Post by Debra Whelan
Surprised to find out I did not get an exacerbation with the stress of the
loss of one of Americas greatest forces of freedom and democracy in the
world! You may not agree with his views, but you must admit he had a
profound and positive impact on the world. Not looking for a flame war, but
must express my conservative and pro American view point. God bless Ronald
Reagan and his family in this time of their sorry and God bless the United
States of America.
I also express my pro-American views. And while I wish Mr. Reagan's
family well, having watched a great deal of the funeral, and having
remembered the losses in my own live, I have too much respect for
our country to allow history to be rewritten in such a manner.
Reagan was a deeply flawed president, he wasn't a force of freedom
and democracy for most of the world, and he didn't have a positive
impact of most of it, either.
Honor the memory of the man if you wish -- but don't rewrite history
in order to do it.
June 8, 2004
The Real Legacy of Ronald Reagan
by The Angry Liberal
Before I get into a discussion of Ronald Reagan, the president, I
would like to make a few remarks about Ronald Reagan, the man. His
death, though not a surprise to anyone, has surely grieved his
friends, family, and a good deal of folks around the world. For
that, I am sorry. Despite my ongoing opposition to nearly every one
of Reagan's policies, there was one incident during his presidency
that I truly enjoyed. During a joint press conference with Soviet
President Mikhail Gorbachev in which a nuclear missile treaty was
discussed, Reagan tossed out the phrase, "Trust, but verify." Having
heard Reagan use that phrase too many times when discussing the
Soviets, Gorbachev rolled his eyes and said, "You always say that."
Reagan's reply: "Well, I like it." This remark was a graceful and
good-natured deflection of a mild criticism delivered from the
principle adversary of Reagan's time. I will miss the man who said
that. However, I will surely not miss the leader who began the
degradation of the office of the President of the United States.
At this point, I'm going to skip the accomplishments of the Reagan
administration. If you want to believe that Reagan won the Cold War,
I'm not going to argue. If you think Reagan should have been
impeached for selling arms to Iran and diverting the profits to the
rebels in Nicaragua, be my guest. What I am going to assert is the
following: Reagan's purported belief that less government is better
than more government has been completely ignored by the membership
of his own party. Moreover, Reagan's belief that government is the
problem, rather than the solution, has become a self-fulfilling
prophecy. After three Republican presidents (actually I count three
and a half by adding Clinton to this group), the United States
government is bigger, less efficient, more burdensome on the average
American, and much more dangerous to us all.
While Reagan spoke of making government smaller and more efficient,
Republicans instead exploded the size of government. Since 1980,
government expenditures have increased fourfold. Sixty percent of
this government growth occurred under "conservatives" Reagan and
Bushes, Jr. and Sr. With government under the control of a
"conservative" for 16 of the last 24 years, shouldn't we have a
smaller government by now? We certainly would if Republicans really
believed in smaller government.
While Reagan spoke of making government more efficient, Republicans
today have made the government less efficient than ever. Our
government's efficiency, when examined by the most basic measure of
dollars-in versus services-out, is a disaster. With a $7.2 trillion
deficit, taxpayers are seeing over $300 billion tax dollars a year
go to pay interest on the money that America borrowed to run the
government. Almost 65% of America's debt since the Revolutionary War
was created during the presidencies of Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II.
In rough terms, over 8% of the taxes Americans pay this year will go
toward paying interest on the conservative legacy. Imagine that: If
Reagan and the Bushes would have practiced actual conservatism, our
taxes could be lowered 8% across the board with absolutely no impact
on the government. The next time you are admiring the chunk of money
that the federal government takes from your paycheck, remember that
8% of that was mandated by your "conservative" government. And while
you're at it, remember that the 8% buys you absolutely nothing, and
that tax money is due every year for the rest of your life. So much
for efficient government.
I guess the most dangerous legacy of Ronald Reagan was that he
ushered in an era in which a president suddenly didn't need to be
particularly smart. He didn't need to know anything about foreign
affairs. He didn't need to know anything about the federal
government. Heck, he didn't even need to enact policies that most
Americans supported. After Reagan, all a president needed to be
elected was charm, wit, and a "can-do, but won't" attitude. Throw in
the ability to read a teleprompter while looking fairly sincere, and
America is suddenly renaming an airport after you. Simply put,
Ronald Reagan sold America on the idea that intelligence, a strong
work ethic, expertise, knowledge, and experience weren't necessary
for one to hold the most difficult job on the planet. Reagan wasn't
a strong president, but he played one on television. And to the
shame of America, that was good enough for most of us.
