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December 14th, 2006


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11:57 am - Conservatives love tyrants
Here's an absolutely vile article in the Wall Street Journal about Augusto Pinochet. The mixture of discounting the horrors of his regime and praising the vast economic good he did in Chile is both impressive and horrifying and is filled with quotes like:
Late in life it emerged that he had probably stashed millions in personal bank accounts. But he also supported the free-market reforms that have made Chile prosperous and the envy of its neighbors. Finally, his legacy includes a Chile that is democratic, that truly belongs to the Chilean people; it exists in stark contrast to the nearly five decades of personal (and soon to be fraternal) dictatorship that Fidel Castro is leaving in Cuba.
and
The official death toll of the Pinochet dictatorship is some 3,197. An estimated 2,796 of those died in the first two weeks of fighting between the army and the Allende-armed militias. The balance died in the next 17 years. The Pinochet dictatorship was fraught with illegality. Civil liberties were lost and opponents tortured. But over time, with the return of private property, the rule of law and a freer economy, democratic institutions also returned.
Of course, given that approximately 30,000 people were tortured and more than 4,000 disappeared in detention, I'm guessing that the figures the WSJ is using for deaths are likely Pinochet's own. However, it was (according to the right-wing slime running and writing for the WSJ) all OK, because socialism is clearly far worse than torture and mass murder. According to these folks, as long as the murderous tyrants the US installs don't turn on the US (like Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and so many others) then a pro-US tyrant clearly remains far better than an elected socialist.
Current Mood: angryangry

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Comments:


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From:jonathansfox
Date:December 14th, 2006 09:27 pm (UTC)
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The WSJ is not saying that at all, and they went out of their way to concede that as leaders go he was dispicable. What they are doing is pointing out that that as the legacy of dictators go, peacefully transitioning back to democracy and seeing decent economic growth is not par for the course. This is what they're saying is his "paradox" legacy -- as bad as he was, he didn't permanently destroy his country.

They are indirectly citing the free and fair 2005 elections, which led to a moderate female socialist becoming President, as superior to the legacy of other, often less condemned dictators, such as the ongoing succession in Cuba. Their point is that Cuba remains clutched with dictatorship down to and it seems even past Castro's death bed, while having less than half the economic prosperity. Chile, on the other hand, saw a Constitution approved which called for "yes or no" elections every eight years, and the very first election under this constition, Pinochet stepped down peacefully when 55% voted no on him.

Unless you're arguing that it's better to trade in that kind of transition to democracy for a socialist dictator, I'm not sure how much you're actually disagreeing with them. All they're really saying is "better Pinochet than Castro," under whom public referendums are a farce, succession runs like royalty, and nobody knows exactly how many have died. There are certainly counterarguments to this, but it's not a case of "Conservatives love tyrants." When they say he's a paradox, they mean that his legacy's positive facets would be seemingly unthinkable for a military dictator with his human rights record. Not lovable, just profoundly paradoxical.

I don't know where they're getting their numbers, but by "official", it seems they're not citing internal post-Pinochet reports, which give numbers like you've cited. I'm inclined to credit people with bad research sooner than I'll accuse them of shameless and crass deception though.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:December 14th, 2006 09:37 pm (UTC)
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The problem with your suggestion is that the US is largely responsible for putting this piece of filth in power and used a cabal of US-trained economists to craft his policies. This article is clearly an attempt to show that sometimes that all too frequent policy of putting vile dictators in power actually results in a functional nation, thus justifying future attempts at this sort of nonsense. Of course, Chile had a long tradition of democratic elections before Pinochet took power, so claiming that Pinochet had anything to do with the current state of Chilean democracy is rather silly. If this was an article about a dictator who had nothing to do with the US, then I'd be likely to agree, but that's very much not the case.
[User Picture]
From:jonathansfox
Date:December 14th, 2006 11:17 pm (UTC)
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I could always do with stating my opinions less forcefully, so I'm probably being hypocritical when saying this, but I think that it's overstepping to say that your view of the intent of the editorial is clearly the case. While I would agree that the editorial would like to imbue people with the idea that a military coup led by a leader with "western" ideas is better than a socialist revolution, it is my view that the fact that they deny that the US put him in power seems to distance them from the position you're saying they're taking.

The popular notion that the U.S. sanctioned the coup or condoned Pinochet's torture also hasn't held up under historical scrutiny. In particular, his behavior can't be understood without considering the behavior of the Allende government he deposed...

