Brie: It's What's For Breakfast

Just another weblog

Pinochet Ricochet

Pinochet Ricochet magnify

Every once in a while, we come across a conspiracy theory that has just enough truth in it to make us want to probe it a bit deeper.

I don’t mean a theory like “Elvis is alive and working at a 7-eleven in Minneapolis.” I mean, his accent would give him away if that were true, right? Not to mention that he would have killed Michael Jackson’s African-American ass for messin’ with his baby girl before Michael ever had a chance to mess with too many little boys.

No, I’m talking about the conspiracy theories that have just enough truth in them to make us think that the hysterical hyperbole surrounding them may not be all that hysterical.

Yesterday my great friend Feud posted a list of his favorite conspiracy theories, among which is that [t]he world is run by a small number of hyper-rich, elusive families.

The Illuminati conspiracy, right?

Well, I laughed and dismissed it until I happened across a certain article that appeared in the Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel while perusing the news this morning. Then I did such a fast double-take that whiplash seems to have set in. Now I need a neck brace as well as an ankle brace.

The author of the article is Robert Parry, an investigative journalist in the mold of Woodward and Bernstein. Parry broke a number of the Iran-Contra stories during the Reagan administration, and later wrote a book about the experience. He also wrote a book about the October Surprise of 1980, which explored whether the Reagan-Bush campaign secretly sabotaged President Carter’s desperate negotiations to free the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran for over a year. Parry’s latest book is Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.

Today’s article appears to be a synopsis of his book, so I take it for what it’s worth. Nevertheless, I want to check out his claims.

In a nutshell, Parry says that because former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet died Sunday, former President George H.W. Bush and the current President George W. Bush are going to be  spared what might have been extremely damning accusations of involvement in covering up international terrorism. We can imagine how poorly that would fly for the president who declared war on terror five years ago.

The senior President Bush was Pinochet’s “longtime friend and protector,” and Parry claims that with Pinochet will also die allegations that both #41 and #43 covered up for Pinochet’s assassination squads, arms dealings, money-laundering, terrorism, and drug running.

The slightly longer version is this:

The Bush family’s involvement with Pinochet began about 1976, when then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush diverted investigators from Pinochet’s involvement in a Washington, D.C. car bombing. That attack killed Pinochet’s political rival Orlando Letelier and an American woman named Ronni Moffitt. Our current president effectively stopped a recent FBI attempt to indict Pinochet for that act of terrorism, which in 1976 was the worst that had ever occurred on American soil. The car bomb was detonated along the well-guarded Embassy Row.

Pinochet’s US connections didn’t start with that episode. He took power in 1973 during a bloody coup when his CIA-supported rebels shot Chilean President Salvador Allende at Santiago’s presidential palace. Until the coup, Chile was a constitutional democracy.

His military uniform made Pinochet look like any number of military dictators across South America and Africa at the time. His conduct was not far from the Fascism and Nazism that seem almost to be hallmarks of the twentieth century. Thousands of political dissidents were rounded up, tortured, and executed under his rule. It made no difference to Pinochet whether those dissidents were Chilean, or even if they were to be found in Chile.

Pinochet and his military junta were deadly serious about stamping out any and all opposition, wherever it might be. In 1974, Pinochet sent an assassin to eliminate a memoir-writing rival, Gen. Carlos Prats, who had fled to Argentina after the coup. A year later an unsuccessful assassination attempt was made against another rival, Chilean Christian Democratic leader Bernardo Leighton, who was in Rome.

The most far-reaching of Pinochet’s assassination squads, though, went by the code name “Operation Condor ” and involved intelligence services from several South American military dictatorships. Operation Condor was formed in 1976, taking effect about the same time that George H.W. Bush was sworn in as CIA director.

Chile’s former Foreign Minister and former Defense Minister, Orlando Letelier, lived in Washington, D.C., where he had relocated after Pinochet’s coup. The international community was favorably impressed with Letelier, who was apparently more personable than Pinochet. Letelier also tended to be highly critical of Pinochet’s human rights abuses, a fact that was obviously displeasing to the Chilean dictator.

Parry claims in his article that Bush’s CIA learned considerable information about Operation Condor even as Pinochet used it to eliminate Orlando Letelier in Washington, D.C. Pinochet’s government “heatedly denied any responsibility” for Letelier’s assassination. It was suggested that Chilean leftists had killed Letelier to turn him into a martyr.

The CIA knew differently. One CIA field report specifically implicated the Chilean government’s direct involvement in Letelier’s death. However, under the senior Bush’s command the CIA instead leaked information that pointed away from the real killers. The FBI’s legal attaché in Buenos Aires, Robert Scherrer, reported to his superiors that based on information from Argentinian sources, the assassination was most likely the work of Operation Condor, the assassination project organized by the Chilean government.

In a separate incident just two weeks after the Letelier assassination, anti-Castro terrorists planted a bomb on a Cubana Airlines DC-8 leaving Barbados. The bomb exploded nine minutes after takeoff. The attack had been planned in part by a CIA-trained veteran of the Bay of Pigs, Luis Posada, who was still in close contact with the CIA. Just as they had in the Letelier assassination, senior CIA officials pleaded ignorance.

It is Parry’s position in his book and in the article that the CIA’s proclaimed ignorance was a sham.

When Jimmy Carter assumed the US Presidency in 1977, federal investigators cracked the Letelier case, successfully bringing charges against several conspirators. However, nothing the CIA offered helped to solve this case. Before the matter could be closed, though, the Republicans returned to power in 1981. Former CIA Director George H.W. Bush was now Vice President and a top foreign policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan.

Pinochet was a close ally of the Reagan administration, providing help on a variety of sensitive intelligence projects, including shipping military equipment to Nicaraguan contra rebels who also were implicated in the exploding cocaine trade to the United States. Part of Pinochet’s $28 million fortune apparently came from his own cocaine dealings.

When help was needed on sensitive projects, the Reagan administration often turned to Pinochet. For instance, in 1982, after Reagan used one of Pinochet’s favored arms dealers to deliver weapons to Saddam Hussein’s army. A Deputy CIA director named Robert Gates was instrumental in getting the military equipment to Iraq.


This is the very same Robert Gates who was nominated by President George W. Bush as Donald Rumsfeld’s successor as Secretary of Defense. This is the same Robert Gates that the still-Republican congress confirmed just days ago, and who will now be in charge of the war in Iraq.

Isn’t it amazing what comes around?

December 12, 2006 - Posted by | Foreign Relations, News, Politics

1 Comment »

  1. […] Chile’s ambassador to Peru and her cousin was Salvador Allende, the Chilean President deposed by Augusto Pinochet’s CIA-backed coup of September 11, 1973. Like Diego, she was essentially exiled to Spain as a young adult. Perhaps it […]

    Pingback by Brie. It’s What’s For Breakfast. | July 21, 2007 | Reply

So, What's on Your Mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: