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Heroes and Ghosts (The Reagan Years)

by Adam Corwin Saturday, Jun. 12, 2004 at 7:50 AM

This Article examines the historical character of Ronald Reagan verses his recent posthumous herofication

As I pulled aimlessly on the doors of the United States Post Office this morning, the reality of Ronald Reagan’s passing set in. Not only was my routine trip thwarted, but the explanation on the door reflected an extremely dangerous historical connotation. While the passing of any human being reflects great sorrow to family and friends of the recently deceased, to manufacture posthumous heroes is bending the truth behind recent history into a more white-washed facsimile of reality.

To remember Ronald Reagan as something he was not, does no justice to the dead or the living. Reagan was a man that enacted polices for the benefit of the select few with little or no regard for the general welfare of the common citizens of the United States. While the election of this former President may have constituted a landslide in terms of the grotesquely similar U.S. two party system, it wasn’t long before Reagan’s loyalties were exposed to the world.

Reagan’s election to President of the United States began with a token gesture from 23 top oil industry executives who donated 270,000 dollars to redecorate the living quarters of the new commander and chief of the country. This small event, that foreshadowed future budget decisions, marked a consistent affiliation that followed all expendatures and cuts for the Reagan years.

Ever the true hero to big business, Reagan sought to eliminate all measures that stood in the way of profit earning to corporations. Among those manifestations attacked were unions and the environment. Reagan’s first message to union workers came on August 3, 1981. In a response to low wages, poor retirement benefits, and overwork, nearly 13,000 of the 17,500 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) walked off the job. Reagan’s response was stern and in line with the interests of the industry, return to work in 48 hours or termination would follow.

In addition to being strongly anti union, Reagan’s actions also had little concern of the safety of workers. Among measures taken in this capacity were the destruction of 100,000 government pamphlets that pointed out the dangers of cotton dust inhalation for factory workers. Viewing OSHA as another threat to profit, he went as far as appointing a former businessman that had open hostility toward the program as its new head.

Reagan’s lack of diplomacy and extreme measures also had grave repercussions on the environment. With a 90% cut to renewable energy resource development programs, the former president insured a prosperous market for his friends in the oil industry while simultaneously setting back progress to a cleaner planet.

Big business was not the only winners in Reagan’s vision; his military expenditures for his first four years in office was one trillion dollars. In 1984, this was a 181 billion dollar increase. Unfortunately, this pro military environment came at the expense of social programs that found themselves under heavy fire during the Reagan years.

Reagan cut 140 billion dollars to social programs. This extended to social security disability benefits being cut to 350,000 people, 1 million poor children losing free lunch at school, and 30 million unemployed in 1982. A strong military and corporate market grew at the expense of the poor, elderly, and children of the United States. The cut backs became so great, even a former Congressional Medal of Honor recipient was denied benefits despite shrapnel permanently impeded in his heart, arms, and legs. Even people deemed heroes by the former president were not safe from the reality of his conservative policies.

As a global policy figure, Ronald Reagan declared a “national emergency” in 1985 because of the actions and policies of Nicaragua were deemed threatening to the United States. The irrationality of Nicaragua being a threat to the United States is a farce from its inception. Regardless of the rationality, Reagan swiftly acted and used force and embargo’s to effectively destroy the nation. Tens of Thousands were slain and Nicaragua was prompted to take the United States to World court to be tried for international terrorism. In World Court, Nicaragua proved their case as the Reagan administration was convicted of international terrorism, this ruling was subsequently ignored by the guilty regime.

Although credited by his fellow Republicans as being instrumental to the fall of the Soviet Union ending the Cold War, this proposed credit is a falsehood. After the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, the Soviet nation had been on a decline. Former ambassador to the Soviet Union, George Kennan, points out that U.S. Cold War policy actually delayed the collapse of the Soviet Union while coming at the expense of the American people.

The death of Ronald Reagan is not most effectively used as a time to point out his many shortcomings and contributions to the decline of human rights in the 1980’s. On the other hand, to reconstruct the past and create a fictional hero that would glorify a similar Bush regime, is more dangerous. Reagan’s actions should speak for themselves and we should learn from the mistakes of recent history, doing otherwise is distracting us from reality and dooming the world to historical repetition.

Hasta La Victoria Siempre!

Adam Corwin (Joad)


Zinn, Howard: A Peoples History of the United States
Chomsky, Noam: 9-11 Interviews and Talks
Guerrilla Underground: Nicaragua Remembered

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Epitaph for Reagan

by Taxpayer Saturday, Jun. 12, 2004 at 9:47 AM

Death cannot bestow honor upon a dishonorable man.
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hey "taxpayer"

by cc Saturday, Jun. 12, 2004 at 1:28 PM

Don't waste all your good one-liners on the wrong man.

When Clinton and/or Carter and Gorbachev croak, then your shit will finally make sense.

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No, Gorbachev is a good man

by Barney Saturday, Jun. 12, 2004 at 2:16 PM

He is a brave man too.

Reagan, however, was a great man. One of the greatest statesmen in human history and a domestic leader who made people feel good about their country.

