The First and Second 9/11
We in the West are familiar with the second 9/11. It was a tragedy that took place in the continental United States. It is an acceptable day to remember. However, there was another 9/11 with even more grievous consequences that also “forever changed the world”.
In 1973 in Chile, Salvador Allende ended his life in the presidential palace. It was being overrun by the military in coupe led by Augusto Pinochet. As Allende fell, so did the social democratic government that had led Chile. Replacing democracy was the murderous authoritarian regime with Pinochet at its head.
Pinochet murdered some 3000 people and throughout the course of his autocratic rule his secret police tortured another 30 000. The people of Chile were being ground down with the approval and blessing of the United States and their allies. Their crime, of course, was democratically electing a government unfriendly to foreign capitol, so the government had to go. Cuba, Nicaragua and most recently Palestine are other examples of the treatment provided to ‘wayward democracies’.
The first 9/11 is not mentioned in the press, yet the second is almost endlessly eulogized and revered and kept prominently in the news. Why is there a difference? Does the bloody end of the hemispheres longest standing democracy not merit recognition in our eyes?
On the tenth of July in 1955, in the New York Times, Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein issued an appeal to the people of the world asking them “to set aside” the strong feelings they have had about many issues and consider themselves “only as members of a biological species which has had a remarkable history, and whose disappearance none of us can desire.” The choice facing the world is “stark and dreadful and inescapable: shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?” Noam Chomsky wrote this in chapter one of his book Failed States. It is now, more than ever, the question of our times.
Comparing the two 9/11’s is very informative as to what our values are and who qualifies to be a worthy victim. Do the victims of Pinochet's slaughter not deserve the respect and remembrance that we lavish on the second 9/11’s dead? When (IF) the day comes when we can mourn others tragedies, and take responsibility for the ones we have caused, then perhaps we can begin edging towards the second proposition of Einstein and Russell, rather than ignorantly pursuing the first.