect a harsh response from them. We should study well the lessons of the Other 9/11 to better prepare to defend ourselves.
In the meantime, we need to do an even better job of meaningful global working-class solidarity than we did in 1973. It is in our joint interests for us to stand with our class sisters and brothers abroad whenever they are attacked by the government that speaks in our name—but serves only the bosses and bankers.
Photo: Soldiers round up “suspects” in Chile, Sept. 11, 1973. This article originally appeared at kclabor.org.