Publishers Weekly review

John Dinges. The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents. New York: The New Press, 2004, 322 pp. $25.95

From Publishers Weekly
When a Spanish judge pressed charges against Gen. Augusto Pinochet in 1998, the case broke an international code of silence on the fates of the tens of thousands of Latin Americans who were tortured and killed during more than a decade of dictatorship in Chile and neighboring countries.

The United States agreed to Spain's request for 60,000 pages of secret files on Chile, including CIA operational files. Former NPR news managing editor Dinges (Our Man in Panama), who lived in Chile and was interrogated in a secret torture camp during the Pinochet dictatorship, pored through those files and has uncovered the chilling story of Operation Condor, a Chilean-led conspiracy among six South American dictatorships to hunt down and eliminate leftist rebels and their sympathizers. Condor was responsible for the 1973 murder in Washington, D.C., of Chilean exile Orlando Letelier, which U.S. diplomats were aware of and failed to stop.

Indeed, the picture that emerges of U.S. policy is frightening. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's "green light, red light" human rights policy for the first time presented a public U.S. stance in favor of human rights, yet behind closed doors, he was reassuring Latin America's dictators of U.S. support. Hampered by the weight and significance of its revelations, the book gets off to a slow start. Soon enough, however, vivid stories and details emerge: double agents, the euphemisms of the spy trade (e.g., "wet work" for assassinations), bumbling murderers and rebels, and cynical U.S. diplomats.

Dinges's meticulously documented study is a cautionary tale for today's war on terror-which shares a major anniversary with the 1973 Chilean coup that brought Pinochet to power: September 11.

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