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If You are a Mass Murderer, Don’t Call In to Radio Stations

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Pro-tip: If you are a murderer for a long-ago deposed dictatorial regime, don’t call in to talk radio to talk about your killings.

A former conscript in the Chilean army has been charged with murder after confessing on a live radio phone-in to participating in the deaths of 18 opponents of the late military dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Guillermo Reyes Rammsy, 62, was arrested on Friday and charged over the 1973 murders of Freddy Taberna Gallegos and German Palomino Lamas, members of Chile’s Socialist Party.

The extraordinary confession began on Wednesday afternoon when a man called in to Chile’s most famous talk show “Chacotero Sentimental” (Loving Betrayal) and told host Roberto Artiagoitía that he was considering suicide.

After briefly describing a frustrated romance, the caller went on to describe his involvement in a string of human rights crimes. He said that, as a conscript, he had participated in 18 executions, following Pinochet’s military coup against the government of president Salvador Allende.

“The first time [I killed someone] I cried but the lieutenant was saying: ‘Good soldier, good soldier, brave soldier.’ Then ‘Pow. pow,’ again,” he said. “The second time I liked it. I enjoyed it.”

Over the next 20 minutes, the caller described a string of human rights abuses that he had witnessed during his time in the army. “I participated in 18 executions … We shot them in the head and then blew up the bodies with dynamite, there was nothing left, not even their shadow,” he said.

In the slightest way, one feels for this guy and the guilt he feels for his crimes. But then again, not really.

Be nice if we could arrest Henry Kissinger too.

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  • Scizzy

    I just finished a lecture on Kissinger and realism in my American history survey a week ago. Simply laying out the intentions and consequences of his policies over 30 minutes makes him look like such a cartoonish villain that several students simply refused to believe me.

    • timb

      WaPo editors and Ron Fournier walked out of your class to write on essays on why Obama can’t lead like “Hank.”

    • Lost Left Coaster

      I thought I knew much of what there was to know about Kissinger, but last year I read The Blood Telegram by Gary Bass, about the role of US foreign policy in the genocide committed by present-day Pakistan against the people of present-day Bangladesh. I didn’t think that my contempt for Kissinger could be any more intense, but his work supporting the genocide against the people of Bangladesh was just jaw-dropping.

      • sharculese

        I’ve yet to read The Blood Telegram, although based on the short description the whole thing on Nixonland it’s on my to do list, but I would like to be the person who steps in to say that Archer Blood is the best name in American history.

        • Lost Left Coaster

          That is an amazing name, and also Archer Blood was a genuine American hero during a very ugly and horrible time of US foreign policy. Of course he paid a heavy price for it. I do hope that every single American foreign service officer has to read the Blood Telegram during their training, but somehow I doubt it.

          • LFC

            Rather than reading The Blood Telegram, I chose to read the other book on that event that was published at roughly the same time: Srinath Raghavan, 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh (I also reviewed it on my blog). The approaches of the two books are probably somewhat different, as are the authors’ nationalities (Bass is American, Raghavan is Indian), but either one will probably do for someone who wants to get a deeper understanding of the whole episode. Nixon and Kissinger displayed a pretty much complete indifference to the crimes the W. Pakistanis were committing in the East (when they weren’t actually backing them).

            The main explanation Raghavan offers for U.S. policy is that N & K thought that they would lose ‘face’ and ‘credibility’ with China, which was close to Pakistan and of course with which N & K were in the midst of a major diplomatic rapprochement, if they didn’t back their ally Pakistan. They thought if they looked ‘weak’ in the eyes of the Chinese the latter might not go through with the diplomatic opening. (Pakistan had been used as the conduit for K’s initial secret trip to Beijing in the summer of ’71). In retrospect and even at the time, this is a flimsy rationale. I have little doubt that, w some imagination and determination, N & K could have both reined in the Pakistanis and had their opening to China. There was a USSR-India treaty which complicated thing, but iirc that was India’s response to possible diplomatic isolation and not inevitable. Bottom line: a tangled mess, but a very dark blot on the history of U.S. foreign policy, which isn’t exactly short of them.

            • helkamet

              the worst part was that there were other approaches to china, the pakistanis weren’t the only avenue available (the french, if i recall correctly}.

              • LFC

                Yes, there were other possible approaches to China (not sure it was France, though, that was the likeliest candidate; I think it might have been an eastern European country that was the real alternative here. Can’t remember, would have to look it up; the author does mention it in 1971.)

                • J. Otto Pohl

                  It was Romania.

    • Murc

      Simply laying out the intentions and consequences of his policies over 30 minutes makes him look like such a cartoonish villain that several students simply refused to believe me.

      Cheney has the same problem. Did you know that Cheney literally didn’t have a heartbeat for awhile?

