The Other 9/11 – What Can We Learn From Chile?
On September 11, 2001, six terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m.
Another five terrorists flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m.
Five more terrorists took control of American Airlines Flight 77 and at 9:37 a.m. they directed it into the building of the Pentagon.
I had moved to Washington, DC, ten days earlier, but without a television, I was oblivious to what was happening. When my boyfriend phoned at 9:30 a.m. to let me know he was walking home from work because the terrorist attacks made it too dangerous to take the metro, I had no idea what he was talking about.
At 10:03 a.m. United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Almost 3,000 people died as a result of the events of September 11, 2001.
September 11, 1973 in Chile
Forty years ago today, on September 11, 1973, Chilean Air Force jets, aided and abetted by the C.I.A., bombed the palace of President Allende, helping to overthrow an elected socialist government and obliterate what had been one of South America’s healthiest democracies.
Hundreds died that day, including Allende, who turned a gun on himself rather than be arrested.
But it didn’t stop there. The resulting military dictatorship of General 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.
Pinochet was indicted for human rights violations committed in his native Chile by a Spanish magistrate in October 1998. He was arrested in London six days later and held for a year and a half before finally being released by the British government in March 2000. Authorized to freely return to Chile, Pinochet was there first indicted by judge Juan Guzmán Tapia, and charged with a number of crimes, before dying on December 10, 2006, without having been convicted in any case.
However, Ariel Dorfman, writing in The New York Times last Sunday, sees beyond the tragedy to find some positive effects of the 9/11 horror in Chile:
In the United States, the (not entirely) covert intervention of the C.I.A. in Allende’s downfall was one of several factors that paved the way for Congressional investigations that established laws that limited the extent to which the executive branch could interfere in the affairs of foreign governments. This opened a discussion that is more than relevant today, as it is clear that American presidents continue to believe that it is their right to meddle, intrude and spy wherever they believe the interests and security of their country are in peril — in other words, anywhere and everywhere.
Fortunately, Chile did not just export the nastiest experiences stemming from the military takeover. It also has served as a model for how an unarmed people can, through sustained nonviolence and civil disobedience, conquer fear and bring down a dictatorship. The thrilling democracy and resistance movements that have sprung up on every continent during the last few years prove that the future does not have to be heartless.
Can Americans Take Pride in How Lessons From 9/11 Have Shaped the Future?
If these are the lessons from Chile’s 9/11, which led to the death or disappearance of tens of thousands of Chileans, what of the 9/11 28 years later, that killed almost 3,000 people in the United States?
Are there any positive lessons that have been learned? For an oh-so-short time, it seemed that opposing parties could come together and that the wounds suffered by the country might bind us and help us move forward together. But it didn’t last long.
Instead, under President George W. Bush, the United States invaded Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack. In the process, the United States killed 100,000, wounded many times more, and destroyed probably millions of homes. In addition, more Americans suffered violent deaths in Iraq than did on 9/11.
As Richard Clarke argues in The Daily Beast:
For most of the decade (after 9/11), our reaction to the attack strengthened the attackers. Our unprovoked destruction of an Arab nation, our degradation of prisoners, our torturing of suspects, and perceived xenophobia and religious prejudice drove millions away from our cause and many into the ranks of our attackers. Only slowly did the repeated heinous acts of our enemy, their killing of their coreligionists, begin to undermine their support.
Focus has also been placed on counter-terrorism efforts, which may have been successful, but they have stirred animosity towards Muslims, all of whom are singled out suspects. Furthermore, the current terrorist threat does not justify the immense size of the homeland and intelligence spending.
It seems that the United States, unlike Chile, has learned little from its 9/11 experience.
An emphasis on healing a broken immigration system, ensuring voting rights for all, addressing racism, facing climate change, and providing equal opportunity for all would surely be a more fitting tribute to those patriots who gave their lives on September 11, 2001 to protect the United States.
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