Spectrezine's Tribute to a Mass-Murderer


In response to the tsunami of vomit which has poured forth from the mainstream press since the death of the genocidal ham actor Ronald Reagan, Spectrezine is pleased to present our readers with a round-up of a few less glowing tributes.

Sunday, June 6, 2004
by Greg Palast

You're not going to like this. You shouldn't speak ill of the dead. But in this case, someone's got to.

Ronald Reagan was a conman. Reagan was a coward. Reagan was a killer.

In 1987, I found myself stuck in a crappy little town in Nicaragua named Chaguitillo. The people were kind enough, though hungry, except for one surly young man. His wife had just died of tuberculosis.

People don't die of TB if they get some antibiotics. But Ronald Reagan, big hearted guy that he was, had put a lock-down embargo on medicine to Nicaragua because he didn't like the government that the people there had elected.

Ronnie grinned and cracked jokes while the young woman's lungs filled up and she stopped breathing. Reagan flashed that B-movie grin while they buried the mother of three.

And when Hezbollah terrorists struck and murdered hundreds of American marines in their sleep in Lebanon, the TV warrior ran away like a whipped dog ... then turned around and invaded Grenada. That little Club Med war was a murderous PR stunt so Ronnie could hold parades for gunning down Cubans building an airport.

I remember Nancy, a skull and crossbones prancing around in designer dresses, some of the "gifts" that flowed to the Reagans -- from hats to million-dollar homes -- from cronies well compensated with government loot. It used to be called bribery.

And all the while, Grandpa grinned, the grandfather who bleated on about "family values" but didn't bother to see his own grandchildren.

The New York Times today, in its canned obit, wrote that Reagan projected, "faith in small town America" and "old-time values." "Values" my ass. It was union busting and a declaration of war on the poor and anyone who couldn't buy designer dresses. It was the New Meanness, bringing starvation back to America so that every millionaire could get another million.

"Small town" values? From the movie star of the Pacific Palisades, the Malibu mogul? I want to throw up.

And all the while, in the White House basement, as his brain boiled away, his last conscious act was to condone a coup d'etat against our elected Congress. Reagan's Defense Secretary Casper the Ghost Weinberger with the crazed Colonel, Ollie North, plotted to give guns to the Monster of the Mideast, Ayatolla Khomeini.

Reagan's boys called Jimmy Carter a weanie and a wuss although Carter wouldn't give an inch to the Ayatolla. Reagan, with that film-fantasy tough-guy con in front of cameras, went begging like a coward cockroach to Khomeini pleading on bended knee for the release of our hostages.

Ollie North flew into Iran with a birthday cake for the maniac mullah -- no kidding --in the shape of a key. The key to Ronnie's heart.

Then the Reagan roaches mixed their cowardice with crime: taking cash from the hostage-takers to buy guns for the "contras" - the drug-runners of Nicaragua posing as freedom fighters.

I remember as a student in Berkeley the words screeching out of the bullhorn, "The Governor of the State of California, Ronald Reagan, hereby orders this demonstration to disburse" ... and then came the teargas and the truncheons. And all the while, that fang-hiding grin from the Gipper.

In Chaguitillo, all night long, the farmers stayed awake to guard their kids from attack from Reagan's Contra terrorists. The farmers weren't even Sandinistas, those 'Commies' that our cracked-brained President told us were 'only a 48-hour drive from Texas.' What the hell would they want with Texas, anyway?

Nevertheless, the farmers, and their families, were Ronnie's targets.

In the deserted darkness of Chaguitillo, a TV blared. Weirdly, it was that third-rate gangster movie, "Brother Rat." Starring Ronald Reagan.

Well, my friends, you can rest easier tonight: the Rat is dead.

Killer, coward, conman. Ronald Reagan, good-bye and good riddance.

Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Read more of his work at www.GregPalast.com


by David McReynolds

A friend asked me if I was going to write anything about Reagan's death and I said no, I didn't think I had anything to say. But given the wave of sentimental genuflection that has gone on, I do want to remember him, his time, and his place - if only so that those of you who very young when Reagan left the White House will not feel you somehow missed his greatness. He wasn't, and you didn't.


n 1964 when Barry Goldwater ran for President I caught a half hour TV special, a speech by Reagan urging a vote for Goldwater. I watched it, fascinated with one of the best deliveries I had ever heard. Some rich conservatives also watched it and hired Reagan as Governor of California, from which he went on to be our President for two terms.

Sometimes my brother (who was a working journalist all his life and, in retirement, follows the media) takes issue with the way I blame the media for things it really isn't to blame for. Most of the time he is right. When one is frustrated, blame the messenger. But in Reagan's case, the media has a heavy burden - but then, so do the American people. After all, we have free elections, and when we have finished rubbishing Reagan properly, we are left with the reality he won two free elections.

For reasons I never understood the media gave Reagan a free pass. I don't hate Reagan, I don't view him as evil, I don't see Reagan as the mad hatter in the White House - that was Nixon. I do see Reagan as a hired gun, and a damn fine actor, given the right role - and President is the role he played incredibly well. In fact, never in my life do I recall any President who acted so unfailingly Presidential. Democrats used to say we had a "Grade B actor as President". How wrong they were! Some actors are born for a single role. The man who played Col. Potter in Mash(sorry I don't know his real name) was a grade B actor whom you will occasionally catch in old gangster films. But once he was cast as Col. Potter, he was Colonel Potter. One could imagine him as nothing other than Col. Potter. In the same way, Reagan was truly President. First rate acting. As you watch all the clips this week, watch carefully - could Clinton do this well? Or Nixon? Either of the Bushes? Not even old LBJ could hold a candle to Reagan's performance.

This was a class act (class, in every sense of the word). But an act it was. He governed from cue cards. He invented a past as if the White House were a stage set in Hollywood. He referred to his military service - he had none. He delivered as facts things which were clearly fiction - and yet the mainstream press never wrote a special on "the curious, creative, and selective memory of Reagan". He embraced the worst of States Rights - in this case the history of racism. He made a speciality of attacked "welfare queens" who didn't actually exist, while ignoring the "welfare royalty" who had bought his services. He broke the trade unions when he broke the air controllers union (and the labor movement is still paying a high price for not standing together then).

Frank Zeidler, former Socialist Party mayor of Milwaukee, noted that Reagan's military budget and deficit spending guaranteed there would be no money left for things that counted, from mass transit to decent housing to medical care. Reagan managed to cast the Soviet Union as the "evil empire" which justified his own sword rattling. The media today is crediting Reagan with ending the Cold War, which is about as foolish as crediting the United States with winning the Second World War.

My credentials as a critic of the late Soviet Union are well established. But in the real world it was the United States, not the Soviet Union, which led the way every step in the military race we knew as the Cold War. And it was Gorbachev, not Reagan, who ended the Cold War.

How easy for a younger set of journalists and commentators to forget how relatively modest were American casualties in World War II (not modest to those who lost a loved one - these words are not meant to diminish the sacrifice of those who served) if compared to those of the Soviet Union which lost, at a conservative estimate, twenty million men, women, and children. The Soviet Union, smashed by Nazi tanks to the edge of Leningrad, to the outskirts of Moscow, to the center of Stalingrad. All of European Russia destroyed, devoured by that war. If, this early June, we pause to honor those who died in liberating Europe, surely we should also pause to remember that the Soviet Union bore the heaviest burden. That history is one we do not study.

How handy it is to have evil empires - to turn our thoughts away from the things about our own nation which are wrong and could be set right. For the young who have no clear memory of Reagan, you won't get a good view this week. The man was cold and distant, to friends and to family. He was, I have no doubt, easy to get along with, pleasant at a dinner, but he was never more than an actor who was well paid for his role.

