Reagan: the Most <http://kurtnimmo.com/blog/?p=777>
Popular War Criminal
Monday June 27th 2005, 4:12 pm
Reagan"Former President Ronald Reagan was named the 'Greatest American' of all time
an interactive contest tonight, topping fellow Republican Abraham Lincoln," reports
more than 2.4 million votes in the survey sponsored by America Online, Reagan. captured
the title with 24 percent of ballots, just edging out Lincoln by 0.44 percent, according
to host Matt Lauer." Unfortunately, this is more evidence the average American, or at
least the average AOL user who participated in this poll, knows absolutely nothing about
history (or maybe he does and approves of mass murder, torture, rampant sadism, and
repeated violations of international law). Consider the legacy of the Reagan years,
scrupulously avoided by the corporate media when the Gipper cashed in his chips last
Like Bush, Reagan was fond of violating all manner of international law, including the
Charter of the United Nations, the UN General Assembly's Declaration on the
Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of
Their Independence and Sovereignty (1965), its Declaration on the Principles of
International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation Among States in
Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (1970), and its Definition of
Aggression (1974), among others. Like Bush, Reagan ignored the Third and Fourth Geneva
Conventions of 1949 as a matter of course.
Reagan's 1983 invasion of Grenada was a violation of the UN Charter articles 2(3), 2(4),
and 33 as well as of articles 18, 20, and 21 of the Revised OAS Charter. It was a
textbook example of aggression under article 39 of the United Nation's Charter.
Reagan intervened in El Salvador's civil war, an act that contravened the international
legal right of self-determination of peoples as recognized by article 1(2) of the United
Nations Charter. AOL popularity contest winner Reagan provided military assistance to El
Salvador's murderous and sadistic government, fond of killing not only political
opponents but American nuns and missionaries as well. The US-trained Atlacatl Battalion
paramilitary killed around a thousand civilians in the village of El Mozote in the
Department of Morazan in 1981.
Reagan organized and trained the infamous Contras for the purpose of overthrowing the
legitimate government of Nicaragua in violation of the terms of both the UN and OAS.
Reagan thumbed his nose at the International Court of Justice on May 10, 1984, when it
ruled the United States had an obligation in accordance with the Interim Order of
Protection to stop supporting the terrorist group. As if this was not enough, Reagan
mined Nicaraguan harbors, a violation of international law set forth in the 1907 Hague
Convention on the laying of Submarine Mines, to which both Nicaragua and the United
States were parties (imagine if Nicaragua had mined the harbors in Boston or San
Reagan, the most popular man ever-well, for Americans, anyway-teamed up with the
Israelis to invade Lebanon in 1982, a crime against the peace as defined by the
Nuremberg Principles. Reagan was an accomplice to crimes against humanity, war crimes,
and grave breaches of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949 when he supported
Israel and its Phalange and Haddad militia allies in Lebanon (most notable in this
context was the genocidal mass murder in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in West
The Gipper, so revered by Americans, violated Article 39 of the UN Charter when he
parked the U.S. Sixth Fleet in Libya's Gulf of Sidra and eventually bombed Libya on
April 14, 1986, killing civilians, including Moammar Gadhafi's daughter.
In addition, Mr. Popularity, with his blood stained hands, supported South African
apartheid, obstructed the achievement of Namibian independence (a violation of Security
Council Resolution 435) by linking it to the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola, and
violated international law by illegal occupying the island of Diego Garcia, (a violation
of the international right of self-determination of the people of Mauritius as
recognized by the United Nations Charter).
But I guess I'm too negative and needlessly concentrating on the dark side of this man's
legacy, which also includes starring in several good-humored if completely forgettable
America's Debt to Journalist Gary Webb
By Robert Parry
In 1996, journalist Gary Webb wrote a series of articles that forced a
long-overdue investigation of a very dark chapter of recent U.S. foreign
policy the Reagan-Bush admin's protection of cocaine traffickers who operated under the
cover of the Nicaraguan contra war in the 1980s.
For his brave reporting at the San Jose Mercury News,
Webb paid a high price.
He was attacked by journalistic colleagues at the New York Times,
the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the American
Journalism Review and even the Nation magazine.
Under this media pressure, his editor Jerry Ceppos
sold out the story and demoted Webb,
causing him to quit the Mercury News.
Even Webb's marriage broke up.
On Friday, Dec. 10, Gary Webb, 49, was found dead
of an apparent suicide, a gunshot wound to the head.
Whatever the details of Webb's death, American history owes him
a huge debt. Though denigrated by much of the national news media,
Webb's contra-cocaine series prompted internal investigations
by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department,
probes that confirmed that scores of contra units
and contra-connected individuals were implicated in the drug trade.
The probes also showed that the Reagan-Bush administration
frustrated investigations into those crimes for geopolitical reasons.
Unintentionally, Webb also exposed the cowardice and
unprofessional behavior that had become the new trademarks
of the major U.S. news media by the mid-1990s.
The big news outlets were always hot on the trail of some titillating
scandal - the O.J. Simpson case or the Monica Lewinsky scandal
- but major media could no longer grapple with serious crimes of state.
Even after the CIA's inspector general issued his findings in 1998,
the major newspapers could not muster the talent or the courage to
explain those extraordinary Govt admissions to the American people.
Big newspapers didn't apologize for their unfair treatment of Gary Webb.
Foreshadowing the media incompetence that would fail to challenge
G.W. Bush's case for war with Iraq five years later, the major news
organizations hid the CIA's confession from the American people.
The New York Times and the Washington Post never got much past
the CIA's "executive summary," which tried to put the best spin
on Inspector General Frederick Hitz's findings. The Los Angeles Times
never even wrote a story after the final volume of the CIA's report
was published, though Webb's initial story had focused on
contra-connected cocaine shipments to South-Central Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Times' cover-up has now continued after Webb's death.
In a harsh obituary about Webb, the Times reporter, who called to
interview me, ignored my comments about the debt the nation owed
Webb and the importance of the CIA's inspector general findings.
Instead of using Webb's death as an opportunity to finally get the story
straight, the Times acted as if there never had been an official
investigation confirming Webb's allegations.[LA Times,Dec.12, 2004.]
By maintaining the contra-cocaine cover-up - even after the CIA's
inspector general had admitted the facts - the big newspapers
seemed to have understood that they could avoid any consequences
for their egregious behavior in the 1990s or for their negligence
toward the contra-cocaine issue when it first surfaced in the 1980s.
After all, the conservative news media - the chief competitor
to the mainstream press - isn't going to demand a reexamination
of the crimes of the Reagan-Bush years.
That means that only a few minor media outlets, like our own
Consortiumnews.com, will go back over the facts now,
just as only a few of us addressed the significance
of the government admissions in the late 1990s.
I compiled and explained the findings of the CIA/Justice investigations in
my 1999 book,Lost History:Contras,Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'
Lost History, which took its name from a series at this Web site,
also describes how the contra-cocaine story first reached the public
in a story that Brian Barger and I wrote for the Associated Press
in Dec. 1985. Though the big newspapers pooh-poohed our discovery,
Sen. John Kerry followed up our story with his own groundbreaking
investigation. For his efforts, Kerry also encountered media ridicule.
Newsweek dubbed the Massachusetts senator a "randy conspiracy buff."
[Details:see Consortiumnews.com's "Kerry's Contra-Cocaine Chapter"]
So when Gary Webb revived the contra-cocaine issue in August 1996
with a 20,000-word three-part series entitled "Dark Alliance,"
editors at major newspapers already had a powerful self-interest
to slap down a story that they had disparaged for the past decade.
