From a reader:
Dear Mr. Goldberg,
In your Dec. 30 column you mentioned the BBC’s directive not to call Saddam Hussein a “dictator.” An amusing contrast is their readiness to use that term with others such as Augusto Pinochet. Here are a few examples that Google turned up:
The last link is a brief history of Chile which has a “Pinochet dictatorship” section. I was curious whether they used “dictator” in other country profiles. Not for Iraq. In Cuba’s they do, but not for Castro, only for one of his predecessors.
I think it’s perfectly accurate to call both Hussein and Pinochet dictators. However, if one was requiring strict criteria for using this subjective characterization, Pinochet would much less qualify as a dictator than Hussein, e.g., level of dissent allowed, domestic body count, and the degree which others in his junta limited his one-man rule.