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Who Should be Watching Whom?


Forty years ago a friend of mine, Charles Horman, was executed.

Charles was killed in order to prevent him from blowing the whistle on the role our government played in helping to orchestrate the military coup d’état that overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile.

On September 4, 1970 Allende, a socialist, won a plurality of the vote in a three-way presidential election.   Therefore, it was expected that when the Chilean Congress met on October 24th it would declare him the winner.   But the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, and his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, were determined to prevent that from happening.  Hence, behind the backs of the American people and members of Congress and with the help of anti-Allende forces in Chile they hatched a plan to provoke a military take over.

That plan led to the murder of General René Schneider, the commander-in-chief of the army.  But it did not lead to the hoped for coup.  Instead, the Chilean Congress met as scheduled and declared Allende the winner of the election.  Consequently, on November 3, 1970 Allende took office as the President of Chile.

Nevertheless, as is well documented in reports issued by the United State’s Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations and formerly classified documents released by the Clinton administration, President Nixon and Henry Kissinger continued to prepare the ground for a coup.  As a result on September 11, 1973 Allende was killed and General August Pinochet, a murderous despot, seized power.

Subsequently Charles spoke with U.S. intelligence and military operatives in Chile who, thinking he was a tourist, boasted about the part they played in Allende’s overthrow.  It wasn’t long, however, before those operatives discovered he was a journalist living in Santiago who supported Allende’s effort to move in a democratic manner along a “peaceful road to socialism” and that he was investigating the events leading to the murder of General Schneider.

No doubt, therefore, they and their bosses in Washington sought to keep him from revealing what he had learned with their help and on his own.  But first, I suspect, they wanted to know precisely what information he had obtained, how he had obtained it, and with whom he may have shared it.

Hence on September 17, Charles was arrested and, according to a former Chilean intelligence officer who claims to have witnessed his interrogation, tortured and shot.  Then his body was dumped onto a street in Santiago to make it look as if he had been killed as the result of an armed confrontation.

But Charles, as is now well known, did not die in an armed confrontation.  He died while in the hands of the military more than six days after they seized control of the country.  Hence it is unlikely that he would have been executed without at least the tacit approval of President Nixon and Henry Kissinger.  Not only were Nixon and Kissinger the two individuals most responsible for orchestrating the coup but they were as well the two most important foreign leaders the Chilean military authorities turned to for support in its aftermath.

Why then hasn’t Henry Kissinger, who was charged in a suit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights with complicity in the murder of Charles Horman, been brought to trial and found guilty of those charges? That is one question we should be asking.  But given the role the Nixon administration played in orchestrating the other 9/11 an even more important question Charles would want us to ask is:  “Who is keeping an eye on our government operatives to ensure that they are not violating the most basic principles of our democracy?”

Thanks to Edward Snowden we know they are watching us.  But who is watching them?

Paul Cantor, a professor of economics, is a sponsor of the Charles Horman Truth Foundation (CHTF).  On September 9th in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the coup d’état in Chile the CHTF is holding panel discussions open to the public and a human rights award ceremony.  Judge Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish Judge who had Pinochet arrested for crimes against humanity; Juan Guzmán Tapia, the Chilean judge who prosecuted Pinochet; Peter Weiss, the Center for Constitutional Rights lawyer who headed the legal team that charged Kissinger with complicity in Charles’ execution; Peter Kornbluh, the author of The Pinochet File; and Joyce Horman, Charles’ widow are among those who will be participating in the event.   For more information go to:

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