The challenge to their earlier judgments was doubly painful because
the Mercury-News' sophisticated Web site ensured that Webb's
series made a big splash on the Internet, which was just emerging
as a threat to the traditional news media. Also, the African-American
community was furious at the possibility that U.S. government policies
had contributed to the crack-cocaine epidemic.
In other words, the mostly white, male editors at the major newspapers
saw their preeminence in judging news challenged by an upstart
regional newspaper, the Internet and common American citizens
who also happened to be black. So, even as the CIA was prepared
to conduct a relatively thorough and honest investigation, the major
newspapers seemed more eager to protect their reputations and their turf.
Without doubt, Webb's series had its limitations. It primarily tracked
one West Coast network of contra-cocaine traffickers from the early-to-mid 1980s.
Webb connected that cocaine to an early "crack" production network
that supplied Los Angeles street gangs, the Crips and the Bloods,
leading to Webb's conclusion that contra cocaine fueled the early
crack epidemic that devastated Los Angeles and other U.S. cities.
When black leaders began demanding a full investigation
of these charges, the Washington media joined
the political Establishment in circling the wagons.
It fell to Rev. Sun Myung Moon's right-wing Washington Times
to begin the counterattack against Webb's series.
The Washington Times turned to some former CIA officials,
who participated in the contra war, to refute the drug charges.
But - in a pattern that would repeat itself on other issues
in the following years - the Washington Post and other mainstream
newspapers quickly lined up behind the conservative news media.
On Oct. 4, 1996, the Washington Post published
a front-page article knocking down Webb's story.
The Post's approach was twofold: first, it presented the contra-cocaine
allegations as old news - "Even CIA personnel testified to Congress
they knew that those covert operations involved drug traffickers,"
the Post reported - and second, the Post minimized the importance
of the one contra smuggling channel that Webb had highlighted
- that it had not "played a major role in the emergence of crack."
A Post side-bar story dismissed African-Americans as prone to
"conspiracy fears." Soon, the New York Times and the
Los Angeles Times joined in the piling on of Gary Webb.
The big newspapers made much of the CIA's internal reviews
in 1987 and 1988 that supposedly cleared the spy agency
of a role in contra-cocaine smuggling.
But the CIA's decade-old cover-up began to crumble on Oct. 24, 1996,
when CIA Inspector General Hitz conceded before the Senate
Intelligence Committee that the first CIA probe had lasted only 12 days,
the second only three days. He promised a more thorough review.
Meanwhile, however, Gary Webb became the target of outright media
ridicule. Influential Post media critic Howard Kurtz mocked Webb
for saying in a book proposal that he would explore the possibility
that the contra war was primarily a business to its participants.
"Oliver Stone, check your voice mail," Kurtz chortled.
[Washington Post, Oct. 28, 1996]
Webb's suspicion was not unfounded, however. Indeed, White House
aide Oliver North's emissary Rob Owen had made the same point a
decade earlier, in a Mar 17,1986, message about the contra leadership.
"Few of the so-called leaders of the movement
. really care about the boys in the field," Owen wrote.
"THIS WAR HAS BECOME A BUSINESS TO MANY OF THEM."
[Capitalization in the original.]
Nevertheless, pillorying of Gary Webb was on, in earnest.The ridicule
also had a predictable effect on the executives of the Mercury-News.
By early 1997, executive editor Jerry Ceppos was in retreat.
On May 11, 1997, Ceppos published a front-page column
saying the series "fell short of my standards."
He criticized the stories because they
"strongly implied CIA knowledge" of contra connections
to U.S. drug dealers who were manufacturing crack-cocaine.
"We did not have proof that top CIA officials knew of the relationship."
The big newspapers celebrated Ceppos's retreat as vindication
of their own dismissal of the contra-cocaine stories.
Ceppos next pulled the plug on the Mercury-News' continuing
contra-cocaine investigation and reassigned Webb
to a small office in Cupertino, California, far from his family.
Webb resigned the paper in disgrace.
