The First War on Terror

John Dinges defines Pinochet’s “grand idea” as follows:

that the threat of terrorism and extremism is sufficient reason to justify torture, murder, and the derogation of judicial systems protecting individual liberties [The Condor Years, 262.]

Briefly, the threat of terrorism and extremism justifies terrorism and extremism.

And Dinges, writing in a book with a copyright in 2004 (!), spells out why we should care about a decades-old scandal at the tip of South America:

What happened during the Condor Years was the first formalized international alliance to fight a war on terrorism. As such, they provide a template of pitfalls and tragedies that should be examined honestly and understood if we are to avoid complicity with similar human rights violations in future alliances and future antiterrorist campaigns. The cautionary lesson of Operation Condor and the massive military repression against their countries’ own citizens is to be found in the way the United States exercises its leadership of the countries it gathers into its coalition against terrorism. The echoes of the past are already to be seen in the current war on terrorism: the massive pooling of intelligence, the compromised intelligence relationships, the gleaning of intelligence from the torture centers run by our allies, and even targeted, cross-border assassinations. Add secrecy, demands for internal loyalty among U.S. citizens and officials, and the dismantling of mechanisms of accountability. Combine with good intentions, high moral language, and the implacable will to prevail in a world struggle in which America’s place in the world is perceived to be at stake. The echoes cannot be mistaken by those who care to listen. [253.]

Less than a decade after Dinges wrote, it is clear that few cared to listen — in the U.S., thus falling into the trap of the state terrorists. In Chile the same was of course true for a time: Chilean sociologist Tomas Moulian notes in 1997 “the compulsion to forget” [la compulsion al olvido] [Chile Actual 31]. Since that writing, of course, Chileans have rejected that compulsion so carefully engineered by Pinochet.


One comment on “The First War on Terror

  1. […] The First War on Terror — Forgetting the lessons of history […]

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