Reagan: the Most <> Popular War Criminal

Monday June 27th 2005, 4:12 pm

Reagan"Former President Ronald Reagan was named the 'Greatest American' of all time in
an interactive contest tonight, topping fellow Republican Abraham Lincoln," reports
WorldNetDaily <> . "Of
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.

Failed Media

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, 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.'

Contra-Cocaine Case

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'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.

Mocking Webb

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.


[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.

Probes Advance

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.

Justice Report

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

Volume Two..

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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