DATE September 9, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Peter Kornbluh dicusses his book "The Pinochet File: A
Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability"
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
This Thursday, September 11th, also marks the 30th anniversary of the military
coup that overthrew Chilean President Salvador Allende and installed General
Augusto Pinochet, who ruled the country for 17 years.
In 1970, Allende became the first democratically elected socialist president
of a Latin American country. The Nixon administration, which perceived the
socialist president as a threat, covertly worked to overthrow him, and then
supported the brutal Pinochet dictatorship. That secret history is revealed
in over 24,000 recently declassified documents. Those documents are analyzed
and many are reproduced in the new book "The Pinochet File" by Peter Kornbluh.
He directs the Chile Documentation Project of the National Security Archive, a
research library of declassified US government documents.
A little later, we'll hear from Jack Devine, who was a CIA agent stationed in
Chile at the time of the coup.
A few days after Allende was elected president of Chile, the CIA sent out a
cable which read, `The key is psychological warfare. The fuel for the fire
must come from within Chile. The station should employ every stratagem,
however bizarre, to create internal resistance.'
I asked Kornbluh to describe some of the ploys and bizarre strategies.
Mr. PETER KORNBLUH (Author, "The Pinochet File"): In the six weeks following
Salvador Allende's election on September 4th, 1970, at the orders of President
Richard Nixon, the CIA attempted essentially to transform Chile from a country
of tranquility into a country of turmoil. That was done through a number of
mechanisms: planting propaganda in the press, alarmist propaganda, of course,
that communists would come to power, children would be taken away. Contacts
were made both through the CIA and American corporations in Chile and through
officials in Washington with economic interests that were based in Chile,
trying to get them to announce that they were pulling out, that they were
going to leave Chileans unemployed because of Salvador Allende's election.
Multiple contacts were made between the CIA agents in Chile and potential coup
plotters, Chilean military officials who would move against the government.
More than 24 meetings were held. A team of what they called false flaggers,
the CIA's term for deep undercover agents, were flown into Chile and met with
the leading coup plotters. And a plan was developed to actually kidnap the
Chilean commander in chief of the Chilean Armed Forces, who opposed a coup,
who was a strict constitutionalist. $50,000 was passed to a group that was
supposed to conduct this kidnapping. It's a very complicated history about
what happened, but in the end the kidnapping turned into an assassination.
And instead of creating the opportunity for coup, in fact, Chileans, horrified
by this political violence, rallied around Salvador Allende. He was ratified
as president by the Chilean Congress and took office on November 3rd, 1970.
GROSS: Now you mention the assassination of General Rene Schneider, the
constitutionalist who was the commander in chief of Chile's Armed Forces.
Well, just one little kind of bizarre sidebar here. You write that the State
Department didn't really know the extent of what the CIA was doing to try to
overthrow Allende, and the State Department drafted a letter to President
Allende saying, `Dear Mr. President, the shocking attempt on the life of
General Schneider is a stain on the pages of contemporary history. I would
like you to know of my sorrow that this repugnant event has occurred in your
country. Sincerely, Richard Nixon.'
Mr. KORNBLUH: That document is one of the most ironic documents from the
1970 period to ever have been written. And the truth of the matter is that
the president told the CIA director, Richard Helms, that this should be a very
tightly held operation; that the US ambassador should not be told about it.
This was top secret, compartmentalized, this particular coup plot in the fall
of 1970. There was a CIA task force set up to run it. It worked night and
day to try and promote a coup because of constant pressure from the Nixon
White House. And part of what we've learned from the classified documents is
that the CIA had much more involvement in this kidnapping attempt gone awry
than previously known.
After Schneider was shot, with Richard Helms, the CIA director's
authorization, CIA headquarters sent a cable to the CIA station commending
them on this operation. The cable states, `The station has done excellent job
of guiding Chileans to point today where the military solution is at least an
option for them. The chief of station and others are commended for
accomplishing this under extremely difficult and delicate circumstances.'
These are documents that I think are revealing, and they shed significant
light on an episode that still resonates today in Chile and in the United
GROSS: The US had tried to prevent the inauguration of Salvador Allende after
he was elected. When that attempt failed, did the CIA change its tactics in
trying to change the course of politics in Chile and overthrow Allende?
