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Reagan Succumbs To Alzheimer's,
Free Press Gets Amnesia

by Gene Hashmi
June 11, 2004

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It seems big media's "long journey has finally taken it to a distant place where we can no longer reach it."

At the time Reagan was president, I was too young (around ten, I think) and too naive (hell, it was the Eighties) to completely understand the true extent of the damage this man's work had wrought upon the world.

Okay, so that's my excuse.

But what explains the grating and unctuous paeans spewing forth from our heads of state and the "free" press that dutifully and shamelessly reports on them? Paeans to a man who -- if there were any justice in this world -- would have been tried for crimes against humanity several times over? What's the excuse? Ten-year-olds growing up in the Eighties?

Displaying a staggering ignorance of history, former president Bill Clinton says he'll always remember Reagan "for keeping America at the forefront of the fight for freedom for people everywhere."

This is the same Reagan who vetoed a series of UN resolutions that attempted to punish the undemocratic South African government (between 1978 and 1987 there were over 10 such instances). This is the same Reagan who attempted to scuttle the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act that Congress passed in 1986, and refused to support economic sanctions against the white racist South African regime. This is the same Reagan who called South Africa a "friendly nation" whose reliable anti-communism and wealth of strategic minerals justified stronger ties between Washington and Pretoria. And this is the same Reagan who considered the ANC and Nelson Mandela "terrorist." All this, while the entire international community was united in opposing apartheid in South Africa.

Supine as ever before the shadow of Empire, Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf takes a cue from the ghost of another Pakistani dictator -- Zia-ul-Haq -- who served Empire so well in South Asia throughout his (and Reagan's) tyranny. Musharraf gushes that "Reagan will be remembered for his great vision and commitment to freedom. His contribution in securing world peace has earned him a permanent place in history."

Tell me he's talking about the same Reagan, and not a body double, who oversaw thirteen separate military aggressions in his time? The same Reagan whose "commitment to freedom" entailed the brutal oppression of no less than six free nations in Latin America and the Caribbean, multiple attacks on at least three sovereign Mid-East nations, and collusion with a dictator in orchestrating a bloodbath-and-a-half in the Philippines? The same Reagan whose "contribution in securing world peace" included the supply of weapons, training and intelligence to BOTH Iran and Iraq -- simultaneously -- a contribution that left 1.5 million dead and another 1.7 million wounded?

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich isn't far behind in his oleaginous tribute: "All free people stand on Reagan’s shoulders. His principled policies proved... that all people everywhere deserve the right to dream, to pursue their dreams, and to govern themselves."

Right. Could this be the same Reagan whose principled policies financed, armed and provided logistical support to the Contras in Nicaragua? In the words of 13-year CIA veteran and former US Marine Corps major, John Stockwell: "the Contras have been assassinating religious workers, teachers, health workers, elected officials, government administrators... They use terror to traumatize society so that it cannot function. They go into villages. They haul out families. With the children forced to watch, they castrate the father. They peel the skin off his face. They put a grenade in his mouth, and pull the pin. With the children forced to watch, they gang-rape the mother, and slash her breasts off. And sometimes, for variety, they make the parents watch while they do these things to the children." 

The Contras, if you're not afflicted by Alzheimer's, are the same people Reagan called "freedom fighters" and "the moral equivalent of our founding fathers and the brave men and women of the French Resistance." That these "moral equivalents" killed some 50,000 Nicaraguans is deemed irrelevant. That the US was handed harsh indictments by the World Court at the Hague, the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly (and told to pay reparations to the tune of $17 billion) is deemed irrelevant. That the US also treated these indictments with utter disdain is also deemed irrelevant. And though most of us remember Reagan proclaiming "I am Contra!" it is clear that big media does not.

Meanwhile, in a blatantly revisionist elegy to Reagan in The Scotsman, Dinesh D'Souza claims that "thanks to an American invasion, Grenada became the first country in history to be liberated from the clutches of Soviet communism."

This is the same Grenada, population in the neighbourhood of 100,000, which Chomsky famously called "nutmeg nation," and which you can't find on a map on account of it being just 133 square miles. While D'Souza struggles with the nuances that demarcate "the clutches of soviet communism" from socialism, a small history lesson is in order. In 1979 Maurice Bishop established on the island a socialist government which survived four years of US-engineered incursions. This government was overthrown in an internal power struggle among left-wing groups and, within three weeks of Bishop's ouster and assassination, Reagan launched Operation Urgent Fury against Grenada, claiming that the invasion was "forced on us by events that have no precedent in the eastern Caribbean," leaving America with “no choice but to act strongly and decisively." Around 2,000 US Marines "fought" for a week, destroying a mental hospital, killing 84 Cubans busy building an airstrip, and 400 Grenadians (nearly ten times the number involved in active duty). However, some 7,000 US servicemen (over three times the number involved in active duty) were designated heroes and given decorations. Grenada, just like Cuba and Nicaragua, was no more than the Chomskian 'threat of a good example' to other Third World countries in the region.

