Reagan Was An Accomplice
to the Death of Literally
Thousands and Thousands of People
Charles Liteky - Congressional
Medal of Honor Winner interviewed by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now!, Tuesday,
June 8th, 2004
In 1986, Vietnam veteran Charlie Liteky
laid his Congressional Medal of Honor at the Vietnam War Memorial
in Washington DC. He wrote a letter to then-President Ronald Reagan
saying he was returning the medal in protest of US support for
right wing death squads in Central America, such as the Contras
in Nicaragua. In Vietnam, Litkey was a US Army chaplain who saved
some 20 US soldiers. During the 1980s, Liteky spent extensive
time in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and el Salvador. He was
an organizer of the first ever protest at the US Army School of
the Americas, which trained many of the paramilitary leaders in
Charlie Liteky, won congressional medal
of honor for saving some 20 soldiers in Vietnam. In 1986, he laid
that medal at the Vietnam War memorial in protest of US involvement
in Central America.
AMY GOODMAN: I'm Amy Goodman as we turn
to Charlie Liteky who won the congressional medal of honor for
saving some 20 soldiers in Vietnam. In 1986, he laid that medal
at the Vietnam War memorial in protest of U.S. support of the
Contras in Nicaragua. We welcome you to DemocracyNow!.
CHARLIE LITEKY: Good to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: You are a former U.S. army
chaplain. Your thoughts today about the Reagan legacy in Central
America as we continue our series, "Remembering the Dead."
CHARLIE LITEKY: Well, all of this lionization
of President Reagan which is coming over the TV now on almost
every channel is just nauseous to me. I have gotten to a point
where I can't even turn it on until all of the accolades are over.
As far as I am concerned, President Reagan
was in the same category with a man we have in there now. He was
responsible, he was an accomplice to the death of literally thousands
and thousands of people. I don't think the public is much aware
of this, you know; this is all part of history, and we seem to
have a very short memory for the atrocities committed by people
we hold in high esteem.
Anyway, I became aware of the fact that
what was going on in Central America during the 1980's and when
president Reagan was right in there from, I think it was 19 84
or 1985 on. He was in great support of the military in El Salvador,
which was one of the most brutal militaries in history, and also
the Contras in Central America or rather in Nicaragua. I think
it's been said very eloquently by the priest who preceded me--
all of the things that he is responsible for.
But I went to Central America several
times. I went with a group of Vietnam veterans to El Salvador
and Nicaragua and Honduras, and I came back with a changed mind.
It was a beginning of a process of metamorphosis for me to discover
what our government has been involved in over the years.
So, as a result of my visit to El Salvador
and Nicaragua, I decided that I no longer wanted a medal associated
with a government that would be behind such things by way of policy.
Also, I wanted to draw attention to what we were doing in Central
America, in the name of freedom and democracy.
When President Reagan said, "I am
a contra, too," I said that he insulted every American patriot
when he referred to these killers of children, old men and women
as freedom fighters, comparable to the founding fathers of our
country. To me that's an obscenity.
So, I just said, you know, in the name
of freedom and national security and national interests in anti-communism,
you have tried to justify crimes against humanity of the most
heinous sort. You have made a global bully of the United States.
You would not dare to do that to countries capable of defending
themselves, what you have done to tiny nations like El Salvador
and Nicaragua and Honduras.
So, I, you know, wrote just a one-page
letter, laid it at the apex of the Vietnam wall where the names
of the victims of that war and the lives of that war are etched
in black marble. I felt that was an appropriate place to leave
it, because the soldiers of Vietnam, those who died, those who
were wounded were victims of lies of that era just as these poor
kids now in Iraq are victims of the lies of this administration;
so, it was a poignant moment for me, because I was very proud
of the fact to have received that particular award.
So, but I just felt that was all I could
take at that particular time. And, I finally ended the letter
to President Reagan with this short paragraph. I said, "I
pray for your conversion, Mr. President. Some morning I hope that
you wake up and hear the cry of the poor riding on a southwest
wind from Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. They're crying,
stop killing us."
It's still going on. That's the really
So, as far as President Reagan is concerned,
that's eulogy for him. All I can say is, you know, may god have
mercy on him. It's not for me to judge, but it is for me, and
I think it is for every American to be aware of what is being
done in our name around the world. It was not just then. It's
been going on ever since then, and this mess in Iraq is, to me,
far worse than Vietnam for a lot of reasons.
I am in deep sympathy with all of those
young men that are over there now doing what they think is their
patriotic duty. I think it is more of a patriotic duty of citizens
of this country to stand up and say that this is wrong, that this
AMY GOODMAN: Charlie Liteky returned the
congressional medal of honor, was a U.S. army chaplain in Vietnam,
saved more than 20 soldiers in Vietnam, laid down that medal in
1986 protesting U.S. involvement in Central America in the midst
of the Reagan years in Washington.