Mr. KORNBLUH: The declassified documents are extraordinarily revealing on
what happened. After Schneider was assassinated, Allende was confirmed by the
Chilean Congress and inaugurated as president of Chile on November 3rd, 1970.
We know from the declassified documents that Henry Kissinger pushed Richard
Nixon to convene a National Security Council meeting and basically lay down
the law to the rest of the US foreign policy establishment on what US policy
should be. Kissinger sent Nixon a set of briefing papers on November 5th,
1970, the day before this meeting, warning him that he faced a momentous
decision that would have critical implications for the future of US foreign
policy. This was really a kind of an exaggeration of the threat that the
United States faced. But Kissinger warned Nixon that the State Department was
willing to live with Allende and that if Nixon didn't make it clear to
everybody that he opposed Allende, wanted to hurt Allende and bring him down,
that there would be a drift towards a modus vivendi with Allende.
GROSS: What does modus vivendi mean?
Mr. KORNBLUH: It means to arrive at a state of coexistence with another
country. And this meeting was held the next day at the National Security
Council. The president did make it clear that the policy was to hurt Allende.
It was going to be done in a very careful way so as not to alert the world
that the United States was trying to undermine a democratically elected
And a few weeks later, Henry Kissinger, working with the CIA, presented Nixon
with a five-point covert operations plan to, quote, "keep Allende from being
able to consolidate his government," unquote.
GROSS: What were some of the propaganda projects that the United States
backed or initiated in Chile to try to discredit Allende?
Mr. KORNBLUH: Well, the CIA ran a number of propaganda projects. They had a
significant propaganda operation which focused on financing Chile's leading
newspaper, El Mercurio. The CIA already new that the owner of El Mercurio,
Augustin Edwards, was avidly in favor of a coup in Chile. Edwards had come to
the United States right after Allende's election and met with CIA Director
Richard Helms, and discussed the issue of trying to foster a coup in Chile.
We have the declassified memorandum of a conversation of their meeting now.
Richard Nixon, the president of the United States, personally authorized
expenditure of a million dollars to bolster El Mercurio in Chile in 1971.
Presidents do not often micromanage a covert operation, let alone the
financing of a foreign newspaper. But in this case, because Kissinger and his
aides were divided over whether to continue financing the paper, Nixon did
weigh in and Kissinger called the CIA and said, `Yes, put that million dollars
in there.' Over the course of the three years, more than $2 million was spent
to bolster this newspaper.
So that was one aspect of the propaganda project. The CIA put a number of
Chilean journalists and editors on the payroll. They sponsored the creation
of a number of small radio stations, mimeographs. It was quite a significant
propaganda project. And we spend time talking about it because even though
US officials have denied that the United States played any direct role in the
coup of September 11th, 1973, we do have declassified CIA internal memoranda
which say that their propaganda project, quote, "helped set the stage for the
coup of 11 September, 1973."
GROSS: So your reading of the documents is that the CIA wasn't directly
involved in the coup per se, but it just tried to create an atmosphere that
made the coup possible?
Mr. KORNBLUH: I conclude in the book that the United States, both overtly and
through the CIA covertly, actively attempted to create a climate in which a
coup was possible in Chile. The CIA in the end did not directly participate
in the coup, meaning being directly involved in planning with Chilean military
officers, offering equipment and money and guarantees, etc., for three
reasons, which I don't think I really understood, I don't think we really
understood until these documents were declassified.
Very quickly, the first reason was that the CIA didn't believe that conditions
were propitious for a coup until the end of August of 1973, when the commander
in chief of the Chilean Armed Forces, Carlos Prats, was removed, and General
Pinochet replaced him.
The second reason was that the CIA was under scrutiny in the United States for
having collaborated with the IT&T Corporation in the fall of 1970 in covertly
trying to keep Allende from taking office. The columnist Jack Anderson had
broken the story using internal IT&T papers of CIA-ITT conspiracies to block
Allende. The Senate was actually holding hearings in mid-1973 and CIA
officers were being called up to testify for the very first time really in the
agency's history. And so CIA officials were extremely cautious about being
clearly and directly involved with coup plotting while that was going on back
And the third reason, which draws on the second, is that the CIA had
determined that direct US support for the coup was not necessary for the coup
to succeed. And since it wasn't necessary for the coup to succeed, the risks
of exposure in undertaking it weren't really warranted.
