Friday, September 12, 2003

The War: The Other Sept. 11

Leave it to the New York Times to equate the motives behind the 9/11 attacks and US foreign policy:

Death came from the skies. A building --a symbol of the nation-- collapsed in flames in an act of terror that would lead to the deaths of 3,000 people. It was Sept. 11.

But the year was 1973, the building Chile's White House, La Moneda, and the event a coup staged by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Now, after decades of silence, Chileans are protesting in the streets for the reversal of amnesty laws that block prosecutions for the killings after the coup. The face of Salvador Allende, the overthrown Socialist president, is everywhere, and now behind La Moneda is a new statue of him wrapped in the Chilean flag. Chile's president, Ricardo Lagos, is proposing a truth commission to look into reports of torture, special judges to find the disappeared, new pensions for victims' families and an amnesty program for former soldiers who tell where the bodies are buried.

Chile is not the only country in South America focused today on the crimes of decades ago. In Peru, the truth commission investigating the guerrilla wars of the 1980's and 1990's just released a report concluding that more than 69,000 people were killed or made to disappear. In Argentina, a new president has just annulled two amnesty laws that the military forced through Congress after the "dirty war" ended in 1983.

In the United States, Sept. 11 will forever be a day to remember our victims of terrorism. Yet our nation's hands have not always been clean, and it is important to recall Chile's Sept. 11, too.
I wonder what the position of the New York Times if its editors covered the American Civil War. After all, the Confederate states did democratically vote to secede from the Union. Would the Times acknowledge that racial slavery was immoral and no vote could ever legitimize it? One would hope. But why then does the New York Times refuse to grant the same premise to those who would use elections to establish socialist dictatorships?

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