Ronald Reagan 1911-2004
The hagiography started as soon as they announced Reagan's death. How he ended the cold war, how he was a decisive leader, all this nonsense about Reagan which is just ridiculous.
The British have a tradition: when someone dies, their newspaper obituary tells the truth. Americans like to say something kind about the dead, no matter how scummy they were. Even Nixon got a halo in death, where only Hunter Thompson reminded people of who exactly he was and how the honors given him were, well, wrong.
This deification of Reagan began as soon as Clinton took office. There has been pressure to name everything but rest stop toilets after the man. Some right wing cranks wanted to add him to Mount Rushmore, as if FDR didn't exist. They forced his name on an unhappy Washington DC, by renaming the airport, still called by many, National.
So let's get past all the maudlin bullshit and discuss what Reagan really did.
First, Reagan rode to power on a wave of reaction to the Civil Rights struggle. California, a state with a deep well of racial resentment, supported Reagan, who would protect the establishment and call for students to be murdered on their campuses. Reagan was regarded as a crank by many on the left, but his appeal to middle America was strong. It wasn't that Reagan was a racist, as fas as is known, he wasn't. But he sure could pander to them, as he did in 1984 at Philadelphia, MS. For those of you unaware, that is the place three civil rights workers were murdered by the Klan. It would be like a British Prime Ministerial candidate going to Amritsar to talk about the glory of the British Army (the site of a 1921 massacre of peaceful Indian protesters). Reagan pandered to the racist right with ease, even as Barry Goldwater, the man he supported in 1964 with a convention speech, slowly backed away from many of his reactionary views. Instead, Reagan depicted blacks as "welfare queens" leeching off the society, when in reality, white women are the largest recipients of AFDC. Reagan used race like a club to hammer minorities and pander to the racist right.
We need to ask what hath Reagan wrought. His economic policies crippled this country, preventing the kind of long term structural changes which are still needed. How long will American businesses have to foot the bill for health insurance? How long will unequal funding for schools exist? How long will the right of women to control their bodies be subject to restrictions? This is the real, domestic legacy of Ronald Reagan. His breaking of the PATCO strike began the road to anti-Union policies across business. Once, businesses wanted labor peace, after Reagan, strike breaking was permitted, hell encouraged.
Reagan began the road of crippling America's ability to care for Americans. Now we have this failed trickle down economic policy pushed by yet another President. One that leaves Americans in record debt and record bankruptcies. Instead of tax rates which fairly distribute the burden of funding America, the rich have been encouraged to avoid their fair share. Ronald Reagan began the bankrupting of America and the creation of a super wealthy CEO class, one where their great grandchildren will never have to work, an aristocracy of trustifarians. Under Reagan hypocracy and selfishness became the rule of the road. Not just in public life, where his staff routinely lied, eventually leading to Iran-Contra.
But if Reagan started to ruin America, his foreign policy left the dead around like fallen leaves. His foreign policy was a disater by any standard. Dead nuns in El Salvador, murdered school teachers in Nicaragua, the tortured in Argentina, the seizure of Grenade, the failed intervention in Lebanon, the aerial assasination attempt on Khaddafi, which led to the bombing of Pam Am flight 103. Reagan's policies left a trail of failure and disaster at every turn.
How to explain funding the deeply corrupt Contras? Former Somocista generals who funded their war by the drug trade? Who murdered the innoncent. Or the war in Guatemala and the genocide of the indian population. Or the war in El Salvador, where American nuns, among many others, were raped and murdered. A government so callous that it murdered an archbishop in his church.
Reagan's foreign policy left a trail of death and fear wherever it touched.
But Iran-Contra was the defining moment. Despite a congressional prohibition on aid to the Contras, a group inside the White House decided to circumvent the law, so ineptly, and so completely, we wound up arming Iran and getting few hostages held in Lebanon released. We also sold chemical and biological weapons to Iraq. While Saddam murdered thousands, the US government was his ally. Even after 34 sailors were murdered by an Iraqi exocet missle, we still backed Saddam. No governmental outrage, no demands on Saddam. Like the Liberty incident, we turned our backs and hoped for the best.
Reagan and his conservative hagiographers, have wanted to claim his massive defense build up broke the Soviets, which rips the bravery and courage of the Czechs and East Germans who finally overthrew their dictatorial governments.
Reagan also embraced Angolan UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, the puppet of the racist South African regime. He repeatedly refused to back away from him, despite South Africa's notorious, and it later turned out, mad, racial policies. Not until 1988, when the Cuban army decisively defeat the SADF at Cuito Carnevale in Angola, did the war end. The US turned its back as the South African-sponsored Renamo massacred their way across Mozambique. No one knows how many Africans died in the wars of South Africa, but US complicity with the racist regime of South Africa helped extend their lifespan. At no point did Reagan do anything to stop this.
Silent complicity was the hallmark of Reagan's policy towards dictatorships. From Indonesia to El Salvador, the innocent died and the US said nothing, did nothing, except make their lives worse.
We backed the guerrilla groups in Afghanistan, funding the most radical ones and then leaving the country in disarray.
Reagan's legacy is a dark one, one of backing murderers and robbing America of a fairer future. It wasn't that he was an evil man, or a bad one. It is what he believed and what he supported caused so much pain and misery for so many people, who had to live with the results of his policies.
posted by Steve @ 10:51:00 AM