Iran-Contra 1987,
The Cold Cold Warriors

excerpted from the book

The Secret Government

by Bill Moyers

Seven Locks Press, 1988


by Henry Steele Commager

... John Stuart Mill said, "With little men no great things can ever truly be accomplished."

Great things were accomplished by the generation that won independence and wrote the Constitution. Great things were accomplished by the generation that saved the Union and rid it of slavery; by the generation that introduced the New Freedom at home and then went abroad to "save democracy"; and, finally, by a new generation that embraced "general welfare', as essential to "a more perfect union." It was this generation -the generation of Franklin Roosevelt and George Marshall and Averell Harriman-that, when World War II was over, set up the United Nations and the World Court. But, alas, the pendulum had already begun to swing. The shift from Roosevelt to Reagan has some claim to being the most threatening in our history.

The rationalization of the Vietnam War (if that concept is not an oxymoron) and the limitless military buildup that accompanied and succeeded it were natural products of assumptions based on irrelevant premises, not on experience or reality. No better illustration of this than President Nixon's contention that the United States would be a "helpless, crippled giant" if it dared not invade and conquer Cambodia! President Reagan returned to that assumption of American impotence twenty years later when he conjured up the vision of a victorious Nicaragua, backed by that "Empire of Evil, " the Soviet Union, confronting the United States along the Rio Grande. This is the kind of rhetoric characterized succinctly by Sen. William Fulbright as one "which robs a nation's policymakers of objectivity and drives them into irresponsible behavior."

There was never any likelihood that Cambodia could defy us; that Vietnam would be able to spread her victory throughout Asia; or, as Secretary Rusk warned us, that China would enter the war and "a million Chinese might land on the shores of

California." But then neither was there much likelihood that the Soviet Union, which suffered some twenty-five million casualties in World War II and whose principal threat has always been China, would somehow launch a military assault upon the United States. Quite aside from any considerations of logic or common sense, the American stockpile of atomic weapons should assuage the fears of both the president and the Pentagon.

What communism, specifically Soviet communism, has done is provide us for the first time with the gratification of a national enemy-something that, except by fits and starts, we never really had before in our history. Providence, to be sure, provided us with the Indians, and much of our early folklore dealt with Indian atrocities and American heroism, but the Indian nations never quite assumed the guise of a national enemy. Of course there was England. Tom Paine depicted George III as a despot, but no one could take that seriously. We fought for our independence, and we fought again in 1812, but Andrew Jackson at New Orleans made that war glorious and within a few years England again was "Our Old Home, " and visits to Stratford-on-Avon and Westminster Abbey obligatory. We fought what we called a "quasi-war" with France, but France had been our ally and then Napoleon practically gave us Louisiana-and there was French food and French fashions to admire. We fought wars with Mexico and with Spain, and took what we wanted -Texas, California, Puerto Rico and the Philippines-but our enmity was short-lived. We fought two wars with Germany and then, although her crimes were "unforgivable, " rebuilt her both times and made her our ally. We dropped atomic bombs on Japan, but made her our ally, too, and our protégé until she became our economic rival. We never went to war with Russia. Indeed, she had supported the American War for Independence and sided with the Union during the Civil War and practically gave us Alaska; and how much longer might World War II have lasted if it were not for the Soviet Union siding with the Allied powers? But then it was not the Soviet Union alone that became our national enemy, but rather communism-an enemy easy to conjure up and to hate. Fear of communism, hatred of the national enemy, united all parties, all religions, and above all, I all interests. And so the cold war deepened and spread from Europe to Asia to Cuba and Nicaragua, but the identification of the national enemy changed from a communism in general to be combatted globally, to the Soviet Union in particular. We do not fight communists in Cuba or in Nicaragua but agents of the Soviet Union! We do not declare war on those countries, but we send mercenaries against them because we are warring somewhat inconclusively on the Soviet Union.

Corruption of language is a special form of deception that recent administrations and the Pentagon have brought to a high degree of perfection. Bombing is "protective reaction"; precision bombing is "surgical strikes"; guerrilla insurgents are "freedom fighters." What would we have thought had Britain designated the Confederates of 1861 as "freedom fighters"? Even Orwell's 1984 does not imagine a doublethink as deceptive as that which now emanates from Washington.

Along with the corruption of language goes, of course, the corruption of truth. If there were lies during the Vietnam years -and lies there were-nothing can compare with the corruption of truth of the Reagan administration.(As Mr. Moyers writes, "The administration pursued a policy of secrecy shrouded in lies, and of passion cloaked in fiction." Indeed, where totalitarian regimes invented the Big Lie, it has remained for the Reagan administration to develop a more effective device: that of lies so innumerable, and so preposterous, that no one could keep up with them, so insolent that they confounded even those who invented them, and so shameless that they benumbed the moral sensibilities of their sponsors.