For undercutting Webb and the other reporters working on the contra
investigation, Ceppos was lauded by the American Journalism Review
and was given the 1997 national "Ethics in Journalism Award"
by the Society of Professional Journalists. While Ceppos won raves,
Webb watched his career collapse and his marriage break up.
Still, Gary Webb had set in motion internal government investigations
that would bring to the surface long-hidden facts about how the
Reagan-Bush administration had conducted the contra war.
The CIA's defensive line against the contra-cocaine allegations
began to break when the spy agency published Volume One
of Hitz's findings on Jan. 29, 1998.
Despite a largely exculpatory press release, Hitz's Volume One
admitted that not only were many of Webb's allegations true but that
he actually understated the seriousness of the contra-drug crimes
and the CIA's knowledge.
Hitz acknowledged that cocaine smugglers played a significant early
role in the Nicaraguan contra movement and that the CIA intervened
to block an image-threatening 1984 federal investigation into
a San Francisco-based drug ring with suspected ties to the contras.
[For details, see Robert Parry's Lost History:
Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth']
On May 7, 1998, another disclosure from the government investigation
shook the CIA's weakening defenses. Rep. Maxine Waters, a California
Democrat, introduced into the Congressional Record a Feb. 11, 1982,
letter of understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department.
The letter, which had been sought by CIA Director William Casey,
freed the CIA from legal requirements that it must report drug smuggling
by CIA assets, a provision that covered both the Nicaraguan contras and
Afghan rebels who were fighting a Soviet-supported regime in Afghanistan.
Another crack in the defensive wall opened when the Justice Dept.
released a report by its inspector general, Michael Bromwich.
Given the hostile climate surrounding Webb's series, Bromwich's
report opened with criticism of Webb. But, like the CIA's Volume One,
the contents revealed new details about government wrongdoing.
According to evidence cited by the report, the Reagan-Bush admin.
knew almost from the outset of the contra war that cocaine traffickers
permeated the paramilitary operation. The administration also did
next to nothing to expose or stop the criminal activities.
The report revealed example after example of leads not followed,
corroborated witnesses disparaged, official law-enforcement
investigations sabotaged,and CIA facilitating the work of drug traffickers.
The Bromwich report showed that the contras and their supporters
ran several parallel drug-smuggling operations, not just the one
at the center of Webb's series. The report also found that the CIA
shared little of its information about contra drugs with law-enforcement
agencies and on three occasions disrupted cocaine-trafficking
investigations that threatened the contras.
Though depicting a more widespread contra-drug operation
than Webb had understood, the Justice report also provided
some important corroboration about a Nicaraguan drug smuggler,
Norwin Meneses, who was a key figure in Webb's series.
Bromwich cited U.S. government informants who supplied detailed info.
about Meneses's operation and his financial assistance to the contras.
For instance, Renato Pena, a money-and-drug courier for Meneses,
said that in the early 1980s, the CIA allowed the contras to fly drugs
into the United States, sell them and keep the proceeds.
Pena, who also was the northern California representative for the
CIA-backed FDN contra army, said the drug trafficking was forced
on the contras by the inadequate levels of U.S. government assistance.
The Justice report also disclosed repeated examples of the CIA
and U.S. embassies in Central America discouraging Drug Enforcement
Administration investigations, including one into alleged contra-cocaine
shipments moving through the airport in El Salvador. In an understated
conclusion, Inspector General Bromwich said secrecy trumped all.
"We have no doubt that the CIA and the U.S. Embassy were not anxious
for the DEA to pursue its investigation at the airport," he wrote.
CIA's Volume Two
Despite the remarkable admissions in the body of these reports,
the big newspapers showed no inclination to read
beyond the press releases and executive summaries.
By fall 1998, official Washington was obsessed
with the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, which made it easier
to ignore even more stunning contra-cocaine disclosures in the CIA's
In Volume Two, published Oct. 8, 1998, CIA Inspector General Hitz
identified more than 50 contras and contra-related entities implicated
in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan-Bush administration
had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations,
which had threatened to expose the crimes in the mid-1980s.