The editorial never says anything about justifying US involvement, and for all I can see, it reads as an editorial that is making an effort to show this to be the entirely internal affairs of another country.

I think it's also very unfair to use this "cabal of US-trained economists" against the Wall Street Journal. You're talking about a group of Chileans who went to college in Chile and then went to the US only for graduate education at private schools. That in no way makes someone an agent of the US government, even though it may indicate that they as individuals probably happened to agree with US philosophy prior to choosing a graduate school. I think it's fair to criticize them as Chileans for working for a dictator, but given that their influence was largely responsible for convincing said dictator to give up power democratically, it's hard to sell that argument -- especially as a weapon against this editorial, where it seems to have minimal relevance.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:jonathansfox
Date:December 14th, 2006 11:47 pm (UTC)
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The West did not create Iraq's secretarian differences, and unless you're condoning establishing yet another puppet dictatorship there, any attempt to resolve them with external force will only backfire. Our mistake was to use this external force to destroy Iraq's existing solution to their existing internal tensions: a strong central government with a succession of oppressive dictators. Saddam Hussein was only one of the most successful and long-lasting. Our government's crime on this front is in being too short-sighted to think about anything but their own ideology and arrogance, and in disbanding the Iraqi military and basically acting like we thought we were liberating Florida. Hindsight is 20-20, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't demand better from the government.

So we can apologize and resolve to vote against US arrogance in the future, but the onus is on Iraqis to clean up what aspects of their own mess that they can, as it should be and must be. We're responsible for letting foreign terrorists in, but we're not responsible for Iraqis killing eachother over secretarian issues. That doesn't mean I'm defending US adventures in Iraq, just demanding that we not cause more problems than we already have, by trying to take responsibilty for issues we didn't create and solve problems we are in no position to deal with, thus continuing our ongoing saga of mistakes in this powerful country that doesn't know how to keep to itself.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:jonathansfox
Date:December 15th, 2006 12:45 am (UTC)
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My problem with that is just that it seems to assume that the Iraqi government's requests represent the best interests of the Iraqi people. Much of the violence comes from distrust between minorities and majorities, and the government naturally leans to favor majority rule. If I were to personify my perception of the growing sentiment, it would be, "We will help you, but only if you make progress toward resolving your problems. We will tell you exactly what our expectations on this are, and under what conditions we will guarantee continued assistance. But if you sit around and deadlock politically as your country decends into chaos, no amount of debt from us to you will make it politically tractable for us to continue involvement in your internal affairs, and we will act to remove our people from danger." Perhaps this seems insensitive, but I think it makes sense -- if the government is unable to represent national unity, but ends up just becoming another faction in internal strife, what point is there in our taking sides? If the government can't ensure that they are effective in pursuit of stability in Iraq, what good is achieved by helping them?
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From:kitten_goddess
Date:December 15th, 2006 07:29 pm (UTC)
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Several times, I have read that the Iraqis want us to leave. "Yankee go home" seems to be the sentiment there, at least according to the media.
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From:rjgrady
Date:December 15th, 2006 03:45 pm (UTC)
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I don't read that article as an endorsement of tyrants, but as musings on an ambiguous figure. It is interesting that despite his shocking evil, Pinochet nonetheless aspired to and did some good.
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From:kitten_goddess
Date:December 15th, 2006 07:25 pm (UTC)
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WTF??? Did Wall Street get replaced by Pravda??? That's the kind of disinformation the Soviet government would have put out!

How the hell could anyone possibly think that Pinochet left a democracy as a legacy? That would be like saying the Nazis left the modern state of Israel as their legacy while getting the German economy in fine shape.
[User Picture]
From:onyxrising
Date:December 20th, 2006 04:39 pm (UTC)

Unrelated

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Dear Jon,
I have a problem with your Campari pork. The recipe doesn't make enough. Do you have any ideas on how it could be used to, say, do roast enough pork to feed about ten to twenty people? There needs to be an oven version of its yummy goodness.
Yes, this is the point where I admit that I don't know whether yule dinner will be either a) Just me or Sven or b) 10 people, nine of them Sven-sized. And pork roasts are on a rather nice sale right now. I need something I can pop in the oven and bake. Stove top is bad, both because of the potentially large number of people, and because I'll need at least some time to fill the ten gallon stock pot with mashed potatos in the even of many guests.

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