Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Chile's Terrible Past and Iraq's Violent Present
The years when General Pinochet and the junta ruled Chile cannot be wiped out. His death could mean the end of bitterness for some of the survivors. For those who lost their friends and family members -- the ones who "disappeared" -- it is not that easy. We learn now that Augusto Pinochet was not only a despot but also a thief. He stashed away millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts.
But when Pinochet spoke of the need to "extirpate" communism from Chilean soil, it sent chills down my spine. As victims emerged from secret prisons, we learned what that verb really meant: fingernails pulled out, electric shocks applied to genitals, mock-rape by dogs. To this day, I remember the faces and the voices of weeping men, ashamed to confide the terrible things that had been done to them.
"The "sadness" of Margaret Thatcher, grateful for the Chilean's help to Britain during the Falklands war, also reflected her feeling for an authoritarian rightwinger and anti-communist on a continent where military juntas were then commonplace. It would be fascinating too to hear from Henry Kissinger, architect of Washington's realpolitik calculations about policing its "backyard".
Negative assessments of the war in Iraq -- the central issue in last month's midterm election -- continue to hold down President Bush's job approval ratings and could cast a pall on the final two years of his presidency.
In a new Post-ABC News poll, seven in 10 Americans disapprove of the way the president is handling the situation in Iraq -- the highest percentage since the March 2003 invasion. Six in 10 say the war was not worth fighting.
While both gauges on the war have been negative since late 2004, Bush's approval rating on Iraq has deteriorated further since early October, likely weakened by recent high-profile criticisms of the administration's Iraq policy.
The bleak appraisals of the war include the release last week of the much-anticipated report from the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan government advisory panel, which described conditions in Iraq as "grave and deteriorating."
With evident public skepticism about the situation in Iraq, the war remains the president's biggest challenge and the heaviest drag on his overall approval rating.
In this poll, 36 percent approve of how Bush is handling his job, which is the second lowest percentage in Post-ABC polls since Bush took office in 2001; 62 percent disapprove.
And as has been true throughout this year, the intensity of sentiment runs starkly against the president: Those who strongly disapprove of Bush's job performance outnumber those who strongly approve by nearly a 3-to-1 margin.