Reviewing the Condor Years

John Dings’s The Condor Years is a critical look at United States foreign policy in Latin America. Based on well-sourced materials including declassified documents from the CIA, Dings shows how America supported brutal dictatorships in Latin America. The book demonstrates how, with differing levels of US support and/or indifference, right-wing dictators killed thousands and tortured more.

The official members of Operation Condor were: Chile; Argentina; Uruguay; Bolivia; Paraguay; and Brazil. Peru and Ecuador joined later. Operation Condor had three primary goals:

  1. Mutual cooperation among military and intelligence services
  2. Organized cross-border operations to kill and detain
  3. The formation of assassination teams to go anywhere in the world and kill

The Condor Years demonstrates how the United States assisted dictators with money, weapons, training, communication systems, and information.

One particularly horrifying story presented in the Condor Years deals with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger. Kissinger told Augusto Pinochet, the dictator in charge of Chile from September of 1973 to 1990, not to worry about America’s criticism of human rights violations. Kissinger was simultaneously telling Congress and the American people the Nixon administration was concerned about human rights violations while reassuring the leader of Operation Condor the US had his back.

Orlando Letelier was the Chilean foreign minister under Salvador Allende, the former president of Chile. In 1976, Operation Condor killed Letelier in Washington, DC.

The United States had advanced warning that Letelier was being targeted. A cable warning Operation Condor participants of the US’s knowledge was drafted but never sent. After Letelier’s murder, the United States assisted in the coverup by supporting the idea that he had been killed by leftists to make the Penochet regime look bad.

That’s right: someone was killed in America’s capital by thugs working for foreign governments. In response, the United States helped sell the cover story.

Reading the Condor Years was an infuriating and necessary experience. I think everyone should learn about the dirty history America tries hard to keep us from knowing.

In case you want to doubt the idea that America supported dictator-sponsored death squads, here is an article from the New York Times detailing some of the vents. The article in the New York Times contains source information to corroborate the articles information.

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