Sept. 21, 1976: A Day that Should Live in Infamy
On September 21, 1976, a gorgeous 25-year-old American obsessed with democracy was gruesomely murdered on Embassy Row in Washington, D. C. Her name was Ronni Moffitt [above]. She deserved to live. So did the U. S. democracy that she cherished. But both died that day. Neither should be surreptitiously or callously forgotten, regardless of how convenient that might be for their enemies. Like December 7, 1941, the date September 21, 1976 should live forever in infamy. Ronni Moffitt and democracy deserve at least that much remembrance because neither she nor it will ever have reincarnations. There was only one Ronni Moffitt and it was not intended for her to die in 1976. In 1776 America's Founding Fathers founded only one democracy and they didn't intend for it to die exactly 200 years later in the capital of that democracy, Washington, D. C. That demise is best symbolized by...Ronni Moffitt.
Even in high school, Ronnie Moffitt revealed her enchantment with democracy. In two separate term papers, she lamented United States "flirtations" with dictatorships in foreign countries and the increasing tendency "even to install dictatorships against the wishes of the majority." That was as a high school junior. As a senior, she asked this question in a term paper: "Since 1776 so many have died fighting for our democracy, so why today are so few outraged over our support and our creation of dictatorships in developing nations that are being raped and robbed?" A brilliant student, Ronnie only got a "C+" on that term paper, with her teacher scribbling four words beside the grade: "A budding radical, uh?" She wasn't a radical, just an advocate. Of course, Ronni had no way of knowing she would die young because of that advocacy. After all, she advocated democracy in the world's greatest democracy!
On the morning of September 21, 1976, Ronni Moffitt was a passenger in the front seat of a sky-blue Chevy Chevelle; her boss was the driver; and her husband of four months, Michael Moffitt, was in the back seat. All three of them worked for The Institute for Policy Studies on Embassy Row in Washington. It was a clear morning. The Chevy entered the picturesque Sheridan Circle near the White House, an area where First Lady Betty Ford often took her morning walks. Ronni was in a good mood. She was actually humming a tune that she had played the night before on a classical flute.
A car had followed the Chevy Chevelle for a few blocks. It was being driven by 24-year-old Virgilio Paz [above]. He was one of the many CIA-paid Cuban-exiles from Miami who had become explosives experts at The Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. When the Chevy Chevelle began to slowly enter Sheridan Circle, Paz pressed a device that was plugged into the cigarette lighter. The three passengers in the Chevy Chevelle exchanged quizzical glances as they began to hear a hissing sound, like a hot iron being thrown into a basin of water. It was 9:31 A. M., September 21, 1976.
The massive explosion blasted the Chevy Chevelle into the air, blowing the two front seat passengers out of the car, with the left leg of the male driver landing far up the street. Ronni had been pitched onto a grassy yard. Her brunette hair was on fire and blood poured from her body, especially from gaping wounds in her larynx and carotid artery. Good people rushed to her side. The medics did their best. But Ronni Moffitt was officially pronounced dead at 10:37 A. M., September 21, 1976.
At that moment, the U. S. democracy also died. That is so because of what precipitated the murder and what followed in its smoky wake. The hiring, training, and protection of terrorist exiles had gripped the world's most famed democracy and it wouldn't let go.
In the days before and in the years since Ronni Moffitt's murder, the U. S. government has displayed little sympathy for her but massive sympathy for Virgilio Paz [above] and a plethora of other highly trained, greatly financed, and well protected Cuban-exile terrorists. And saddest of all, most U. S. citizens don't give a damn.
The photo above shows Virgilio Paz on the left with his buddy Jose "Bloodbath" Suarez, a couple of nattily dressed CIA-type angels supposedly targeting bad guys but, it seems, mostly targeting real angels like Ronni Moffitt. You see, the fate of the democracy-loving Ronni Moffitt ran up against super-powerful, unchecked right-wing dictator-lovers high up in the U. S. government. Ronni lost. So has democracy.
Ronni Moffitt's demise had its origin when she strongly objected to a U. S. - backed coup that overthrew a very popular democratically elected Latin American government to install, for what turned out to be 17 very bloody years, a vicious, murderous, thieving U. S. - friendly dictator. So, Ronni Moffitt's life is defined by those pro-democracy high school term papers but also by such things as the CIA's love of Cuban-exile terrorists and the U. S. government's penchant for foreign dictators who, unlike democracies, would sell off their national resources to the highest bidder. Thus, that coup in Latin America that figured so prominently in the murder of Ronni Moffitt deserves a re-telling, especially one that focuses on the gargantuan impact it has had on the United States, Chile, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the world.
In 1970 Salvador Allende [above] was democratically elected President of Chile. One of his closest friends, Cuban leader Fidel Castro, gave him an engraved AK-47 rifle as an inaugural gift, a rifle that soon would make history in its own right.
