Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Revered Joseph Lowery, seen here speaking at President Barack Obama's inauguration on January 20, 2009, had some stinging words in response to the praise heaped on Ronald Reagan

Dear Editor:

Following is a proposed guest editorial in response to the full page of fantasy you printed about Ronald Reagan. I know you won't print it, but I hope this at least gets read by someone responsible for the editorial page, in the interest of truth.

James Finkelstein
Albany, Georgia

Reading your special editorial page with prominent Americans reminiscing about Ronald Reagan was a true lesson about our country's history. The lesson wasn't the one intended by Senator McCain, Speaker Boehner, Sarah Palin, or President Obama- it was the grand American tradition of rewriting our nation's history when the truth is far too embarrassing. Just as Southerners like to claim that the Civil War wasn't about slavery, or American history books tried to avoid mentioning the travesty of American concentration camps in which we interned innocent Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II, or in more recent times, we swept under the rung the torture regime instituted and presided over by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, we do our best to avoid the truth about Ronald Reagan and what his administration wrought from January 20, 1981, to January 20, 1989. But many Americans were adults during those years, and short of mass lobotomies, no sugar coated encomiums by the likes of Sarah Palin (does she even bother to read the ghost written editorials under her name, one wonders?) can change some of the searing images indelibly imprinted on our brains.

I had the pleasure of attending a lively and humorous speech by Reverend Joseph Lowery at Savannah State College in 2004, shortly after Reagan's funeral, where he wonderingly recounted some of the amazing false praise heaped on the late president. Reverend Lowery told the story of a woman at her husband's funeral, who, after hearing speaker after speaker spin fabulous tales of her husband's supposed kindness and generosity, finally exclaimed, "Open the casket, I want to see who's buried in there, because it sure ain't my husband!"

Here's a few memories of the Reagan era that your editorial page contributors overlooked:

June 7 1981. Israel bombs Iraq's nuclear reactor in Osirik just as Saddam Hussein is about to get a nuclear bomb making facility online. President Reagan is outraged that Israel used American F-16 and F-15 fighter jets on the raid and freezes military aid in the pipeline to Israel.

October 23, 1983. Reagan has put hundreds of U.S. Marines in harm's way near Beirut, Lebanon, with no clear mission or protocols on dealing with attacks. A suicide bomber explodes a truck bomb at the Marine barracks, killing almost 300 Marines. Reagan's response is to pull out the Marines and have a U.S. battleship fire 16 inch shells at an unpopulated mountainside in Lebanon. This retreat is followed shortly thereafter on October 25, 1983, by the unauthorized (by Congress) invasion of the island of Grenada in the Caribbean, accomplished with 19 dead U.S. servicemen, ostensibly to "rescue" American medical students.

December 20, 1983. Reagan sends special envoy Donald Rumsfeld to Baghdad, where Rumsfeld has an infamous photo taken while shaking hands with dictator and mass murderer Saddam Hussein. The Reagan Administration pledges to aid Iraq, provides secret satellite photos for battlefield intelligence, and looks the other way when Iraq violates international human rights conventions by using poison gas against Iranian soldiers on the battlefield and to commit mass murders of its own citizens.

1985-1986. members of Reagan's National Security Council, including Oliver North and Admiral John Poindexter, carry out a scheme to sell arms to Iranian government sponsors of Lebanese terrorists to obtain the release of United States citizens held for ransom. The money from the exchange is funneled to Nicaraguan contras at war with a democratically elected government (which later steps down after losing an election) in direct violation of U.S. law. Members of Reagan's team lie under oath to Congress about the fiasco of selling arms for the release of hostages- which they never figure out creates a constant cycle of more hostage taking. Those convicted or about to be prosecuted are later pardoned by Reagan shortly before he leaves office, including Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger. Oliver North gets off on one of those legal "technicalities" so despised by conservatives who claim to be tough on crime. In a televised speech to the nation in 1986, Reagan claims that he knew nothing of the law-breaking but takes responsibility, which marks him either as a liar or grossly incompetent for allowing his minions to fund a lucrative hostage taking industry in Lebanon while providing arms to an Iranian government completely hostile to the United States.

