The recent death of Pinochet has given us a rash of condemnations, or re-condemnations. Even anti-communists feel obliged to say he really shouldn’t have killed all those people.
Still, I thought of the words of Air Marshal Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris- “The Germans started this war thinking they were going to bomb everyone else, and no one was going to bomb them.” The Communists- in the Southern Cone of South America, as everywhere else- assumed they would be able to use murder and kidnapping against everyone else, and no one would would use murder and kidnapping against them.
The fact of Communist terrorism in the Southern Cone is just barely acknowledged. If you look this up on Wikipedia, groups such as MIR and the Montoneros are called “armed revolutionary guerilla groups” but not terrorists. The right-wing groups involved are always called terrorist groups though.
Beyond this, it is said that most of the people killed were not Communists. This is probably true but irrelevant. A great many of the people who think of themselves as social democrats will assist Communists, if only by preventing or interfering with attempts to stop them. Demanding that terrorism be treated as a symptom of social evils, and that those evils must be remedied rather than killing the terrorists, is a form of assistance. Demanding that terrorism be treated as a criminal matter, with all the procedural and constitutional protections afforded criminal suspects, is a form of assistance.
In any case, Communism in the Southern Cone was snuffed out. Much the same thing happened in El Salvador. Many people were spared personal destruction, jail and death, including many no doubt now condemning Pinochet.
But that’s a liberal argument- that avoiding the murder of leftists is good. That’s Orwell’s argument. And I don’t believe that. If you live by the sword, or if you sympathize with the sword, or romanticize it, or defend it even on a theoretical and intellectual basis, then death by the sword is just fine for you.
I’ll paraphrase the Aesop’s fable about the trumpeter. A boy who is an army trumpeter is captured and to avoid execution, falls to his knees before the victiorious king and cries “Please spare me! I’m not a soldier, all I have is this trumpet!” To which the king replies, “You call others to fight, but you don’t fight yourself, and claim to be innocent. You’re even worse!”
“As many people will die in Argentina as is necessary to restore order.” — Army Commander-in-Chief Jorge Rafael Videla, 10/75
“First we will kill all the subversives; then we will kill their collaborators; then … their sympathizers; then … those who remain indifferent; and finally we will kill the timid.” — General Iberico Saint Jean, military governor of Buenos Aires, 5/76