Ten years ago, this coming September 11th, we underwent a horrendous attack that I can only describe as evil. The most concise but telling definition of evil that I have come across is this: to willfully do harm to others, or to take action, knowing that what one is about to do will result in harm to others. In the latter case, of course, not all knowingly harmful actions are totally evil; some have mitigating circumstances and thus make the act less evil, or, more correctly stated, a mix of good and evil.
I recalled the other day something I'd forgotten for many years -- there was another fateful 9/11 -but in Chile. That other tragic 9/11 was the day in 1973 when the Chilean military, commanded by General Augusto Pinochet, with the encouragement, knowledge, and assistance of the U.S. government, overthrew the legitimately elected government of Salvador Allende. During that US-supported coup and its immediate aftermath, General Pinochet’s security forces killed 1,260 Chileans through the end of 1973. Tens of thousands more were sent or fled into exile throughout the world, many of them after being tortured in General Pinochet's prisons. Almost 1,160 others were "disappeared" after being detained by agents of the Pinochet regime; they are presumed dead, because their remains have never been found.
The total number of those killed and “disappeared” as a result of the coup in Chile on 9/11/1973 approximates the number of people killed in the U.S. on 9/11/2001. Yet very few of us Americans even remember that other 9/11. It falls into what journalist Robert Parry would call lost history -- although – no, perhaps because - the U.S. CIA and military, even officers of U.S. corporations and high-level American officials were involved in one way or another - including Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, the latter considered, especially by the U.S. media, to be a great font of wisdom on foreign affairs.
A few days after the coup took place in Chile, the ailing poet Pablo Neruda – who, in my estimation, is the greatest poet of the 20th century - passed away, from a literally and figuratively broken heart – broken over the fact that his beloved Chile, the only actual democracy at the time in South America, had joined the infamous ranks of nations oppressed by their militaries.
Later, General Pinochet sent terrorist agents around the world to assassinate opponents of his regime, including former members of the Allende government, one of them right on a street in our nation’s capital. His name was Orlando Letelier. His assistant, an American citizen, Ronnie Moffett, also died in the bomb blast that demolished their vehicle on that Washington, D.C. street in 1976. In all, General Pinochet’s terrorist agents murdered another 600 people from December 1973 through 1976 in Chile and other countries.
So for me there are two 9/11's that I'd rather never have undergone...the first, in 1973, that I experienced indirectly through news accounts and through my knowledge of and admiration for a great poet and his work; and the second, in 2001, which I encountered viscerally through my eyes, as I looked out the window of my office only blocks from the World Trade Center; encountered through my ears, as I heard the chaotic, frightening and frightful noises of that morning while I walked quickly but pensively toward South Ferry to catch one of the last boats leaving for Staten Island before service was temporarily suspended; and encountered even through my nose as I smelled the fires raging on that terrible day and smoldering for weeks afterward on my way to and from work.
May the victims of both 9/11's never be forgotten, and may all the perpetrators of such evil, and their enablers, finally be brought to justice, whoever and wherever they are.