The Tale of Two Dictators

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Last December Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, died peacefully in bed. Contrast this with the demise of Saddam Hussein, executed later that month in a ghoulish vengeance killing videoed and posted on the Internet. Both had been renowned for carrying out the dirty work of U.S. Imperialism. Why were they treated so differently? To protect the guilty.

Pinochet’s reign of terror began in 1973 when he launched a U.S.-sponsored military coup against Socialist President, Salvador Allende. During the next 17 years, Pinochet’s forces murdered more than 3,000 people. Saddam Hussein came to power in 1968. He led an authoritarian, nationalist regime that ruthlessly repressed Kurds, unionists and communists, among many others. He committed almost all of his atrocities with full U.S. support right up to the 1991 Gulf War.

Justice denied. While the news of Pinochet’s death was greeted with joyful mass demonstrations, many were angry that this mass killer had died without being tried for his crimes. Saddam’s execution also provoked mixed emotions. Some survivors of his repression were overjoyed. But the stink of “victors’ vengeance” and the death penalty made many question if justice had been done at all. For the Kurdish people who survived Saddam’s mass killings, there will be no day in court.

Dead men tell no tales. The Shia-dominated Iraqi government chose to try the Dujail case, concerning the execution of 148 Shiite men, first. It was one of the minority of Saddam’s crimes that had no direct U.S. involvement. The puppets in Baghdad have let their masters off the hook.

Still at large. Hussein is dead, judged in a court convened by a gang guilty of crimes greater than his own. Pinochet is dead, having evaded justice for three decades.

But those who have survived their crimes still struggle for justice. Yet the two recently departed dictators are only the street pushers of imperialist violence. It’s time the ringleaders were put in the dock. People like George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard. Of course, imperialism will not judge itself. Real justice requires real change — a job for socialists, not solicitors.

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