- Ronald Reagan is dead now, and everyone is being nice
to him. In every aspect, this is appropriate. He was a husband and a father,
a beloved member of a family, and he will be missed by those he was close
to. His death was long, slow and agonizing because of the Alzheimer's Disease
which ruined him, one drop of lucidity at a time. My grandmother died ten
years ago almost to the day because of this disease, and this disease took
ten years to do its dirty, filthy, wretched work on her.
- The dignity and candor of Reagan's farewell letter to
the American people was as magnificent a departure from public life as
any that has been seen in our history, but the ugly truth of his illness
was that he lived on, and on, and on. His family and friends watched as
he faded from the world of the real, as the simple dignity afforded to
all life collapsed like loose sand behind his ever more vacant eyes. Only
those who have seen Alzheimer's Disease invade a mind can know the truth
of this. It is a cursed way to die.
- In this mourning space, however, there must be room made
for the truth. Writer Edward Abbey once said, "The sneakiest form
of literary subtlety, in a corrupt society, is to speak the plain truth.
The critics will not understand you; the public will not believe you; your
fellow writers will shake their heads."
- The truth is straightforward: Virtually every significant
problem facing the American people today can be traced back to the policies
and people that came from the Reagan administration. It is a laundry list
of ills, woes and disasters that has all of us, once again, staring apocalypse
in the eye.
- How can this be? The television says Ronald Reagan was
one of the most beloved Presidents of the 20th century. He won two national
elections, the second by a margin so overwhelming that all future landslides
will be judged by the high-water mark he achieved against Walter Mondale.
How can a man so universally respected have played a hand in the evils
which corrupt our days?
- The answer lies in the reality of the corrupt society
Abbey spoke of. Our corruption is the absolute triumph of image over reality,
of flash over substance, of the pervasive need within most Americans to
believe in a happy-face version of the nation they call home, and to spurn
the reality of our estate as unpatriotic. Ronald Reagan was, and will always
be, the undisputed heavyweight champion of salesmen in this regard.
- Reagan was able, by virtue of his towering talents in
this arena, to sell to the American people a flood of poisonous policies.
He made Americans feel good about acting against their own best interests.
He sold the American people a lemon, and they drive it to this day as if
it was a Cadillac. It isn't the lies that kill us, but the myths, and Ronald
Reagan was the greatest myth-maker we are ever likely to see.
- Mainstream media journalism today is a shameful joke
because of Reagan's deregulation policies. Once upon a time, the Fairness
Doctrine ensured that the information we receive - information vital to
the ability of the people to govern in the manner intended - came from
a wide variety of sources and perspectives. Reagan's policies annihilated
the Fairness Doctrine, opening the door for a few mega-corporations to
gather journalism unto themselves. Today, Reagan's old bosses at General
Electric own three of the most-watched news channels. This company profits
from every war we fight, but somehow is trusted to tell the truths of war.
Thus, the myths are sold to us.
- The deregulation policies of Ronald Reagan did not just
deliver journalism to these massive corporations, but handed virtually
every facet of our lives into the hands of this privileged few. The air
we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat are all tainted because
Reagan battered down every environmental regulation he came across so corporations
could improve their bottom line. Our leaders are wholly-owned subsidiaries
of the corporations that were made all-powerful by Reagan's deregulation
craze. The Savings and Loan scandal of Reagan's time, which cost the American
people hundreds of billions of dollars, is but one example of Reagan's
decision that the foxes would be fine guards in the henhouse.
- Ronald Reagan believed in small government, despite the
fact that he grew government massively during his time. Social programs
which protected the weakest of our citizens were gutted by Reagan's policies,
delivering millions into despair. Reagan was able to do this by caricaturing
the "welfare queen," who punched out babies by the barnload,
who drove the flashy car bought with your tax dollars, who refused to work
because she didn't have to. This was a vicious, racist lie, one result
of which was the decimation of a generation by crack cocaine. The urban
poor were left to rot because Ronald Reagan believed in 'self-sufficiency.'
- Because Ronald Reagan could not be bothered to fund research
into 'gay cancer,' the AIDS virus was allowed to carve out a comfortable
home in America. The aftershocks from this callous disregard for people
whose homosexuality was deemed evil by religious conservatives cannot be
overstated. Beyond the graves of those who died from a disease which was
allowed to burn unchecked, there are generations of Americans today living
with the subconscious idea that sex equals death.
