In the past two days, a great tyrant and a great bully have died. It’s certainly not considered polite to dance on people’s graves. But let’s just say I’m not unhappy about either one.
Jeane Kirkpatrick was the bully. And though she never attained the power of a tyrant, she was a friend to many. As UN ambassador, she was the international public face of Ronald Reagan’s anti-Communist foreign policy. She was the arch-defender of all that was evil in that policy. She ardently defended the Iran-Contra arms for hostages deal. She ardently defended the cause of the Nicaraguan contras and of the right-wing government (and their death squads) in El Salvador. No doubt, Kirkpatrick also ardently defended the Pinochet coup and subsequent assassination campaign against Chilean dissidents.
While her defense of these odious regimes was bad enough, what particularly rankled was the taunting tone she adopted in addressing her domestic and foreign political opponents. She wasn’t above labeling Democrats who called for investigations of death squad activity as Commie symps.
Here is a taste, from a seminal essay she wrote in Commentary, of the ideological balderdash she tried to peddle as political analysis:
“Traditional authoritarian governments,” she argued, “are less repressive than revolutionary autocracies.” She said it was an historic mistake for the United States to have shied away from dictators like the Somozas in Nicaragua and the Shah of Iran. If they served American interests, she asserted, they were defensible.
I guess I hated everything about her. Even her speaking tone and cadence annoyed me. She had a slightly nasal tone and when she spoke she drew out syllable in a way I can only call “affected.” Someone who didn’t hate her as much as I might’ve called her speaking style “professorial.” I just found it goddamn annoying.
Another interesting coincidence is that Kirkpatrick’s death comes on the heels of the receding of the neoconservative tide in American politics brought about with the Democrats 11/7 election victory and Bush’s unmitigated Iraq fiasco. As one of the intellectual authors of neoconservatism, it must’ve disappointed her to see it lose sway. As for me, it gives me great pleasure to see them in full retreat from their former dominance of American political life.
The great tyrant, of course, was Augusto Pinochet. What can one say about an assassin who not only personally directed the military assault on Chile’s elected president, but who approved the murder of senior officers of his own armed forces. What can one say about a man whose hands were soaked with the blood of 3,000 desaparecidos, not to mention the 30,000 others he and his henchmen merely tortured?
My only regret is that the long arm of justice (not long enough in this case) did not sweep him up during his lifetime. I was hoping that either Spanish or Chilean justice would catch him and imprison him for his crimes. History will place him and them in proper perspective. Now, may history also place the crimes of those U.S. leaders like Henry Kissinger who aided and abetted Pinochet, in a similar perspective.
Though this may sound cruel to some, the world is better off with them not in it.
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