[First published on December 19, 2004]
Pol Pot? Idi Amin? No, It’s Pinochet. Again.
Again, former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet is headlined, as by a recent article in BBC News . And Friday evening, Lehrer’s PBS news hour had a segment on his torture and murders. Evidence of the attention he garners is that there are 428,000 links to “Augusto Pinochet” on Google.
In 1973, Pinochet seized power from Chile’s democratically elected President Allende and ruled dictatorially until he stepped down as president in 1990 to be replaced by Patricio Aylwin, who was elected through democratic multiparty elections.
Now, by my statistics, which end in 1987, during his rule Pinochet is likely responsible for the murder of 10,000 Chileans, possibly even as many as 30,000. He is a mass murderer, and should be locked away forever or executed.
Yet, one must ask, why in a world of mass murderers that have killed far more people than Pinochet, do the media and human rights organizations devote so much attention to him? Elsewhere, many former mass murdering dictators and their henchmen walk the streets free from publicity or have died in their sleep never having faced justice. Uganda’s former President Idi Amin, who murdered 255,000 people, some with his own hands, fled Uganda into exile and lived in Saudi Arabia with his four wives and with a government stipend until he died peacefully in 2003.
Here is a list of those nations or rulers responsible for murdering more citizens than the probable 10,000 Pinochet killed during, or almost over, the same period of Pinochet’s rule (statistics give the number murdered, nation, and years—click the nation for sources).
- 2,000,000 Cambodia/Pol Pot (1975-1979)
- 874,000 China (1976-1987)
- 780,000 USSR (1970-1982)
- 725,000 Ethiopia (1974-1987)
- 255,000 Uganda (1979-1987)
- 230,000 Cambodia/Samrin (1979-1987)
- 228,000 Afghanistan (1978-1987)
- 198,000 Mozambique (1975-1987)
- 125,000 Angola (1975-1987)
- 56,000 Laos (1975-1987)
- 55,000 Iran (1979-1987)
- 20,000 Argentina (1976-1982)
- 15,000 Philippines (1972-1986)
- 15,000 Bangladesh (1972-1987)
Pol Pot, the worst of the lot over this period, responsible for the murder of 2,000,000 Cambodians in four years, was arrested in 1997, charged with treason, and sentenced . . . get this now . . . to house arrest.
For comparison, there are 361,000 references to mega murderer “Pol Pot” on Google, 67,000 less than to Pinochet who murdered probably 10,000, but in no case over 30,000 during the period I covered. As to Idi Amin who murdered 255,000 Ugandans, there are 185,000 links to him on Google, less than half those for Pinochet. Why the huge difference in attention?
I suspect it is because Pinochet was a victorious enemy of the left. He seized power from Chile’s Marxist president who was maneuvering his own revolutionary overthrow of the democratic system, and eventually succeeded in setting the stage for a return to a moderate democratic government and full capitalism (this is a description and not praise of his mass murders to achieve this). Most of the other killers on the list above, including Pol Pot, however, were Marxist or socialist of some favor (Amin was praised by the left as an anti-imperialist, particularly his nationalization of foreign businesses; in 1975 he was elected president of the Organization of African Unity). To coin a phrase, for the Marxist and left, which dominate the major Western media, academic studies, and human rights organizations, which is the worst of the worst seems to depend on whether their ox is gored.
Of course, I may be wrong. This attention may be coincidental, as might be the fact that the religion of those who pay so much attention to the Holocaust is Judaism.