To the Editor:
Mark Falcoff’s rather generous review of my work is too kind in one respect, misinformed in another, and misleading in still another [“Watching Christopher Hitchens,” January].
I cannot claim credit for coining the now-current term “Islamofascism,” though I did write in September 2001 that American society had just been assaulted by “fascism with an Islamic face.” I slightly prefer the nuance of the latter.
As for the preposterous, vulgar remark maliciously attributed to me by my younger brother, Peter, to the effect that I would not mind seeing the Red Army watering its horses in the Thames, I never made it. Nor, while I am on the subject, did I ever make the statement attributed to me by Martin Amis—and cited in COMMENTARY by David Pryce-Jones [Books in Review, October 2002]—to the effect that Stalin only created food “shortages” in the Ukraine.
This is more than a matter of my word against theirs. In the first place, one can be either a Trotskyist or a Stalinist but not both: I was a member of one of the most intransigently anti-Stalinist “groupuscules.” Moreover, if those were my views, they would have shown up somewhere in my more than three decades of writing and public speaking, and of course no such trace will be found or has ever been sourced.
It could be established, however, that I helped to organize a small protest in Cuba against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, that I was present at one of the founding meetings of the Polish KOR (Workers Defense Committee) in 1975, that I wrote a pamphlet highlighting the work of the prescient East German dissident Rudolf Bahro in 1979, and that I was arrested and briefly detained at a meeting of Charter 77 in Prague in 1988. It is not my fault if my brother is a fanatic and a fool (Mr. Falcoff might have mentioned that Peter’s slur was part of a high-pitched attack on Tony Blair’s support for the war against the Taliban), or if for once in his life the brilliant but apolitical Amis failed to get the point of an admittedly arcane Marxist joke.
Finally, in criticizing The Trial of Henry Kissinger, my little book on Kissinger’s many offenses, Mr. Falcoff asserts that I distort the record with respect to the Nixon administration’s involvement in Chile, and states that Salvador Allende would have been allowed to serve out his term as president if not for the many deformities of his regime. In my book, however, I produce documents that plainly show the orchestration of a plot to murder General Rene Schneider, a constitutional officer and political conservative who was opposed to a coup, before Allende had even been confirmed by the Chilean congress in 1970. If Mr. Falcoff, who cites his own “particular expertise” in Chilean matters, can refute this charge, he had better make haste. The general’s family has brought suit against Kissinger in a federal court in Washington, D.C., and every paper for the prosecution is a declassified document of the U.S. government
To the Editor:
Mark Falcoff writes that, in the early 1970’s, Chile’s Marxist president Salvador Allende “allowed a free hand to squadrons of sinister ‘security’ operatives from Cuba and East Germany.”
I had never heard this before. I have always considered the overthrow of Allende an after-the-fact example of “Eisenhowerism.” Eisenhower failed to grasp that you cannot fight Communism by fighting democracy. In 1953, he helped to overthrow the legally elected government of Iranian premier Mohammad Mossadegh, and in similar fashion, he canceled elections in Vietnam in 1956 that were intended to unify the country after the French departed.
I sincerely hope that Mark Falcoff, who claims “particular expertise” on Chile, can tell us more about East German and Cuban activities there. I would be happy to learn that what happened in Chile was not another case of this failed policy.
College of Staten Island
Staten Island, New York
To the Editor:
Mark Falcoff writes that Christopher Hitchens and his brother argued about the merits of Communism “at about the moment the Reagan administration was deploying SS-20 missiles in Europe to counter the Soviet threat.” But it was the Soviet Union—not the U.S.—that deployed SS-20 missiles. They were stationed in Warsaw Pact countries in the 1970’s to intimidate Western Europe and to cause a split in NATO. The Reagan administration countered by installing Pershing II missiles in Western Europe in November 1983.
Stephen H. Chopek
Mark Falcoff writes:
I had better start by warning Christopher Hitchens that I may be forced to be even more generous to him in the future. Quite apart from the fact that he has been facing down the enemy at its epicenter in Berkeley, California, his recent articles have been superb. For example, in the London Daily Mirror (February 20) he ardently prayed for rain to dampen the “peace demonstration” there, which he characterized as driven by “clapped-out pseudo-Marxists who in their hearts have a nostalgia for the days of the one-party state and secretly regard Saddam as an anti-imperialist . . . assisted by an impressive number of fundamentalist Muslims who mouth the gibberish slogans of holy war but who don’t give a damn for the suffering inflicted by Saddam on their co-religionists. A more gruesome political alliance,” he concluded, “I have never seen.”
