Praising Pinochet

Following the death of the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, many people have looked at how various world leaders and media outlets reported this event and contrasted it with how they reacted to the death of former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet in 2006.

This article takes the New York Times to task over the matter:

The New York Times described Fidel Castro as a “fiery apostle of the revolution” and Cuba’s “maximum leader” in its Saturday obituary for the infamous and brutal dictator.

Here’s how The Times opened the article:

Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died on Friday. He was 90.

The Daily Caller’s Jaime Weinstein brought attention to how differently the news outlet opened its obituary for Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet in 2006:

Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, the brutal dictator who repressed and reshaped Chile for nearly two decades and became a notorious symbol of human rights abuse and corruption, died yesterday at the Military Hospital of Santiago. He was 91.

This is wholly unsurprising: large numbers of western academics, politicians, journalists and their fellow travellers have for decades excused or ignored everything from repressions to mass-murder provided the perpetrators were socialist and/or anti-American, and I believe the proper response is to call them out on it whenever it appears.  Highlighting how they treat Castro’s death in contrast to that of Pinochet is one way of doing this.  However, where I part company from some people is in praising Pinochet in any way.  The criticism of the NYT above ought to be that they are painting Castro in a positive light, not that they are too harsh on Pinochet.

I don’t believe for one minute that had Salvador Allende continued in power Chile would have become anything other than a run-of-the-mill socialist basket-case complete with customary repressions and murder, and nor do I subscribe to the myth that the CIA were involved in the coup that deposed him.  And if I’m honest, I don’t think Pinochet’s greatest crime was kicking out an elected President who was taking the country in the wrong direction: I don’t support military coups, but I’m not going to shed too many tears over that one.

What I object to is the police state, repressions, disappearances, and murders that followed.  I don’t care whether Pinochet “saved” Chile from communism and ran a half-decent economy (even assuming they are true): it is possible to do these things without torturing and raping students and chucking them out of aircraft over the ocean.  We get pissed off when people overlook Castro’s thuggery when praising Cuba’s literacy rate, we shouldn’t do the same thing for Pinochet.  Yes, I get the realpolitik of the Cold War and the importance of defeating Communism, but that was a long time ago and we don’t need to make excuses for the thugs who were on our side any longer.


5 thoughts on “Praising Pinochet

  1. All dictators dictate, all media is slanted to one side or the other. That’s the real lesson of the life and demise of various ‘world leaders.’

    One day because life has a terminal point, Obama will kick the bucket and despite all his shitty years in charge of the US there will be gushing praise from the left’s media and probably indifference from the right. But it never seems to work the other way round: when Thatcher’s cortège passed through London a relative of mine was there just so she could turn her back, along with all her lefty friends, on the passing coffin. I said to her later that when Blair pops his clogs, I won’t be anywhere near the procession or service.

    Nor would I read in the Graun or some other lefty rag, the howls of anguish at the passing of a Labour pol, but only because I refuse to read the junk in the first place.

  2. The Leftist view that they alone should have a monopoly over violence and that others are reviled for it kind of goes to the heart of the matter. At least Pinochet went to the ballot box.

    I thought that many of the western obituaries for Cahvez were a bit biased as well.

  3. “nor do I subscribe to the myth that the CIA were involved in the coup that deposed him.” I understand that that is right. I also understand that the CIA was involved in an earlier coup attempt that failed. Not much cop, the CIA, by and large.

  4. Agree with all of this. One comment:

    ‘I don’t think Pinochet’s greatest crime was kicking out an elected President’

    My understanding is that he was actually required to do so under the Constitution once the Congress asked him to.

  5. ” However, where I part company from some people is in praising Pinochet in any way. The criticism of the NYT above ought to be that they are painting Castro in a positive light, not that they are too harsh on Pinochet.”

    But they are vastly too harsh, and we should point this out strenuously.
    – Pinochet left Chile is so much of a better place and was alone in the whole of South America as regards economic policy.
    – He left Chile a reasonably functioning democracy and left peacefully as a result of a democratic process. He bowed out when asked to by the Chilean people.

    Name me one – just one – leftist dictator that has that legacy.
    So yes, they are VASTLY too harsh on Pinochet. He may have been a bastard, but he is not in the same league of bastardy as any of the dregs that get effusive praise for screwing over their countries and leaving them ungovernable. We should not surrender this pass.

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