Note: "Dewey" Clarridge claims below that 200 people were murdered in the Pinochet coup. This is a gross misunderstatement, There were so many decapitated bodies, in fact, that they formed a human dam in the river that runs through the Chilean capitol. Peter Kornbluh: "Pinochet had escaped all punishment for his actions which left thousands dead and Chile a bitterly divided nation." The victims were primarily leftists targeted for assassination.
Two years ago, Duane Clarridge sat down to be interviewed by John Pilger for Pilger’s series “The War on Democracy.” Clarridge, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer was indicted in 1991 for his involvement in covering up the Iran-Contra affair, and retired from the agency in 1987.
Not only did he back the Contras against the Sandinistas, Clarridge was indicted for seven counts of perjury, including lying to Congress about the illegal sale of weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of six hostages, but was later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush.
In his interview with Pilger, the head of Latin American operations for the CIA in the early 1980s, denied the extent of the killing during the Chilean military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. You may recall that the CIA backed Pinochet, and Richard Nixon ordered the agency to depose Allende in 1970 right after Allende took office. When that effort failed, the executive branch instructed the CIA to work to deconstruct the Allende regime.
Documents, declassified during Bill Clinton’s administration, show covert operatives placed inside Chile to destabilize the government, and prevent what was feared to be a Marxist takeover. While Clarridge retired, the CIA hasn’t, and is said to play a large part in destabilizing efforts in Pakistan and Iran.
The feisty former intelligence officer, who left agency more than 20 years ago, told Pilger: “I’ll bet you can’t count more than 200” who were killed under Pinochet during his notorious bloody coup.
When Pilger looked shocked, Clarridge quipped, “Sometimes, unfortunately, things have to be changed in an ugly way.” Indeed, Saddam Hussein would surely agree, if he were able to.
Pilger then asked what right the U.S. and the CIA have to intervene in the internal affairs of foreign countries, and Clarridge said simply “national security interests.”
Yes, those same “national security interests” that embolden Clarridge, then a public servant, to lie to Congress about his role as the CIA operative who masterminded the covert war in Nicaragua.
But, that’s ancient history. Why would anyone care about Duane Clarridge now?
Well, this same national security buff who denied what Pinochet did was genocide, and who later faced charges of perjury, is now back in the saddle and working in another covert war, in Pakistan. Only this time as a private citizen.
According to wsws.org, Clarridge is now running one of many Pentagon-funded private contractors in Pakistan that act as conduits for military intelligence.
One can’t help but wonder if his sphere of influence stops at Islamabad, or if the contacts he made in the Iran-Contra affair are coming in handy now. After all, would it be far-fetched to think that the former operative is also acting as an off-the-cuff consultant to CIA operatives in Iran?
Clearly, Duane Clarridge may have left intelligence, but intelligence never left Duane Clarridge.
To connect the dots, the Los Angeles Times reported, back in 2004, the former intelligence operative joined forces with a group of conservative activists, shortly after his departure from the CIA, a group that supported Chalabi as a vehicle for overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq and replacing him with a pro-American puppet. Clarridge has even been accused of forging the infamous Niger letter that led to the infamous series of lies to Congress known simply as weapons of mass destruction.
And, the Don Quixote of Niger doesn’t think that Chilean dictator killed more than a couple of hundred, not that killing anyone is justified, but think of the hideous crime of denying not merely culpability, but culpability in which one is complicit.
Consider, too, as Fred Branfman reports in AlterNet, that “Latin American Station Chief Duane “Dewey” Clarridge organized, trained, and operated local paramilitary and death squads throughout Central and Latin America that brutally tortured and murdered tens of thousand of civilians.”
No wonder then that this former CIA officer would attempt to minimize the hideous murders committed by Pinochet. Many would like to declare war on Iran because Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust denier, but how many would call out a U.S. government employee for denying the purges of Pinochet, and/or participating in them?
While there may be much micromanaging of intelligence agencies by the executive branch, it’s puzzling to think how little federal oversight there is of private military contractors who have already faced a host of charges in Iraq, and who may now be taking commands from Duane “Dewey” Clarridge.
Jayne Lyn Stahl is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.