You know, I’m usually a fan of the writings of Charley Reese. He’s an old-school paleoconservative who isn’t trying to impress anyone, so what he writes he usually believes. Like me, he respects the US constitution as written, admires the parting speech of George Washington (i.e., alliances with no one, trade with everyone) and believes Eisenhower to be the best US president of the 20th century. Sometimes, though, the man’s irrational curmudgeonly side comes out. Take his most recent column, for example.
In it, Reese sings the praises of Augusto Pinochet and condemns the American “left” for attacking Pinochet, while –in Reese’s view– ignoring the crimes of Pol Pot, Stalin and Mao. Huh? Who’s ignored the crimes of Pol Pot, Stalin and Mao? This is news to me. He then goes on to, predictably, compare the records of Fidel Castro and Pinochet, making the further predictable conclusion that the American (and thus Canadian) “left” is conveniently ignoring the greater crimes of Castro to focus unfairly on the anti-Marxist Pinochet.
I for one am quite tired of this argument. Leave aside for the moment that no one of note in North America has, in the last fifty years, said a positive word about Pol Pot, Mao or Stalin. Leave aside, as well, that the only things that Castro and Pinochet have in common is that they were both Cold War Latin American dictators. What matters here, and what Reese and those of the “right” always seem to gloss over, is that Pinochet’s rule was a direct and intentional product of the West. Stalin’s was not. Mao’s was not. Pol Pot’s was (for the most part) not. Castro…. well, that’s more complicated.
See where I’m going with this? What offends thinking people of North America is not just the atrocities committed by dictators, but atrocities committed by dictators who have been maintained in power by our tax money. If the powers of Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot had been sustained by CIA operations and their democratic foes silences by Western-backed ops, you’d better believe the so-called “left” would be in an uproar over it. No good citizen of a Western democracy wants to see his tax money used to kill and oppress, especially not via the direct funding of arms and assassins.
Pinochet, on the other hand, was given great assistance, both in acquiring power and keeping it, by the Kissinger-Nixon regime of 1973. If you require more evidence of Reese’s nuttiness on this matter, just grok this line from his article:
“[Pinochet’s] worst enemies put the death toll during his 17-year reign at about 3,000. That’s less than the number of people killed in one year in this country by ordinary thugs and fruitcakes.”
So apparently 3000 murders isn’t sufficient to make one a criminal. Hmmmm, that might be the loophole Saddam’s been looking for….