|THE CONDOR YEARS by John Dinges (New Press), 288 pages, $39.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN
Events on September 11 have unleashed a brutal war more than once. On that date 35 years ago, fascist forces in Chile overthrew the democratically elected Marxist government of Salvador Allende and launched an international war.
That war was with the left.
John Dinges, in his excellent new investigative book The Condor Years, explores the blood-smeared archives in Washington and Latin America to demonstrate how concern over leftist "subversion" propelled fascist militias – especially those led by Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet – to unleash Operation Condor.
DINA, Chile's brutal intelligence organization, brought its brother agencies in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Peru into a conspiracy to hunt down opponents of their regimes within one another's borders.
Once an alleged "terrorist" was apprehended anywhere in the Condor countries, he was returned, tortured, then made to disappear. Eventually, DINA expanded the battleground around the world.
In infuriating detail, Dinges reveals how CIA and U.S. State Department incompetence allowed assassins working for Pinochet to enter the U.S. On the streets of Washington they stalked and blew up Chile's former foreign minister Orlando Letelier, who, like Allende, was not an insurgent but a left-wing democrat.
Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger is revealed to have privately encouraged the Latin American dictators in their bloody anti-communist crusade.
There are similarities to the new war on terror other than the date of the events that sparked it. Dinges writes that echoes of the Condor campaign reverberate today in the massive pooling of intelligence, the compromised intelligence relationships, the gleaning of information from the torture centres run by U.S. allies and even cross-border targeting for assassinations.
At times the book is a hard slog: lots of names to remember, lots of crimes committed. But as America expands its war on terror, this is a valuable recollection of a dark road already travelled.
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NOW | APR 22 - 28, 2004 | VOL. 23 NO. 34