GROSS: I'd like to ask you to chose one of the many documents in this book
that you think is most revelatory and read an excerpt of it for us.
Mr. KORNBLUH: I think one of the ones that is most revealing is a transcript
of a conversation between Henry Kissinger and Augusto Pinochet on June 8th,
1976. The reason this secret transcript is important is because Kissinger
wrote about this meeting in the third volume of his memoirs and cast the
meeting in a certain way, said he had talked to Pinochet about human rights
issues and about democracy. And we now have the transcript of that meeting.
And I republished it in the book. And it makes it clear that really Kissinger
passed over the issue of human rights and democracy. He didn't mention the
word `democracy' at all in the meeting, by the way. And to the degree he
talked about human rights, he talked about it because the US Congress was, he
said, forcing him to address this issue. And even though we have the
documents, the briefing papers for him which tell him, `Do not go in and give
Pinochet platitudes, etc. You have to be very, very clear with him.
Otherwise, he will come away from this meeting thinking you support him,' at
the end of this meeting, Kissinger was very clear with Pinochet.
`We want to help, not undermine you,' he says. `You did a great service to
the West in overthrowing Allende. Otherwise, Chile would have followed Cuba,
then there would've been no human rights.'
Here he is talking to someone three years into the Pinochet regime, who is
ultimately responsible for the most egregious acts of human rights violations
that the Southern Cone had seen to that point. Kissinger knows this full
well. You have the ability to understand the way policy-makers talk to
dictators like Augusto Pinochet and really what they thought about them in the
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Peter Kornbluh, author of the
new book "The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and
Accountability." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of instrumental music)
GROSS: My guest is Peter Kornbluh, author of the new book "The Pinochet
File." It collects and analyzes many of the recently declassified documents
showing America's covert policy toward Chile.
You say in the book that Pinochet was brutal right from the start. He
initiated a series of massacres that came to be known as the Caravan of Death.
You say the United States intelligence knew about these massacres. What did
it do in response? What was its reaction?
Mr. KORNBLUH: We have the CIA cables reporting from the day of the coup
onward on the atrocities that were taking place. There was so much bloodshed
in the days following the coup, Terry, that the CIA sources couldn't even
accurately count it. And you had CIA cables dated three or four days after
the coup coming up from Santiago saying that a source had said that 4,000
people had been killed in the first week following the coup. Another source
reporting a week later that 2,000 to 10,000 civilians had been killed in the
first 10 days or so following the coup.
And eventually the CIA did intercept a secret report that was given to
Pinochet on the actual figures. It showed about 14 to 1,500 people killed in
the first three weeks after the coup, at least 320 to 400 of them summarily
From the very start it was clear, from intelligence reporting as well as from
reporting in papers such as The New York Times, that this was a brutal
regime. There's one extraordinary document I came across, which I'll share
with you, which is a secret transcript of Henry Kissinger meeting with his
staff at the State Department on October 1st or 2nd, I believe, about three
weeks after the coup. And his assistant secretary for Latin America comes in
and says, `You know, I'm testifying before Congress and they're asking me
about these atrocity stories that are appearing in Newsweek and The New York
Times. I mean, can it be true, these extraordinary figures of how many people
have been killed?' And Kissinger responds to his entire staff, he says, `I
want our policy to be clear. However bad this military government behaves, it
is better for our interests than Allende's was.'
That was the policy that was pursued, an embrace of Augusto Pinochet after he
took power, irregardless of the vast human rights atrocities he was
GROSS: When Pinochet was basically voted out of office, had the United
States already turned against him? Did they want to keep him at that point?
Did the US government and the CIA consider it in its best interest to let him
Mr. KORNBLUH: Let's just go back to the beginning of the Pinochet
dictatorship. Pinochet ruled in Chile for 17 years. His regime was renowned
for human rights violations. US intelligence repeatedly compared his secret
police to the gestapo in secret cables to Washington.
