Posts Tagged Bill Clinton

Fitting Tributes to Ronald Reagan

Recently, during a snowy travel delay, a relative gave me John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, her favorite, for stand-by reading.  I did not intend to write about it, but with all the hype around the centenary of Reagan’s birth, I noticed a passage where the protagonist, a Vietnam war resister who settled in Canada, brought the terrible Reagan years back for me:

Just the day before yesterday–January 28, 1987–the front page of The Globe and Mail gave us a full account of President Ronald Wilson Reagan’s State of the Union Message.  Will I ever learn?  …After almost twenty years in Canada, there are certain American lunatics who still fascinate me.

”There must be no Soviet beachhead in Central America,” President Reagan said.  He also insisted that he would not sacrifice his proposed nuclear missiles in space–his beloved Star Wars plan–to a nuclear arms agreement with the Soviet Union.  He even said that ‘a key element of the U.S. Soviet agenda is ‘more responsible Soviet conduct around the world’–as if the United States were a bastion of ‘responsible conduct around the world.’

I believe that President Reagan can say these things only because he knows that the American people will never hold him accountable for what he says; it is history that holds you accountable.

Irving’s character goes on to detail the uprising of protest against Vietnam, as a participant:

Was twenty years ago so long for Americans?…Ronald Reagan had not yet numbed the United States.  But he had put California to sleep; he described the Vietnam protests as ‘giving aid and comfort to the enemy.’

Photo of reaganWe called him Ronnie Ray-gun.  The 80′s was a terrible decade, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s election as the president to repudiate “the 60′s.” Carl Dix, a real-life resister of the Vietnam War, wrote in 1985:

The United States of America appears to have gone totally mad. It screams that its `hesitancies’ and `self doubts’ left over from Vietnam are dispelled. `We won’t be pushed around any more!’ Official America brims with unapologetic self-love.  Amid a reborn worship of `free enterprise,’ the proletarian, the poor, the non-white are openly scorned as `losers’ who have somehow personally failed to take advantage of the `limitless opportunities’ in the `land of the free.’ Classic American know-nothingism is back in vogue. `Traditional social roles,’ especially for women and youth, are exalted and increasingly enforced.  Backwater religious fanatics are handed respectability and influence. Submissiveness, motherhood, unthinking obedience are watchwords of the times.

The overwhelming Reagan defeat of Jimmy Carter was engineered by intense intrigue and the secret Republican plan to block the release of U.S. hostages held in Iran until after the presidential election.  Robert Parry, who’s done as much research on Reagan as anyone, recounts the story in The October Surprise archives on his site.  Reagan’s presidency was marked by U.S. interventions over much of the world and the placement of hundreds of missiles in Europe, threatening nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Reagan sent millions of dollars, secretly, to the pro-U.S. “contras” working to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, through a complicated deal in which Israel supplied weapons to forces in Iran, producing the money Reagan secretly sent to the “contras” to avoid Congressional restrictions.  This was  later known as the “Iran-Contra” affair.  It’s worth reviewing.

There were hearings, and a few people like Oliver North did a little time, but impeachment and charges against those high up in the government were suppressed, providing an example for a later compliant Congress to fail to challenge the George W. Bush regime, even as Bush appointed key players from Iran-Contra such as John Negroponte and Elliot Abrams.

Parry, whose reporting at the time uncovered a lot about Iran-Contra, considers the October Surprise / Iran Contra scandals to be:

the missing link in a larger American political narrative covering the sweep of several decades, explaining how the United States shifted away from a nation grappling with epochal problems, from energy dependence and environmental degradation to bloated military budgets and an obsession with empire.

Interviewed here on Reagan’s legacy, he writes this week  in Ronald Reagan, Enabler of Atrocities of the decade “many atrocities in Latin America and elsewhere that Reagan aided, covered up or shrugged off in his inimitable ‘aw shucks’ manner.”

Amid all the extravagant hoopla and teary tributes to the late president, perhaps some Americans will stop and think of all the decent people in Latin America and elsewhere who died horrible and unnecessary deaths as Ronald Reagan cheerily defended their murderers.

There are other things we can never forget nor forgive:

When thousands were dying of AIDS, Reagan would not say the word until 1987, after 21,000 Americans had died of it, and lowered the federal budget to fight it.

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever.  We begin bombing in five minutes.”  Reagan’s chilling “joke,” before a radio broadcast, August 11, 1984

In 1974 Governor Reagan bitterly denounced huge crowds of poor people who excitedly showed up to get free food that the Hearst Corporation had been forced to distribute by the SLA kidnapping of Patty Hearst. Reagan said: ‘It’s just too bad we can’t have an epidemic of botulism.’  see The Crimes and Times of Ronald Reagan.

After getting the nomination in 1980 he praised ‘states rights’ in his first speech–made in Philadelphia, Mississippi, known for the 1964 Klan murder of three young civil rights workers.

Anyone paying attention has been aware that the outrages of U.S. aggression didn’t begin with the Bushes, but it’s important to remind people now that Poppa Bush’s immediate predecessor in the White House has plenty of war crimes to account for, posthumously.

A final fitting tribute to Reagan is Bob Dylan’s song, written well before Reagan’s presidency.

Masters of War

A song by Bob Dylan

You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly
Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain.
And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead.

See Robert Parry’s three-book set: Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep: Let’s Get the Truth Out on the Bushes, and Ronald Reagan.

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments