Let Pinochet Go!

by Patrick J. Buchanan – December 1, 1998

Great Britain may be winning rapturous applause in leftist circles for the house arrest of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, but that applause is coming at the price of England’s reputation for square dealing. This snatch and grab is unworthy of a great nation.

The 83-year-old ex-president of Chile had come to England for surgery under a diplomatic passport. He had been visiting London for years, often to discuss weapons buys. But this time, the British buckled to an extradition order from a Spanish judge who wants Pinochet sent to Madrid to be tried for genocide, torture and murder.

As the House of Lords has ruled that Pinochet is not entitled to immunity under a British law that protects former heads of state, Home Secretary Jack Straw will decide Pinochet’s fate.

Astonishingly, Prime Minister Tony Blair has declared his neutrality in this affair, which is ripping apart Chile and shredding Britain’s 175-year-old friendship with that country. It is time the leader of Great Britain acted like one.

Gen. Pinochet is the target of this judicial kidnapping and proposed show trial not because his sins are worse than other leaders’ but because this man of the right inflicted a historic, crushing defeat on Marxism. Watching his country slide into the grip of a murderous pack of Leninists, Pinochet in 1973 ordered the military to save it. They did, ruthlessly, and Pinochet’s rule left Chile free, prosperous and pro-American, a crime for which the left can never forgive him.

And when one realizes that Spain played host to Fidel Castro within days of that judge demanding the extradition of Pinochet, the stench of Iberian hypocrisy is overpowering. For, more than any man, Gen. Pinochet routed Castroism in Latin America and turned the continent toward democracy and free markets.

What crimes did he commit? It is said that during the coup that overthrew the Marxist Salvador Allende, 3,200 people died or “disappeared.” But even if true, that does not constitute genocide.

If it did, let the world put out warrants for China’s rulers who supported Mao’s Cultural Revolution, in which hundreds of thousands died. And let us not overlook Gen. Suharto, who presided over genocide in East Timor.

According to one Pentagon source, the postponed U.S. strikes on Iraq could have taken 10,000 lives, three times as many as died in Pinochet’s coup. Would former President Bill Clinton be subject to extradition to a post-Saddam Iraq? What would Blair do if Panama asked a British judge to extradite a visiting George Bush to be tried for the deaths of innocent Panamanians during the U.S. invasion?

Should Russia’s Mikhail Gorbachev, who prosecuted the war of aggression against Afghanistan from 1985 to 1987, be subject to extradition to Kabul or to Lithuania or Latvia, where Gorbachev sent Spesnatz troops in 1991, and innocent lives were lost?

Many pro-Western regimes have been overthrown violently with the losers murdered by the winners: Czechoslovakia in 1948, Cuba in 1959; Vietnam, Cambodia and Ethiopia in 1975; Iran in 1979. No one has demanded any extradition.

The “dirty war” against Marxist guerrillas in Argentina was a far more savage affair than Chile’s. Should the Argentine generals and admirals involved now be put on an international watch list?

In the wars against European imperialism in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, many revolutionary leaders who emerged belonged to organizations, including the African National Congress of Nelson Mandela, that engaged in terror. Would Blair declare neutrality if Yitzhak Shamir arrived in London and a judge demanded he be held to answer for his Stern Gang’s murder of Lord Moyne in Cairo in 1944 or of U.N. negotiator Count Folke Bernadotte in 1948?

Uganda’s Idi Amin, Haiti’s ex-dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier and Ethiopia’s Col. Mengistu enjoy political asylum today, and Yasir Arafat, whose Fatah killed U.S. diplomats, just had an airport named for him in Gaza, where Clinton plans to visit this month.

What is being asserted by Spain today is the right of national judges to effect the arrest and trial of leaders of nation-states. This is both a power grab and a long stride toward a global criminal court that is to be placed above nations. As America is the greatest nation-state, our military and our political leaders will pay the price if British moral timidity lets this precedent stand.

Tony Blair should stop looking the other way, play the man and let Gen. Pinochet go home, and Bill Clinton should back him up.