For the first three years of the Pinochet era, which was the end of the Nixon
administration and two years of the Ford administration, the US policy was to
support Pinochet. And Kissinger really oversaw this policy. We tried to send
as much military aid as we could. Eventually the American public and the US
Congress got so outraged that Senator Kennedy led a campaign to pass laws that
would restrict aid to Augusto Pinochet.
It was in September of 1976 when Augusto Pinochet and his secret police sent
agents to Washington to commit an act of international terrorism, the car
bombing that killed former Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier and American
colleague Ronnie Karpen Moffit, in downtown Washington, that US policy was
forced to start to change. This corresponded with Jimmy Carter's
administration, which was much more focused on human rights.
When Ronald Reagan was elected and became president, he embraced the Pinochet
regime once again and removed the human rights issue from the bilateral
relations with Chile. But by the beginning of his second term, it had become
clear to Reagan's aides that Pinochet was becoming an albatross for US policy.
US support for him was compromising efforts to get Congress to pass aid for
the CIA's covert war in Nicaragua and military aid for the militaries in
Salvador and Honduras. Reagan was being accused of a double standard in
supporting Pinochet but then supposedly working to promote democracy through
the Contra war in Central America.
And, frankly, Pinochet was becoming another Somoza. He had been there for
almost 15 years at that point. He was still committing atrocities. He was
not letting the middle-class parties, the moderate parties have any space.
And the situation was radicalizing. The Communist Party was becoming much
more active, there was guerrilla groups starting to re-emerge in Chile, while
the left that Pinochet, with the United States' support, had tried to
eradicate was re-emerging. And so the Reagan administration did change its
policy in 1986 towards Pinochet and started pressing him to hold a plebiscite.
The Reagan administration did gain intelligence that Pinochet planned to
violently abort this plebiscite if he appeared to be losing and to remain in
power. And the Reagan administration, to its credit, the documents show,
very aggressively worked with other countries, worked with all its contacts
in the Chilean military, to blow the whistle on Pinochet's plan. And even
though he tried to implement this plan, by that time the rest of the generals
refused to go along with him and he was removed, to the credit of the Chilean
public for voting him out of power under very, very difficult circumstances
and to the credit to the Reagan administration for the contribution it made at
GROSS: Peter Kornbluh is the author of "The Pinochet File." He'll be back
in the second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: Coming up, Ken Tucker remembers singer-songwriter Warren Zevon. Also,
more on the US covert role in the coup that overthrew Chilean President
Salvador Allende 30 years ago. We hear from Jack Devine, who was a CIA agent
stationed in Chile at the time of the coup, and we continue our discussion
with Peter Kornbluh.
(Soundbite of music)
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Interview: Jack Devine shares his point of view on the Chilean coup
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
We're talking about the covert role the US played in the 1973 coup that
overthrew Salvadore Allende, the democratically-elected socialist president of
Chile, and installed the military dictator Augusto Pinochet. This Thursday
marks the 30th anniversary of the coup. A little later, we'll hear more from
Peter Kornbluh. His new book, "The Pinochet File," collects and analyzes many
of the recently declassified documents that reveal the US support of the coup.
Jack Devine worked on the CIA's Chile task force at the time of Allende's
election. At the time of the coup, Devine was a CIA agent stationed in Chile.
He later rose to the positions of chief of the Latin American Division and
acting director of the CIA's operations abroad. He's now retired from the CIA
and runs a crisis management consulting firm in New York City. He says that
to understand the US policy toward Chile, you have to put it in the context of
Mr. JACK DEVINE (Former CIA Agent): It's very hard, when we look back at
historical things, to look at them strictly in the context of the documents.
I don't take exception to Peter's comments, but we were at a very different
point in our history, and it's hard thinking back about the Cold War today.
It seems so, so far away. But it wasn't just Nixon and Kissinger. It was
very much the world we lived in at that time. We looked at Latin-America,
wars of liberation, communist takeover. And again, it sounds stale today, but
in that period, it was viewed as a real threat. And I think it was in that
context that the Nixon concern, if you will, should be understood.
The second thing, which I think is terribly important in terms of the agency's
role, this was not a covert action program put forth by CIA. In fact, it's an
important point in virtually every covert action operation that I'm familiar
with, and that is it's a presidential initiative. And in this case, the
agency was quite lukewarm about becoming involved in a coup attempt against
Allende in the period following the elections.
