THE EXECUTION OF CHARLES HORMAN: An American Sacrifice by Thomas Hauser


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Charles Horman, a 31-year-old Harvard graduate and sometime-writer, was one of two Americans killed in the aftermath of the coup that overthrew Chile's Marxist president Allende in 1973. Since then, Horman's father--who tried to track down the missing Charles in Santiago--has compiled evidence that his son was not only slain by the Chilean military (which they, with official U.S. backing, still deny), but that he was fingered by the CIA: Charles Horman and an American friend allegedly ""knew too much"" about U.S. involvement in the coup. Unfortunately, however, lawyer/journalist Hauser's reconstruction of the case is modeled after C. D. Bryan's kitchen-table exposÉ of Vietnam bungling and coverup, Friendly Fire, in ways that ultimately work to the book's disadvantage. The understandably grieving parents are provided with a son more exceptional than the meager facts or scanty evidence warrant--or than the merits of the case require. And what this very different, highly inflammatory case requires, by way of documentation, is lacking throughout the dramatization of events. The personal-political conjunction is particularly--and unreassuringly--naive: ""The economic upheaval was upsetting to Charles. He was happy in Chile, moved by the vision of people voting for change, intent on molding their own future."" It is only when Hauser begins himself to examine the witnesses and weigh the evidence that, yes, what was merely plausible--given the general knowledge of CIA attitudes and practices--becomes quite possibly a true reflection of a situation in which one innocent American was callously sacrificed. But a well-placed magazine article would better have served the purpose of redeeming Charles Horman's tragically adventitious death.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1978
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich