Monday, June 07, 2004

"We Will Be Forever in His Debt" (ha! Get it?)

(Above: Reagan lays a wreath on the grave of fallen SS men at the cemetery in Bitburg, West Germany)

Okay, so there's a lot of news that should go in the Top Five today, but based on the tributes we've already had to stomach, and those that we will have to endure, I thought it might be nice to provide a little balance. Thus, today's posting is entirely devoted to the foibles and crimes of the Reagan administration.


Number One: The October Surprise In 1980, Reagan backers like sinister arch-conspirator William Casey cut a deal with the Iranian radicals who had seized American hostages at the U.S. embassy in Teheran: don't release those hostages until after the election, ensuring a victory for Reagan and a defeat for incumbent president Jimmy Carter. In exchange, Reagan's backers agreed to start secretly shipping military supplies to the Ayatollah's government. Private citizens making foreign policy decisions with sworn enemies of the United States: they used to call it "treason." However, these contacts would be helpful to Ronnie, because they led almost directly to...

Number Two: The Iran-Contra Scandal So confusing that few even today fully grasp it, here's basically what happened: Congress passed a law forbidding US aid to the Nicaraguan contras, a fascist terrorist organization then engaged in a guerrilla war against the Sandinista government (our younger readers won't be familiar with the background; basically, the Sandinistas wore red neckerchiefs and gave out free medical aid to poor people, and thus established themselves as Enemies of Freedom). So, Reagan and his gang of flunkies (Oliver North, McFarlane, Elliot Abrams, "Cap" Weinberger, etc.) returned to their Iranian benefactors for a deal. The U.S. sold heavy armaments, including missiles, to Iran (through a rogue general in the Israeli military) and used the money to fund the contras. Again: the president of the United States was illegally violating his own embargo to sell military equipment to a hostile foreign power so he could illegally fund a terrorist group in Latin America. And you thought Bush invented crazy skullduggery like this!

Number Three: Funding the Khmer Rouge Now, I know what you're going to say. "Wait a minute," you'll say. "Wasn't Reagan's entire foreign policy based on fighting against the red neckerchief-wearing forces of Communism? Why would he strike a deal with arguably the worst group of Communists in the history of the world?" The answer, bizarrely, is fear of Communism. You see, Pol Pot's psychotic, genocidal regime was driven out of power in Cambodia by the Vietnamese, who then occupied the country. The Vietnamese, in addition to being Communists themselves, were also our sworn enemies, having defeated us in the Vietnam War. On the dubious principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend (even when that friend kills 2 million people and makes giant skull pyramids), the Reagan administration diverted funds and military equipment to the Khmer Rouge so they could continue the good fight against, er, Communism. Bear in mind that this aid came after the world knew the enormity of Pol Pot's crimes.

Number Four: Our Friend Bin Laden This is very similar to item three, except this time the "enemy of my enemy" stuff really came back to bite us on the ass. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to shore up a faltering Communist government there. When Reagan came into office he cooked up - along with the governments of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan - an international effort to aid the Afghans fighting the Soviet occupation. This effort included funneling thousands of Muslim fighters from around the world who responded to the Afghan war the way that young leftists rallied to the defense of Republican Spain. Among these young idealists - who received still-unspecified training, aid, and military equipment from the US - were a Saudi named Osama Bin Laden and an Afghan mullah named Muhammad Omar. Al Qaeda, the international jihadist-salafist conspiracy that would eventually murder thousands of Americans, was born - on our dime - in the training camps of Peshawar.

Number Five: He Done Wrecked the Economy You didn't think all of Reagan's screw-ups were foreign policy-related, did you? No, indeed: Reagan also wreaked havoc on the domestic front. Here's what happened: When the Reagan gang came into power in 1981, they had a plan that would give wealthy people more money while simultaneously providing an excuse to slash the budgets of social programs that poor people depended on. The magic bullet solution was a tax cut. If the federal government had less money coming in, it would have to fund fewer programs, and Reagan did his best to demonize inexpensive, safety net programs like welfare and "stringless grants" to local government. The real expensive item was the defense budget, which went through the roof under Reagan, and caused the largest budget deficits in US history (until GW Bush, of course). The result is that "small business," far from reviving under Reagan, went down even faster: Family farms in America went bankrupt at the rate of 180 per day during 1985 and 1986. Meanwhile, the tax burden on Americans actually increased during the Reagan years, despite the pervasive mythology about his bold tax cuts. In fact, Reagan's handling of the economy was so disastrous that it took eight years of Clinton's presidency to get the country a surplus again, and then... well, and then Bush Jr. took office, and we're all back in the red and talking about killing Social Security.

Ronald Reagan, a grateful nation salutes you.

-Consider Arms