Fidel Castro had a heart-to-heart talk [above] with Salvador Allende in 1972. He warned President Allende, "Beware of Nixon, Bush, and Kissinger. You are in their gun-sights. And they have unlimited resources and resolves."
Castro then told Allende that Nixon, then President Dwight Eisenhower's Vice President, had told him in April of 1959 that his new government in Cuba would be "overthrown within three months." And Castro told Allende that it was the "Nixon wing of the White House" that passed along plans for the Bay of Pigs attack to President Kennedy in April of 1961. Besides that, Castro told Allende, "Nixon tried to kill me at least ten times after we beat off the military attack. I have a Nixon source that tells me he will try to kill you. Beware of this, my friend. Know well those close to you, especially the military."
Salvador Allende, a socialist, was swept into office as Chile's President as resentment mounted against foreign companies that were reaping vast fortunes while leaving only crumbs for the majority of Chilean people. Allende immediately began altering that abominable situation, instituting legislation and rules that favored indigenous workers at the expense of the foreign companies. Three powerful Americans were among those who took dire exception to Allende's populist leadership that began to cut off the foreign money spigot. The 3 were:
#1...the 37th U. S. President Richard M. Nixon.
#2...Nixon's U. S. Secretary of State Henry V. Kissinger.
And #3...Nixon's U. S. Director of the CIA George H. W. Bush.
U. S. President Nixon in 1973 [above] stood beside a Chilean official and told a news conference how badly the U. S. wanted to remain Chile's "dear friend." We now know, thanks to de-classified data uncovered by Peter Kornbluh at the U. S. National Security Archive, that Nixon had already set in motion the U. S. plans to overthrow the new democratically elected Allende government.
The CIA orchestrated the coup targeting President Allende of Chile.
On September 11, 1973 -- still known as Chile's 9/11 -- a powerful CIA-backed army, including tanks and bazookas, surrounded and began blasting La Moneda Palace in Santiago where President Allende lived and worked. Allende himself fought back bravely firing down from windows and balconies as he used the engraved AK-47.
Soon, flames and smoke engulfed La Moneda Palace.
And finally, most of the soldiers defending the palace were killed and Allende was bleeding from shoulder and facial wounds. Still, he fought on till his rifle was empty and the only bullet he had left was one he had kept in his pocket. The palace was in flames and the cannon fire was still knocking away its walls. Allende went to his office desk and sat down. He put his last bullet in the rifle and placed the butt on the floor and the end of the barrel under his chin. He pulled the trigger. The democratically elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende, was dead. The world's most famed democracy, the United States, then got its wish: a U. S.-friendly dictator.
General Augusto Pinochet was that U. S. - friendly dictator in Chile. Beginning on Sept. 11-1973 and for the next 17 years, the Pinochet rule in Chile would carve out a niche as one of history's all-time most brutal, thieving, and murderous dictatorships. Decent people in Chile and around the world shed tears for Chile and for democracy, including a democracy-loving young American woman named.........Ronni Moffitt. Sadly, like President Allende, she would be no match for a brutal, far-reaching dictator backed by the United States.
U. S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, quite appropriately, was among the first international leaders to congratulate General Pinochet.
To this day, anti-Americanism around the world often uses the 1973 regime change in Chile to mock the United States even when it actually tries to defend democracy. That's because Allende was a decent man democratically elected while Pinochet was a fiendish man installed as a dictator by self-serving elements within the U. S. government. This broke Ronni Moffitt's heart but, it seems, hasn't bothered many other Americans who simply weren't interested in holding the coup's murderous benefactors accountable. [Right-wing media hacks and self-proclaimed patriots (led by the likes of Sean Hannity) preach that this is America's right and, hey, anyone who objects is anti-American, etc.]
General Manuel Contreras [above] was a direct link in the murder of Ronni Moffitt and countless other innocent people. From 1973 till 1977 Gen. Contreras headed DINA, Pinochet's dreaded Secret Police. History, movies, and countless books call that period "Operation Condor." DINA had the resources and the inclination to go anywhere in the world to murder anyone remotely considered a threat to or merely an enemy of General Pinochet. DINA often worked in partnership with the U. S. CIA. Gen. Contreras kept a special list and checked off names only after his assassins around the world had killed them.
For example, General Carlos Prats [above] had been a Vice President in Allende's government and, while in exile in Buenos Aires, he ended up on Pinochet's to-kill list. That was no problem for DINA in Argentina or anywhere else around the world.
A car bomb in Buenos Aires killed Gen. Prats. The above photo of Prats's body appeared in the Argentine newspapers the next day. Right below Gen. Prats's name on Gen. Contreras' hit list for the vile dictator Pinochet was "Orlando Letelier."