I don't rejoice at his death, nor at the miserable cause of it - a fate from which any of us might suffer if we live past our sell by date. But his death and the pomp with which we now remember his life, all the nonsense about his greatness, reminds me again how deep is the need for Americans to face their own history, including the fact that even while Reagan coped with the first edges of Alzheimer's, our tax funds were used by the criminals around him to undue a democratic election in Nicaragua, to finance wide scale murders in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. There is an evil Empire - we are in it. Let us rejoice that we are here where we can do battle with it, confronting the reality of our history with painful honesty as we struggle for an honorable future.

David McReynolds was Socialist Party candidate for President when the mass murderer was first elected to the office in 1980.

David Corn: 66 (Unflattering) Things About Ronald Reagan

David Corn,  in his blog at http://www.bushlies.com/blog/ reprints his  article from The Nation, 6 June 1998


The firing of the air traffic controllers, winnable nuclear war, recallable nuclear missiles, trees that cause pollution, Elliott Abrams lying to Congress, ketchup as a vegetable, colluding with Guatemalan thugs, pardons for F.B.I. lawbreakers, voodoo economics, budget deficits, toasts to Ferdinand Marcos, public housing cutbacks, redbaiting the nuclear freeze movement, James Watt.

Getting cozy with Argentine fascist generals, tax credits for segregated schools, disinformation campaigns, “homeless by choice,” Manuel Noriega, falling wages, the HUD scandal, air raids on Libya, “constructive engagement” with apartheid South Africa, United States Information Agency blacklists of liberal speakers, attacks on OSHA and workplace safety, the invasion of Grenada, assassination manuals, Nancy’s astrologer.

Drug tests, lie detector tests, Fawn Hall, female appointees (8 percent), mining harbors, the S&L scandal, 239 dead U.S. troops in Beirut, Al Haig “in control,” silence on AIDS, food-stamp reductions, Debategate, White House shredding, Jonas Savimbi, tax cuts for the rich, “mistakes were made.”

Michael Deaver’s conviction for influence peddling, Lyn Nofziger’s conviction for influence peddling, Caspar Weinberger’s five-count indictment, Ed Meese ("You don’t have many suspects who are innocent of a crime"), Donald Regan (women don’t “understand throw-weights"), education cuts, massacres in El Salvador.

“The bombing begins in five minutes,” $640 Pentagon toilet seats, African- American judicial appointees (1.9 percent), Reader’s Digest, C.I.A.-sponsored car-bombing in Lebanon (more than eighty civilians killed), 200 officials accused of wrongdoing, William Casey, Iran/contra.

“Facts are stupid things,” three-by-five cards, the MX missile, Bitburg, S.D.I., Robert Bork, naps, Teflon.

David Corn is the author of The Lies of George w. Bush (which we reckon will eventually have to be republished as The Lies of George w. Bush Vol. 1) Read more of his thoughts at http://www.bushlies.com/blog/

Dissenting on Reagan and Latin America

As journalists and Sunday talk show hosts struggle to surpass each other in coining panegyrics for the late President Ronald Reagan—just as they did when another villainous former president, Richard Nixon, died years before—surprisingly little has been heard about the most significant and scandalous, foreign policy debacles of his presidency. While one can respect the late president’s personal values and his patriotic fever, his administration must also be remembered for implementing a series of ill-conceived and illegal policies that served neither this country’s national interests nor its much-vaunted security. President Reagan’s disservices to Latin American were legendary, but it was the infamous Iran-Contra affair, in which an “iron triangle” of hired mercenaries—known to President Reagan as “freedom fighters,” but to much of the remainder of the world as Nicaraguan contras—as well as Middle Eastern arms dealers and Reagan-appointed right-wing ideologues were linked in a mutually self-serving arms trade that broke a number of domestic laws, destroyed billions of dollars worth of Nicaragua’s infrastructure, cost tens of thousands of lives and seriously weakened the country’s democratic prospects for at least a decade to come.


