Pallin' around with Pinochet: Seeing the real McCain

"Heard your songs of freedom and man forever stripped,
Acting out his folly while his back is being whipped.
Like a slave in orbit, he's beaten 'til he's tame,
All for a moment's glory and it's a dirty, rotten shame"

Bob Dylan, "Dirge"

If you want to read about someone pallin' around with actual terrorists, you need look no further than the new investigative piece by John Dinges on the Huffington Post. The article reveals, for the first time, John McCain's dirty little secret. That is, his friendly, private, undisclosed meeting back in 1985 with General Augusto Pinochet, the fascist, once-military dictator of Chile.

What's especially remarkable is that McCain–a man who endured torture himself during his time as a POW in Vietnam–would go out of his way to meet with a dictator whose regime was known for one thing above all else: Torturing people to death.

Well, that and overthrowing a democratically elected government.

But He's Our Fascist
Like other fascists before him, Pinochet used the spectre of communism as an excuse for overthrowing the country's democratic system–the oldest in Latin America–and then turning the nation into his own personal fiefdom. Communism was also deemed a suitable excuse for unleashing every fascist's favorite fantasy, a reign of terror.

Thousands of activists, politicians, human rights workers, trade unionists, and artists were picked up, imprisoned, tortured, and "disappeared"; even, incredibly, the country's most famous folk singer, Victor Jara, the Bob Dylan of Chile.

Jara was tortured to death, one guesses, for the hideous crime of singing about peace, love, and social justice–all things any self-respecting fascist simply could not be expected to tolerate and allow to poison the nation's soul.

What's clear is this: A decent, hard-torturin', salt-of-the-earth, fascist dictator deserved John McCain's time and devotion back in the 1980s. And so he gave it, albeit secretly.

Sadly, McCain was never able to fit in a meeting with the country's democratic opposition as his busy schedule simply wouldn't allow it. However, it is rumoured that he did at least wave to some of them on his way past the detention center on the road out to the airport.

To be fair to McCain, Pinochet's violent overthrow of the elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973 was American-government-backed and Pinochet was one of America's best, if somewhat embarrassing, friends in the region.

John & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Not everyone was as convinced as McCain that it was in America's best interests to support the overthrow of democracy, the murder and torture of political opponents, and an ongoing ruthless dictatorship.

One such person was Ted Kennedy. Contrast McCain's trip to Chile with that of Kennedy's around the exact same time, as detailed in Dinges' article, and you get a pretty clear idea of each man's character and each man's set of principles.

While McCain chose to meet with the Great Generalissimo, Kennedy decided to avoid him like the mass-murdering scumbag he was and instead spent his time in the country meeting with human rights leaders and activists with the opposition.

Well, perhaps, you say that McCain was actually there to put pressure on Pinochet to restore democracy? The only problem with that theory is that, again, according to Dinge’s article, there's no record of McCain ever speaking out against Pinochet's regime at any time. Not even once.

If you don't believe McCain was truly a supporter of Pinochet's dictatorship, don't take my word for it. Instead, listen to Pinochet's own man in Washington, Chilean Ambassador Hernan Felipe Errazuriz, the man who arranged McCain's trip to Chile. At the time of McCain's visit he stated that McCain was "one of the conservative congressmen who is closest to our embassy".

A Lotta Nerve
You know how McCain addresses everyone as "my friends"? Well, what I want to know is, does that include all dictators or just those of the right-wing, fascist persuasion? And are any of the victims of oppressive regimes included by any chance?

As Jara would surely have sung to McCain in the name of the Chilean people, had he not been tortured to death and dumped on a road on the outskirts of Santiago:

"You got a lotta nerve McCain
To say you are my friend
When I was down
You just stood there grinning"*

Check out John Dinges' article for yourself. It's all there; everything you really need to know about McCain's character, priorities and beliefs. Well, that and the fact he dropped all those bombs on all those Vietnamese civilians back in the sixties.

*Amended lyrics from "Positively 4th Street" by Bob Dylan.

Mike Cowie is a writer currently embarked on a book about his three-year trip across Asia with his wife, Sonoko. Read more of Mike’s views on his Web site.