Global Warning

Go-ahead on Pinochet extradition sends shot across multinational bow as key U.S. files remain hidden

Washington— Whatever joy was shared around the world last week following Britain's decision not to block the extradition of Chilean despot Augusto Pinochet was tempered by the realization that the general's appearance before a Spanish court is still a long way off. To Pinochet's lawyers, this merely marks the start of an appeals process that could keep the semi-retired, 83-year-old autocrat in Britain until the year 2000. But whether or not British Home Secretary Jack Straw appreciates it, he has, by virtue of his action, endorsed an innovative political philosophy: the creation of an effective transnational civil society that can stand apart from, and in opposition to, the diplomacy of governments and the forces of a globalized marketplace.

The concept is hardly new; indeed, the past decade has seen the emergence of a school of thought— largely scorned by mainstream economists— which holds that human rights, fair labor practices, sustainable development, and environmental protection must be accorded genuinely high priority as counterweights to what author William Greider has called "the manic logic of global capitalism." In the same vein, political scientist Benjamin Barber has argued for an independent, quasi-political buffer against an encroaching system of "wholesale privatization that leaves those in need dependent on the uncertain mercies of the market and robs those who seek cooperative democratic solutions. . . ." To such thinkers, Pinochet's arrest is not only a stunning assertion of multinational moral authority, but also a practical warning to the global business community.

"When you look at the history of the anti­land mine campaign, you see, in effect, a declaration of independence from people all over the world who are not governing or financial authorities, but want to express common values and make those authorities responsive," says Greider. "What's happening with Pinochet is a truly dramatic step toward reconciling basic human values with globalization."

Mothers of the disappeared examine photographs in Chile following coup in the late '70s.
Mothers of the disappeared examine photographs in Chile following coup in the late '70s.

That a combination of Spanish jurists, American lawyers, British law lords, and international human rights groups could take the Pinochet case as far as they have is, says Barber, remarkable and inspiring. "There is a really radical difference in what's going on here and what happened at Nuremberg," he adds. "At Nuremberg, you had the conscience of the world being represented by the power of the victors, but here, it's the emergence of world community standards, not power, that's the issue."

In the context of a wild global economy, says Steven Bennett, director of Witness for Peace, the British decision should come as a serious admonition to the neoliberals in government and business who dominate the world economy. "The Pinochet matter, at its heart, really is a globalization issue— while the Clinton administration and its corporate allies repeat the mantra of 'creating free market democracies,' the fact is, they've clearly cared more about the first part of the phrase," he says. "This isn't just a reminder, but a signal of things to come, that says leaders and corporations will be held accountable."

Though it's unlikely that officials of ITT— whose role in the Chilean coup is well known— will find themselves in the dock as a result of the Pinochet case, economist/futurist Hazel Henderson believes that a Pinochet trial would also illustrate how far removed the current practices of global finance are from common human values. "The information that would come out of such a trial would be important in terms of tracking the cronyism between so-called leaders and heads of multinationals," she says.

However, for a proper trial to take place, the Spanish investigators still need reams of classified documents that the U.S. government has been slow to deliver. In the context of a transnational civil society action, this intransigience is hardly surprising; it is, in fact, a concrete example of how conventional diplomacy reacts to a threat to its hegemony. Even though the State Department announced late last month that a massive government-wide declassification of Pinochet-related materials had commenced, The New York Times and others failed to note State's next day "clarificaton" that only a "review" of pertinent documents is taking place and that there has been "no a priori decision" that documents will be released.

"The process is a complicated one— in fact, we haven't even received a formal directive yet," says David Horrocks, supervisory archivist at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, where some of the documents are located. "While we have certain materials, we need authorization from the originating agency to release them. So we formally contact the agencies they originally came from, send the materials back to them for their review, and if they say it's OK, we can declassify them. The agencies can delegate to us declassification authority, but right now, we don't have a lot of that delegated authority."

Further complicating matters is the unique manner in which the Machiavellian Henry Kissinger has disposed of some of his papers. Though quite comfortable with his reputation as friend of any dictator favorably inclined toward the multinational status quo ("What's 6000 people dead in two years— maybe 10 a day— I don't call that genocide," Henry said of his old pal Augusto at a recent New York dinner), Kissinger— who available documents show to have been gleefully involved in plotting the CIA's Chilean destabilization efforts— nonetheless took pains to ensure that certain official papers will never be made public.

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