William Blum's Essay
Alex Seitz-Wald Essay, Reagan no Conservative Super-Hero
Gene Lyons 2-10-11
Eric Alterman 3-2-11
Preparing for Ronald Reagan's centenary, you're going to hear a lot of disinformation. Mr. Blum knows what he is talking about. During the 80s I was a Reagan watcher and wrote several articles about Reagan.
"Page One, Sensationalism, and the Libyan 'Hit Team'." Newspaper Research Journal 4 (Fall 1982).
"Oceania and the United States in 1984: The Selling of the Soviet Threat." Social Theory and Practice 10 (Fall 1984).
"Out of Disaster a Pep Talk." Quarterly Rreview of Doublespeak 12.1 (October 1985).
"Doublethink and the Rhetoric of Crisis: President Reagan's October 22, 1983, Speech on Arms 'Reduction'." Kneupper, ed., Oldspeak/Newspeak (1985.
"President Reagan's Panegyric for the Marines Killed in Lebanon." North Dakota Quarterly 55.6 (Spring 1987).
"Censorship by the Reagan Administration." Index on Censorship 17.7 (August 1988).
The Anti-Empire Report
January 1st, 2011
by William Blum
Preparing for the propaganda onslaught
February 6 will mark the centenary of the birth of Ronald Reagan, president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. The conservatives have wasted no time in starting the show. On New Year's Day a 55-foot long, 26-foot high float honoring Reagan was part of the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. To help you cope with, hopefully even counter, the misinformation and the omissions that are going to swamp the media for the next few months, here is some basic information about the great man's splendid achievements, first in foreign policy:
For eight terribly long years the people of Nicaragua were under attack by Ronald Reagan's proxy army, the Contras. It was all-out war from Washington, aiming to destroy the progressive social and economic programs of the Sandinista government — burning down schools and medical clinics, mining harbors, bombing and strafing, raping and torturing. These Contras were the charming gentlemen Reagan called "freedom fighters" and the "moral equivalent of our founding fathers". [Dick: All of it violated the US Constitution, UN Charter, and other conventions and treaties.]
Salvador's dissidents tried to work within the system. But with US support, the government made that impossible, using repeated electoral fraud and murdering hundreds of protestors and strikers. When the dissidents took to the gun and civil war, the Carter administration and then even more so, the Reagan administration, responded with unlimited money, military aid, and training in support of the government and its death squads and torture, the latter with the help of CIA torture manuals. US military and CIA personnel played an active role on a continuous basis. The result was 75,000 civilian deaths; meaningful social change thwarted; a handful of the wealthy still owned the country; the poor remained as ever; dissidents still had to fear right-wing death squads; there was to be no profound social change in El Salvador while Ronnie sat in the White House with Nancy.
In 1954, a CIA-organized coup [under Eisenhower] overthrew the democratically-elected and progressive government of Jacobo Arbenz, initiating 40 years of military-government death squads, torture, disappearances, mass executions, and unimaginable cruelty, totaling more than 200,000 victims — indisputably one of the most inhumane chapters of the 20th century. For eight of those years the Reagan administration played a major role.
Perhaps the worst of the military dictators was General Efraín Ríos Montt, who carried out a near-holocaust against the indians and peasants, for which he was widely condemned in the world. In December 1982, Reagan went to visit the Guatemalan dictator. At a press conference of the two men, Ríos Montt was asked about the Guatemalan policy of scorched earth. He replied "We do not have a policy of scorched earth. We have a policy of scorched communists." After the meeting, referring to the allegations of extensive human-rights abuses, Reagan declared that Ríos Montt was getting "a bad deal" from the media. [Montt's military officers were trained at the School of Americas, Fort Benning, as were the El Salvadoran officers.]
Reagan invaded this tiny country in October 1983, an invasion totally illegal and immoral, and surrounded by lies (such as "endangered" American medical students). The invasion put into power individuals more beholden to US foreign policy objectives.
