On December 10th Agusto Pinochet died. He was the dictator of Chile from 1973 to 1989. Being a Chilean expatriate, I am saddened by the news that Mr. Pinochet passed away without ever facing judgement for his spectacular cowardice. The process to bring him to justice was laborious, yet its proponents travelled a road through the bowels of bureraucratic democracy that few have travelled before - a sort of Cocteauesque journey that was cut short when the old man expired at the tender age of 91.
This may be a good time to recognize the amazing efforts of those people through the years who have followed due process in bringing Mr. Pinochet's killing and stealing to light. My hat's off to them, knowing that his death makes their road doubly difficult. The funny thing was that the old man died last weekend (coincidentally on International Human Rights Day), and Monday morning my inbox was peppered wth notes from friends who wrote things like "I bet you're happy that he's gone", etc. Sometimes, tragedy strikes in the strangest ways.
But the story does not end there. I remember being horrified some eight years ago when reading that Pol Pot, architect of the deaths of conservatively 100,000 Vietnamese, died in bed, never having answered Vietnamese or international tribunals for his Killing Fields. More recently, Ariel Sharon checked out without ever facing a rekoning for the human rights atrocities like the controversial Sabra and Shatila massacres. Likewise Pinochet has escaped a public proceeding to recognize him as a murderer at least three-thousand times over within Chile and the architect of a plot to kill any remaining political opposition abroad (again, akin to Israel's state sponsored assassins).
It is sad that Pinochet will not atend his own trial. I hope the trial still takes place one day. The ironic thing is that it is far more likely to happen with Pinochet than with the current administration of the US, or the past several of Israel, or many others.
Just in case anyone out there feels that picking on the US is not fair, or is starting to lose count, the Lancet published a paper two months ago estimating that 600,000 Iraqis have died as a direct result of the US invasion there thus far. The US government (you know, informed by Ari Fleischer, elected by selected folk in Florida and others whose votes are counted by opinionated secret computers, enforcing laws made by Foley) has dismissed the study, although the same scientific methods inform the same government that smoking is dangerous, that seatbelts save lives, etc. Seeing Mr. Pinochet off without a proper accounting, then, I have to ask: Will Alberto Gonzales ever face the music for calling the Geneva Convention "quaint" when he decided that it did not apply to prisoners of our United States? More to the point, and even less likely: will Mr. Bush or any of his cabinet ever face the music for putting to death ove 600,000 Iraquis? My guess is that Mr. Bush and his board of directors will face about as much justice as Pol Pot, Henry Kissinger, Ariel Sharon, and Agusto Pinochet among others. - But I've been wrong before, and I can only hope I'm wrong again this time...