Hitz even published evidence that drug trafficking and
money laundering tracked into Reagan's National Security Council
where Oliver North oversaw the contra operations.
Hitz revealed, too, that the CIA placed an admitted drug money
launderer in charge of the Southern Front contras in Costa Rica.
Also, according to Hitz's evidence, the second-in-command
of contra forces on the Northern Front in Honduras had escaped
from a Colombian prison where he was serving time for drug trafficking.
In Volume Two, the CIA's defense against Webb's series
had shrunk to a tiny fig leaf: that the CIA did not conspire
with the contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking.
But Hitz made clear that
the contra war took precedence over law enforcement
and that the CIA withheld evidence of contra crimes
from the Justice Department, the Congress
and even - the CIA's own analytical division.
Hitz found in CIA files evidence that the spy agency
knew from the first days of the contra war
that its new clients were involved in the cocaine trade.
According to a September 1981 cable to CIA headquarters,
one of the early contra groups, known as ADREN,
had decided to use drug trafficking as a financing mechanism.
Two ADREN members made the first delivery of drugs to Miami
in July 1981, the CIA cable reported.
ADREN's leaders included Enrique Bermudez, who emerged
as the top contra military commander in the 1980s.
Webb's series had identified Bermudez as giving the green light
to contra fundraising by drug trafficker Meneses. Hitz's report
added that that the CIA had another Nicaraguan witness
who implicated Bermudez in the drug trade in 1988.
Besides tracing the evidence of contra-drug trafficking through
the decade-long contra war, the inspector general interviewed
senior CIA officers who acknowledged that they were aware
of the contra-drug problem but didn't want its exposure to
undermine the struggle to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government.
According to Hitz, the CIA had "one overriding priority:
to oust the Sandinista government. . [CIA officers] were determined
that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed
to prevent effective implementation of the contra program."
One CIA field officer explained,
"The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war."
Hitz also recounted complaints from CIA analysts that CIA operations
officers handling the contra war hid evidence of contra-drug trafficking
even from the CIA's analytical division. Because of withheld evidence,
the CIA analysts incorrectly concluded in the mid-1980s that
"only a handful of contras might have been involved in drug trafficking."
That false assessment was passed on to Congress and the
major news organizations - serving as an important basis
for denouncing Gary Webb and his series in 1996. Though Hitz's report
was an extraordinary admission of institutional guilt by the CIA,
it passed almost unnoticed by the big newspapers.
Two days after Hitz's report was posted at the CIA's Internet site,
the New York Times did a brief article that continued
to deride Webb's work, while acknowledging that the contra-drug
problem may indeed have been worse than earlier understood.
Several weeks later, the Washington Post weighed in
with a similarly superficial article. The Los Angeles Times
never published a story on the release of the CIA's Volume Two.
To this day, no editor or reporter who missed the contra-drug story
has been punished for his or her negligence. Indeed, many of them
are now top executives at their news organizations.
On the other hand, Gary Webb's career never recovered.
At Webb's death, however, it should be noted that his great gift
to American history was that he - along with angry African-American
citizens - forced the government to admit some of the worst crimes
ever condoned by any American administration:
< the protection of drug smuggling into the United States
as part of a covert war against a country, Nicaragua,
that represented no real threat to Americans.>
The truth was ugly.
Certainly the major news organizations
would have come under criticism themselves
if they had done their job and laid out this troubling story
to the American people.
Conservative defenders of Ronald Reagan and
George H.W. Bush would have been sure to howl in protest.
But the real tragedy of Webb's historic gift - and of his life cut short
- is that because of the major news media's callowness and cowardice,
this dark chapter of the Reagan-Bush era
remains largely unknown to the American people.
posted by R J Noriega at 3:47 PM
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