Throughout the 1970s, six Latin American governments led by Chile formed a military alliance called Operation Condor to carry out kidnappings, torture, and political assassinations across three continents. It was an early war on terror” initially encouraged by the CIA which later backfired on the United States.
Hailed by Foreign Affairs as remarkable” and a major contribution to the historical record,” The Condor Years uncovers the unsettling facts about the secret U.S. relationship with the dictators who created this terrorist organization. Written by award-winning journalist John Dinges and newly updated to include recent developments in the prosecution of Pinochet, the book is a chilling but dispassionately told history of one of Latin America’s darkest eras. Dinges, himself interrogated in a Chilean torture camp, interviewed participants on both sides and examined thousands of previously secret documents to take the reader inside this underground world of military operatives and diplomats, right-wing spies and left-wing revolutionaries.
When a Spanish judge pressed charges against Gen. Augusto Pinochet in 1998, the case broke an international code of silence on the fates of the tens of thousands of Latin Americans who were tortured and killed during more than a decade of dictatorship in Chile and neighboring countries. The United States agreed to Spain's request for 60,000 pages of secret files on Chile, including CIA operational files. Former NPR news managing editor Dinges (Our Man in Panama), who lived in Chile and was interrogated in a secret torture camp during the Pinochet dictatorship, pored through those files and has uncovered the chilling story of Operation Condor, a Chilean-led conspiracy among six South American dictatorships to hunt down and eliminate leftist rebels and their sympathizers. Condor was responsible for the 1973 murder in Washington, D.C., of Chilean exile Orlando Letelier, which U.S. diplomats were aware of and failed to stop. Indeed, the picture that emerges of U.S. policy is frightening. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's "green light, red light" human rights policy for the first time presented a public U.S. stance in favor of human rights, yet behind closed doors, he was reassuring Latin America's dictators of U.S. support. Hampered by the weight and significance of its revelations, the book gets off to a slow start. Soon enough, however, vivid stories and details emerge: double agents, the euphemisms of the spy trade (e.g., "wet work" for assassinations), bumbling murderers and rebels, and cynical U.S. diplomats. Dinges's meticulously documented study is a cautionary tale for today's war on terror which shares a major anniversary with the 1973 Chilean coup that brought Pinochet to power: September 11.