Over all the Western world, September 11th is a particular day associated with a particular event – the horrendous terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that left nearly 3,000 innocent civilians dead in 2001. It is remembered yearly, and sometimes it is marred with controversy. This year, the 9th Anniversary involved a divide between some Christians and some Muslims on the planned development of a complex in Ground Zero (which is close to where the Twin Towers once were) which includes a Mosque, and a lunatic Pastor wanting to burn Korans in public.

Yet, little do we hear about September 11th of 1973, where in Chile, which prided itself as the best democracy in Latin America, a non-expected savage coup ousted democratically elected Salvatore Allende and forced the brutal colonel Augusto Pinochet on the Chilean people.

During the first weeks of the coup, over 3,000 people were murdered, 80,000 arrested (most of them also tortured) and 200,000 refugees had to flee the country.

I will not go into the details of the coup. One can easily find information about it. The US itself has repeatedly condemned Pinochet’s brutality. It also has, conveniently distanced itself from the dictator. In reality however, it was behind his every move. The man behind the whole plan was not Chilean but North American, an economist. His name is Milton Friedman. The link between Friedman and Pinochet however, was rarely exposed on mainstream American media.

Friedman believed in a free market. Us Europeans consider the USA as the leader of laissez faire capitalism, or better still ‘savage capitalism’. Yet, for Friedman this was not enough. What he believed in was complete non intervention from the government. Absolutely no public spending, and above all abolishing any kind of Trade Union or labour movement. Not even the USA was ready for that, so he turned his eyes on Chile. Chilean students were invited for his economic classes in this doctrine of a completely free market. They became known as the Chicago Boys. Most of them would occupy the most senior positions in Pinochet’s government.

Everything went wrong for Friedman when in 1970 the people of Chile elected democratically Salvatore Allende – a socialist. Allende had to go, but that was not enough. There was always the risk that he would be replaced by some other socialist, and Friedman and the Chicago Boys knew too well that socialism was very strong in Chile.

Thus the campaign of terror, a cleansing based not on ethnicity but political ideology. On this however, Friedman and the Boys kept a low profile. They only gave economic advice. Only Pinochet and his regime were responsible for the atrocities. At least that’s how they made it appear.

In reality, the Chicago Boys were behind the terror all the time. They had even studied other violent coups and learned lesson from them. For example from the overthrowing of Suharto in Indonesia they learnt they should slash the dead victims stomachs before throwing them into the river. They drown quicker, and a huge amount of floating bodies in the river wasn’t good in front of the media.

Orlando Letelier, a former minister in Allende’s government knew this too well. After escaping to the US he wrote a controversial article on the close relationship between the terror and the economic policies on The Nation. Three weeks after the article was published, Letelier was the victim of a remote controlled car bomb. The truth had to be silenced.

Why is this all relevant? Am I trying to minimize the suffering of September 11th, 2001? Definitely not. It is relevant because right now there are people with extreme power who still want to implement Friedman’s wishes. And where better than Iraq or Afghanistan? Where unlike the case of Chile, the leaders are not democratically elected and already hated by the majority of the people.
Most of us consider the ‘war on terror’ as a ‘war for oil’. Yet, it could be even more than that. It might also be a war for exporting ideology. That Iraq and Afghanistan are laboratories for experimenting Friedman’s ideology, like Chile was. Does this sound too far fetched? Not when the most senior officials when George W Bush started the war, Donald Rumsfield and Dick Cheney are disciples of Friedman’s ideology, the former having been a very close friend of the late Milton Friedman. Not when the torture of terrorist suspects is based on exactly the same models (sometimes improved) used in Pinochet’s torture chambers.