October 2003
Volume 16 Number 10

Weapons of Mass Destruction

State Terrorism and September 11, 1973 & 2001
Bush Space Plans

Stealth Militarism

Incendiary Bombs & Inflammatory Lies

Israel And The Gates Of Mah'sa

Will Justice be Denied in Liberia?

The Unborn/Abortion Smokescreen

Patrolling the U.S. Back-Country

Fishing at the WTO

The Camden Democracy Gap

Organizing to Abolish Poverty

Is A New Bracero Program in Our Future?

George Bush Versus U.S. National Security

Bidding for a Bomb Lab

Cancer: It's A Growth Industry

The Public Opinion Fraud

Venzuela and the Popular Movement

Letter from Phnom Phenh

Why Do Gays Want to Say “I Do?”

Gaza Strip by James Longley



State Terrorism and September 11,
1973 & 2001

By Roger Burbach

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On the morning of September 11 I watched aircraft flying overhead. Minutes later I heard explosions and saw fireballs fill the sky. As a result of these attacks thousands died. I am not writing about September 11, 2001 in New York City. I am writing about September 11, 1973, when I was living in Santiago, Chile. On that date the target was the presidential palace in Santiago. Both September dates help us understand why George W. Bush has lead the United States into a quagmire in Iraq. 

On September 11, 1973, Salvador Allende was the first freely elected socialist leader in the world and after his electoral victory in September 1970, the U.S. government, headed by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, then chair of the National Security Council, was determined to overthrow Allende. 

They finally succeeded on September 11, 1973. Led by General Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean military overthrew Allende, who subsequently died in the presidential palace. Over 3,000 people perished in the repression that followed under Pinochet’s rule, including two U.S. friends of mine.  

Prior to the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon, on September 21, 1976, a team of operatives sent by the Pinochet regime—agents of the Chilean secret police organization, DINA—detonated a car bomb near the White House, killing a leading opponent of Pinochet’s, Orlando Letelier, and his assistant,  Ronni Moffitt. 

These assassinations were linked to Operation Condor, which was started in 1974 at the instigation of the Chilean secret police. Operation Condor was a cabal comprised of the intelligence services of at least six South American countries that collaborated in tracking, kidnapping, and assassinating political opponents. Based on documents divulged under the Chile Declassification Project of the Clinton administration, it is now recognized that the CIA knew about these international terrorist activities and may have abetted them. 

Similarities abound between the emergence of terrorist networks in Latin America and events leading to the rise of al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden first became involved in militant Islamic activities when he went to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight with the mujaheddin against the Soviet-backed regime that had taken power in the country. According to the CIA 2000 Fact Book, the mujaheddin were “supplied and trained by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others.” Even in the 1980s it was widely recognized that many of those fighting against the Soviets and the Afghan government were religious fanatics who had no loyalty to their U.S. sponsors, let alone to “western values.” 

Ronald Reagan, in the mid-1980s when the CIA was backing mujaheddin warriors in Afghanistan, likened them to our “founding fathers.” In Central America, Reagan called thousands of former soldiers of Somoza’s National Guard “freedom fighters,” as they fought the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. When the Sandinistas went to the World Court to press charges against the U.S. for sending operatives to bomb its port facility in Corinto, the Reagan administration withdrew from the Court, refusing to acknowledge  international law. 

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, former U.S. government officials and conservative pundits attempted to rewrite this sordid history. They insisted that bin Laden’s international terrorist network had flourished because earlier U.S. collaboration with terrorists had been constrained or curtailed. Henry Kissinger, who was in Germany on September 11, 2001, told TV networks that the controls imposed on U.S. intelligence operations over the years facilitated the rise of international terrorism. He alluded to Senator Frank Church's hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1975, which strongly criticized the covert operations approved by Kissinger. The Church hearings led to the first legal restrictions on CIA activities, includ- ing the prohibition of U.S. assassinations of foreign leaders. 

Today, two years later, we see the consequences of the refusal of the George W. Bush administration to learn the proper lessons of the past. Instead of ending U.S. transgressions of the borders and sovereign rights of other nations, the United States has spread carnage and war, violating fundamental civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad. 

But even in the midst of this “war on terror,” judges, lawyers, and human rights activists around the world are determined to see that international justice is carried out. Using the principle of “universal jurisdiction” employed by Judge Garzon to pursue Pinochet, 19 citizens of Iraq filed suit in Belgium courts in May against Tommy Franks, the commander of the U.S. invasion. They charged that troops under his command stood idly by as hospitals in Baghdad were looted, while other U.S. soldiers fired on ambulances that were carrying wounded civilians. The Bush administration reacted angrily, threatening the Belgium government with “diplomatic consequences” if it allowed the case to go forward.  

The struggle is joined. The years to come will focus on the great divide that has emerged out of September 11, 1973 and 2001. On one side stands an arrogant unilateralist clique in the United States that engages in state terrorism and human rights abuses while tearing up international treaties. On the other is a global movement for human rights and human dignity. It is fundamentally a struggle over where globalization will take us, whether the powerful economic and political interests of the world headed up by reactionary U.S. leaders will create a new world order that relies on intervention and state terrorism or whether a globalist perspective from below, based on a more just and egalitarian conception of the world, will gain ascendancy.

Roger Burbach is the author of The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice (Zed Books). Special thanks to Hank Frundt and Jim Tarbell for editorial assistance.

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