Apologists: ‘He Was Better than Castro’!
longtime Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet died on Dec. 10 at the age of
91, it set off clashes in the dictator’s homeland, in which 39 people
were arrested. It also set off bitter, but much less violent, brawling
among American pundits, about exactly how bad Pinochet was.
soon emerged among right-wing pundits in the U.S.: Sure, Pinochet did a
few bad things here and there. But at least he overthrew a socialist
government, which probably would’ve done worse. And besides, when it
comes to Cold War-era Latin-American dictators, Fidel Castro was much,
much worse - and the media clearly won’t be nearly as tough on him when
he inevitably dies.
this, of course, is based on pure conjecture. We’ll never know how Chile
would have turned out had Salvador Allende remained in power. And not
only is the hypothetical media response to Castro’s death based on
conjecture as well, but it’s completely beside the point.
again demonstrates that large segments of the conservative punditocracy
think of no event as more important than the liberal media’s
“distortion” of said event. You know, the people who think of “Abu
Ghraib” as “that awful time that the media made the soldiers look bad.”
Therefore, the biggest story about Pinochet’s death is not that a
horrible tyrant of the 20th Century is dead. It’s that
they’re more negative about him than they will be about Castro.
clear about one thing: Pinochet was a bad, bad man. He overthrew a
democratically elected government in a military coup, served as a
dictator for nearly two decades, murdered thousands of his own people
and tortured many, many more. He also plundered his own country’s
treasury and evaded numerous war-crimes tribunals at the end of his
life, always suddenly coming down with an illness just when his trials
were about to start.
used by the right in defense of him are totally shameful, and absolutely
no worse than those on the far left who have a blind spot about Castro.
They also pretend that it’s somehow a mainstream liberal Democratic
position to be a supporter of communism in Cuba. I know that a handful
of elected officials, Hollywood types and academics think Fidel’s just
the greatest - but they’re wrong, and I think most Democrats know
besides, even if Pinochet was “better than Castro,” “better than Castro”
doesn’t equal “good.”
excuses just keep coming. In a see-no-evil symposium on National
Review’s website, various contributors took turns looking the other
way. Pinochet is even given credit for putting himself up for
re-election in 1990, as though this was somehow a dramatic, selfless
act. You’re supposed to put yourself up for re-election!
hear that since Pinochet’s body count was only in the 3,000-4,000 range,
he doesn’t rank as among the 20th Century’s foremost
butchers. This argument is in the exact same logical realm as those who
defend Hitler because after all, he killed fewer people than Stalin did.
John Birch Society - which I was shocked to learn is even still in
existence - came out in favor of the late dictator, calling him “very
different from the media depiction of him.”
the most ridiculous argument of all came from National Review’s
Jonah Goldberg, who wrote an asinine, Swiftian column (at least, I hope
it was Swiftian) arguing that “Iraq Needs a Pinochet.” Yes, after years
under Saddam’s boot, I’m sure another murderous, cleptocratic dictator
is exactly what the Iraqis have in mind.
of these arguments is absolutely no different and no more virtuous than
the oft-stated “Mussolini made the trains run on time” defense. And it’s
no better than left-wing excuses for Castro, either.
was a horrible man who killed many of his own people and crushed civil
liberties in his country. Castro is as well, and did many of the same
things. When Castro dies, the fact that a horrible tyrant is dead will
be a far bigger story than whatever a handful of sympathetic journalists
have to say about him. And, I really don’t see why we can’t all agree
that tyrannical dictatorship is wrong and worthy of condemnation,
whether it comes from the left or the right.
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