April 15, 1986. Reagan orders air strikes on Libya in an attempt to assassinate Muammar Khaddafi, succeeds only in killing Khaddafi's 15 month old daughter and several other civilians. A little more than two years later, December 21, 1988, Khaddafi takes his revenge, as members of Libya's intelligence agency plan and carry out the bombing of a Pan Am civilian jet, which goes down near Lockerbie, Scotland., killing 259 civilians.

1981. Reagan ushers in the era of "deregulation," claiming, as John Boehner proudly noted in his editorial, "Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem." By 1988, Wall Street shenanigans and fraud are so over the top that the stock market crashes, ultimately costing U.S. taxpayers over $125 billion as the government has to bail out Savings and Loans institutions looted by people like Senator John McCain's political crony and contributor, Charles Keating. Keating, later convicted of fraud, racketeering, and conspiracy, had paid several hundred thousand dollars in "contributions" to five senators-- including John McCain-- who were ultimately rebuked by the Senate ethics committee for trying to get federal investigators to lay off Keating's Lincoln Savings and Loan, which collapses.

1981-1989. Reagan ushers in the era of "voodoo economics," as George H. W. Bush famously put it during the 1980 Republican primaries, by claiming that he can cut taxes, increase military spending, and balance the budget. The result: an historic increase in the national debt-- over 300%-- during Reagan's presidency, from $907 billion when Reagan took over from Jimmy Carter, to $2.8 trillion when he left office. Later Reagan's budget director, David Stockman, admits that the Reagan promise to balance the budget with tax cuts was untenable.

One promise was kept by Ronald Reagan, though. When he took office, government may or may not have been the problem. But by the time he left, there was no doubt: his policy of tilting towards Iraq and provoking Iran, including the accidental shooting down of a civilian Iranian jetliner on July 3, 1988 in international waters over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 passengers, including 66 children, cemented Iran as an implacable foe of the United States for decades to come. His support for Saddam Hussein in the 1980's led to the use of poison gas on Iraq's citizens and ultimately to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait under Reagan's successor, George W. Bush, as Hussein mistakenly assumed that Bush would continue Reagan's policy of "hands off" Iraq's aggressive war to take over oil fields in the Persian Gulf.

Reagan put a man in charge of the U.S. Department of the Interior- James Watt- whose goals were to allow as much industrial plunder of American's natural resources as possible, with the least amount of revenue to U.S. taxpayers. Watt openly declared that protecting our nation's natural resources didn't matter, since the Second Coming of Jesus was imminent. Reagan put Ann Gorsuch, the "Ice Queen," in charge of the Environmental Protection Administration. She carried out the official Reagan philosophy of promoting business by dismantling or weakening U.S. laws and EPA regulations which kept our water, air, and soil free of pollutants and toxic chemicals.

In the area of civil rights-- protecting citizens from the abuses of government-- Reagan set his tone during the 1980 campaign for the presidency, which he kicked off with a speech extolling "States' rights" in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the location seared into the nation's consciousness on June 21, 1964, by the brutal murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner- a black man and two Jews working on behalf of civil rights of black citizens. Reagan's verbal hostility towards Civil Rights went back to his opposition to the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, which protected Americans of every race from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and voting. Once elected, Reagan followed through by appointing judges who had an intense distaste for any laws, including parts of the Constitution, which favored the individual over the government, or which favored government over business. The man he appointed to head the Equal Employment Opportunity Administration was a black man who opposed everything the EEOC stood for and who strongly opposed affirmative action, even though his own admissions to college and law school and every job he obtained were the result of the very policy he opposed. His name was Clarence Thomas.

One other note in the interest of historical accuracy: the military buildup for which Ronald Reagan was later saluted was the continuation of the plan implemented by his predecessor, Jimmy Carter. The Cold War ended in the Fall of 1989, when George H. W. Bush was president, but the man most responsible for ending it was the the last Premier of the Soviet Union before it voluntarily dissolved in 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev, who steered his nation out of Afghanistan in 1988 and towards the reality that it could no longer afford to waste its resources on useless weapons.


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