He also had fine Christian values. Well don, good and faithful servant.
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NO doubt

by derelict troll Saturday, Jun. 12, 2004 at 3:09 PM

Ronnie and Gorbie came at the right time for everyone. There seems to be a bit of discrepancy over the initiator of the coldwars end, whether reagan or mike. A lot of articles, stories etc. point to one and the other..anyone know?
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how's this?

by observer Saturday, Jun. 12, 2004 at 3:28 PM

I thought it was the labor strikes in Poland that got the Duma's attention that the revolt of the satellite states was uncontainable.
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by Simple Simon Saturday, Jun. 12, 2004 at 8:03 PM

Why not ask the head of the Polish Solidarity Union who is responsible for the end of the cold war? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Lech Walesa:


In Solidarity
The Polish people, hungry for justice, preferred "cowboys" over Communists.

Friday, June 11, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

GDANSK, Poland--When talking about Ronald Reagan, I have to be personal. We in Poland took him so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty. This can't be said often enough by people who lived under oppression for half a century, until communism fell in 1989.

Poles fought for their freedom for so many years that they hold in special esteem those who backed them in their struggle. Support was the test of friendship. President Reagan was such a friend. His policy of aiding democratic movements in Central and Eastern Europe in the dark days of the Cold War meant a lot to us. We knew he believed in a few simple principles such as human rights, democracy and civil society. He was someone who was convinced that the citizen is not for the state, but vice-versa, and that freedom is an innate right.

I often wondered why Ronald Reagan did this, taking the risks he did, in supporting us at Solidarity, as well as dissident movements in other countries behind the Iron Curtain, while pushing a defense buildup that pushed the Soviet economy over the brink. Let's remember that it was a time of recession in the U.S. and a time when the American public was more interested in their own domestic affairs. It took a leader with a vision to convince them that there are greater things worth fighting for. Did he seek any profit in such a policy? Though our freedom movements were in line with the foreign policy of the United States, I doubt it.

I distinguish between two kinds of politicians. There are those who view politics as a tactical game, a game in which they do not reveal any individuality, in which they lose their own face. There are, however, leaders for whom politics is a means of defending and furthering values. For them, it is a moral pursuit. They do so because the values they cherish are endangered. They're convinced that there are values worth living for, and even values worth dying for. Otherwise they would consider their life and work pointless. Only such politicians are great politicians and Ronald Reagan was one of them.

The 1980s were a curious time--a time of realization that a new age was upon us. Communism was coming to an end. It had used up its means and possibilities. The ground was set for change. But this change needed the cooperation, or unspoken understanding, of different political players. Now, from the perspective of our time, it is obvious that like the pieces of a global chain of events, Ronald Reagan, John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher and even Mikhail Gorbachev helped bring about this new age in Europe. We at Solidarity like to claim more than a little credit, too, for bringing about the end of the Cold War.

In the Europe of the 1980s, Ronald Reagan presented a vision. For us in Central and Eastern Europe, that meant freedom from the Soviets. Mr. Reagan was no ostrich who hoped that problems might just go away. He thought that problems are there to be faced. This is exactly what he did.

Every time I met President Reagan, at his private estate in California or at the Lenin shipyard here in Gdansk, I was amazed by his modesty and even temper. He didn't fit the stereotype of the world leader that he was. Privately, we were like opposite sides of a magnet: He was always composed; I was a raging tower of emotions eager to act. We were so different yet we never had a problem with understanding one another. I respected his honesty and good humor. It gave me confidence in his policies and his resolve. He supported my struggle, but what unified us, unmistakably, were our similar values and shared goals.

I have often been asked in the United States to sign the poster that many Americans consider very significant. Prepared for the first almost-free parliamentary elections in Poland in 1989, the poster shows Gary Cooper as the lonely sheriff in the American Western, "High Noon." Under the headline "At High Noon" runs the red Solidarity banner and the date--June 4, 1989--of the poll. It was a simple but effective gimmick that, at the time, was misunderstood by the Communists. They, in fact, tried to ridicule the freedom movement in Poland as an invention of the "Wild" West, especially the U.S.
But the poster had the opposite impact: Cowboys in Western clothes had become a powerful symbol for Poles. Cowboys fight for justice, fight against evil, and fight for freedom, both physical and spiritual. Solidarity trounced the Communists in that election, paving the way for a democratic government in Poland. It is always so touching when people bring this poster up to me to autograph it. They have cherished it for so many years and it has become the emblem of the battle that we all fought together.

As I say repeatedly, we owe so much to all those who supported us. Perhaps in the early years, we didn't express enough gratitude. We were so busy introducing all the necessary economic and political reforms in our reborn country. Yet President Ronald Reagan must have realized what remarkable changes he brought to Poland, and indeed the rest of the world. And I hope he felt gratified. He should have.

Mr. Walesa, winner of the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize, was president of Poland from 1990 to 1995.
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by Simple Simon Monday, Jun. 14, 2004 at 12:49 PM

Hi! I'm Josiah Hagen.

I get paid by the US government to disrupt this site.

Too bad I'm not any good at it.
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