By Louis Rastelli
From Vol. 3 No. 1, 2004
Ronald Reagan– where to begin with what a horrible person this man was? Maybe when he snitched on fellow actors during the communist witch-hunt of the McCarthy hearings? How about when he brutally cracked down on hippies when he was Governor of California? Or the dirty way he became President in the first place? (His campaign team secretly copied Jimmy Carter’s notes just before their televised debate. Then, they prolonged the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran to sabotage Carter’s near-successful efforts at releasing them. The hostages were finally released mere minutes after Reagan’s inauguration.) If you looked closely during the saturation coverage of his death (when it appeared most of the media also suffered from Alzheimer’s), you could find some scraps of his many, many scandals, but not nearly enough.
Reagan was a true opponent of socialism: he slashed welfare while claiming that the poor were just lazy (and driving Cadillacs to boot). Few remember now that homelessness was not an issue in the US before Reagan, who soon had an embarrassing amount of homeless people living across the street from the White House.
Reagan slashed environmental programs while claiming, amazingly, that trees were actually the planet’s biggest polluters. He tried to cut the costs of lunch subsidies for poor children by re-classifying ketchup and relish as vegetables (thus making them a part of federal nutrition standards.) He ignored the AIDS crisis at a time when action could have possibly halted its spread, presumably because his crowd didn’t find anything wrong with a disease that only killed gays and junkies. (He was rumoured to believe AIDS was God’s idea anyway.) His “trickle-down” theory of economics claimed the new wealth from tax cuts for the rich would gradually reach the poor, but it ended up going up rich peoples’ noses in those Cocaine 80s (and were ultimately paid for by future generations in the form of massive federal debt.)
And yet, it was in the foreign policy arena that the man was most egregious. He vastly overhyped the Soviet threat to justify huge buildups and testing of new nuclear weapons and missiles, further frightening a world already terrified that a has-been actor had his finger on the button. His trillion-dollar defense budgets enriched friends in the defense industry, and allowed the Pentagon to bill taxpayers hundreds of dollars per screwdriver and toilet seat. He revived the deluded idea of continental missile defense and dreamed of weapons in space. He spent billions to arm and train Arab and Afghan terrorists to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, without thinking that some of them would later attack the U.S. (which they did.) He also spent billions to help Saddam fight Iran, famously sending Rumsfeld over numerous times to heartily shake his hand. He also knowingly helped Iraq use chemical weapons by providing satellite imagery to help pinpoint the targets for them. (Again, few remember that the US at the time was chastised for continuing to support Saddam even after he used chemical weapons.)
At the same time, his administration was also helping Iran fight Iraq, by selling them weapons and using the profits to fund right-wing rebels in Nicaragua (one of several of Reagan’s covert wars which voters or even Congress had no clue about. John Kerry, by the way, was the senator who first uncovered the Iran-Contra scandal.)
Of course, that many of the convicted criminals from Iran-Contra later became prominent members of George W. Bush’s administration just adds to Reagan’s legacy of horror. That George W. has followed Reagan’s policies (and political style) so closely proves that, despite being a much better diplomat than Bush is, Reagan should be remembered as a cold-hearted asshole, and not some kindly smiling father-figure. May he spend eternity losing arguments with Stalin in hell.