Waiting for the House of Lords (Nov. 4, 1998)

I wait for the stodgy House of Lords to turn Augusto Pinochet over to the Spanish court to stand trial for crimes against humanity, international terrorism and genocide, or send him home to Chile. The Lords have a precedent for their decision: British law, they once declared, allowed for the detention of a foreign sovereign, Mary Queen of Scots. She lost her appeal and her head.

Last year I waited for the Spanish courts to determine if they had jurisdiction to try this serial killer. After all, el criminal en jefe commanded a uniformed goon squad of many thousands. They murdered 92 Spanish citizens, among their some 4000 total victims. 

Eduardo Galeano described el asesino maximo as a Cyclops, who sees with one self-centered eye that which he chooses to see, ignoring all the rest. I wait for the Senator for Life to become prisoner for Life. At age 82 he probably has no more than forty or fifty more years to live. Pinochet is nothing if not stubborn and will refuse to die of old age.

I have waited more than two decades to stick my tongue out to his supporters in Chile and elsewhere who claim he saved Chile from communism - even though communism did not threaten to take hold in that country. Pinochet, they have convinced themselves, saved their property and their privilege from the unruly and untidy masses.

Pinochet the Provincial presided over Chile's entry into the world trading and investment system, luring global investment, which he set the foundation for by globalizing murder. General and Mrs. Prats bombed nine stories high in Argentina, Mr. And Mrs. Leighton shot in the back of the head in Rome, Orlando Letelier car bombed in Washington, DC, with Ronni Moffit sitting beside him to die as well.

Names pop into my head: Victor Jara, the Chilean singer, Carmelo Soria, the Spanish UN official, Rodrigo Rojas, the photographer; Charles Horman, the curious American, Billy Beausire, the Chilean stock broker, Jorge Mueller, a young cameraman who worked with me. Some famous, some friends, some names -- part of a much longer list.

I have waited to turn my simmering rage into righteous laughter to caw in the face of the pompous William F. Buckley, the quintessential conservative gentleman who took Pinochets money for first class travel to Chile, allowed the murderer to pick up his hotel and meals while and then returned to write columns about the wonders performed by our contemporary King Ubu. 

Alfred Jarry's stage character, the Cycloptic military man, becomes king and then mercilessly kills his enemies and loots the public coffers for his own benefits. I see the 1974 photo of him seated, arms folded, uniform stiff and threatening, surrounded by uniformed authority. I have waited for the time when I can see that snapshot and not feel frightened that he will send gangsters to bomb me, my family, my friends - enemies. For him we are all soldiers on a battlefield, a logical deduction because he has only one invisible eye in the center of his forehead. That eye imagines, but does not see. That eye paranoiac eye represents those who scream for order, when they mean protect their ill-gotten gains.

Orlando Letelier described Pinochet use the French pronunciation -- as the man in the barber shop who brushes off the hairs with a whisk broom and helps you on with your jacket and tries to carry your briefcase to the door. Yes, Pinochet, alternately obsequious and tyrannical. In the New Yorker interview he "aspired to becoming a dictator." Like Ronald Reagan he knew nothing of the details of his governance and especially nothing about human rights. It was not his area of expertise. 

But he did learn to sip tea with Mrs. Thatcher, a woman who might well have been his maternal aunt, who reinforced the virtues of looking stern and not considering such trivia as human rights when she perceived threats to the greater good of the world of property.

I have waited for the judges to find you and the other petty mass murderers who enjoyed high prestige in the 1970s and 1980s when Washington paymasters hailed every stupid jerk in uniform who could memorize anti-Communist slogans. Now immunity and impunity, amnesty and pardon hang like uncertain clouds over their heads. The proverbial rats wait to jump from the sinking ship of the past, as temporal atrophy invades the brains of the guilty. I have waited for the day that they suffer colitis and diarrhea, in fear that they too will be arrested, here, in London, Paris and maybe one day in Santiago, Chile and Phnom Penh Cambodia, where the children of those bombed in 1970 have now matured. Are you listening Dr. Kissinger?

2 Responses to "Waiting for the House of Lords (Nov. 4, 1998)"

  1. Betsy Cawn   October 19, 2019 at 8:07 am

    The hands of Victor Jara

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msQ9BK9_juQ

    Lyrics and Music by Chuck Brodsky
    Testo e musica di Chuck Brodsky

    http://polsong.gcal.ac.uk/songs/brodsk

    The hands of Victor Jara
    Were chopped off at the wrists
    But still they point a finger
    And they raise a mighty fist
    There is a revolution
    It might be in your backyard
    It might be some place like Chile
    Or it might be in your heart

    The voice of Victor Jara
    Was cut out at the tongue
    But that does not stop the singing
    Songs need to be sung
    He sang about his people
    They were not the privileged few
    And nothing that’s dictated
    Will ever ring as true

    The blood of Victor Jara
    Will never wash away
    It just keeps on turning
    A little redder every day
    As anger turns to hatred
    And hatred turns to guns
    Children lose their fathers
    And mothers lose their sons

    The soul of Victor Jara
    Hangs on a white cross
    Life was his religion
    Not for sale at any cost
    He defied the generals’ orders
    By not singing their refrain
    In front of all those frightened people
    He did not give his life in vain

    The hands of Victor Jara
    They’re strumming the guitar
    Down in the Paris Metro
    Or in front of the Kerrtry Store
    And they hold onto a promise
    That torture cannot break
    Truer than the average, the hands of Victors Jara
    They do not shake
    Contributed by Riccardo Venturi – 2005/11/16 – 00:59

    Reply
  2. Betsy Cawn   October 19, 2019 at 8:09 am

    Oh, “Are you listening Dr. Kissinger?” brought me to tears, oh.

    Reply

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