n the United States, as you know, we are sympathetic with what you are trying to do here.
–Henry Kissinger to Augusto Pinochet, June 8, 1976
Henry Kissinger, realpolitiker nonpareil, never gave a damn about human rights. “Cut out the political science lectures,” he once scrawled on a cable from the US Ambassador to Chile reporting on atrocities. Now, his proclivity for getting into bed with the most vicious of violators is exposed in a recently declassified secret memorandum of a private conversation with Gen. Augusto Pinochet that took place in Santiago, Chile, in June 1976.
The release of the “memcon” (first obtained by journalist Lucy Komisar) could not come at a worse time for Kissinger. With Pinochet still under house arrest in England for crimes against humanity, the transcript reveals Kissinger’s expressions of “friendship,” “sympathetic” understanding and wishes for success to Pinochet at the height of his repression, when many of those crimes–torture, disappearances, international terrorism–were being committed. The document also shows that Pinochet raised the name of former Chilean Ambassador to the United States Orlando Letelier twice, accusing him of giving “false information” to Congress. In response, Kissinger said nothing, forgoing the opportunity to defend free speech and dissent in the United States–comments that might have deterred the car-bomb assassination of Letelier and his associate Ronni Moffitt in Washington, DC, three months later.
Finally, the third installment of Kissinger’s memoirs, 1,151 pages on the Years of Renewal, hits the bookstores soon. It contains an account of the Pinochet meeting, which took place the day before Kissinger, his arm twisted by his staff, gave a speech on human rights at an OAS conference in Santiago. But Kissinger’s account of his meeting with the dictator is considerably less candid than the memo of their conversation reveals. Kissinger portrays himself as pushing the issue of democracy and human rights while the transcript makes it clear that he is briefing Pinochet, in advance, that the speech is intended to appease the US Congress, and the Chileans should all but ignore it. During the meeting the Secretary of State does not even utter the word “democracy.” Consider this comparison:
The Memoir: “A considerable amount of time in my dialogue with Pinochet was devoted to human rights, which were, in fact, the principal obstacle to close United States relations with Chile. I outlined the main points of my speech to the OAS which I would deliver the next day. Pinochet made no comment.”