May 30, 2004

25 Years Versus a Month

Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was stripped of his immunity from prosecution for mass murder, torture, and other crimes against humanity. He may face a trial after all, but we really donít know. The Chilean Supreme Court has previously said Pinochet suffers from dementia and therefore is unfit to stand trial.

You donít need to be a shrink to come up with that diagnosis. A dictator who turns a sports stadium into a concentration camp to torture and warehouse his political opponents obviously is demented.

Randy Paul has a great post up on his blog Beautiful Horizons. He cites this excellent excerpt by Dennis Roddy.

In power, Pinochet oversaw the murders of enemies real and imagined. One of them was Ronni Karpen Moffitt. Her offense was to sit alongside an exiled Chilean diplomat, Orlando Letelier, as they rode to work at a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 21, 1976.

The car exploded.

Letelier was torn in half. Michael Moffitt, Ronni's husband, was hurled out a rear door. Flying metal slashed open an artery in Ronni Moffitt's neck. She drowned in her own blood on the streets of the western hemisphere's oldest democracy, killed by the men who had overthrown its second-oldest.

Itís hard to improve on that, so I wonít even try.

Marc Cooper lived in Chile and worked for the Allende government when it was overthrown on (yes) September 11, 1973. (You can read all about it in what he calls his Chilean anti-memoir Pinochet and Me.) He was lucky to get out alive. Many of his personal friends were captured, tortured, and killed.

Marc (barely) lived through one of Chileís darkest times. Heís written long and well about it. Comparing what that country went through and what weíre currently going through over Abu Ghraib he concluded:

[A]s testimony to the virtues of an open society, our response (with all its flaws) has been light years ahead of the Chilean reaction. What we have been debating the last month is what took the Chileans 25 years to achieve.
Go read the rest to see what heís getting at. Itís important. (No, heís not saying what happened in that prison is as bad as what happened in Chile. It isnít.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 30, 2004 12:38 AM
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