After the Carter administration provoked a Soviet invasion, Reagan came to power to support the Islamic fundamentalists in their war to eject the Soviets and the secular government, which honored women's rights. In the end, the United States and the fundamentalists "won", women's rights and the rest of Afghanistan lost. More than a million dead, three million disabled, five million refugees; in total about half the population. And many thousands of anti-American Islamic fundamentalists, trained and armed by the US, on the loose to terrorize the world, to this day.
"To watch the courageous Afghan freedom fighters battle modern arsenals with simple hand-held weapons is an inspiration to those who love freedom," declared Reagan. "Their courage teaches us a great lesson — that there are things in this world worth defending. To the Afghan people, I say on behalf of all Americans that we admire your heroism, your devotion to freedom, and your relentless struggle against your oppressors." 12
The Cold War
As to Reagan's alleged role in ending the Cold War ... pure fiction. He prolonged it. Read the story in one of my books. 13
Some other examples of the remarkable amorality of Ronald Wilson Reagan and the feel-good heartlessness of his administration:
Reagan, in his famous 1964 speech, "A Time for Choosing", which lifted him to national political status: "We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet."
"Undermining health, safety and environmental regulation. Reagan decreed such rules must be subjected to regulatory impact analysis — corporate-biased cost-benefit analyses, carried out by the Office of Management and Budget. The result: countless positive regulations discarded or revised based on pseudo-scientific conclusions that the cost to corporations would be greater than the public benefit."
"Kick-starting the era of structural adjustment. It was under Reagan administration influence that the International Monetary Fund and World Bank began widely imposing the policy package known as structural adjustment — featuring deregulation, privatization, emphasis on exports, cuts in social spending — that has plunged country after country in the developing world into economic destitution. The IMF chief at the time was honest about what was to come, saying in 1981 that, for low-income countries, 'adjustment is particularly costly in human terms'."
"Silence on the AIDS epidemic. Reagan didn't mention AIDS publicly until 1987, by which point AIDS had killed 19,000 in the United States."
– Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman 14
"Reagan's election changed the political reality. His agenda was rolling back the welfare state, and his budgets included a wide range of cuts for social programs. He was also very strategic about the process. One of his first targets was Legal Aid. This program, which provides legal services for low-income people, was staffed largely by progressive lawyers, many of whom used it as a base to win precedent-setting legal disputes against the government. Reagan drastically cut back the program's funding. He also explicitly prohibited the agency from taking on class-action suits against the government — law suits that had been used with considerable success to expand the rights of low- and moderate-income families."
"The Reagan administration also made weakening the power of unions a top priority. The people he appointed to the National Labor Relations Board were qualitatively more pro-management than appointees by prior Democratic or Republican presidents. This allowed companies to ignore workers' rights with impunity. Reagan also made the firing of strikers an acceptable business practice when he fired striking air traffic controllers in 1981. Many large corporations quickly embraced the practice. ... The net effect of these policies was that union membership plummeted, going from nearly 20 percent of the private sector workforce in 1980 to just over 7 percent in 2006. "
– Dean Baker 15
Reaganomics: a tax policy based on a notion of incentives which says that "the rich aren't working because they have too little money, while the poor aren't working because they have too much."
– John Kenneth Galbraith
"According to the nostrums of Reagan Age America, the current Chinese system — in equal measure capitalist and authoritarian — cannot actually exist. Capitalism spread democracy, we were told ad nauseam by a steady stream of conservative hacks, free-trade apologists, government officials and American companies doing business in China. Given enough Starbuckses and McDonald's, provided with sufficient consumer choice, China would surely become a democracy."
– Harold Meyerson 16
Throughout the early and mid-1980s, the Reagan administration declared that the Russians were spraying toxic chemicals over Laos, Cambodia and Afghanistan — the so-called "yellow rain" — and had caused more than ten thousand deaths by 1982 alone, (including, in Afghanistan, 3,042 deaths attributed to 47 separate incidents between the summer of 1979 and the summer of 1981, so precise was the information). President Reagan himself denounced the Soviet Union thusly more than 15 times in documents and speeches. The "yellow rain", it turned out, was pollen-laden feces dropped by huge swarms of honeybees flying far overhead. 17
Reagan's long-drawn-out statements re: Contragate (the scandal involving the covert sale of weapons to Iran to enable Reaganites to continue financing the Contras in the war against the Nicaraguan government after the US Congress cut off funding for the Contras) can be summarized as follows:
I didn't know what was happening.