GROSS: Why was it lukewarm?
Mr. DEVINE: There's two points. One, they didn't think it would be
successful. And the second was actually a time factor as well. In order to
be successful, much more time would have been needed. But the ingredients
were not there, and it was proven to be quite accurate, as a matter of fact,
the ingredients weren't there for a successful coup when Allende was elected.
The covert action program was much more limited. And even during the
election, it was a denigration campaign, which means criticizing the candidate.
It wasn't really getting out there, organizing the parties in a more active
way. The Schneider incident, which Peter refers to...
GROSS: This is the general who was assassinated.
Mr. DEVINE: General Schneider was the commander in chief of the armed forces
at that time--was assassinated, or killed if you will in a failed kidnapping
attempt. But I want to make very clear that that was not a CIA operation, and
it had a tremendous impact both with inside the CIA, but more importantly
inside the US government and the entire political dynamic in Chile. It really
put the end to coup plotting. It just stopped cold. The military itself had
no heart for it. In fact, it's one of the points that I think gets lost in
this commentary about the military. Up until September of '73, the military
really was not in a coup plotting frame of mind. They really, in the
post-Schneider period, were not engaged in coup plotting. What drove them to
the coup in September of '73 was the fact that their military institution
started to fall apart, and they felt they needed to protect that more than
anything else, which was consistent with their mind-set, but not necessarily
GROSS: Just getting back to the assassination of General Schneider, I believe
what Peter Kornbluh says in "The Pinochet File" is that the documents show
that the United States supplied arms that were used in that assassination, and
also money that was used in the planning of it.
Mr. DEVINE: I don't believe either of those statements to be true, that the
arms were provided. I believe that is not accurate. And money provided for
that kidnapping, I do not believe that's accurate either.
GROSS: You know, all these documents now have been declassified. You worked
with the CIA in Chile at the time of the coup. But I'm wondering if you've
learned a lot from reading these documents. I assume that you've read them.
You should let us know if you have or not. But if you have read them, what
are some of the things you didn't know were happening even though you were
part of the operation?
Mr. DEVINE: I mean, first of all, no one can know everything, and the
documents aren't the whole story by any means. And one of the problems in
looking at the documents, it doesn't point out what's taking place on the
other side. I mean, what was going on outside of CIA. What was going on
inside the Communist Party and the Russians and the Cubans, and what was going
on inside the UB government at that time, all of that, of course, is lost in
what was the US government doing. And there are a couple points that I wanted
to touch on.
When we talk about the economy, yes, you can point to the ITT fiasco if you
will. But let us not forget there was a major expropriation of US properties
in Chile. And more importantly, there was expropriation of Chilean
properties. It was a very menacing atmosphere, and I think people forget
this. This was not just a democratic society at that point in time. There
was a tremendous amount of turmoil and class conflict in Chile throughout this
period. There was an expression used by almost all of the political parties
that Allende in the end would fall of his own weight, and that's even from the
Communist Party's own analysis. And I think to some degree, when we look at
the economic circumstances, they really were driven largely by the Allende
policy. The cables were written inside of the US government of what they
should do and shouldn't do. We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that that
doesn't necessarily translate into real events.
GROSS: How aware were you of the torture and massacres that the Pinochet
regime was responsible for, the regime that the US was helping to support?
Mr. DEVINE: I'm very glad that you've raised that question. It's important
to understand, and I think for your listeners to understand, that the agency
is consistent with US policy and our own values. Now they change from
administration to administration in certain aspects, but the participation in
the torture and killing of people just is abhorrent to the CIA as it is to
everyone else. I find it, personally, outrageous, what took place in Chile
during the Pinochet administration. I'm not a defender of Pinochet nor are
any of my colleagues that served in Chile at that time with me. It was
absolutely outrageous, and CIA had no forewarning. In fact, nobody I know in
any of the political parties in Chile had a forewarning, because the military
was pretty much out of the political environment up until Pinochet came to
power. No one really had a good handle on the mentality and culture of the
military. Chile has a rich history of democracy and liberties and so on. And
the Chilean military, when they came into power, I think many of us thought
they would be in, settle things down, and then there'd be democratic elections
and be back to business as usual. It didn't turn out to be the case, and I
remember talking to a KGB officer at the time, saying that he thought Pinochet
would stay in for 10 years, and I thought it was outrageous. And of course,
he was right, and I was wrong. But make no mistake about it. Pinochet and
the atrocity that took place, CIA had no sympathy interest, and found it
abhorrent. And frankly, to this day, I take great umbrage at the association
with those incidents.
