Reaganís influence survives his passing
Former President Reaganís demise on June 6 after a long illness was a godsend for embattled President Bush. The funeral turned out to be a week-long media spectacle of this countryís state religion, carefully planned by his followers over a decade ago to milk it politically to assure the continuance of Reaganism.
An army of Reaganites filled TV screens in a wholesale revision of history with memories of this supposedly "beloved" leader. Across the political spectrum everyone hailed his "optimism." And grounds for "optimism" today, even among the most ardent supporters of Bushís war and occupation in Iraq, is just what is missing for Reaganís heirs.
Reagan was the godfather of Bushís foreign policy team that totally inverts reality and fantasy and equates "freedom and democracy" with U.S. militarized capitalismís struggle for global dominance. Reagan laid the ground for todayís militarism in 1986 when he unilaterally staged a foray in the Gulf of Sidra and bombed Tripoli, killing many innocent civilians. He established the right of the commander-in-chief to commit state terror anywhere anytime in the name of fighting "terrorists." The "Great Communicator" was thoroughly adept at substituting fantasy for reality.
He dubbed contra terrorists "freedom fighters" as they staged attacks from Honduras on Nicaraguaís revolutionary government, which came to power through a popular overthrow of the U.S. backed Somoza dictatorship. So intent was Reagan on turning back that history that he gave the contras covert logistical support, illegally funneling them money and arms gained from equally illegal arms sales to Iran in exchange for hostages.
REAGAN AND SADDAM
While Iranís Khomeini and Reagan secretly helped each other, that didnít stop Reagan from sending the current Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld, as his special envoy to Saddam Hussein during the eight-year slaughter of the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam started that war but soon encountered serious setbacks. Rumsfeld went to promote the U.S. and Iraqís "common interests" with financial aid to help rebuild Iraqís oil pipeline and buy some military equipment. Rumsfeldís embrace of Saddam Hussein came just when Saddam was using chemical weapons on the battlefield against Iran.
Reagan also dubbed "freedom fighters" the most reactionary religious fanatics fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, sending them half a billion dollars a year in military support while pushing the Saudis into doing the same through their man in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden. This helped lay the ground for more reactionary consequences we see today.
Reaganís militarism tremendously expanded the state at the cost of human services. The biggest budget deficits in history were piled up deliberately to choke resources for social spending and roll back gains made by workers going back to the New Deal. Today, more than ever, militarization and budget deficits continue as capitalís weapon against the poor. Reaganís war against the poor was coupled with an attack against hard won affirmative action gains by African Americans in the Civil Rights Movement as well as an attack on labor rights initiated with the firing of striking air traffic controllers of PATCO.
A CHANGED WORLD
One of the grossest rewrites of history is to credit Reaganís military buildup with the collapse of the Russian empire. Such an assertion besmirches the memory of the real heroes, the masses in Russia and especially East Europe who, with much sacrifice in decades of long struggle, brought down Russian state-capitalist totalitarianism.
Todayís glossing of history is based on counterrevolution that emerges so soon and often from within revolution as it pushes aside the aspirations of the masses. It is not enough to be merely against, whether that was Russian state-capitalism or U.S. imperialismís reach for global dominance, when counterrevolution is itself so much a part of the mix of opposition.
From the beginning of his presidency Reagan wanted to overturn the revolution in tiny Grenada--to try to erase from history the idea that a new freedom can come out of revolution. The opportunity was handed to him in 1983 as a counterrevolution came from within the Grenadan Revolution when a faction jailed and eventually murdered Maurice Bishop, the leader of the New Jewel Movement. The new government turned their guns on the masses who came to demand Bishop's release. "What happens after the revolution?" is a question we have to address now if we are to overcome Reaganismís hold on the prevailing political discourse.
Published by News and Letters Committees