Lets remember Ronald Reagan for what he was:
A dispicable being and tool of the military industrial complex.*
Tuesday, 5 July 2011
A personal memory by Paul Laverty who worked as a human rights lawyer in Nicaragua in the 1980s and is the screenwriter for five Ken Loach films.
As history is being rewritten before our eyes and the great and the good, past and present, from Thatcher and Gorbachev to Clinton and Bush mourn the death of ex President Ronald Reagan, it has been fascinating to see how this man has been virtually canonised. On news of his death the world’s media have repeated some of his best known jokes and folksie one liners – even his “let's bomb Russia” seemed harmless - as if the nation’s favourite Grandfather, though perhaps slightly disconnected, really was the embodiment of freedom.
I too have my favourite memories of the Great Communicator. Since I was based in Managua, Nicaragua, working for a human rights organisation, I particularly appreciated the man’s genius for persuasion when he declared Nicaragua – then with a population of 3 million – to be a major security threat to the existence of the United States. After all, it was only “two days march from Texas.”
It also brought to mind my first funeral in a town called Esteli; an eight year old boy on yellow plastic seat, shaking and inconsolable, as deep atavistic sobs wracked his tiny body. He then rushed to grasp the coffin, which held his favourite uncle, just 18 years old. I remember the day a human rights report that came in from the North. The Contra forces attacked a cooperative. In the chaos a mother heard them torturing her daughter during the hours of darkness. In the morning they found her mutilated corpse in a ditch with her breasts cut off. The bodies mounted up faster than the human rights reports; literally, one abomination more vicious than the next which were beyond the imagination in their inventive cruelty.
Can I make one very simple point. On each occasion, before a vote in the US Congress seeking further financial support for the Contras, major human rights organisations, including Amnesty and Americas Watch, provided detailed and corroborated evidence of systematic murder and torture by the US funded Contras against the civilian population. That young woman’s fate was not some isolated aberration, but the fine detail of a campaign of terror.
I remember interviewing a teenage Contra arrested by the Sandinistas. He told me how he finished off the survivors of an ambush with his knife, mutilating them beyond recognition. President Reagan invited this boy’s leaders into the White House and in a cordial press conference declared them to be “freedom fighters” and “the equivalent of our founding fathers”.
All the evidence is there, easily accessible on the internet. It is inconceivable that Ronald Reagan did not know that the Contras he created with the help of William Casey, then head of the CIA, were torturers and murderers. He was their most important financier and champion. If there was any real justice, he would have been tried for his crimes against humanity, but it does raise important questions about why such a reasonable proposition is light years away from our current political reality.
But surely the least we can do to honour the dead – strange how only certain dead are worth remembering - is to call this man by his correct title. He may well have been an ex President, but he was also a terrorist who supported murder and torture. As Ronald Reagan is laid in State I can’t help but remember the child tossed into the ditch.
First published on the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign web Site. (Thanks to T for heads up)