Any last hope former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet may have harbored that history would judge him kindly was dashed recently when a Santiago judge formally charged him with kidnapping and murder. At press time an appellate court was reviewing the indictment. But whether or not the 85-year-old former general goes into the dock, the noose is tightening. An Argentine court is now demanding Pinochet’s extradition for his role in the Buenos Aires murder of Chile’s former army commander. And word is that the US Justice Department is considering its own indictment of the ex-dictator for masterminding the 1976 Washington car-bomb murder of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt. The big question is how to bring the same sort of accountability to US officials who fully supported Pinochet during Chile’s darkest days. As Peter Kornbluh reported in these pages (Dec. 18), there is new evidence that US officials from Henry Kissinger on down were fully apprised of the general’s barbarities, even as they pledged full support. The other question is whether the civilian Chilean government will finally move ahead with much-needed reform as the dead weight of Pinochet’s legacy is finally being lifted. The Nation‘s Marc Cooper will soon head for Chile to report on developments.
PERILS OF PACIFICA (CONT.)
Jordan Green writes: New York’s WBAI general manager Valerie Van Isler has been notified by the Pacifica Foundation that she will be replaced immediately. On the heels of a successful fund drive that balanced WBAI’s budget and left the station with a $700,000 surplus, Pacifica executive director Bessie Wash informed Van Isler that she would be reassigned to a newly created position in Washington. When Van Isler rejected that, Wash told her she was out of a job. On December 4, hundreds of WBAI listeners and producers assembled at a meeting called by the station’s local advisory board. Program director Bernard White describes the dispute as an issue of “home rule.” A November 30 memo to Wash from the WBAI management team reads, “Valerie Van Isler is–and we expect her to remain in the foreseeable future–our station’s manager.” Anticipating a forced removal of Van Isler reminiscent of the Berkeley KPFA standoff last year, listeners are holding an ongoing vigil at the station’s Wall Street studios. On December 7 they picketed the Park Avenue law offices of board member John Murdock, whose firm, Epstein Becker & Green, advises corporate clients on “maintaining a union-free workplace.” Dissident Pacifica board member Leslie Cagan endorsed the action, stating, “He has emerged as part of a leadership team that seems to be making the decisions.”
From Benjamin Kunkel: The election’s most exciting conjunction of rock and roll and politics involves a brand-new song about an old election. On November 13 the Brooklyn-based band Oneida released “Power Animals,” a song about the bitter 1876 contest between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden. Like today’s Bush/Gore battle, that contest centered on three disputed states and the conflict between the popular vote and the Electoral College. Although Tilden (S.J.T.) had won South Carolina and the popular vote, his fellow Democrats were willing to get behind Hayes (Old Rud) if it meant ending Reconstruction and the federal troop presence in the South. As the lyrics of “Power Animals” have it: “Old Rud’s disruption,/S.J.T.’s corruption,/Congressional fat cats in tow/Sold out Reconstruction/And harbinged destruction/With Jim Crow./History’s showed/That goddamned crooked road/From which no one has ever returned,/And we’re burned….” This song makes a more appropriate anthem during these days of unprincipled battle than chestnuts from the classic-rock songbook. On the day of the election, Oneida’s van broke down in a GOP stronghold in Florida. Republicans–happy enough with the legacy of 1876–deny sabotage.
NEWS OF THE WEAK IN REVIEW
Al Gore was faced with the dilemma of how to reconcile his “every vote counts” fight with throwing out Seminole and Martin County absentee GOP ballots. His spin: “More than enough votes were potentially taken away from Democrats because they were not given the same access as Republicans were.”