Well, actually one has. During the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact (1939-41), many, many “Marxists,” Trotskyists, and “leftists” of varying hues (among them the late Irving Howe, now a cult figure for the democratic Left in this country) subscribed to the notion that the true “imperialists” of the day were not the Nazis or the Soviets but the British, the French, and the Poles. One leftist who did not share that view was George Orwell. In that sense, Mr. Hitchens is in tandem with his hero.
Let me now turn to his specific comments. If Mr. Hitchens never made the remark attributed to him by his brother, his quarrel is not with me but with his sibling. But at no point did I suggest that Mr. Hitchens had ever been both a Trotskyist and a Stalinist. Not at all. What I would indeed say is that it is by definition impossible to be both a Trotskyist and an anti-Communist.
I can see that Christopher Hitchens has not read my book, Modern Chile, 1970-89: A Critical History (1989), so let me summarize its findings in connection with General Schneider. There was never a CIA plot—or, as far as I know, a plot by anyone else—to murder General Schneider, the commander-in-chief of the Chilean army. There was a CIA plot to kidnap him and send him off to Argentina for a season because he opposed the idea of a “legalistic” military coup that—in place of respecting the razor-thin electoral victory of the Marxist Salvador Allende—would have given Chile a provisional government for, say, a week. This would then have allowed new elections, in which the outgoing Christian Democratic president Eduardo Frei (1964-70) would suddenly have become freed of the technicality forbidding any president in Chile from running for two consecutive terms. Most people believed at the time (and still believe today) that in a two-man race between Frei and Allende, Allende would have lost.
As I point out in my book, General Schneider’s murder was an accident. He pulled his pistol to defend himself from his kidnappers; they, mostly young amateurs, panicked, shot him, and fled. He died in a military hospital several days later. As it happens, the kidnappers were one of two groups the CIA was working with, although not the one selected for the kidnapping. They had gone ahead and acted on their own, as often happens in such cases.
But there is more. “The effect of the Schneider debacle,” I write in Modern Chile, “was precisely the opposite of what was desired” by the CIA and the Nixon administration: “it transformed the victim into a martyr of the ‘constitutionalist’ traditions of the Chilean army; it encouraged other constitutionalist officers to support an orderly transfer of power to the new [Allende] administration; and it discredited right-wing cabals both in the army and outside of it.” This happy situation would have continued right on to the end of Allende’s term in 1976 had he followed a more moderate and sensible course instead of the one I described in my article.
I am well aware that there has been a massive declassification of documents relating to the U.S. role in Chile in the Allende period. As a matter of fact, I was invited several years ago by a State Department/CIA task force to brief the personnel who had been assigned to plow through the several boxcar loads of documents. I have followed their progress with interest. Nothing has come to light about the U.S. role in the Schneider affair that was not already known as a result of the Senate’s Church-committee investigations as far back as 1972 and 1973, and nothing establishes the facts beyond what I have recited above. I would recommend that the Schneider family find a better use for their money than spending it on pricey Washington lawyers.
Which brings me to George Jochnowitz. If this is the first time Mr. Jochnowitz has heard about East-bloc and Cuban involvement in Allende’s Chile, he, too, needs to do some reading. The Cuban “diplomatic pouch” to Chile often took the form of huge crates containing weaponry, and Allende’s personal security was handled by Cuban intelligence people. (His daughter, who ended up marrying one of them, later committed suicide in Cuba when she discovered he was already married.) The Cuban embassy in Santiago consisted of more than 200 people—roughly ten times the size one would normally expect. These and other details are available in my book.
I would also suggest that Mr. Jochnowitz look at the memoirs of Jorge Edwards, Persona Non Grata (1993); Edwards was the Chilean charge d’affaires in Havana at the beginning of Allende’s administration. He might also find edifying the recollections of Jorge Masetti, a former Cuban intelligence officer, titled In the Pirate’s Den: My Life as a Secret Agent for Castro (2001). Nor would it hurt to consult Markus Wolf’s Man Without a Face (1999), the memoirs of the former head of the East German secret police. Needless to say, these titles do not exhaust the possibilities.
I thank Stephen H. Chopek for correcting my slip of the pen.