Orlando Letelier [above] had served as Foreign Minister in the Allende government and prior to that he had lived in the U. S. He was back in Washington when Pinochet took over after the death of his friend and mentor Salvador Allende. In Washington Letelier made speeches against the Pinochet dictatorship and soon Ronni Moffitt became his key aide, meaning she too was also then threatened by DINA!
In 1976 Michael Townley [above] was one of about 400 [correct] CIA agents in Chile working as well-paid [by unwitting U. S. taxpayers] "advisers" to the Pinochet dictatorship. Townley was such an efficient assassin that he also double-dipped on DINA's payroll for special assignments. Gen. Contreras assigned Townley, an American citizen, to kill Orlando Letelier in Washington. Michael Townley relished the assignment.
To carry out the delicate Letelier assassination in the U. S. capital, Michael Townley [above] decided he needed five assassins to help him. Townley, like other killer organizations, knew that the best-trained assassins, especially with bombs, were the anti-Castro Cuban exiles who got their instructions at the Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. Townley had moved to Miami in 1967 and he was well acquainted with the Cuban exiles by the time he went to Chile in 1969, using the alias Kenneth W. Enyart. His first job there was to work for the CIA in its campaign to keep Allende from becoming President. That campaign failed but Townley, with both the CIA and DINA, had earned his reputation as a killer and by 1976 he was trusted with such jobs as murdering Letelier in the U. S. To help him, Townley selected five Cuban-exiles: Guillermo Novo, Ignacio Novo, Alvin Ross Diaz, Virgilio Paz, and Dionisio "Bloodbath" Suarez. With Paz as a look-out and using the combined data, the gutsy Townley himself slid beneath Letelier's Chevy on the evening of Sept. 19-1976 to attach the lethal plastic explosive that was embellished with TNT. Townley flipped the switch beneath the car's front seat to set the timer; Paz three days later activated the devise, creating several seconds of the hissing sound and then the deadly explosion heard by sanctimonious individuals inside the White House.
With a lot of assistance from the very top of the U. S. government, Michael V. Townley [above] has enjoyed a lot of reincarnations under a lot of different names. He was born in Waterloo, Iowa, to a wealthy family in 1942; his father once was the Ford Motor Company's top executive in Chile. The FBI, apart from the CIA, did some good work investigating the Letelier-Moffitt murders although history now registers the fact that George H. W. Bush himself initially put out false information in an attempt to shove the heat away from Pinochet's CIA-backed dictatorship, not to mention the CIA's own culpability. But Townley was forced to provide the FBI with data that implicated the five Cuban exiles who, for the most part, were then powerfully protected by certain elements within the U. S. government, such as the Bush dynasty. As for the hands-on culprit, Townley, he's as free as a bird. For years now he's been in the Witness Protection program with a new name. So your tax dollars...and mine...still support his activities as if he still worked for the CIA.
Augusto Pinochet lived to the ripe old age of 91 when he finally died of old age on December 10, 2006. Chilean governments tried desperately to put him on trial for a multitude of killings after democracy returned to Chile in the 1990s. Family money, powerful friends, doctors, and lawyers stalled the proceedings, claiming illness. Ronni Moffitt; Augusto Pinochet. It's been said: "The good die young; the evil die of old age. Amen."
Michelle Bachelet [above] has been one of the post-Pinochet democratically elected Presidents of Chile. Her term went from 2006 till 2010, after which she left with an approval rating of 74%. Her father, Air Force General Alberto Bachelet, had been a top official in the government of Salvador Allende. After the coup, Pinochet put Alberto Bachelet in prison where he was tortured until he died.
Today fond memories and statues of Salvador Allende abound all across Chile. The above statue is in front of the beautifully rebuilt La Moneda Palace as if to return it to the man who tried so hard to defend both it and democracy back in 1973.
The post-Pinochet governments of Chile have worked hard to memorialize Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, and to bring "Justice, Peace, and Dignity" to their lives. England's top newspaper, The Guardian, reports that in the closing months of 2012 Chile is still pleading in vain for Americans such as George H. W. Bush and Henry Kissinger to provide them information because still-living Chileans believed to be involved in such murders are still being brought to trial. For example, General Manuel Contreras, who led Pinochet's notorious DINA, is currently in a Chilean prison. On June 19, 2012, the BBC led its international news with a story entitled "Chile to Investigate Death of Letelier Assistant Moffitt." That recent BBC article in still available at bbc.co.uk and it begins with this sentence: "A court in Chile has decided to reopen an investigation into the death of Ronni Moffitt, a U. S. citizen killed by secret agents in 1976." Perhaps it's time the U. S. government and media treat the murder of Ronni Moffitt with the same priority that the Chilean government and the international media still treat it to this very day. And they do so in a search for justice and, I imagine, because it says so much about a U. S. democracy that still needs a reincarnation so it can begin ameliorating its involvement in such things.