All of this has been attended and justified by claims of moral superiority. After all, if our hearts are pure, our intentions honorable, and our motives disinterested, what we do-however it might look to the uninitiated-should not be judged by the standards that history applies to the misdeeds and corruptions of other nations. Claims of moral superiority for the United

States did not originate with Ronald Reagan's staff. What the poet William Vaughn Moody wrote in his anguished protest of our war against the Filipinos struggling for independence must be said of our conduct in Vietnam and Cuba, and of our conduct in Nicaragua today:

Lies! Lies! It cannot be! The wars we wage Are noble, and our battles still are won By justice for us, ere we lift the gage. We have not sold our loftiest heritage. The proud republic hath not stooped to cheat And scramble in the market-place of war; Her forehead weareth yet its solemn star....

Was it for this our fathers kept the law?


Iran-Contra 1987

President Reagan

"So I guess in a way they are counter revolutionary, and God bless them for being that way. And I guess that makes them contras, and so it makes me a contra too."

The contras: Reagan has compared them to our Founding Fathers. In reality, Ronald Reagan and CIA director William Casey were their founding fathers. Two months after his inauguration, the president approved the funds Casey used to create the contras. Their ultimate goal was the violent overthrow of the Nicaraguan government, a government the United States legally recognizes. So the war had to be carried out covertly, as a campaign of terror. But Americans were outraged when J CIA agents mined the Nicaraguan harbors and blew up fuel tanks, causing thousands of Nicaraguan citizens to flee their homes; and Congress, in protest, cut off the contra funds. Still the president refused to give up on his crusade, and his men went to work secretly to keep the war going. The question now was how to evade Congress, the law and public opinion.

First, a small cabal in the White House took charge of policy: President Reagan, CIA Director Casey, National Security Advisers McFarlane and Poindexter, and their aide, Colonel North.

To raise money for the contras, the secret team turned to rightwing governments that could do favors for the United States and receive favors in return. The king of Saudi Arabia doled out a million dollars a month; the sultan of Brunei coughed up $10 million that was misplaced through a White House error. The secret government also encouraged the fund-raising efforts of retired Gen. John Singlaub. Relieved of his command for insubordination in 1977, he now runs the World Anti-Communist League.


The Cold Cold Warriors

World War II was over. Europe lay devastated. The United States emerged as the most powerful nation on earth. But from the I rubble rose a strange new world: a peace that was not peace and a war that was not war. We saw it emerging when the Soviets occupied Eastern Europe.

Winston Churchill (Fulton, Mo., March 5, 1946)

"An iron curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe."

The cold war had begun. The Russians had been our ally against the Nazis, an expedient alliance for the sake of war. Now they were our enemy. To fight them we turned to some of the very men who had inflicted on humanity the horrors of Hitler's madness.

We hired Nazis as American spies. We struck a secret bargain with the devil.

Admiral Eugene Laroque, head the Center for Defense Information

"Now that National Security Act of 1947 changed dramatically the direction of this great nation. It established the framework for a national security state... National security was invented almost in 1947 and now it has become the prime mover of everything we do ..."

Kenneth Love, New York Times reporter in Iran in 1953

"Khomeini is a direct consequence , and the hostage crisis is a direct consequence, and the resurgence of the shah is a direct consequence of the CIA's overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953."

Colonel Philip Roettinger speaking about US puppet Col. Carlos Armas who replaced Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala following a US-supported Coup in 1954

"He overturned all of the reformist activity of President Arbenz. He gave the land back to the United Fruit Co. that had been confiscated; he took land from the peasants and gave it back to the landowners."

What we did has caused a succession of repressive military dictatorships in that country and has been responsible for the death of over 100,000 of their citizens.

Success breeds success, sometimes with dreary repetition. Mario Sandoval Alarcon began his career in the CIA's adventure in Guatemala. Today he's known as a godfather of the death squads. In 1981, after lobbying Reagan's advisers for military aid to Guatemala, Sandoval danced at the inaugural ball.

A secret report prepared for the White House in 1954 by a group of distinguished citizens headed by former president Herbert Hoover. That report read, in part:

"It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination.... There are no rules in such a game. Hitherto accepted norms of human conduct do not apply.... If the United States is to survive, long-standing American concepts of fair play must be reconsidered.... We must learn to subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated, more effective methods than those used against us."

Vietnam pushed the cold war morality to its extreme conclusion: exorbitant means to accomplish limited ends. Anything goes.

Secret Government - Moyers

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