Iran-contra was a top-secret initiative involving the shipments of missiles and other arms from Israel to Iran (later to be replaced from U.S. inventories in their entirety), paid for with funds that were then diverted to the contras at a time that U.S. legislation banned such aid because of the contras’ abysmal, and well-documented, human rights record. As a result of the sale, Teheran agreed to use its influence to release a handful of U.S. hostages being held in Lebanon by pro-Iranian militants. The scandal eventually became public in the course of an investigation by Congress (in which Senator John Kerry was instrumental in uncovering the connection in a trip to Nicaragua); Lawrence Walsh, a Republican, was then appointed as special counsel to investigate the full scope of Iran-contra. The scandal proved immensely damaging to the Reagan administration but not necessarily to the president himself, who dealt the probe a severe blow by repeatedly denying any knowledge of the entire affair. Yet no foreign policy initiative absorbed more of the president’s time and vision than destroying the Sandinista government, with which the U.S. had normal diplomatic relations. Iran-contra ultimately proved to be one of the most blatant examples of an ends-justifies-the-means foreign policy ethos of an administration that allowed no legalistic obstacles to stand in the way of its extremist anti-Communist goals, however trampled U.S. laws might be in the process.

Other Reagan Obsessions

While the Iran-contra affair was among the most significant of the foreign policy excesses of the Reagan years, it was by no means unique. When not dealing with Iranian arms traders, the administration enthusiastically supported a series of bloody military dictators in Guatemala, including the infamous evangelical General Efraín Ríos Montt, who was responsible for a severe escalation of the army and paramilitary’s attacks on Mayan peasant villages. Further south in El Salvador, more than a billion dollars of U.S. aid flowed in to finance a brutal guerrilla war that caused 75,000 deaths in a decade. Among the most blatant of Reagan’s anti-Communist initiatives was the invasion of the tiny island of Grenada in 1983, a manoeuvre that was ostensibly initiated to protect a small group of American medical students studying on the island (who in fact were forced to remain there when the U.S. cut all air links with the island), but was almost certainly executed in response to the leftward drift of the island’s government—deemed a threat to the United States’s strategic interests by a group of rather paranoiac policymakers.

Dismissed as relics of the Cold War era, the Iran-contra affair as well as other lesser-known hemispheric escapades of the 1980s in fact represent a crucial—if at the time almost unnoticed—portent of foreign policy explosions that would unfold during the tenure of Reagan’s ideological heir and reverent protégé, George W. Bush. What was later to become a reckless and unilateralist aggression in Iraq, began under Reagan as the Central American wars of the 1980’s, marked by a driven rightwing ideology, a contempt for both international organizations and pesky mechanisms of congressional intent and oversight, and the utter subversion of democratic processes. Elliot Abrams, Otto Reich, John Negroponte and Admiral Poindexter—all highly placed ideologues who conspired in Iran-contra and who are once again in power— fervently believed that only they understood the full scope of the danger posed by the Soviet Union and its Latin American allies (which has never been authenticated following the fall of the Soviet Union.)

The Iraq Parallel

Even more dismaying, the remarkable continuity between the contra war and Washington’s game plan for Iraq is not merely a coincidence, but rather reflects the return of a host of key players in the Iran-contra affair. Among these are Abrams, who as the State Department’s chief policymaker for Latin America under Reagan helped formulate and implement its strategy of unremitting support for Central American death squads and the contra cause. Cynically enough, he is now serving as the National Security Council’s director for democracy, human rights and international operations. Negroponte oversaw the supplying of the Contras as ambassador to Honduras in the early 1980s, and was recently appointed to the enormously important post of U.S. ambassador to the newly formed Iraqi government. Reich served until a few days ago as a special presidential envoy for Latin American affairs; from 1983 to 1986, Reich headed the State Department Office of Public Diplomacy, which the Comptroller-General of the U.S. found to have engaged in “prohibited, covert propaganda activities” on behalf of the Nicaraguan contras.

The Past is Being Repeated

As Mr. Reagan’s funeral processions come to a climax, analysts and policymakers alike might do well to recall this enormous blemish on his supposedly “teflon” record—and more importantly, to take note of the increasingly compelling evidence that equally skewed policy initiatives are being implemented in the hemisphere today by the current administration, most notably in its crusade against leftist presidents Presidents Cesar Chávez of Venezuela and the deposition of Haiti’s Jean-Bertrand Aristide, as well as the strengthening of a decades-old and utterly ineffective embargo against the Cuban government as part of an anti-Havana rant aimed at placing Florida’s electoral college votes firmly in the Bush column this November.