Without the Ronald Reagan presidency, there would certainly be no
George W. Bush presidency. After Reagan's presidency entered the
history books, Americans started believing that presidential
candidates no longer needed a strong political resume. True, Dubya
brought down the presidential qualification bar to an all-time low
when he entered office. But if an actor could run the nation for
eight years, electing a dim, arrogant frat boy who recently traded
alcohol for Jesus actually seemed within the realm of possibility. I
mean, how hard could being the most powerful man on earth be, anyway?
Unfortunately, America has seen that question answered after
September 11. It turns out that competence is a still virtue for the
leader of the free world. For instance, if you want to stop
terrorism, wouldn't it be a good idea to send troops to where the
terrorists are? Instead, we've seen a flustered Bush trying to kill
everybody he misperceives as a threat to the United States. A
competent president could have easily figured out that Saddam
Hussein represented no threat to the United States and therefore
concentrated America's resources on fighting the real terrorists.
Bush, on the other hand, has wasted the lives of over 800 American
soldiers and about $200 billion tax dollars. He has destroyed the
reputation of the United States all over the world with lies,
threats, and baseless preemptive war. He has littered Iraq with
bodies, each one a tribute to his inability to understand the nature
of the threat to our security. And in doing so, Bush is making new
enemies of America faster than he can kill the old ones. The bottom
line here is Bush has made America weaker and less safe because he
isn't remotely up to the job of running the United States. And the
mighty door that once kept incompetent people like George W. Bush
from becoming president was battered down by one Ronald Wilson Reagan.
That door wasn't locked, by the way. It just had a sign above the
handle that said, "Pull."
Reagan's Bloody Legacy
June 09, 2004
David Corn writes a twice-monthly column for TomPaine.com. Corn is
the Washington editor of The Nation and is the author of The Lies of
George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers).
Aren't we mature enough as a democracy to memorialize our leaders
with clear eyes? While the nation mourns one of its most popular
presidents, it must be truthful in assessing his leadership. The
very resolve being celebrated on op-ed pages across the country also
led Reagan to ignore and sometimes sanction the brutality being
committed in the name of fighting the "evil empire."
I have a vision. On the day that Ronald Reagan's remains are
transported from the U.S. Capitol to the National Cathedral for the
funeral services, the hearse will pass 800 black crosses.
Each cross will represent one of the men, women and children who
were killed by the Salvadoran military in the village of El Mozote
in December 1981. Each would be a reminder that the dead man now
celebrated in the media as a lover of freedom and democracy oversaw
a foreign policy that empowered and enabled murderous brutes and
thugs in the name of anti-Sovietism. Many innocents in other lands
paid dearly for Reagan s crusade.
Throughout his presidency, Reagan made nice with dictators no matter
how nefarious as long as they parroted his opposition to communism.
As soon as he entered the White House, his administration tried to
normalize relations with Augusto Pinochet, the dictator of Chile,
who was responsible for a bloody coup that overthrew a
democratically elected (but socialist) government. The Reaganites
also cozied up to the fascistic and anti-Semitic junta of Argentina,
which tortured, slaughtered and disappeared its political opponents.
And don't forget Reagan s attempt to woo Saddam Hussein, even after
it was known that Hussein had used chemical weapons. (Reagan
assigned this task to Donald Rumsfeld.)
Reagan may have pushed for democracy and human rights in the Soviet
bloc, but he cared little for these values elsewhere. He
dramatically urged the destruction of the Berlin Wall and supported
the Solidarity movement in Poland. But he sent money and assistance
to regimes that repressed and murdered their people. While visiting
Ferdinand Marcos, the Filipino dictator, Reagan s vice president,
George H.W. Bush, toasted Marcos' "adherence to democratic
principles." People lost their freedom or died because Reagan and
his lieutenants could not see beyond their ideological blinders and
cut deals with miscreants who shared their anti-Moscow mantra. Not
only did Reagan embolden torturers and murders, but the CIA
following his order to support the contra rebels in Nicaragua (who
were trying to oust the socialist Sandinistas) worked with suspected
drug traffickers. Who said so? Not conspiracy-theory nuts, but the
inspector general of the CIA. Years after the contra war, the agency
s IG produced two reports that conceded the CIA had enlisted the
assistance of alleged drug runners. At the same time Nancy Reagan
was preaching Just Say No to drugs.
