Cooper, who was in Chile at the time of the coup and an
acquaintenance of Charles Horman, wrote the following article
for the LA Weekly of May 10, 2002.
am finally doing my part in the war against international
terrorism. I spent the morning touring the site of this
country's most notorious concentration camp and killing
field: the cold, cement basement of the massive National
Stadium. Thousands of Chileans were at one time warehoused,
interrogated, beaten and tortured here. As many as 150 were
executed under the bleachers.
The tour was prep for court testimony I will give later
this week against a band of international terrorists that
a local judge would like to see finally brought to justice.
The head of that outlaw gang is a guy named Henry Kissinger.
And I'm now going to do my little part to help get him and
his accomplices into the dock.
This story also begins on September 11, but in 1973. On
that day two airplanes were also used to initiate the attack;
two Chilean Air Force Hawker-Hunter jets ran eight bombing
sorties against the Presidential Palace in downtown Santiago.
As it went up in flames, so did a century of Chilean democracy.
The elected president I worked for as a translator, Salvador
Allende, killed himself rather than be taken as prisoner
by his mutinous military.
And the dictator who took power that day, General Augusto
Pinochet, every bit as obscurantist as Osama bin Laden installed
a bloody regime that, in a sort of eerie premonition, wound
up snuffing out the lives of 3,100 innocent victims, almost
the exact number that perished in the barbarity of last
September 11. And just like the perpetrators of the World
Trade Center attack, the coup makers of 1973 also had a
network of international support. But their patrons' operational
headquarters were not in Kabul, but rather in the corridors
of power in Washington, D.C.
I was lucky and survived the coup unscathed. Luckier than
some of the others with whom I went this morning to roam
the silent bowels of the National Stadium's bottom floor.
Wisconsin political scientist Adam Schesch showed us where
he and his wife were held at gunpoint for eight days. Where
he was beaten with rifle butts and his ribs broken. Where
he and his wife huddled as a line of prisoners were marched
out onto the playing field and mowed down with submachine
guns. "Whenever the soldiers would come and turn on these
big ventilation fans, we knew more executions were about
to happen," Schesch said. "The noise of the fans was supposed
to cover up the gunshots from outside."
of us were luckier than our accompanying attorney Fabiola
Letelier. Her brother Orlando, a former foreign minister,
was killed by the same gang in 1976 when they set off a
car bomb in Washington, D.C., in the first significant act
of international terror on American soil.
brought us all together in Santiago this week is the still-unresolved
case of Charlie Horman. A young American filmmaker, Horman
was arrested here six days after the coup and went missing
until his battered and bullet-riddled body was found in
a morgue a month later. Charlie, who was a casual friend
of mine, was memorialized in the great Costa-Gavras film
Missing and in Thomas Hauser's book The Execution of Charles
have never been sure why Charlie was killed by the Chilean
military. Maybe on the order of an irrational commander.
Maybe by cooler calculation by a higher-up. And quite possibly
because he knew too much , because in the first hours of
the military takeover he had literally stumbled onto evidence
revealing the depth of U.S. encouragement and support for
the bloody takeover.
we do know is that the U.S. government engaged in an extraordinary
coverup to prevent Charlie's family and the American public
from getting the facts and circumstances surrounding his
murder. For those gory details I refer you to the movie
or book above.
year and a half ago, Charlie's widow, Joyce, returned to
Santiago and filed a criminal lawsuit, demanding to know
the truth. A courageous Chilean judge, Juan Guzman Tapia
(the same judge leading all local investigations into Pinochet
himself), accepted the complaint and opened a new probe.
time around, Judge Guzman wants to find out not only which
Chilean army unit pulled the trigger on Charlie Horman,
but also what exactly the U.S. responsibilities were in
this case. To that end, he sent a letter to the U.S. government
demanding that Henry Kissinger, who directed U.S.Chilean
policy at the time, as well as other former American officials,
including then U.S. Ambassador to Chile Nathaniel Davis,
testify about their knowledge of these events.
far, the U.S. government has not officially responded. But
Judge Guzman is not a man to be toyed with. He says if he
doesn't soon hear back from Washington, he will file for
Kissinger's extradition. And for those who doubt Guzman's
resolve, be advised that he has already interrogated the
man who was U.S. consul at the time, Fred Purdy. (Purdy
could not escape Guzman's net, as he lives here in Chile.)
My role in all this is small, but I am eager to fulfill
it. My testimony before Judge Guzman this week will focus
on how this same Consul Purdy and, indeed, how the entirety
of the U.S. Embassy here, apparently under Kissinger's orders,
consistently denied any aid or protection to U.S. citizens
during the Pinochet coup.
On three different occasions during that first nightmarish
week of military rule in 1973, I asked the U.S. Embassy
for protection. And three times I was turned down flat.
The last time was on the morning of September 17 in a face-to-face
encounter that I and a small group of fellow Americans had
with Consul Purdy. He denied there was any threat to Americans.
He told us to stay home and obey the new authorities. He
warned us that the only danger was from what he called "left-wing
The consul told us that Ambassador Nathaniel Davis was too
busy to meet with us. As history would have it, just about
the same time we were making our plea for protection, a
few miles to the south a truckload of Chilean troops had
broken into Charlie Horman's house and were carrying him
away to the National Stadium.
is a final irony here. About a year ago I attended a diplomatic
dinner in Los Angeles and found myself seated next to the
same former Ambassador Nathaniel Davis -- now a wizened
man in his 80s. He had no idea who I was. And I had no intention
of making a scene and embarrassing the guest of honor, so
I decided to bite my tongue. But Davis kept making small
talk with me and insisted, in a friendly way, on knowing
more about me. I finally relented and said that I had been
in Chile when he was there, but I only said that at the
time I was a "student."
were quite some times," the ambassador said with a whiff
of nostalgia. "Indeed," I agreed.
the way," the ambassador asked, "did you ever come to see
a matter of fact, I did one time. But I couldn't get in
to see you," I answered.
yes," he said with a distant look. "Those were very, very
busy times for us. You must have caught me on a very busy
retrospect, quite an understatement. Ambassador Davis is
retired now and lives in Southern California. Now that his
schedule is more relaxed, maybe he can respond to Judge
Guzman's request and testify under oath what he knew about
the death of Charlie Horman. I can only hope that my own
testimony will make it a little harder for him and his old
boss Kissinger to remain silent.
to "Reclaiming Memory"