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No, Mr. Dorfman, This is Not Chile

Photo by Toxic5 | DeviantArt

Photo by Toxic5 | DeviantArt

In the days following 9/11, the Chilean-born writer Ariel Dorfman wrote what, for me, were the truest and most indelible words about that tragic event. Right here in CounterPunch, in an article published on October 3, 2001, and titled “America’s No Longer Unique,” Mr. Dorfman expressed grief and sympathy for the lives lost, while also pleading for a compassionate response from a country that had just experienced what other, “less fortunate peoples” had experienced before; an America that had just had the bubble of its “famous exceptionalism” burst.

I still repost that story every anniversary of 9/11, awaiting the day that never comes, the day when the United States eschews violence and, in Mr. Dorfman’s eloquent prose, the “new Americans forged in pain and resurrection are ready and open and willing to participate in the arduous process of repairing our shared, our damaged humanity.”

The country Mr. Dorman used for comparison, of course, was his native Chile, which, on another 9/11 in 1973, had experienced a catastrophic coup that featured the bombing of the presidential palace in Santiago. That event was brought about, not surprisingly, with the collusion of the CIA.

Fifteen years later, Mr. Dorfman, now a professor at Duke University, is back, this time on the op-ed page of The New York Times, again invoking the Chilean disaster of yesteryear. Only this time he compares it to the Russian hacking fiasco of the 2016 election.

It pains me that Mr. Dorfman swallows this dubious fairy tale hook, line, and sinker. “And yes,” he writes, “it is ironic that the C.I.A. — the very agency that gave not a whit for the independence of other nations — is now crying foul because its tactics have been imitated by a powerful international rival.” And yet that doesn’t give him a moment’s pause to question the veracity of the CIA’s claims?

Apparently not. “Nothing warrants that citizens anywhere should have their destiny manipulated by forces outside the land they inhabit,” he intones. “The seriousness of this violation of the people’s will must not be flippantly underestimated or disparaged.”

Worse, anyone who underestimates the truthfulness of these (insubstantial) claims—up to and including President-elect Trump—is guilty of the same denialism that infected some of Mr. Dorfman’s compatriots in the 1970s. “When Mr. Trump denies, as do his acolytes, the claims by the intelligence community that the election was, in fact, rigged in his favor by a foreign power, he is bizarrely echoing the very responses that so many Chileans got in the early ’70s when we accused the C.I.A. of illegal interventions in our internal affairs. He is using now the same terms of scorn we heard back then: Those allegations, he says, are ‘ridiculous’ and mere ‘conspiracy theory,’ because it is ‘impossible to know’ who was behind it.”

But, Mr. Dorfman readily admits, “Thanks to the Church Committee and its valiant, bipartisan 1976 report, the world discovered the many crimes the C.I.A. had been committing, the multiple ways in which it had destroyed democracy elsewhere — in order, supposedly, to save the world from Communism.” More importantly, as he well knows, those “many crimes” consisted of openly-supported coups, assassinations, fomenting of unrest, economic warfare, and other dirty tricks, not to mention a pattern of meddling that extended far beyond one country and that continues to this day with color revolutions and all the rest.

Mr. Dorfman knows all this, and he must know that in the case of the 2016 election, all we have are unnamed sources, allegations of leaked or hacked e-mails (the contents of which are not in dispute), vague and inchoate assertions of “fake news” and favoritism, a dearth of real, verifiable evidence, and, yes, the “ridiculous,” SNL-fueled notion that Trump is some kind of Russian puppet or agent.

To his credit, Mr. Dorfman uses his piece, in a close parallel to his 9/11 essay, to push for self-reflection on the part of the exceptional nation, and, one can only hope (probably in vain), an end to our country’s baldfaced interference in the affairs of other nations.

But the context and conclusion are all wrong. This is not Chile in the 70s, and we lack proof of this grand Russian conspiracy. Interestingly, the tone in this piece, despite Mr. Dorfman’s protestations to the contrary, has more than a whiff of gloating about it. Take that, he seems to say, for all your past sins.

Sorry, Professor. The CIA fooled you once: shame on them. Fool you twice: shame on you.

Fred Baumgarten is a writer living in Sharon, Connecticut.