Not to sound trite, but 9/11 is indeed a day that will live in infamy. On this day a sovereign democracy was savagely attacked by a terrorist organization.
Unsatisfied with the choice people made in electing their leaders and bitter about the economic path a self-governed society determined for itself, foreign demagogues hiding behind the veneer of religious righteousness launched a cowardly attack. It is estimated that those who orchestrated this terrorist act are responsible for the death of over 3,000 civilians.
This is not the first time that democratically elected governments were overthrown by these fanatics. They are responsible for undermining and overthrowing numerous governments, several of which were also democracies.
There is something immoral, unethical and ungodly about a group of people who believe they have a God-given right to determine what economic and political orders under which other nations must live. What right does one group of people have to impose their will, violently if need be, on another group of people who are seeking their own self-determination?
Yes, 9/11 is a day of shame, a day of terror and a day that should never be forgotten. We should always remember that on Sept. 11, 1973, the Nixon administration, through the CIA, overthrew the democratically elected Allende administration of Chile, leading to the death of over 3,000 Chileans.
What was Allende’s crime? He was moving his country toward a more leftist economic social order. According to declassified U.S. documents made available by the Freedom of Information Act, we know that a CIA memorandum outlined “Project FUBELT,” a CIA covert operation in which then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was involved, that promoted a military coup to undermine Allende’s government.
There are National Security Council strategy papers recording U.S. efforts to diplomatically isolate the Allende government while destabilizing its economy. And there are numerous documents detailing human rights violations taking place under the U.S.-backed military regime of General Pinochet.
The U.S. involvement in overthrowing a democratically elected government is no secret. In September 2000 the CIA took public responsibility for its role in being involved with the eventual coup-plotters.
But working to overthrow the government was not enough. They were also engaged in terrorist acts like kidnapping and assassination (paying $35,000 to kidnap Gen. Rene Schneider, which ended with him being shot when he refused to oppose Allende).
The CIA also provided a payment to the post-9/11 Chilean head of the feared secret police, Gen. Manuel Contreras Sepulveda. The CIA knew of the human rights violations being committed by Contreras’ police but continued to maintain a close relationship.
Ironically, Contreras was sentenced and imprisoned in 1993 for his involvement in sponsoring a terrorist act on U.S. soil. In 1976 he was responsible for car-bombing the Chilean socialist leader Orlando Letelier, along with an American associate, on Embassy Row in Washington, D.C.
No doubt most Americans will be focusing on the 9/11 that occurred on U.S. soil seven years ago. That, too, was an act of terror and indefensible. Yet, it behooves us to also pause and take account of all the 9/11s we have conducted against other nations.
Maybe the terrorist acts we have historically committed abroad are connected with the terrorists acts committed against us. When our 9/11 happened we walked around in a daze asking: Why do they hate us? We never really answered that question. Instead, we reverted to some cosmic conflict between the forces of good (us) and the forces of evil (them).
This is unfortunate. Our refusal to closely examine the 9/11s we have perpetrated on other nations makes it difficult, if not impossible, to win the so-called war on terror.
I am the first to agree that the war against terrorism needs to be won. But as that great philosopher Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Miguel A. De La Torre is director of the Justice & Peace Institute and associate professor of social ethics at Iliff School of Theology in Denver.