When the U.S. meddled in another country's election

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Story highlights

  • Ariel Dorfman: Hacking of DNC criticized by Clinton camp as Russian interference aimed at helping Donald Trump
  • He says Clinton, then, should also disavow U.S. interference in other nations' elections, such as in Chile in 1970
  • Dorfman: Kissinger, whom Clinton calls friend and counselor, is infamous as architect of such interference

Ariel Dorfman, the Chilean-American author of "Death and the Maiden", along with a wide variety of other plays, fiction, poetry and essays, is The Walter Hines Page Professor Emeritus of Literature at Duke University. His most recent book is a memoir "Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile." He lives with his wife Angélica in Durham, North Carolina, and in Chile. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)The intelligence services of a foreign government meddle in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation, attempting to influence its citizens and destabilize that country's democratic process.

Russia and the United States in 2016?
Or the United States and Chile in 1973?
Ariel Dorfman
Though most experts and fingers point to Vladimir Putin's cyber-minions as responsible for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee's emails that has led to acrimony and discord that may well be meant to help Donald J. Trump, an admirer of the Russian President, in his path to the White House, there is as yet not enough hard and definitive evidence for an official accusation.
As to Chile, hard evidence is unfortunately rampant. Forty-one years ago, the U.S. Senate released a report from the Church Committee that found that the Central Intelligence Agency had attempted, through a terrorist group, to block Salvador Allende from becoming president of that country in 1970.
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Allende, a democratic socialist whose program of confronting the corporations and oligarchs that owned most of Chile's wealth would warm the heart of Bernie Sanders and millions of his supporters, incurred the wrath of Richard Nixon who, with his own devoted acolyte, Henry Kissinger, covertly poured millions of dollars into destroying the Chilean economy and overthrowing its government.
I am not making this up.
"Make the economy scream," Nixon ordered the CIA, while Kissinger infamously quipped, "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people." In 1973, Allende died in a military coup instigated and welcomed by the American government. And Chile, the nation that I called home, endured 17 years of torture, bloodshed and oppression before we managed to peacefully fight our way back to democracy.
Nothing that dire has happened in the United States, where my wife and I ended up after years of wandering in exile. If the only casualty of the apparent hacking interference from abroad thus far seems to be Debbie Wasserman-Schultz's resignation and as yet unspecified damage to Hillary Clinton's momentum, that does not mean that Americans should be any less indignant about a foreign power trying to manipulate an election.
Indignation, however, is not enough.
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As a victim of America's own intervention in the events of Chile decades ago, I see the current chilling episode as a sobering opportunity for the country of Lincoln and Roosevelt of which I am now a citizen to look deeply into the dark mirror of its own past and understand that we can only denounce any foreign ruler's endeavors to intrude on our own business if we simultaneously are prepared to denounce the ways that the United States has intervened and continues to intervene in the life of democracies around the world, none of which need, and certainly don't ask, to be secretly saved from the irresponsibility of their own citizens.
They wish for the same freedom Americans do: to decide by themselves who they wish to vote for, which future and destiny will be theirs.
If Hillary Clinton -- whom I forcefully support for president -- is really outraged at this sinister electronic incursion from afar that seems aimed at derailing her chances of being the first woman to take the oath of office next January, there is a useful way she can show it.
She might start by disavowing and criticizing her friend and counselor, Henry Kissinger, the man behind the secret bombing of Cambodia, the diplomat who gave the go-ahead for the coup in Indonesia that led to the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians, the architect of the disastrous Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Such a repudiation might also be a good way to reassure many of her supporters who, like me, are concerned about her hawkishness.
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Meanwhile, Donald J. Trump, who seeks to emulate Richard Nixon's bleak message of ruin and ruination and has sought Kissinger's support, may chortle now at the discomfiture of his Democratic rival and, amazingly, suggest that Russia continue spying on Hillary Clinton's email, without realizing that something similar could well happen to him.
Or does he want one of those foreign governments that he has threatened to tame and put in their place, say Mexico or China, to hack into his family's emails or his business deals in order to alter American voters' already dismal perception of him? And if he were president, would he welcome Russia peeping into his secretary of state's emails? And shouldn't the defense of "law and order" include the rejection of such illegal spying and foreign intelligence operations?
Perhaps these two candidates, who agree on practically nothing, can come together to at least pledge that such illegitimate intrusions in the electoral politics of other nations is entirely out of bounds and will not be tolerated if they are elected.
It would be ironic -- as well as encouraging and highly unlikely -- if the result of this sordid affair of foreign hacking could be a national learning experience about American unexceptionalism, one that leads to a joint declaration by both Republican and Democratic candidates that clearly and eloquently states that neither of them wants what was done to Salvador Allende to be done to them or to their people, not now, not ever.