To the editor:
That phrase was invoked many times this Sept. 11, and understandably so. The events of that sunny September morn 12 years ago were horrifying and forever changed not just our nation, but the world.
But there is another Sept. 11 of great historical importance that should also not be forgotten yet many, if not most, Americans are not even aware of its existence, significance, or impact it had on our nation’s reputation.
The Sept. 11 I am referring to, like our own, also fell on a bright and sunny Tuesday.
It was 40 years ago, on Sept. 11, 1973, when terror, in the form of fighter jets, swooped in from the sky over Santiago, Chile, and a brutal, U.S. sponsored, right wing coup, led by General Augusto Pinochet, a man often referred to as the “Latin Hitler,” toppled a democratically elected president, and unleashed a seventeen year long reign of US backed terror that resulted in the deaths, disappearances, and imprisonment of tens of thousands of Chileans who dared to criticize the U.S. backed terrorist general in Santiago.
I share this not to diminish or disrespect the memories of our own terror filled Sept. 11 of twelve years ago. I share it in an effort to remind people that terror comes in many forms and from many sources — even the United States.
We, as Americans, recoiled in horror at the images of the jets careening into the Twin Towers and the towers’ subsequent collapse. We wondered what type of monster would carry out such a monstrous crime against innocent civilians.
Yet we often conveniently forget, or perhaps never knew, that our own government, always in the name of some high minded, noble sounding ideal like democracy or freedom, has engaged in its own acts of terror when it suited its purposes and was in the nation’s “interests” to do so.
Our government supported the Young Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, the group that ultimately evolved into the Taliban and al-Qaida in the 1980s because the young Islamic fundamentalists were seen as bulwarks against the Soviet Union in Southwest and Central Asia.
Our government provided that organization with the tools and training, ironically and tragically, used against us 12 years ago last Wednesday.
In Central America in the 1980s, our government aided and abetted right wing regimes that murdered and inflicted terror on tens of thousands of innocent civilians, including many members of the Catholic clergy, who dared to criticize the right wing, terrorist juntas the U.S. saw as its allies in those years.
This is why so many from other countries find it ironic that so many ordinary Americans, given our government’s not always stellar behavior on the world stage, fail to see the connections between what happened 12 years ago this past Wednesday and U.S. foreign policy throughout the years.
That said, the terror of “9-11”, both in Chile and the United States, is something we should never forget, and something we all must work toward seeing never happens again — no matter what its origin.