      • Philip

        I think Cheney and his ilk are strong evidence that we only made it through the Cuban Missile Crisis thanks to an Infinite Improbability Drive somewhere on Earth, and no one’s found it to switch it off yet. To wit, from Mr. Adams himself:

        There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory, which states that this has already happened.

        • NonyNony

          If there is a multiverse of branching worlds, where every possible outcome creates its own universe, then there must be a universe where ever outcome that occurs is the ridiculous one. We don’t live in that universe, but sometimes I feel like we live in one of its neighbors.

  • Karen24

    This sort of thing demonstrates the genius of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This guy was a pawn, if more enthusiastic than necessary. The trial will be important to get his testimony into the public record, especially where he names his superiors and describes their orders, but I kinda hope he gets a relatively light punishment, and that more and more soldiers from that time come forward to describe what happens.

    • Joe_JP

      I at times wonder if the Truth and Reconciliation Commission model will work for U.S. crimes in the future, including involving torture related human rights violations.

      • Phil Perspective

        Would work in what way? It certainly wouldn’t dissuade any future Kissingers. Not when you have people like Samantha Power blowing smoke up his butt.

        • Joe_JP

          Will they fully dissuade future [insert local criminal] in other countries? I did not take them to be so utopian. Somewhat dissuade? Perhaps.

          I took them as means to air out the facts, in some fashion provide a forum for victims and in general promote “truth” and “reconciliation.”

        • ThrottleJockey

          Really? You’re going to go after Samantha Power for having the audacity to suggest that America should’ve intervened to stop the Rwandan genocide?

          • Joe_JP

            I understand how she can be faulted for supporting allegedly misguided usage of U.S. force (a major dispute that will split people around here) but the connection to Kissinger … kinda confusing. But, maybe it has something to do with this:

            You know, Samantha Power wrote this book about genocide, including several genocides that Kissinger was implicated in, and then to see their banter about power and realism and human rights

            https://newrepublic.com/article/122697/peoples-obituary-henry-kissinger-his-death

            But, the 1st reply seems more a potshot at her than saying much about my comment.

            • sharculese

              I mean, it’s Phil, so the odds that it’s a substance free potshot at someone he demands to be seen as better than and not necessarily related to the thing he’s ostensibly responding to approach 100%.

            • J. Otto Pohl

              Power’s book A Problem from Hell treats genocide as something that is done by foreign governments that can be stopped by US military intervention. The idea that the US was part of the problem in some cases rather than a potential military solution is completely alien to her.

          • Barry Freed

            And which she’s used to justify disastrous US interventions in Libya, Syria, Yemen(!). She’s Kissinger lite.

            • joe from Lowell

              Neither the Obama administration’s Syria or Yemen policies have had the slightest connection to Powers anti-genocide theories.

              The UN intervention over Libya is the reason it isn’t Syria. I always find it especially ironic when people cite the horror of years of civil war in Syria, then turn around and denounce the quick end to the civil war Libya.

              The US is a bit player in the Syrian Civil War; virtually noting (except the elimination of the chemical weapons) would have gone differently there in the absence of American policy.

              Other than that, though, you’re really onto something.

              She’s Kissinger lite.

              Backing genocides, ending genocides – look, she’s not Kucinich, and once you get beyond that, it’s just hair styles.

              • SIS1

                “then turn around and denounce the quick end to the civil war Libya.”

                What quick end? I guess the BBC needs better fact checker then:

                http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-35086587

                I mean, look at them putting out an article 2 days ago talking about trying to end the CURRENT civil war in Libya.

              • LFC

                (What SIS1 said. Wrote following before seeing that comment.)

                I think it’s fair to say, though, that the intervention in Libya did not result in a stable, unified polity. I mean, last I heard there were two competing capitals of the country, a low-level civil war going on, widespread violence and lawlessness and militia activity.

                Whether the intervention in Libya was on balance justified and ‘a good thing’ I honestly don’t know the ‘right’ answer to. There is ongoing debate among people who follow this about how imminent the threat of a massacre by Gaddafi was, whether there were other ways to have dealt w the situation etc etc. See e.g. a debate in Foreign Affairs a while back betw. Alan Kuperman, who is a critic of the intervention, and two former Obama admin NSC officials.

                [Power is not really “Kissinger lite.” If she wants to go to a Yankees game w Kissinger, I guess that is her business. I wdn’t do it myself, but whatever…]

              • Barry Freed

                What SIS1 said below. Libya is an ongoing clusterfuck that has resulted in destabilization throughout the region. Powers pushed heavily for intervention for supposed anti-genocide reasons there with rather predictable results given how we’ve seen American interventionism in the region turn out. Syria was also justified on similar grounds though granted the situation is more complex there with many more actors involved.
                I’ll grant that I’ve not seen Powers justify our intervention* in Yemen on humanitarian grounds (though I’ve not looked for it either) but our Yemen policy is a disgrace and a serious blot on the Obama administrations foreign policy record.