GROSS: But was it an awful feeling to know that you were helping to support
Mr. DEVINE: Now let's go back. I want to stick to the basic point. CIA did
not organize that military coup.
GROSS: But it created the atmosphere that helped make the coup possible, and
then helped keep it in power, right?
Mr. DEVINE: No, that's what Peter's saying, and that's what some of the
message imply they would like to see happen. There's a gap between wishes and
realities here. The truth of the matter is the policy that was adhered to
from the time that Allende was put into office until he was overthrown, the
policy was no coup plot. Now what did take place, there's a lot of emphasis
in the discussion earlier with Peter about negative media campaigns and so on.
But it was largely, in may ways, supporting democratic institutions resisting
what was viewed at the time as a Marxist onslaught. The Communist Party, at
that time, and the leaders and Cuba and Russia--and this is well
understood--viewed Chile as an opportunity to come to power through the ballot
box. So there was a view of preserving.
And I think the key point here is the El Mercurio story, which I think is
an interesting one that is raised here. What that money was used for was El
Mercurio, at that point in time, was being pressured through print and ink and
not being able to get some of the raw materials to maintain that very
prestigious paper afloat in this difficult period. And the US policymaker
intervened to try and keep it alive. So there is a world of difference
between using it as a hack media attack on Allende and trying to maintain this
prestigious media outlet in defense of the democratic elements that were there
at the time.
GROSS: Well, Jack Devine, thank you very much.
Mr. DEVINE: Well, thank you.
GROSS: Jack Devine was a CIA agent in Chile in 1973, at the time of the coup.
Coming up, more from Peter Kornbluh, author of "The Pinochet File." This is
(Soundbite of music)
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Interview: Peter Kornbluh discusses details of his book, "The
TERRY GROSS, host:
Let's get back to our interview with Peter Kornbluh, the author of the new
book, "The Pinochet File." It collects and analyzes many of the recently
declassified documents that reveal the secret history of US policy in Chile,
including its support of the coup that overthrew President Salvadore Allende
and installed the military dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Could you quantify, you know, in numbers, the amount of money or the quantity
of arms that we sent Chile?
Mr. PETER KORNBLUH (Author, "The Pinochet File"): You know, the Nixon
administration conducted what it called an invisible blockade of aid to Chile
during the Allende government. Almost all multilateral bank loans almost
immediately ended to Chile after Allende's election under pressure that the
United States put on the multilateral lending institutions. Credits for trade
were cut off. The only trade that really significantly continued to Chile was
arms to the Chilean military.
As soon as Pinochet took power, despite the flow of intelligence documents and
public reports of his atrocities, the spigot of economic and military aid was
turned back on full steam. At one point, Chile was receiving, within months
after the coup, up to 80 percent of the Food for Peace aid to all of Latin
America. Chile became, during the first couple years of the Pinochet regime,
a leading purchaser of US military equipment. I think it was the number five
country at one point in 1975 in purchases of American military equipment.
And thirdly, where the United States had gone to Paris and pressured all of
our Western European allies to cut off renegotiations of Chile's debt to make
it much harder for Allende to have any money to spend on imports for his
country, as soon as Pinochet took power, United States worked with its allies
to renegotiate all of Chile's debts, and really saving Pinochet hundreds of
millions of dollars in the loans that his regime would have owed at that time.
So across the board, aid and trade escalated. Military support was
forthcoming, and the United States gave Pinochet a rather open and active
embrace during his first three years in power.
GROSS: In the Bush administration's pursuit of the war in Iraq, we've seen
disputes between the State Department, the Defense Department and the
intelligence agencies about what should be done and how it should be done.
Can you describe if there were similar disputes going on during the coup in
Chile going on in the United States? You've said that the State Department
raised questions about whether we should be backing a coup. Can you talk a
little bit more about disagreements within the US?