While the Iran-contra affair may be in the distant past, the dangerous brand of quasi-legal and ideologically driven foreign policy initiatives it represented is undoubtedly alive today. Then, as now, selective memory, multiple spin and protestations of patriotism are the substitutes being offered for responsible policy-making. America has had many great presidents. To pretend that Mr. Reagan was one of them represents an arrant miscarriage of responsible analysis and journalism, does his truly great predecessors a grave disservice, and provides further evidence that much of the U.S. media is most comfortable on bended knees.

This analysis was prepared by Larry Birns.  The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization.  For more information, go tot www.coha.org; or contact our Washington offices by phone (202) 216-9261, fax (202) 223-6035, or email coha@coha.org.

And a few shorter responses...

"Reagan had this ability to project warmth and compassion while implementing incredibly draconian foreign and domestic policies. One example of this was his stubborn resistance to sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa."

Bill Fletcher, President of US TransAfrica Forum,

"The idea that Reagan won the Cold War by increasing the military pressure on the Soviet Union is one of the great myths that much government policy continues to be based on.... In both the Reagan and current administrations, the vast increases in U.S. military spending reduced the security of U.S. people, both in terms of increased military threats to the U.S. and in greatly reduced social services and environmental protections.... In both cases the first-strike warfare commitments made the world more dangerous. The Soviets responded to Reagan with a 'launch on warning' policy, whereby Soviet missiles would be automatically launched on the first warning of a possible U.S. nuclear attack. This left humanity hanging in the balance of political miscalculations and technological glitches."

Joseph Gerson, Director of the American Friends Service Committee's Peace and Economic

Security Program and the author of the book The Deadly Connection: Nuclear

War and U.S. Intervention

"During the Reagan administration, the U.S. organized and financed some of the most reactionary elements in Afghanistan which soon thereafter morphed into the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. You could draw an oblique line from the Reagan administration's policies to 9-11.... During the Iran-Iraq war Reagan sent Donald Rumsfeld, special Middle East envoy, to Baghdad to meet with Saddam Hussein. Shortly after shaking hands with the Iraqi dictator the U.S. renewed diplomatic relations and extended military and economic aid to Baghdad. U.S. support for Iraq was decisive in the war continuing until 1988. During the height of Saddam's worst atrocities Reagan said nothing. Throughout his presidency Reagan supported Israel's annexationist policies. His role in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and subsequent occupation has barely been commented on.... War crimes by U.S. allies such as Iraq and Israel were not a problem for the Great Communicator."

David Barsamian, Editor of the book Terrorism: Theirs & Ours

"On civil rights Reagan was a complete disaster. He tried to gut the Civil Rights Commission, to stop the extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1982. His administration was relentless in its attacks on affirmative action. Not only did he nominate Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court, but he got an incredible number of white male right-wingers onto the judiciary. He tried to grant tax-exempt status to segregated Bob Jones University; he created the fictional 'welfare queen' to attack the poorest and most in need in our society. He was a master at making it seem as though, if he thought something was a certain way, it was that way -- and he succeeded in hypnotizing a significant portion of the U.S. public. Much of this laid the groundwork for the right-wing takeover of our government and democracy that we see in the current administration."

Jill Nelson, Author of the book Straight, No Chaser: How I Became a Grown-Up Black Woman

"Even though the Centers for Disease Control announced the first AIDS cases six months into Reagan's term, he never even said the word AIDS publicly until 1987. His inaction and bigotry against gays and drug users led to tens of thousands of deaths -- deaths which might have been avoided if he had taken action earlier. The current administration is continuing his awful legacy, de-funding condom education and giving mere lip service to the fight against global AIDS."

Mark Milano, AIDS activist, New York City