As I noted in this column a few months ago when there was a media
hullabaloo over a schlocky biopic of Reagan Reagan was AWOL on one
of the important battles for freedom and democracy in the 1980s:
South Africa. He defended the racist apartheid government there and
claimed as wrongly as could be that South Africa had "eliminated the
segregation that we once had in our own country." And when
Republicans and Democrats joined together in Congress to impose
economic sanctions on the government of South Africa, Reagan vetoed
the measure. In response to that veto, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a
leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, said,
"Apartheid will be dismantled, and its victims will remember those
who helped to destroy this evil system. And President Reagan will be
judged harshly by history." Not this week.
The El Mozote episode is, sadly, only one example of violence borne
of Reagan s foreign policy. The troops that did the killing were
supported by his administration because they were fighting leftist
rebels. A 1992 report produced by a UN-sanctioned truth commission
described the awful event:
"On 10 December 1981, in the village of El Mozote in the Department
of Morazan, units of the Atlacatl Battalion detained, without
resistance, all the men, women and children who were in the place&.
Early next morning, 11 December, the soldiers reassembled the entire
population in the square. They separated the men from the women and
children and locked everyone up in different groups in the church,
the convent and various houses."
"During the morning, they proceeded to interrogate, torture and
execute the men in various locations. Around noon, they began taking
the women in groups, separating them from their children and
machine-gunning them. Finally, they killed the children. A group of
children who had been locked in the convent were machine-gunned
through the windows. After exterminating the entire population, the
soldiers set fire to the buildings."
The report noted that "the Atlacatl Battalion was a Rapid Deployment
Infantry Battalion or BIRI, that is, a unit specially trained for
counter-insurgency warfare. It was the first unit of its kind in the
[El Salvadoran] armed forces and had completed its training under
the supervision of United States military advisors, at the beginning
of that year, 1981."
When two reporters Raymond Bonner of The New York Times and Alma
Guillermoprieto of The Washington Post reported the massacre in
January 1982, the Reagan administration denied it had occurred.
Reagan s point-man on Latin America, Elliott Abrams, told Congress
that these reports were no more than commie propaganda. That is, he
lied. (Today, Abrams, that lover of truth and human rights, is a
staff member on Bush s National Security Council responsible for
Middle East matters.) A forensic investigation conducted in the
early 1990s proved that the massacre had happened. And the truth
commission s report noted that "two hundred forty-five cartridge
cases recovered from the El Mozote site were studied. Of these, 184
had discernable headstamps, identifying the ammunition as having
been manufactured for the United States Government at Lake City,
Missouri. ...All of the projectiles except one appear to have been
fired from United States-manufactured M-16 rifles."
Thanks to Ronald Reagan, American tax dollars supported the murder
of hundreds of El Salvadoran villagers. And the UN-backed
commission, after examining 22,000 atrocities that occurred during
the 12-year civil war in El Salvador, attributed 85 percent of the
abuses to the Reagan-assisted right-wing military and its
death-squad allies. Similar patterns transpired in Guatemala and
Honduras in the 1980s.
The El Mozote massacre, though perhaps the largest massacre in
modern Latin American history, is a minor footnote in the history of
the Cold War, but it is, as writer Mark Danner, author of The
Massacre at El Mozote , observed, "a central parable of the Cold
War." It is also a telling tale of Reaganism. The lives of the
people butchered in this small village by U.S.-trained troops were
worth as much of that of the man whose body now lays in a casket
draped with the Stars and Stripes. Media commentators have been
hailing Reagan as heroic, iconic, patriotic and optimistic figure
who led an "American life." It was indeed an American life, but one
with lethal consequences for others. That is as important a piece of
the Reagan story if not more so as his oh-so-sunny and cheery outlook.
I doubt the villagers of El Mozote were thinking about Reagan s
wonderful disposition when made-in-the-USA bullets supplied to their
killers by the U.S. government, in accordance with Reagan s foreign
policy, were piercing their bodies and ending their non-American lives.
