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.”
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.
While presidential records automatically go to the National Archives after each administration, an official’s personal papers may be retained. And Kissinger, says Jeanne Schauble, director of the Initial Processing and Declassification Division at the National Archives and Records Administration, “interpreted that rather liberally, I’m afraid.” According to Schauble, after Kissinger left government, he managed to have his calendars and memos of phone conversations legally certified as “personal” and then donated them to the Library of Congress with the proviso that they remain sealed until five years after his death. “We have no authority to deal with declassification of records beyond what authority is granted to us by the agencies that originated them, and as these are personal papers, I don’t believe they’re covered,” she says.
Although it’s unlikely that the government departments affected by the new declassification directive have gone to such lengths to shield dicey documents, one State Department official involved in the Pinochet case says that ever since Spanish investigators made their initial request for material last year, the intelligence community’s pertinacity has been appalling. “The Spanish don’t even have access to all our unclassified documents, because all we were required to do was give them previously released documents,” says the official. “There’s plenty of stuff still out there. But there’s been resistance from the CIA, DIA, and NSA.”
Most obstinate, some intelligence watchers believe, is the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency). When the Church Committee undertook its landmark 1975 investigation of dubious activities by U.S. intelligence agencies, it stopped short of probing the role military intelligence personnel played in the 1973 coup— which is exactly what U.S. journalist Charles Horman was investigating when he disappeared days after Pinochet seized power.
“On the day of the coup, he was in Vina del Mar, where he found himself among a group of American military personnel who seemed quite pleased with themselves and were talking about how they had come to do a job,” says Joyce Horman of her late husband, whose disappearance became the basis for the 1982 film Missing. “I think that was a very big element in why Charlie disappeared.”
Horman isn’t alone in her desire to see relevant documents released. Two celebrities with keen personal interests in the unfolding developments are Constantin Costa-Gavras, the director of Missing, and presidential lawyer David Kendall, who successfully defended Costa-Gavras in a libel suit brought by three U.S. Embassy officials posted to Santiago, who claimed that Costa-Gavras portrayed them as having somehow taken part in Horman’s murder. “We never did that in the movie, because that wasn’t the reality,” says Costa-Gavras, who holds that what American officials did indirectly— enabling the coup and its subsequent carnage— was far worse. Even over a rough line from Paris, the pique in his voice is unmistakable. “What I’m sure they did to Charles Horman was do nothing to save him. Of that I’m absolutely sure. They didn’t give a shit about saving his life, for absolute sure. And this is why there must be a trial. Not so much to punish Pinochet— he’s too old for punishment to be effective— but so we can all finally get the truth about that period, to understand better why and how what happened, happened.”
Though Kendall’s client’s administration has yet to take a unclouded position on the matter, the attorney says he’s all for declassification: “There are others better suited to address certain specifics,” Kendall told the Voice, “but I’m quite interested in the Pinochet case. There are still a lot of unanswered questions.”
However, any definitive U.S. action isn’t likely to be swift. According to an investigator involved in the government’s Pinochet discussions, some State Department officials believe “there’s no evidence linking Pinochet to the [1976 Washington, D.C.] Letelier-Moffitt assassination,” and only “tangential” evidence linking Pinochet to other American deaths like Horman’s. Part of the reason for this novel interpretation is that the State Department’s legal office has forbidden officials at State to have any contact with officials at Justice so as not to appear to be tampering with a potential Justice Department prosecution. “It’s like saying you can’t be involved in the case because there is, technically, no case, but you can’t have any contact because you’re not allowed to interfere with the case,” says the investigator.
According to this source and others at the State Department, no clear policy stance on Pinochet has been articulated, due in part to feuding between State’s prohuman rights and prointernational trade factions (merely the latest manifestation of policy schizophrenia in an administration that professes human rights support, yet continues to back militaristic regimes with multinational corporate ties). Even though a recent poll showed that a clear majority of Chileans would like to see Pinochet tried, the Justice Department has failed to do what ex
assistant U.S. attorney Larry Barcella— who sent some of Pinochet’s agents to jail for blowing up Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt six blocks from the White House in 1976— says it should do: indict Pinochet for murder.
Research: Lauren Reynolds