                *in the form of supplying munitions to KSA and other regional actors to the tunes of multi-billions, logistics and targeting intel. Basically we are facilitating the destruction of Yemen and major war crimes. And no one says a damned thing.

                • Barry Freed

                  What SIS1 said below.

                  And of course with threading what by below I meant above.

            • Ahuitzotl

              Well he could stand to lose a little weight – ideally 10 pounds or so off the top.

    • Thom

      There were some real problems with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa, though there were also some real benefits. The main benefits were the opportunities for victims of human rights violations at the individual level to tell their stories, while a good deal of information also came out from the (mostly unsuccessful) applications for amnesty. (Not all the evidence, of course, was truthful.) But the TRC also failed on a number of levels. One is that very few high level perpetrators applied for amnesty, and none of them were prosecuted. (High level members of the apartheid government and of the liberation movements alike failed to apply for amnesty.) There was an attempt to prosecute the former minister of defense, just before the TRC, and he was acquitted. So others calculated that it was not in their interest to apply, as a successful application required full disclosure of the crime (this is why most applications failed). In addition, the TRC treated apartheid as a series of individual violations of human rights, rather than as a system of oppression that disadvantaged millions on a daily basis.

      All that aside, however, a promise of some system of amnesty was necessary in the negotiations for a democratic transition in order to insure that the security forces did not undermine the transition.

      Finally, the idea of giving amnesty (or reduced sentences) to lower level people in order to get at higher level ones is the norm in prosecuting criminal conspiracies. The TRC did not make this deal. Instead it offered amnesty to anyone who could show that their crime was politically motivated, proportionate to the ends sought, and who made full disclosure. The TRC granted only 849 out of more than 7,000 applications for amnesty.

      • Gregor Sansa

        In the case of the guy in the OP: what he did almost certainly wasn’t “proportional to the ends sought” if those ends are defined as protecting the country from communism or whatever. But if those ends are defined as saving his own life, his actions (including the evil version of Stockholm syndrome where he learned to enjoy it) are probably no less than proportional. In other words: yes, I can have sympathy for him, because I believe that if he’d done otherwise he probably would have been killed himself.

  • Joe_JP

    off topic: the SCOTUS opinion handed down today, including Justice Ginsburg’s (joined by Sotomayor) dissent might be of interest.

  • J. Otto Pohl

    It all depends what country you are in when calling into the radio show. Executioners during the Pinochet dictatorship are no longer in fashion in Chile. But there are plenty of places where mass murder for a previous dictatorship is not only not punished but positively glorified. Russia for instance.

    http://jpohl.blogspot.com/2013/02/usollag.html

    • Karate Bearfighter

      This seems like a good jumping off point to recommend that everyone who hasn’t already should watch “The Act of Killing” — an amazing documentary about low level perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian anti-communist massacres. It’s streaming free on Netflix and Amazon.

      • LFC

        Interesting. Didn’t know it was available for free.

        • Karate Bearfighter

          Oops; looks like it’s no longer available with Amazon Prime Video, although it is still on Netflix Streaming.

  • Murc

    Be nice if we could arrest Henry Kissinger too.

    You know, I expect the Republicans to ignore and even celebrate evil, but we are now in our third, approaching our fourth, Democratic-led DoJ just completely falling down with regard to America’s second or third most notorious war criminal.

    And that’s just shameful. We’re meant to be the party of, you know, basic morals and holding people accountable.

    • rea

      Well, there is no point in prosecuting him unless you are going to convict him, and convicting him is highly problematic, for reasons that don’t have much to do with the facts of his record.

      • Philip

        Because once we convict him we’re not allowed to bury him alive in Nixon’s grave?

    • LFC

      Kissinger was never going to be prosecuted and tried in the US for his actions as natl sec adviser and Sec of State, regardless of the political party in power, regardless of who was running DOJ. It was never remotely in the cards, not ever even remotely, for a whole host of reasons that wd take too long to enumerate. But basically: no, it was never happening.

      • Murc

        That speaks badly of us as a country and of the specific people who looked at Kissinger and decided “this man should continue to walk free under the open sky.”

        • BiloSagdiyev

          Especially because the thinking behind it all is, “Management reserves the right to do all that evil shit all over again whenever it sees fit.”

  • mojrim

    Why do you feel anything but pity, Erik? Conscripted before his prefrontal cortex was formed, threatened with execution of he refused, and praised for doing the deed. Young, alone, psychologically defenseless, forever warped by something he had minimal control over. Now at 62 he call a radio show to confess what has been eating him from the inside for decades, and you have “pity, sorta.” I’m a little disgusted with you just now.

    There are tens of thousands of Chileans just like him waiting to see how this plays out. Perhaps a public confession, recording and tallying the dead, some community service, and public forgiveness. Then the rest can “come to jesus” in the same way. That would be the ideal Putting teenage privates on trial is a feel good for a small number of people, nothing else.

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