The Reagan Legacy
By Gary Sudborough
Usually, I am very reluctant to criticize the dead. However, since the corporate media seems so fervent in their desire to glorify Ronald Reagan and will undoubtedly spend weeks, if not months, in this effort, I think an alternative perspective is only fair.
Anyone who thinks that former President Ronald Reagan deserves to be put on a dime or have his face chiseled into Mt. Rushmore needs to read a book called Lost History by Robert Parry. Robert Parry was an AP and subsequent Newsweek reporter who caught a considerable amount of flak from his editors and Reagan officials like Oliver North and Elliott Abrams for his efforts to tell the truth about Reagan's policies in Central America.
Robert Parry was far from the only reporter to suffer this fate. Raymond Bonner of the New York Times and Alma Guillermoprieto of the Washington Post received enormous criticism for their coverage of the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador in 1982. They were accused of lying or at least greatly exaggerating the extent of the atrocities at El Mozote, where over 900 men, women and children were slaughtered by the US-trained Atlacatl battalion. Many years later, when US goals in defeating the insurgency in El Salvador had been accomplished, forensic scientists dug up the bones at El Mozote, noticing the skeletons of men, women and children and the bullet holes in the skulls and machete marks on the bones. Raymond Bonner and Alma Guillermoprieto had been right all along. Only this new information was buried on the back pages of newspapers and ignored by the television networks, so few people would notice.
A similar thing happened when Reagan first took office in 1981. Four American churchwomen had been raped and murdered by the military in El Salvador. Reagan's ambassador to the UN Jeane Kirkpatrick excused the murders by saying that the nuns had been political activists involved in leftist causes and insinuating that this justified their fate. Reagan's first Secretary of State Alexander Haig went even further, suggesting that the nuns had been carrying guns and may have run a roadblock, leading to an exchange of gunfire. Nuns packing heat-certainly not a very likely scenario.
Reagan knew on coming into office that his administration was going to wage an unrelenting war against leftists all over the planet. After all, he considered them to be part of the "Evil Empire." I guess those people who want to redistribute land to poor, starving peasants so they can grow food or want unions so people don't need to work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week for wages that wouldn't keep a bird alive are by definition evil devils that require elimination. The Reagan administration wanted to limit public knowledge of the more unsavory aspects of this war against leftists. They even had a euphemism for it - perception management. When the North Koreans did it, it was called brainwashing. Of course, when done by the United States, it is known as perception management. Just like napalming Vietnamese villages was called "pacification" and now the terminology for civilian casualties from US bombing is "collateral damage." The Nazis called their mass slaughter of the Polish intelligentsia "Extraordinary Pacification Action" or shooting people on the spot as being "summarily sentenced." It seems that fascists love euphemisms to disguise their atrocities.
Reagan created something called Project Truth run by a CIA agent named Walter Raymond. The purpose of Project Truth was to influence the large foundations, think tanks, political publications and human rights organizations to move in a rightward direction. The success of this particular operation can be seen in the fact that the New Republic magazine went from a liberal to a conservative publication. Ronald Reagan also created the Office of Public Diplomacy headed by Cuban exile Otto Reich. Otto Reich traveled all over the United States and browbeat editors and journalists of major newspapers if they made any remarks critical of US operations in Central America. Robert Parry maintains that this constant intimidation of journalists, criticism of dissenting viewpoints and massive government propaganda made the Watergate press corps of the 1970s into the Monica Lewinsky press corps of the 1990s.
President Reagan started funding the Contra army to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and greatly increased military aid to the repressive, fascist governments in El Salvador and Guatemala. American military advisors were sent to El Salvador and the death squads were organized in Guatemala by the CIA with the help of the Argentine butchers who were responsible for disappearing over 30,000 leftists in Argentina. These same mass murderers and torture experts from Argentina were also used to train the Contras and advise the Honduran military. Robert Parry was one of the first journalists to discover the torture manual produced for the Contras by the CIA. Also, he interviewed two American mercenaries fighting for the Contras, Jack Terrell and Steven Carr, who revealed all sorts of corruption and disgusting activities by the Contras, including drug smuggling. This was before the Iran-Contra scandal, the Kerry Committee findings and the Gary Webb investigation for the San Jose Mercury News also implicated the Contras in cocaine smuggling. A smoking gun indicating that the Reagan administration anticipated that the Contras and the CIA would be involved in cocaine trafficking is the fact that Reagan's Attorney General William French Smith issued an exemption to the CIA in 1982 from reporting drug smuggling to any other government agency such as the DEA. Another example of the priorities of the Reagan administration is the Frogman case in 1983. Frogmen operating for the Contras were caught in San Francisco bringing ashore 430 lbs of cocaine. Then, a call to the authorities in San Francisco came in from a Contra leader in Costa Rica demanding money seized in the raid to be returned. The CIA put pressure on the Justice Department and $36,800 dollars were given back to the Contras.
Jack Terrell was a witness to several mass killings of civilians by the Contras, and he described a particularly savage practice by the Contras of slitting throats and then pulling the tongue out through the resulting hole. It was called the "Colombian necktie." Remember these Contras are the same people Ronald Reagan was calling "freedom fighters" and "the equivalent of our founding fathers."
The situation was just as grim in Guatemala. Rios Montt came to power and conducted a scorched earth policy against the Mayans in the central highlands. Several hundred Mayan villages were destroyed. Many Mayans were tortured and killed for being guerrilla suspects. Ronald Reagan traveled to Guatemala and praised Rios Montt's repression and said Rios Montt was getting a "bum rap" from the human rights organizations.
President Ronald Reagan invaded the tiny island of Grenada, bombed Libya and increased military aid to UNITA and Renamo, the proxy mercenary armies fighting against the leftist governments in Angola and Mozambique. These wars in Angola and Mozambique were particularly brutal with the death toll being over a million in both countries. Renamo had a particularly savage practice of severing the arms and legs of people with machetes, so there are a considerable number of amputees now in Mozambique. The same sad case of amputees exists also in Angola, but mostly for a different reason-land mines.
President Ronald Reagan vastly increased military supplies to the CIA-trained moujahedeen in Afghanistan. The socialist government there had instituted land reform, given women equal rights and started many schools and medical clinics. The CIA found the most superstitious, reactionary and religious tribesmen to first fight the socialist government there and then the Soviet Union, when they invaded. Of course, the CIA told these religious fanatics that the communists were atheists and that a holy war was necessary to defeat them. One of the worst of these fanatics was a man named Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and he received the most US aid. He and his followers were famous for throwing acid in the faces of women who wouldn't wear the veil. Now, the US is mired in a military occupation of Afghanistan, fighting the same people they trained and armed, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Even more lives are being lost.
As I have elucidated in this extensive history, the Reagan administration was complicit in cocaine smuggling and the resultant epidemic of crack babies and drive-by shootings in the poor, minority areas of large American cities. Also, the Reagan administration instigated and financed mass murder, torture, disappearances and horrendous repression against leftists around the world and then lied to the American people about it and conducted a cover-up of its activities. I don't believe an airport or freeway should have been named for Ronald Reagan. I despise the idea of a Reagan dime or seeing him on Mt. Rushmore. Instead, the money should be spent building a monument to the millions of his victims or in compensating the survivors of the atrocities. In addition, Robert Parry's book Lost History should be required reading in high schools and colleges so that we can change the economic and political system which allows such ignorant and evil Presidents to come to power.



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