Today we remember another country’s 9/11.
In 1973 Chile, one of the oldest democracies in the Western Hemisphere, was subjected to a military coup d’etat concocted largely by the Nixon administration and then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
The government of Salvador Allende was leftist in orientation and duly elected by the people of Chile. To view films of an overjoyed multitude marching through the capitol city following his electoral victory is to recall a kind of innocent belief in democracy's transforming power.
Eventually, and with the backing and blessing of the United States Government, a military junta led by a butcher named Augusto Pinochet literally bombed the presidential palace. Allende, according to the conquering generals, died by his own hand rather than surrender.
What you have above is the last picture of Allende alive, outside the presidential palace, machine-gun under his right arm (wearing the glasses), accompanied by his aides, looking up at the planes that had come to kill them all.
Next to it is a French cartoonist’s interpretation of 9/11; a kind of hybrid that mixes Allende’s 9/11 with those who died in New York City’s 9/11.
(p)resident Bush, you will remember, attributed the terrorists’ actions to the fact, "they hate freedom," which was to flatter a national conceit, rather than an honest assessment of the way our policies are perceived throughout the world.
The cartoon (you have to click on the image to view it in better detail) asserts that we’ve screwed a lot of people, worthwhile people, pretty badly over the years and that our chickens came home to roost on Sept. 11, 2001.
Here is a portion of Allende’s final radio address to the people of his country on September 11, 1973:
"I will pay with my life the defense of the principles that come at a price in this country. A curse will fall upon those who have violated their duty, breaking their word, and the doctrine of the armed forces.
The people should be alert and vigilant. They should not allow themselves to be provoked, nor be massacred, but should defend their conquests. They should defend their right to construct with their own might a life that is dignified, better...
..In the name of the most sacred interests of the people, in the name of this nation, I call upon to keep the faith.
For history cannot be detained with repression or with crime. This is a hard and difficult moment, but we shall overcome it. It’s possible that they will crush us, but tomorrow will belong to the people, to the workers. Humanity will advance toward the conquest of a better life.
Countrymen, its possible they will silence the radios, and so I say farewell to you all. In this moment the airplanes fly overhead. It’s probable that they will murder us. But you should know that we are here, by way of example, to show that in this country there are those who know how to meet their obligations. I will do so by a mandate of the people and with the will and conscience of a president who maintains the dignity of his charge.
This may be the last time I will ever address you. The air force has bombed our radio stations. My words are without bitterness, without disappointment, and will be the moral punishment for those who have betrayed their oath.
Soldiers of Chile, commanders-in-chief and admirals of the Navy: General Mendoza, low-rent officer who only yesterday pledged his loyalty and solidarity to the government, has now declared himself director general of the national police.
Before these deeds I have only this to say to the workers: I shall not resign. Placed in a transitional moment in history, I will pay with my life this loyalty to the people. And I can say to you with certainty that this seed we plant in the consciousness of thousands and thousands of Chileans cannot be suppressed indefinitely. They have the forces, they can bring us to our knees, but social processes cannot be detained with neither crime nor force.
History is ours and is made by the people."
Pinochet went on to rule in a brutal fashion for another 17 years or so, throwing people out of airplanes over the ocean, exterminating political opponents, and shutting down a model republic to ensure that the Chicago School of economic theory could be implemented without opposition.
In 1987, the scribe published a poem in the "The Guild Reporter," national organ for The Newspaper Guild of which he was both a card-carrying member and shop steward.
The verse was in response to press reports regarding the death of Jose Carrasco Tapia, a journalist who got picked up from his house by government "security forces" in the middle of the night and was found dead, shot 13 times, in a cemetery outside of town.
Here it is:
Don’t bring your shoes Jose Carrasco Tapia
you won’t be needing them
here in Chilay much longer
that’s what they told him
when they came at 5 a.m.
And he said
to his wife
Saint Jose +
the barefoot journalist
in a crispus attucks attack
Jose Carrasco Tapia +
the man whole damn war was declared
on he’s gone now
in a brutal way just
leave the shoes Don Jose +
you won’t be needing them where
you are going
But the real reason the scribe is delving into the horrid events of long ago, in a distant country, is rock and roll and a band that was very good at it: The Clash.
That band did a song, "Washington Bullets," which can be found on the landmark, triple-disc "Sandinista" album from 1980. It is an homage to the revolution in Nicaragua and a celebration of Jimmy Carter's restraint in allowing it to happen.
In that song the singer, the late Joe Strummer, says, "Please remember Victor Jara, in the Santiago Stadium..."
And so we will remember him here tonight at highwayscribery.
Victor Jara (HA-ra) was a guitar player, singer, and songwriter who chronicled the lives of Chile’s poor. If we were to produce them in detail, or type out some lyrics, his songs might seem, through the prism of the present upon the past, trite or maudlin.
They were anything but. They were haunting tributes that worked and moved many and revealed the soul of a sweet and tender man.
In the hours after Pinochet took control of Chile, thousands were rounded up and taken to the soccer stadium in the capitol city of Santiago. There they were tortured, shot, and "disappeared" as it was known in the vernacular of the time.
Jara was singled out for special treatment. The charming men who saved Chile from godless communism and agrarian reform took delight in breaking his hands and then daring him to sing without the benefit of a guitar.
Few witnesses survived the massacre, so we must trust or distrust the legend which has Jara singing the anthem of Allende’s Unity Party, and being joined in chorus by others awaiting their own turn to be broken on the wheel.
And then they killed him. A pop star.
Below is a picture of Victor Jara whom we remember many years after his terrible death on a September 11 that has different meanings for people in different countries.