- The veneer of honor and respect painted across the legacy
of Ronald Reagan is itself a myth of biblical proportions. The coverage
proffered today of the Reagan legacy seldom mentions impropriety until
the Iran/Contra scandal appears on the administration timeline. This sin
of omission is vast. By the end of his term in office, some 138 Reagan
administration officials had been convicted, indicted or investigated for
misconduct and/or criminal activities.
- Some of the names on this disgraceful roll-call: Oliver
North, John Poindexter, Richard Secord, Casper Weinberger, Elliott Abrams,
Robert C. McFarlane, Michael Deaver, E. Bob Wallach, James Watt, Alan D.
Fiers, Clair George, Duane R. Clarridge, Anne Gorscuh Burford, Rita Lavelle,
Richard Allen, Richard Beggs, Guy Flake, Louis Glutfrida, Edwin Gray, Max
Hugel, Carlos Campbell, John Fedders, Arthur Hayes, J. Lynn Helms, Marjory
Mecklenburg, Robert Nimmo, J. William Petro, Thomas C. Reed, Emanuel Savas,
Charles Wick. Many of these names are lost to history, but more than a
few of them are still with us today, 'rehabilitated' by the administration
of George W. Bush.
- Ronald Reagan actively supported the regimes of the worst
people ever to walk the earth. Names like Marcos, Duarte, Rios Mont and
Duvalier reek of blood and corruption, yet were embraced by the Reagan
administration with passionate intensity. The ground of many nations is
salted with the bones of those murdered by brutal rulers who called Reagan
a friend. Who can forget his support of those in South Africa who believed
apartheid was the proper way to run a civilized society?
- One dictator in particular looms large across our landscape.
Saddam Hussein was a creation of Ronald Reagan. The Reagan administration
supported the Hussein regime despite his incredible record of atrocity.
The Reagan administration gave Hussein intelligence information which helped
the Iraqi military use their chemical weapons on the battlefield against
Iran to great effect. The deadly bacterial agents sent to Iraq during the
Reagan administration are a laundry list of horrors.
- The Reagan administration sent an emissary named Donald
Rumsfeld to Iraq to shake Saddam Hussein's hand and assure him that, despite
public American condemnation of the use of those chemical weapons, the
Reagan administration still considered him a welcome friend and ally. This
happened while the Reagan administration was selling weapons to Iran, a
nation notorious for its support of international terrorism, in secret
and in violation of scores of laws.
- Another name on Ronald Reagan's roll call is that of
Osama bin Laden. The Reagan administration believed it a bully idea to
organize an army of Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan to fight the
Soviet Union. bin Laden became the spiritual leader of this action. Throughout
the entirety of Reagan's term, bin Laden and his people were armed, funded
and trained by the United States. Reagan helped teach Osama bin Laden the
lesson he lives by today, that it is possible to bring a superpower to
its knees. bin Laden believes this because he has done it once before,
thanks to the dedicated help of Ronald Reagan.
- In 1998, two American embassies in Africa were blasted
into rubble by Osama bin Laden, who used the Semtex sent to Afghanistan
by the Reagan administration to do the job. In 2001, Osama bin Laden thrust
a dagger into the heart of the United States, using men who became skilled
at the art of terrorism with the help of Ronald Reagan. Today, there are
827 American soldiers and over 10,000 civilians who have died in the invasion
and occupation of Iraq, a war that came to be because Reagan helped manufacture
both Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
- How much of this can be truthfully laid at the feet of
Ronald Reagan? It depends on who you ask. Those who worship Reagan see
him as the man in charge, the man who defeated Soviet communism, the man
whose vision and charisma made Americans feel good about themselves after
Vietnam and the malaise of the 1970s. Those who despise Reagan see him
as nothing more than a pitch-man for corporate raiders, the man who allowed
greed to become a virtue, the man who smiled vapidly while allowing his
officials to run the government for him.
- In the final analysis, however, the legacy of Ronald
Reagan - whether he had an active hand in its formulation, or was merely
along for the ride - is beyond dispute. His famous question, "Are
you better off now than you were four years ago?" is easy to answer.
We are not better off than we were four years ago, or eight years ago,
or twelve, or twenty. We are a badly damaged state, ruled today by a man
who subsists off Reagan's most corrosive final gift to us all: It is the
image that matters, and be damned to the truth.
- - William Rivers Pitt is the senior editor and lead writer
for t r u t h o u t. He is a New York Times and international bestselling
author of two books - 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to
Know' and 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence.'
- © : t r u t h o u t 2004 http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/060704A.shtml