Today marks the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but in Chile 9/11 is associated with another event: 40 years ago today, Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected, socialist President Salvador Allende in a U.S.-backed military coup. Allende died the same day – officially a suicide, but quite possibly murder. Pinochet went on to rule the country for 17 years as a ruthless dictator who tortured and killed thousands.
September 11, 2001 led to a dramatic shift in U.S. domestic and foreign policies, as policymakers decided their country should never again be vulnerable to terrorism. But perhaps the U.S. can draw a lesson from Chile’s 9/11 as well. Backing murderous dictators may make sense at the time, but will eventually come back to haunt Washington. The U.S. support for Pinochet has done much to undermine America’s credibility abroad. Its implicit backing of Egypt’s generals – through continued military support – is bound to further erode the myth that the U.S. is a global defender of democracy.
Here’s a photo of Allende on the day of the coup: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/picture/2013/sep/11/photography-chile-coup-salvador-allende