REAGAN'S SHAMEFUL LEGACY
By Ted Rall
Mourn for Us, Not the Proto-Bush
NEW YORK--For a few weeks, it became routine. I heard them dragging
luggage down the hall. They paused in a little lounge near the
dormitory elevator to bid farewell to people they'd met during their
single semester. Those I knew knocked on my door. "What are you
going to do?" I asked. "Where are you going to go?" A shrug. They
were eighteen years old and their bright futures had evaporated.
They had worked hard in junior and senior high school, harder than
most, but none of that mattered now. President Reagan, explained the
form letters from the Office of Financial Aid, had slashed the
federal education budget. Which is why the same grim tableau of
shattered hopes and dreams was playing itself out across the
country. Colleges and universities were evicting their best and
brightest, straight A students, stripping them of scholarships. Some
transferred to less-expensive community colleges; others dropped
into the low-wage workforce. Now, nearly a quarter century later,
they are still less financially secure and less educated than they
should have been. Our nation is poorer for having denied them their
They were by no means the hardest-hit victims of Reaganism. Reagan's
quack economists trashed scholarships and turned welfare recipients
into homeless people and refused to do anything about the AIDS (news
- web sites) epidemic, all so they could fund extravagant tax cuts
for a tiny sliver of the ultra rich. Their supply-side sales pitch,
that the rich would buy so much stuff from everybody else that the
economy would boom and government coffers would fill up, never
panned out. The Reagan boom lasted just three years and created only
low-wage jobs. When the '80s were over, we were buried in the depths
of recession and a trillion bucks in debt. Poverty grew, cities
decayed, crime rose. It took over a decade to dig out.
Reagan's defenders, people who don't know the facts or choose to
ignore them, claim that "everybody" admired Reagan's ebullient
personality even if some disagreed with his politics. That, like the
Gipper's tall tales about welfare queens and "homeless by choice"
urban campers, is a lie. Millions of Americans cringed at Reagan's
simplistic rhetoric, were terrified that his anti-Soviet "evil
empire" posturing would provoke World War III, and thought that his
appeal to selfishness and greed--a bastardized blend of Adam Smith
and Ayn Rand--brought out the worst in us. We rolled our eyes when
Reagan quipped "There you go again"; what the hell did that mean?
Given that he made flying a living hell (by firing the air traffic
controllers and regulating the airlines), I'm not the only one who
refuses to call Washington National Airport by its new name. His
clown-like dyed hair and rouged cheeks disgusted us. We hated him
during the dark days he made so hideous, and, with all due respect,
we hate him still.
Not everybody buys the myth that Reagan won the Cold War by
demanding that Mikhail Gorbachev "tear down this [Berlin] wall" or
bankrupting the Soviet Union via the arms race--Zbigniew Brezinski's
plot to "draw the Russians into the Afghan trap" by funding the
mujahedeen, Chernobyl and covert U.S. schemes to destabilize the
ruble had more to do with the end of the USSR. Gangsterism replaced
the ossified cult of the state, millions of Russians were reduced to
paupers, revived radical Islamism in Central Asia and eliminated our
sole major ideological and military rival. That increased our
arrogance and insularity, left us in charge of the world and to
blame for everything, paving the road to 9/11. (Reagan even armed
the attacks' future perpetrators.) Anyway, the Cold War isn't over.
In which direction do you think those old ICBMs point today?
The lionizers are correct about one thing: Reagan was one of our
most influential presidents since FDR, whose New Deal safety net he
carefully disassembled. He pioneered policies now being implemented
by George W. Bush: trickle down economics, corporate deregulation,
radicalizing the courts, slithering around inconvenient laws and
international treaties. On the domestic front, he unraveled
America's century-old social contract. What the poor needed was a
kick in the ass, not a handout, said a president whose wealthy
patrons bought him a house and put clothes on his wife Nancy.
National parks were to be exploited for timber and oil, not
protected. The federal tax code, originally conceived to
redistribute wealth from top to bottom, was "reformed" to eradicate
Bush also models his approach to foreign policy on that of the
original Teflon President. Reagan elevated unjustifiable military
action to an art. In 1983, anxious to look tough after cutting and
running from Lebanon, Reagan sent marines to topple the Marxist
government of Grenada. His pretext for invading this Caribbean
island was the urgent plight of 500 medical students supposedly
besieged by rampaging mobs. But when they arrived at the airport in
the United States, the quizzical young men and women told reporters
they were confused, never having felt endangered or seen any unrest.
