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MAY 2002

Survivors Seek Kissinger For Sept. 11, l973, Atrocity in Chile

By Shepherd Bliss

Every Sept. 11th for nearly 30 years now has been a memorial day for me to grieve loved ones lost--in Chile, l973. The United States government supported the military coup on that date that toppled democratically-elected President Salvador Allende, killing him and thousands of people, and installing the dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Chile's judge Juan Guzman is among jurists from Spain, France, and the United States who want to question Henry Kissinger about his role in that bloody coup. Joyce Horman, the widow of Charles Horman--one of two American killed in the Chilean coup--is pressing charges in Chilean court against former Pres. Richard Nixon's secretary of state.

Frank Terrugi, the other American tortured and killed in Chile, was one of my best friends. I had recently been ordained a Methodist minister, graduated from Divinity School, and was working in Chile with the church. I rejoice that Frank Terrugi's name is once again in the news. It is time to uncover what the US government did in Chile and the unfinished business we have there, before this cycle of terror repeats itself in Venezuela or other Latin American countries that may annoy the US

Chile's Sept. 11 survivors and America's Sept. 11 survivors are united by grief. We both deserve justice.

A distant Chile and California are deeply connected, for this native and son and Frank, who used to live in Berkeley. I was 29 years old when the US-supported Pinochet killed my buddy Frank and thousands of others. I'm nearly 60 now and live a good life running an organic farm in Western Sonoma County. I tend berries, apples, and chickens. With the war criminal Kissinger now back in the news, I think of Frank every day.

The Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon had the dictator Pinochet arrested in London in 1998 and requested his extradition to Madird. Though Pinochet was eventually allowed to return to Chile for health reasons, the case's world-wide publicity was a major triumph for the international human rights movement. A similar victory might occur in the months to come as Kissinger faces allegations of being a war criminal.

Spain's judge Garzon had petitioned British authorities to allow him to question Kissinger when he came to London this week for a convention. French magistrate Sophie-Helene Chateau has also requested permission from Britain to question Kissinger about the four French citizens killed in the coup. Kissinger hastily left Paris last year to avoid her summons. On April 24 Kissinger was met in London at a talk with protesters chanting "war criminal." His refusal to cooperate with legal authorities is considered by many to indicate his guilt.

Back in l973 Frank's family invited me to his funeral in Chicago. They wanted me to be a pallbearer, perhaps even say a few words about my playful friend. I did not want to go and face up to the horror of what had happened. But when a plane ticket from his girlfriend arrived, I knew that I had to go.

They would not open the coffin to allow us to view his tortured body. We were all shut down and stiff from grief. Something from carrying Frank's corpse aloft moved from his body into mine. I became determined not to forget Frank and to work--when the time was right--for justice for him.

Pinochet's terror reached beyond Chile's borders into other Latin American nations, even taking lives in the US. Chile's former ambassador to the US, Orlando Letelier, and his American aide Ronni Moffitt were killed by Chile's hated secret police in Washington, D.C., in 1976.

My own life was changed forever by Kissinger's orchestration of the coup in Chile. A deep sadness has lingered within me these three decades as I remember my young and vital friend Frank being tortured to death. I want to see Kissinger brought to trial and to have the details of his involvement and that of his government revealed to the world.

I am not yet ready to forgive. I hear no remorse from the torturers, nor admission of guilt by the executioners, nor the assumption of responsibility by the US directors.

With the growing global economy, it becomes more apparent how everything is connected. Human rights violations can protect US economic interests. As American citizens we need to understand our government's interventions and how they affect people throughout the world and here.

As the movement to bring Kissinger to trial grows throughout the world, part of me that has been cold all these years starts to unfreeze. Sustained international attention on Kissinger's crimes forces dictators and their allies to listen, including those in power and those retired to comfortable villas in Europe and elsewhere with blood on their hands and money in the bank.

Justice can open a heart that has been broken and closed. Justice can free survivors imprisoned by terror. Chile may seem a long way away to some, but in the hearts and minds of the many of us who lost loved ones there, it remains very close to home.

(Shepherd Bliss owns the organic Kokopelli Farm in Sebastopol, teaches at New College of California, and can be reached at [email protected])

 

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