“What does the horror feel like today when the terrible television pictures tell you that the events of that fateful September 11th did not take place in a distant land but in your own country? On another September 11th, 28 years earlier, a president by the name of Salvador Allende died resisting a coup d’état planned by the leaders of your country. That was also a time of horror but it was taking place many, many miles away from your borders in a small and obscure South American republic. Those republics were in your own back yard but you were never very concerned when your marines set off with all guns blazing to impose your point of view”—Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 will forever be remembered not only in America but in the entire world. As we commemorate the 12th anniversary of 9/11 attacks on our country I urge you to observe a moment of silence in honor of almost 3,000 innocent citizens that lost their lives in the senseless attacks. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the families that have lost their loved ones; I know nothing can ever compensate for their loss. We should also acknowledge with a profound sense of maximum appreciation the heroism of the 9/11 first responders, many of whom were later diagnosed with cancer.
As we commemorate 9/11 here at home, we should also reflect on the 40th anniversary of Chile’s 9/11. On September 11th 1973, Chile’s democratically elected President by the name Salvador Allende was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup d’état and installed General Augusto Pinochet. The Chilean President Salvador Allende was considered to have stepped on toes right after he was elected in 1970 because he immediately set out to nationalize Chile’s industries including those owned by Americans.
Although General Augusto Pinocheta was a military junta, he was anointed by the US government and he ruled from 1973 to 1990. General Pinochet’s 17 years of authoritarian government was horrendously atrocious – more than 3,000 Chileans were executed or disappeared without any trace for being leftists or liberals, over 30,000 were incarcerated and tortured, and over 250,000 were detained, and about 1 million fled into exile.
What the United States and Chile have in common is that they both are yet to recover from the effects of their 9/11s. Although the government of General Pinochet ended in 1990, Chile still suffers from the injuries his administration has wreaked upon the psyche the country. While the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden was met with jubilation across the US, things are yet to be the same as people in the US no more than ever live in fear of another terrorist attack.
It’s no longer a secret that we caused Chile’s 9/11, but the question is what caused our (US) 9/11? Why could they have hated us that much? What could have motivated the 19 men to carry out mass murder? According to Michael Mann, author of Incoherent Empire, “Osama Bin Laden did not fall from the sky, he was created by the foreign policies of Soviet Union and then the United States.”
The aftermath of the 9/11 in the US has changed our government relations to its citizens and the world at large. In our attempt to curtail terrorism we have expanded some of the policies that created Osama Bin Laden in the first place. All in the name of combating terrorism we have deflated the reservoir of goodwill that we once enjoyed across the world through unjust and ineffectual policies like drone strikes that are killing innocent children in places like Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia, Guantanamo, NSA Surveillance, e.t.c.
Bin Laden may be dead but the truth is that terrorism is a tactic not an ideology. But what bothers me most is that though Bin Laden is dead his ideology lives on, and the policies that gave birth to his ideology are not only alive but doubled downed on. Terrorism is evil, no doubt about it, but sheer militarism is equally a bogus substitute for effective policies. It’s time that our political leaders put aside the technical fixes of military aggression to every problem, and subscribe to the practices of adaptive leadership that will help them adopt a just and effective set of policies.
Histories that are not taught in the US are taught in Asia, Africa, and Latin America countries. The Colombian Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s letter to President George Bush right after 9/11 is a testament of other countries’ commitment to history. If we are genuinely concerned about ending terrorism, the starting place is to let the same values that are at work when making our domestic policies also be at work when making our foreign policies. We need to change for them to change.