Moving on to Reagan's mythological role in bringing the Cold War to an end, it's instructive to see how those labouring under the impression are the opposite to Reagan in disposition. After all, Reagan said what he believed. These guys believe what they say.

Here's a brief sampling:

“He will be honored as the President who won the Cold War, and his ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall’ will be linked forever with President Kennedy’s ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’" (Senator Edward Kennedy)

“He brought down the Evil Empire and made the world safer for my children and theirs.” (Lt. Col. Oliver North, National Security Council official under Reagan)

"Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty, and he did it without a shot being fired." (Margaret Thatcher)

"His statesmanlike pursuit of more stable relations with the Soviet Union helped bring about the end of the Cold War." (Tony Blair)

"He made great efforts to overcome the Cold War." (South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun)

"Lithuania is grateful and will remain grateful for his firm resistance to the Evil Empire, giving us an opportunity for us to regain our freedom and return to democracy." (Former Lithuanian parliamentary Speaker Vytautas Landsbergis)

"More than anybody else, he followed the policies that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the final victory of a more free-market approach to the management of economies" (John Howard)

As for Lech Walesa's Solidarity movement? Forgotten.

Mikhail Gorbachev's desperate proposal at the 1986 Reykjavik summit to entirely dismantle each bloc's nuclear arsenal? Forgotten.

The market forces forcing Moscow's apparatchiks to pull the plug on the arms race? Forgotten.

The Soviet Union's crippling engagement in Afghanistan? Forgotten.

The East Bloc's destitute economy? Forgotten.

The hundreds of thousands of ordinary people putting their lives on the line in Romania, Czechoslovakia and Poland? Forgotten.

That solitary man with the grocery bags facing a column of tanks on Tiananmen Square? Forgotten.

My, and one thought Alzheimer's wasn't contagious.

Someday, not anytime soon, it'll appear that Reagan's role in bringing the Cold War to an end was no more than simply being present to watch a cripple take his wheelchair down the spiral staircase. Had someone with the intelligence of George Bush been president at that time, the results would have been pretty much the same.

Of course, this picture wouldn't be complete without a soundbite from the Fuehrer himself. Reading the teletext screen with appropriate gravitas, George (War President) Bush says "This is a sad hour in the life of America. A great American life has come to an end. Ronald Reagan won America's respect with his greatness, and won its love with his goodness. He had the confidence that comes with conviction, the strength that comes with character, the grace that comes with humility, and the humour that comes with wisdom. He leaves behind a nation he restored and a world he helped save." He further characterized Reagan as someone who "believed without question that tyranny is temporary, and the hope of freedom is universal and permanent."

The said greatness, goodness, conviction, character, humility, wisdom, et cetera, were illustrated by Reagan's lowering of taxes for America's rich, and cutting spending for essential public services for America's poor – nearly everything from the arts to public education to AIDS research was underfunded. In fact, Reagan's criminal neglect of the AIDS crisis that emerged on his watch killed over 70,000 Americans under his very nose. And this happened at the same time that his administration was busy increasing spending for select programs dealing with the military and private business.

Michael Bronski reports at that "although AIDS was first reported in the medical and popular press in 1981, it was only in October of 1987 that President Reagan publicly spoke about the epidemic. By the end of that year 59,572 AIDS cases had been reported and 27,909 of those women and men had died... AIDS research was chronically under-funded. When doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health asked for more funding for their work on AIDS, they were routinely denied it. Between June 1981 and May 1982 the CDC spent less than $1 million on AIDS and $9 million on Legionnaire's Disease. At that point more than 1,000 of the 2,000 reported AIDS cases resulted in death; there were fewer than 50 deaths from Legionnaire's Disease. This drastic lack of funding would continue through the Reagan years... By the end of 1989 and the Reagan years, 115,786 women and men had been diagnosed with AIDS in the United States."

So there you have it.

One could go on with the litany of outrages committed on Reagan's watch, including the fact that he presided over a decade of really, truly, unspeakably bad music. But if there's one thing he'll be remembered for, it's passing the contagion of his sickness on to others.

Gene Hashmi has worked with some of the world's most unscrupulous, dishonest and successful advertising agencies. By way of atonement, he runs The Daily Dissidence, Singapore's only news source that doesn't seek the approval of mainstream media. At the rate of one new subscriber every other day, The Daily Dissidence has quickly become the most circulated, criticized and controversial mailing list in this police state. You can contact Gene at or (+65) 96 704 701. If this goes on for long, you can eventually reach him at Changi Prison.

Other Articles by Gene Hasmi

* The Price of Eternal Vigilance