In a bizarre 1985 effort to free a few American hostages being held
in Lebanon, Reagan authorized the sale of 107 tons of anti-tank and
anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, at the time one of our staunchest
enemies, with the proceeds to be used to fund rightist death squads
in Nicaragua--something Congress had expressly forbidden him to do.
Evidence strongly suggests that Iran-Contra was at least his second
dirty deal with Islamic Iran, the first being the October Surprise,
which delayed the release of the Iranian embassy hostages until
after the 1980 election was over. Ronald Reagan (news - web sites)
eventually admitted to "trading arms for hostages," yet avoided
prosecution for treason and the death penalty.
Reagan, like Bush 43, technically served in the military yet
studiously avoided combat. Both men were physically robust,
intellectually inadequate, poorly traveled former governors renowned
for stabbing friends on the back--Reagan when he named names during
McCarthyism. Both appointed former generals as secretaries of state
and enemies of the environment to head the Department of the
Interior. Both refused to read detailed briefings, worked short
hours, behaved erratically in public appearances, ducked questions
about sordid pasts, and relied on Christianist (the radical right
equivalent of Islamist) depictions of foes as "evil" and America,
invariably as embodied by himself and the Republicans, as "good."
Based on intelligence as phony as that floated to justify the war
against Iraq (news - web sites), Reagan bombed Muslim Libya.
Dark Reagan legacy in Central America
Mon June 07, 2004 05:09 PM ET
By Ivan Castro
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuters) - Ronald Reagan has drawn glowing
praise world-wide since his death but in Central America many
remember the former U.S. president as a Cold War radical whose
support for right-wing leaders and rebels cost tens of thousands of
The impoverished countries of Central America erupted in violence in
the 1980s when Reagan was president, and his administration spent
millions of dollars in vicious civil wars.
In the name of fighting communism in America's "back yard," Reagan
supported Contra rebels against the revolutionary Sandinista
government in Nicaragua and helped prop up repressive leaders that
faced leftist insurgencies in El Salvador and Guatemala.
Since Reagan's death on Saturday, the reaction in Central America
has been mixed.
"We don't celebrate any death, but we must be honest, we will not
start saying now that President Reagan respected international law,
that he treated Nicaragua well. We're not going to lie," said Daniel
Ortega, the Sandinista president who led Nicaragua during the war
against the Contra rebels.
Miguel D'Escoto, the former Sandinista foreign minister, added:
"There is not the least doubt that President Reagan did Nicaragua
much harm, caused many deaths."
An estimated 300,000 people died in Central America's civil wars,
about half during Reagan's two terms in office. Many were civilians
tortured and murdered by army troops or death squads linked to armed
forces that received heavy U.S. support, human rights groups say.
"A lot of extremely nasty things were going on ... and the Reagan
administration really defended and even actively supported some of
the worst human rights violators in the hemisphere," said Daniel
Wilkinson of Human Rights Watch in New York.
Reagan's Central America policy came under criticism at home when
the Iran-Contra scandal unfolded, exposing U.S. secret sales of arms
to Iran to help fund the Contras, forbidden by the U.S. Congress.
"There was no issue and probably has been no issue since Vietnam
that has divided the American public and Congress more than Reagan
administration policy in Central America," said Russell Crandall at
the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations.
Reagan did not create the crises in Central America -- the
Sandinistas seized power in a revolution months before he took
office, El Salvador was already falling into chaos and Guatemala's
civil war had been going on for two decades.
But critics said his hard line against communism killed off any
hopes for negotiated settlements, polarised the region and fed
"Ronald Reagan's name is linked to the darkest dictatorships in the
history of Guatemala," said Mario Polanco, who heads a group set up
by families of many who died.
Reagan does have admirers in the region who say his tough stance
halted the communist threat and ultimately brought democracy.
His 1983 invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada to oust a
Marxist government and rescue stranded Americans was very popular.
Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos said Reagan was "a great
defender of Nicaragua's return to democracy and all Nicaraguans who
believe in democracy recognise that legacy."
And in El Salvador, President Tony Saca said Reagan helped the
country in "its most difficult moments."
Allies say the proof is at the ballot box -- since the end of the
region's civil wars, voters have repeatedly elected conservative,
The region remains sharply divided, however, and the leftist leaders
that went to war with U.S.-backed forces in Nicaragua and El
Salvador still pull in more than 35 percent of the national vote.