On October 6, 1976 -- less than three weeks after the car bombing that killed Ronni Moffitt and Orlando Letelier -- Cubana Flight 455 [shown above prior to take-off] was blown out of the sky by a similar bomb. And immediately the international spotlight came shining down on the best known terrorists of the day, namely CIA-connected Cuban exiles. Sadly, that educated guess turned out to be correct.
All 73 innocent souls aboard Cubana Flight 455 perished, including 24 teenage athletes, and to this day neither they nor the perpetrators have been forgotten. The ongoing aftermaths and cover-ups of the Cubana Flight 455 bombing parallel and mimic those of the Moffitt-Letelier bombing. And that's not exactly what the Founding Fathers envisioned for their cherished American democracy.
Robert Parry [above] is [I and many others believe] the greatest investigative journalist in America's history and he has held that lofty distinction since 1984, which was the year he won the prestigious George Polk Award for National Reporting for his work with the Associated Press on the Iran-Contra scandal and for uncovering Oliver North's involvement in it as a Washington correspondent for the Washington Post. Here, word for word, is what Robert Parry wrote in an article dated Feb. 22-2008 and please note that the entire article is still posted on such websites as consortiumnews.com, spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk, etc.:
"In 1970, when George H. W. Bush was CIA director, the U. S. government tolerated right-wing terrorist cells inside the United States and mostly looked the other way when these killers topped even Palestinian terrorists in spilling blood, including a lethal car bombing in Washington, D. C., according to newly obtained internal government documents. That car bombing on Sept. 21, 1976, on Washington's Embassy Row, killed Chile's former Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and an American co-worker Ronni Moffitt, while wounding Moffitt's husband. It soon became clear to the FBI and other federal investigators that the attack likely was a joint operation of DINA, the fearsome Chilean intelligence agency of military dictator Augusto Pinochet, and U. S. - based right-wing Cuban exiles. But Bush's CIA steered attention away from the real assassins toward leftists who supposedly killed Letelier to create a martyr for their cause. Eventually, the CIA's cover story collapsed and -- during the Carter administration -- at least some of the lower-level conspirators were prosecuted. Recently obtained internal FBI records and notes of a U. S. - prosecutor involved in counter-terrorism cases make clear that the connections among Bush's CIA, DINA and the Cuban Nationalist Movement (CNM) -- which supplied the trigger men for the Letelier bombing -- were closer than understood at the time. Beginning in 1975, Operation Condor -- named after Chile's national bird -- was a joint operation of right-wing South American military dictatorships, working closely with U. S. - based Cuban and other extremists on cross-border assassinations of political dissidents as far away as Europe. This meant that during George H. W. Bush's year at the CIA's helm, the United States both harbored domestic terrorist cells and served as a base for international terrorism. Yet no U. S. official was ever held accountable -- and in many cases, just the opposite. When I tracked down former Assistant U. S. Attorney Jerry Sanford, who was assigned to the Cuban terrorism cases in the mid-1970s, he still sounded frustrated at the lack of support he got from Washington to pursue these killers who inflicted death both inside and outside the United States. 'My blood starts to boil when I think of how much we could have done but how badly we were kept in the dark,' said Sanford, now living in northern Florida. Sanford recalled that when CIA Director Bush visited Miami at the end of the bloody year 1976, FBI agents 'asked him for information from the CIA on where explosives for the Cuban exiles were stashed.' The response from Bush, according to Sanford, was 'Forget About It!' Referring to the umbrella organization CORU, Sanford said, 'It was the only terrorist group that ever exported terrorism from the United States.' Ironically, the CIA's analytical division reached a similar, troubling conclusion in an annual report entitled 'International Terrorism in 1976' that was published in 1977, after CIA Director Bush had left office. 'Cuban exile groups operating under the aegis of a new alliance called the Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations [CORU] were particularly active the second half of the year,' the CIA reported. 'They were responsible for no less than 17 acts of international terrorism. Statistically, this matches the record compiled by the various Palestinian terrorist groups during the same period. But largely because the Cuban exile operations included the October bombing of a Cuban Airlines passenger aircraft, their consequences were far more bloody.' In other words, Cuban exiles based in the United States -- during George H. W. Bush's year in charge of the CIA -- outpaced Palestinian terrorists in terms of a total body count." [Comment: The above quotation is from an article written by Robert Parry on Feb. 22-2008}
Robert Parry's latest book is shown above. He also owns consortiumnews.com, which has been the best source for independent investigative news since 1995.
Robert Parry remains America's all-time best investigative journalist.