American Amnesia


September 11th, 2001 is a day no American adult can forget. The day 2,977 people perished at the World Trade Center is still etched into American consciousness, as we observe a moment of silence on every anniversary of September 11th. Last year, I wrote about how American foreign policy breeds the resentment that ultimately led to 9/11. This year, I again urge you to look past simplistic notions of patriotism and understand 9/11’s larger implications.

September 11th Elsewhere

On September 11, 1973, in Santiago, Chile, only 46 people died. But that day, still remembered by Chileans today, is when Chilean democracy died. Chile had democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende (in the picture above), and he’d gone on to nationalize several industries. Fearful of the spread of an alternative to capitalism, the US first tried to economically sabotage Chile, and then resorted to aiding the military coup against Allende.

Repercussions of September 11

Over the next 17 years, over 3,000 people were executed and almost 40,000 unjustly imprisoned. Civil liberties ceased to exist in Chile. And no, Pinochet’s free market policies didn’t “lift the Chilean people out of poverty.” In 1982, Pinochet’s neoliberal policies led to a debt crisis that engulfed Chile’s economy; unemployment hit 20%, GDP per capita shrunk by 17.2%, and external debt had reached $17 billion.

Chile moved away from the free-market model after the crisis and the government extensively interfered in the economy. The Chilean economy did recover, but by the end of military rule in 1990, the poverty rate had doubled from 20% to 40%.

Why It’s Important to Remember

 We remember 9/11 as a national tragedy, where terrorists punished innocent people for their grievances. In a way, we must remember Chile’s 9/11 for the same reason we remember 9/11/01, to respect the lives of those who’ve fallen. Given that we were partly responsible for the terror that ensued after Chile’s 9/11, we have a responsibility not only to pay homage to the fallen, but also to denounce such tragic examples of American intervention.

Yet we continue to support despotic governments in Egypt, Honduras, and Saudi Arabia, to name a few. When we forget to remember the tragedy in Chile on 9/11, we virtually guarantee that such policies can continue without opposition or calls for accountability. Let’s avoid the Orwellian “memory hole” and observe a moment of silence for the victims of Chile’s 9/11 as well.

Author: Edwin Jain

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