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The Financial Times, 22.4.03

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Backing Powell view on Chile.  From Mr Derek Frost.

Sir, Christopher Caldwell, addressing scepticism of US plans to turn Iraq into a democracy ("American generals and the general will", April 16), rebuts the accusation that such efforts smack of hypocrisy, given US support for non-democratic regimes. Those who level that charge, he claims, fail to see that Washington has backed such regimes "to avoid others that would be more authoritarian and dangerous". He cites the US "alliance" with the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile as an example, suggesting that Washington faced a stark choice between General Augusto Pinochet and Soviet communism.

What he fails to mention is that the government that General Pinochet overthrew - with US support - was a fully fledged democracy, led by the late Salvador Allende. In fact, Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, recently apologised to the current Chilean government for US actions at that time. It seems that Mr Caldwell, by contrast, continues to believe that the overthrow of President Allende's freely elected government (which led to the murder of thousands of people) was entirely justified.

The disturbing implication of this view is that it is somehow acceptable to launch "pre-emptive" strikes even against democratic regimes, if the US deems it appropriate to do so. We can only hope Mr Powell's view of history, and not that of Mr Caldwell, prevails.

Derek Frost, Washington, DC, US

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