If I did know, I didn't know enough.
If I knew enough, I didn't know it in time.
If I knew it in time, it wasn't illegal.
If it was illegal, the law didn't apply to me.
If the law applied to me, I didn't know what was happening.
12.March 21, 1983, in the White House ↩
13."Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II", p.17-18. Also for the five countries listed above, see the respective chapters in this book. ↩
14.June, 2004; Mokhiber is editor of Corporate Crime Reporter; Weissman, editor of the Multinational Monitor, both in Washington, D.C. ↩
15.April, 2007; Baker is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, DC ↩
16.Washington Post columnist, June 3, 2009 ↩
17."Killing Hope", p.349 ↩
forwarded by Edrene M
Think Progress / By Alex Seitz-Wald "10 Things Conservatives Don't Want You to Know About Reagan" AlterNet http://www.alternet.org/story/149812/10_things_conservatives_don%27t_want_you_to_know_about_reagan/ The image of Reagan as a conservative superhero is myth, created to unite the various factions of the right behind a common leader.
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TAKE ACTIONPetitions by Change.org|Get Widget|Start a Petition � Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of President Reagan’s birth, and all week, conservatives tried to outdo each others’ remembrances of the great conservative icon. Senate Republicans spent much of Thursday singing Reagan’s praise from the Senate floor, while conservative publications have been running non-stop commemorations. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee and former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich are hoping to make a few bucks off the Gipper’s centennial.
But Reagan was not the man conservatives claim he was. This image of Reagan as a conservative superhero is myth, created to unite the various factions of the right behind a common leader. In reality, Reagan was no conservative ideologue or flawless commander-in-chief. Reagan regularly strayed from conservative dogma — he raised taxes eleven times as president while tripling the deficit — and he often ended up on the wrong side of history, like when he vetoed an Anti-Apartheid bill.
ThinkProgress has compiled a list of the top 10 things conservatives rarely mention when talking about President Reagan:
1. Reagan was a serial tax raiser. As governor of California, Reagan “signed into law the largest tax increase in the history of any state up till then.” Meanwhile, state spending nearly doubled. As president, Reagan “raised taxes in seven of his eight years in office,” including four times in just two years. As former GOP Senator Alan Simpson, who called Reagan “a dear friend,” told NPR, “Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times in his administration — I was there.” “Reagan was never afraid to raise taxes,” said historian Douglas Brinkley, who edited Reagan’s memoir. Reagan the anti-tax zealot is “false mythology,” Brinkley said.
2. Reagan nearly tripled the federal budget deficit. During the Reagan years, the debt increased to nearly $3 trillion, “roughly three times as much as the first 80 years of the century had done altogether.” Reagan enacted a major tax cut his first year in office and government revenue dropped off precipitously. Despite the conservative myth that tax cuts somehow increase revenue, the government went deeper into debt and Reagan had to raise taxes just a year after he enacted his tax cut. Despite ten more tax hikes on everything from gasoline to corporate income, Reagan was never able to get the deficit under control.
3. Unemployment soared after Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts. Unemployment jumped to 10.8 percent after Reagan enacted his much-touted tax cut, and it took years for the rate to get back down to its previous level. Meanwhile, income inequality exploded. Despite the myth that Reagan presided over an era of unmatched economic boom for all Americans, Reagan disproportionately taxed the poor and middle class, but the economic growth of the 1980′s did little help them. “Since 1980, median household income has risen only 30 percent, adjusted for inflation, while average incomes at the top have tripled or quadrupled,” the New York Times’ David Leonhardt noted.
4. Reagan grew the size of the federal government tremendously. Reagan promised “to move boldly, decisively, and quickly to control the runaway growth of federal spending,” but federal spending “ballooned” under Reagan. He bailed out Social Security in 1983 after attempting to privatize it, and set up a progressive taxation system to keep it funded into the future. He promised to cut government agencies like the Department of Energy and Education but ended up adding one of the largest — the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which today has a budget of nearly $90 billion and close to 300,000 employees. He also hiked defense spending by over $100 billion a year to a level not seen since the height of the Vietnam war.