Mr. KORNBLUH: The US foreign policy, bureaucracy is large. Every agency has
a different approach, a different vested interest. One of the things that the
documents show is that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were essentially
alone in 1970 in advocating for an aggressive covert program to keep Allende
from being inaugurated. Almost all of Kissinger's aides told him that this
was impossible pragmatically, not really feasible. And second, his main
deputy at the National Security Council wrote him a memo saying that this was
a violation of the morals and values and principles of US foreign policy, that
Allende could not really be characterized as a mortal threat to the United
States, and therefore the United States should not depart from its principles
and try and roll back the democratic decisions of the Chilean people.
One of the things that's most illuminating is that after Allende was
inaugurated, within 48 hours, Kissinger had held meetings with the State
Department about what we should do now. The State Department essentially
said, `Look, he is democratically elected. He is the legitimate president of
Chile. You know, we can support the political parties there, the opposition
parties, but really, we're just going to need to work with him. We really
don't have any other option.' Kissinger sends a set of arguments to Nixon,
saying, `If you don't lay down the law to the bureaucracy here, there's going
to be a drift towards a modus vivendi with Allende, and he will be able to
consolidate his power and present himself as a successfully elected Marxist
with dire implications for US interests in the future around the world.' And
of course, Nixon took Kissinger's advice and made it clear to his aides that
the United States was going to aggressively oppose Allende and hurt him the
best we could. Can I just say, if Kissinger had recommended perhaps that we
simply have a modus vivendi with the democratically elected president of a
very small and strategically unimportant country in the southern cone of
Chile, we might not today be commemorating the 30th anniversary of the brutal
coup that cost Allende his life and brought Augusto Pinochet to power.
GROSS: Are there CIA protests that have been revealed in the declassified
documents, protests against the US policy, anyone in the CIA saying, `You
know, we'll go along with it if you tell us to, but we don't think it's a good
Mr. KORNBLUH: Right after Richard Nixon ordered the director of Central
Intelligence, Richard Helms, to foment a coup in Chile in the fall of 1970,
the order went down to the CI station, and the CI station chief, Henry
Hecksher, wrote back saying that this was mission impossible, that Chile was
tranquil, Chile was at peace with the election of Salvadore Allende, and that
there was no rationale, no justification, nothing that would make a coup
possible. This was too large an order,' he wrote back. And he sent a couple
of cables making this point. And finally, CIA headquarters wrote back to him
and basically told him to shut up. His opinion on this was not what was being
asked for. What was being asked for is him to implement the policy of the
president of the United States to quickly and if necessary violently foment a
coup in Chile.
At one point in October, when Hecksher had finally found a disgruntled retired
Chilean general who was willing to violently instigate a coup, he wrote back
to Washington, `Carnage could be considerable and prolonged, i.e. civil war,
but you have asked us to provoke chaos in Chile. We provide you with formula
for chaos which is unlikely to be bloodless.' And he added, `To dissimulate
US involvement will clearly be impossible.'
And that was really a prescient statement. It was prescient not only for the
operation right then that led to the violent murder of the Chilean commander
in chief, General Rene Schneider, but it was also prescient for the overall
US covert involvement in Chile, which contributed to the advent of Augusto
Pinochet, in which has essentially been a very dark stain on the history of US
foreign policy ever since.
GROSS: Peter Kornbluh, thank you so much for talking with us.
Mr. KORNBLUH: It's been a pleasure.
GROSS: Peter Kornbluh is the author of "The Pinochet File." He directs the
Chile Documentation Project of the National Security Archive at George
Washington University in Washington, DC.
Coming up, rock critic Ken Tucker remembers singer-songwriter Warren Zevon.
This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Profile: Warren Zevon appreciated
TERRY GROSS, host:
Singer-songwriter Warren Zevon died Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 56 and had
lung cancer. He had several hits, including "Werewolves of London," "Poor
Poor Pitiful Me" and "Lawyers, Guns and Money." But his fans remember him for
much more. Rock critic Ken Tucker has this appreciation.
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. WARREN ZEVON: (Singing) Some days I feel like my shadow's casting me.
Some days the sun don't shine. Sometimes I wonder what tomorrow's going to
bring when I think about my dirty life and times.
Maybe you caught the VH1 TV special on the making of Warren Zevon's last
album, "The Wind." If you didn't, I'll describe the best part. Zevon is in a
limo with his manager on his way to tape "The David Letterman Show." He's
worried that his lung cancer, which is making him increasingly short of breath
won't allow him to both talk to David in the interview segments and perform
the songs he wants to do. As he frets, his manager gets a cell phone call.
She covers the phone and says to Zevon, `It's The New Yorker. They want to do
a profile of you.' Zevon turns away from her, looks out the car window for a
second, turns back and says, `Too late.'
It's a great paradigmatic Warren Zevon moment. Turning down a chance for some
publicity in a highly esteemed magazine for principled reasons which boil down
to the unspoken message `where were you when I was healthy, making great music
and could have used the attention?' I hope New Yorker editor David Remnick saw
that special and felt really bad.
Looking at Zevon's exhausted face and thinning hair on the cover of "The
Wind," it's almost hard to remember the cocky, mopped-top young SOB who put
out "Excitable Boy" in 1978, a great album whose hard-boiled lyrics and
werewolf swagger put him on the map at an odd time. At the height of punk
rock, here was a Los Angeles singer/songwriter whose pals included such
musical establishment figures as Jackson Brown, who produced the album, and
Linda Ronstadt and The Eagles who sang backup on it. At the time, you'd have
expected this young up-and-comer to pull back on his world historical cynicism
and his jaunty nihilism and to hate himself for what might be his big break.
Instead, he sang stuff like this.
(Soundbite of "Excitable Boy")
Mr. ZEVON: (Singing) When he went down to dinner in his Sunday best,
excitable boy, they all said. And he ...(unintelligible) a pot roast over his
chest, excitable boy, they all said. Well, he's just an excitable boy. He
took in the 4 AM show at the Clark, excitable boy, they all said. And he
bit the usherette's leg in the dark, excitable boy, they all said. Well, he's
just an excitable boy.
TUCKER: As always, I wonder whether Linda Ronstadt was aware when she
recorded those nice oo-ah, oo, oos that her voice was caressing a tune with
lyrics like `well, he raped her and killed her, then he took her home, well,
he's just an excitable boy.' Certainly bad taste in words never held Zevon
back. His musical and lifestyle excesses have been extensively noted, though
it also bears saying that he wrote some of his best late-period music after
getting sober, most specifically the terrific song "Detox Mansion," a 1987
sentimental hygiene which contains the lines `it's tough to be somebody, it's
hard not to fall apart.'
Well, the last thing you can say about Zevon at the end of his life is that he
fell apart. On the contrary, his best qualities only became more confident
and sure. He had always cozied up to the grim reaper in songs like "I'll
Sleep When I'm Dead" and the ride referred to in his 2002 album "My Ride's
Here" was a hearse. In interviews, he was witty and wry, noting that it,
quote, "May have been a strategical error not to have seen a doctor other than
his dentist over the past decade or so." He was magnificent talking to
Letterman on October 30th, saying simply that in those final days, quote, "I
enjoy every sandwich."
I've read a lot of rave reviews of "The Wind," Zevon's final album released
August 26th and featuring guest stars, like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and
Emmylou Harris. I think these reviews do Zevon a disservice. "The Wind" is
not a great album. Some of the songs are maudlin and vague. You can hear him
straining for images and notes that his health will no longer permit. A man
as ferociously unsentimental as Zevon doesn't need overstated praise or
critical judgment clouded by excessive piety for the dying or the dead. He
left behind a score, at least, of brilliant songs and he was one of the most
intelligent, funny and scabrous figures in rock 'n' roll history. His legacy
is secure. We can honor him best by emulating his own clear-headed honesty.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic at large for Entertainment Weekly. Warren Zevon
died Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 56. I'm Terry Gross.
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. ZEVON: (Singing) Mama, take this badge off of me. I can't use it
anymore. It's getting dark, too dark to see.
GROSS: This is NPR, National Public Radio.
On the next FRESH AIR, economist Paul Krugman. He collects his New York Times
op-ed columns in his new book, "The Great Unraveling." He says it's about
economic disappointment, bad leadership and the lives of the powerful. I'm
Terry Gross. Join us for the next FRESH AIR.
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