Published on Thursday, February 5, 2004 by the Inter Press Service
Kissinger Document Shows Pre-Emption in Practice
by Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON - While critics and supporters of the Bush administration's pre-emption doctrine have described it as unprecedented in U.S. diplomacy, the release of a 34-year-old memo advocating ''regime change'' in Chile shows the policy has been around for quite some time.
The eight-page document by then-national security adviser Henry Kissinger to former president Richard Nixon also suggests that Washington's destabilization of Chilean President Salvador Allende Gossens was not largely motivated by any direct military or subversive threat the Allende government then posed or might pose in the future to the United States.
Kissinger, who couched his arguments carefully for maximum effect, suggests -- just two days after Allende was inaugurated -- that his main concern with the new president was the fear that, were he to successfully consolidate power, his government could serve as a ''model'' for left-wing movements in other countries, including western Europe.
"The example of a successful elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact on -- and even precedent value for -- other parts of the world, especially in Italy," the memorandum warns Nixon just hours before a critical National Security Council (NSC) meeting in which Kissinger urged his boss to reject the ''modus vivendi approach'' recommended by the State Department.
''The imitative spread of similar phenomena elsewhere would in turn significantly affect the world balance and our own position in it'', according to Kissinger, who became secretary of state two years later.
To Peter Kornbluh, author of 'The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability', a new book on U.S.-Chilean relations from the 1960s through the 1980s, the newly declassified document makes clear precisely what arguments lay behind the Nixon administration's destabilization policy.
''This document is the Rosetta Stone for deciphering the motivations of Kissinger and Nixon in undermining Chilean democracy'', Kornbluh, who obtained the document through the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA), told IPS.
''It also reinforces the judgment of history on Kissinger's role as the primary advocate of overthrowing the Allende government'', added Kornbluh, who has directed the Chile Documentation Project of the independent National Security Archive for more than a decade.
In his memoirs, Kissinger has denied the United States deliberately attempted to destabilize Allende, consistent with his 1974 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that it was the role of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to try and prevent Allende from taking office after his Unidad Popular coalition won a plurality of votes in the 1970 national elections, and to subsequently finance efforts to destabilize his government.
Allende was eventually overthrown -- and committed suicide -- in a bloody military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet on Sep. 11, 1973, ushering in a repressive, 17-year dictatorship.
''The intent of the United States was not to destabilize or subvert Allende'', Kissinger said at the time, ''but to keep ... in being those political parties that had traditionally contested the elections, and our concern was with the election in 1976 and not at all with the coup in 1973, about which we knew nothing and (with) which we had nothing to do".
Apologists for U.S. actions in Chile have long argued Allende posed a serious threat to the country's democratic institutions.
In his book, which scholars have widely hailed as the most authoritative on the subject, Kornbluh concludes there is no concrete evidence of a CIA role in the coup itself, although the accumulated evidence of a U.S. role in preparing the ground for an overthrow and in providing Pinochet with support after the coup is overwhelming.
The memo, dated Nov. 5 and classified ''secret-sensitive'', was apparently written on the eve of a meeting of the National Security Council in which Chile policy was to be decided.
It is divided into parts: a lengthy introduction that describes the ''Dimensions of the Problem'', a short statement of ''The Basic Issue'', on whether to adopt the State Department's recommended ''modus vivendi'' approach or a policy of hostility; and a third section on the pros and cons of ''Our Choices''.
In a concluding section called ''Assessments'', Kissinger states his view that ''the dangers of doing nothing (to prevent Allende from consolidating his position) are greater than the risks we run in trying to do something''.
In the ''Dimensions'' section, Kissinger, who had ''reassuringly'' told Chilean Foreign Minister Gabriel Valdes in 1969 Washington regarded Chile as a ''dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica'', writes that the stakes could not be higher.
''The election of Allende as president of Chile poses for us one of the most serious challenges ever faced in this hemisphere'', he began. ''Your decision as to what to do about it may be the most historic and difficult foreign affairs decision you will have to make this year''.
The ramifications, continued Kissinger, ''will have an effect on what happens in the rest of Latin America and the developing world; on what our future position will be in the hemisphere; and on the larger world picture, including our relations with the USSR. They will even affect our own conception of what our role in the world is".
In addition to serving as a model, Chile would ''probably become a leader of opposition to us in the inter-American system, a source of disruption in the rest of Latin America ... and might constitute a support base and entry point for expansion of Soviet and Cuban presence and activity in the region'', he added.
Washington's failure to act against Allende ''risks being perceived in Latin America and in Europe as indifference or impotence'', argues Kissinger.
The section describes Allende as a ''tough, dedicated Marxist ... with a profound anti-U.S. bias'', but also notes he was ''elected legally'' and has ''legitimacy in the eyes of Chileans and most of the world''.
U.S. analysts, according to Kissinger, agreed moreover that ''Allende and the forces that have come to power with him do have the skill, the means and the capacity to maintain and consolidate themselves in power''.
Kissinger goes out of his way to attack the State Department's recommendation for working out a modus vivendi as too optimistic and reactive.
''There are no apparent reasons to justify a benign or optimistic view of an Allende regime over the long term'', Kissinger argues, adding in a particularly revealing passage, ''an 'independent' rational socialist state linked to Cuba and the USSR can be even more dangerous for our long-term interests than a radical regime''.
At another point, Kissinger argues that a ''Titoist government (a reference to the staunchly neutralist Tito government in Yugoslavia) in Latin America would be far more dangerous to us than it is in Europe, precisely because it can move against our policies and interests more easily and ambiguously, and because its 'model' effect can be insidious''.
Arguing against the modus vivendi position, Kissinger argues for a policy of covert hostility rather than overt hostility, suggesting the former was less likely to fuel Chilean nationalism and Latin American and international sympathy for Allende.
The actual policies to be pursued would be no different from an ''overt hostility'' strategy, he writes, but Washington ''would use them quietly and covertly; on the surface our posture would be correct, but cold''.
''I recommend, therefore, that you make a decision that we will oppose Allende as strongly as we can and do all we can to keep him from consolidating power, taking care to package those efforts in a style that gives us the appearance of reacting to his moves''.
Copyright 2004 IPS - Inter Press Service