Think Progress / By Alex Seitz-Wald 155 COMMENTS 10 Things Conservatives Don't Want You to Know About Reagan
The image of Reagan as a conservative superhero is myth, created to unite the various factions of the right behind a common leader.
Continued from previous page
Advertisement 5. Reagan did little to fight a woman’s right to choose. As governor of California in 1967, Reagan signed a bill to liberalize the state’s abortion laws that “resulted in more than a million abortions.” When Reagan ran for president, he advocated a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited all abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother, but once in office, he “never seriously pursued” curbing choice.
6. Reagan was a “bellicose peacenik.” He wrote in his memoirs that “[m]y dream…became a world free of nuclear weapons.” “This vision stemmed from the president’s belief that the biblical account of Armageddon prophesied nuclear war — and that apocalypse could be averted if everyone, especially the Soviets, eliminated nuclear weapons,” the Washington Monthly noted. And Reagan’s military buildup was meant to crush the Soviet Union, but “also to put the United States in a stronger position from which to establish effective arms control” for the the entire world — a vision acted out by Regean’s vice president, George H.W. Bush, when he became president.
7. Reagan gave amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants. Reagan signed into law a bill that made any immigrant who had entered the country before 1982 eligible for amnesty. The bill was sold as a crackdown, but its tough sanctions on employers who hired undocumented immigrants were removed before final passage. The bill helped 3 million people and millions more family members gain American residency. It has since become a source of major embarrassment for conservatives.
8. Reagan illegally funneled weapons to Iran. Reagan and other senior U.S. officials secretly sold arms to officials in Iran, which was subject to a an arms embargo at the time, in exchange for American hostages. Some funds from the illegal arms sales also went to fund anti-Communist rebels in Nicaragua — something Congress had already prohibited the administration from doing. When the deals went public, the Iran-Contra Affair, as it came to be know, was an enormous political scandal that forced several senior administration officials to resign.
9. Reagan vetoed a comprehensive anti-Apartheid act. which placed sanctions on South Africa and cut off all American trade with the country. Reagan’s veto was overridden by the Republican-controlled Senate. Reagan responded by saying “I deeply regret that Congress has seen fit to override my veto,” saying that the law “will not solve the serious problems that plague that country.”
10. Reagan helped create the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. Reagan fought a proxy war with the Soviet Union by training, arming, equipping, and funding Islamist mujahidin fighters in Afghanistan. Reagan funneled billions of dollars, along with top-secret intelligence and sophisticated weaponry to these fighters through the Pakistani intelligence service. The Talbian and Osama Bin Laden — a prominent mujahidin commander — emerged from these mujahidin groups Reagan helped create, and U.S. policy towards Pakistan remains strained because of the intelligence services’ close relations to these fighters. In fact, Reagan’s decision to continue the proxy war after the Soviets were willing to retreat played a direct role in Bin Laden’s ascendancy.
Conservatives seem to be in such denial about the less flattering aspects of Reagan; it sometimes appears as if they genuinely don’t know the truth of his legacy. When liberal activist Mike Stark challenged hate radio host Rush Limbaugh on why Reagan remains a conservative hero despite raising taxes so many times, Limbaugh flew into a tirade and demanded, “Where did you get this silly notion that Reagan raised taxes?“
See also: Gene Lyons, "A Fitting Celebration," ADG (2-10-11) on Reagan exposed on Limbaugh's program by Mike Stark.
Alexander Cockburn, "Dishonoring Reagan," The Nation 2-28-11). "Dishonours" Reagan by "listing his infamies." (Brief, limited list.)
Final comment by Dick: We who imagine a nonviolent world and the nonviolent path to it, must for awhile put aside our pleasant diversions, just as we would were the planet invaded by a great plague,, for the proponents of US violence and aggressive wars are strong and more damaging to our democracy and freedom even than the Nazis, Fascists, and Japanese militarists, because our own leaders have imitated those enemies and have so militarized our nation that the public accepts longer and longer more frequent wars of aggression and larger and larger numbers of killed. World War III from within.