Foreign Policy News Stories
Israel: Merchant of Death in Central America
SYNOPSIS: President Reagan's policy objectives in Central
America circumvent Congressional objections with quiet help from
Israel, now the fifth biggest exporter of arms in the world,
is the largest supplier of weapons to Latin America. It is also
a major source of training in intelligence and counterinsurgency
techniques. Israel sustains Reagan's Latin America policies by
supporting the "contras" fighting the Sandinista government
in Nicaragua; aids El Salvador's leaders despite continuing human
rights violations and right-wing death squads; turns Honduras
into the chief gendarme of Central America; builds up Costa Rica's
security forces; and supplies Guatemala's repressive military
forces with weapons to fight increasing internal opposition.
Israel's support for repressive regimes in Central America
is not new. After Somoza's National Guard killed journalists in
1978, President Carter cut off all U.S. aid to Nicaragua. However,
Israel, bolstered by U.S. aid, picked up the slack and provided
98 percent of Somoza's arms until July 2, 1979, just two weeks
before the Sandinistas won the final battle.
Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, receiving
about one third of all U.S. foreign aid in the last ten years.
UPDATE: Israel's reputation as a "merchant of death"
has not diminished since 1983. Agence France Presse (7/15/94)
reported that between 1975 and 1992, Israeli arms exports leapt
75 percent in a world market that had contracted by 45 percent.
Israel was the sole country to increase arms exports during the
world arms market recession.
During the 1970s, Latin America was Israel's largest market
for arms, accounting for 50 to 60 percent of its total military
exports. An estimated one-third of its total arms exports of $1.2
billion went to Argentina and El Salvador alone. In a report on
"the Israel/Latin American connection," the Journal
of Electronic Defense (March 1994) described Israel as "a
faithful if pricey arms supplier during the years when Chile faced
an embargo because of the armed forces' human-rights abuses."
From 1979 through 1994, after the Latin American market dried
up, China became the biggest customer for Israel's arms export
industry, according to a Los Angeles Times report (12/28/94).
Meanwhile, Israel remains the largest recipient of U.S. foreign
aid, receiving $3 billion out of the estimated $12.2 billion fiscal
1997 U.S. foreign aid budget (Reuters, 7/25/96).
Journalist Challenges Press Coverage of Central America
SYNOPSIS: We are still not getting the full story of what
is happening in Central America. There are a variety of explanations
for this, not the least of which is the intimidation and assassination
of journalists. In addition, there is the misinformation disseminated
by our own State Department and the confusing and complex political
situation in that region.
The range of obstacles to reliable press coverage in the area
is well documented by Michael Massing's Columbia Journalism Review
article which suggested that the recall of a New York Times reporter
seemed to send a signal to the rest of the press to go soft on
El Salvador. However, not all journalists were confused by the
political situation, intimidated by the terrorists, manipulated
by the Reagan Administration, nor transferred home by their newspapers.
One such journalist is Peter D. Fox, city editor of the Billings
Gazette in Montana. After a 12-day study mission to Central America,
he wrote a series of articles with revelations which were cited
by one observer to be "as important to Central America as
Harrison Salisbury's 1966 New York Times revelations were to Vietnam."
In his lead article, Fox reported "what we saw and learned
during our time in Managua and the countryside was alarming because
it did not correspond with what we had been reading in U.S. newspapers,
seeing on U.S. television, and hearing from our U.S. government."
Fox cannot be easily accused of being a "bleeding heart
liberal journalist taken in by Communist propaganda." Rather,
he is a conservative, former U.S. intelligence officer, who supported
President Reagan's Central American policy until he went there
himself. Then Fox was so outraged over what he saw his country
doing that he publicly resigned his commission in the U.S. Army
UPDATE: Peter D. Fox subsequently left the Billings Gazette
and is now the Director of Public Information for the University
of Wisconsin System. While his 1983 transformation created some
problems, he never regretted his decision to tell it the way it
was, and would do it again. He particularly recalls the support
he received from his colleagues at the Gazette and in the National
Guard. In 1995, he was invited to rejoin the Guard and is now
a Lieutenant Colonel in the Wisconsin National Guard. While the
mainstream press ignored his story in 1983, Fox was gratified
that some ten small-town, middle-America newspapers in the Lee
Enterprises News Corporation, which owned the Gazette, reprinted
his series on El Salvador.
U.S. Media Neglect South Africa Politics
SYNOPSIS: In 1983, most Americans had heard of Lech Walesa
and Poland's Solidarity movement, but few Americans knew about
Nelson Mandela and South Africa's African National Congress.
The U.S. media provided substantial coverage to Walesa's heroic
fight against a communist government; however, they provided little
coverage of Mandela's equally heroic fight against the apartheid
regime in South Africa-a symbol of racist oppression for many
Americans and other people throughout the world.
Despite international ostracism of South Africa's racist policies,
some 600 North American companies continue to do business with
South Africa and at the time, U.S. investments were estimated
at about $10 billion. Disregarding a 1982 U.N. resolution outlawing
export of dangerous products to other countries, the Upjohn Company
reportedly still provided the South Africa regime with Depo Provera-a
drug outlawed in the U.S.
Ignoring the potential for nuclear confrontation and holocaust,
West Germany, Israel, and the U.S. provided South Africa with
nuclear technology. In September 1983, the State Department approved
an application by Westinghouse to bid on a $50 million ten-year
contract to maintain and supply South Africa's two nuclear stations.
Western intelligence sources believed that South Africa was capable
of producing nuclear weapons and that it may have tested a nuclear
device in the South Atlantic in 1979.
One reason few Americans may have heard about Nelson Mandela,
the widely respected political leader in South Africa, may be
because of the official and unofficial relationship between South
Africa and Washington, D.C. South Africa spent considerable sums
of money on Capitol Hill and the Reagan White House to maintain
UPDATE: Lech Walesa, the darling of the U.S. press in the
early eighties, turned out to be a Cinderella story that went
full circle: from electrician at the Gdansk shipyard, to leader
of the Solidarity Movement which ultimately brought down Poland's
communist government, to Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1983, to
Poland's first democratically-elected president, to a failed attempt
at re-election, and finally back to Gdansk as an electrician.
Ironically, on August 8, 1996, the Gdansk shipyard went bankrupt,
rendering the birthplace of Solidarity a victim of the free-market
economy it helped create (Memphis Commercial Appeal, 8/9/96).
After spending 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, who was
ignored by the press in the early eighties, went on to become
the leader of South Africa's African National Congress (ANC).
On May 10, 1994, following the ANC victory in the country's first
universal-suffrage election, Mandela was inaugurated as South
Africa's first black president. He subsequently became one of
the world's best known and most respected political leaders. Few
men have been so widely admired in their own lifetime. In 1993,
he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Frederik W. de
Klerk, who had helped engineer the transition from apartheid to
Meanwhile, in 1995, under the leadership of Nelson Mandela,
South Africa helped to broker an agreement making the Nuclear
Non-proliferation Treaty permanent and, with other African nations,
established a nuclear weapon-free zone on the African continent.
South Africa dismantled its unacknowledged nuclear weapons in
1991 (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July 1996).
Finally, on May 8, 1996, South Africa adopted a new constitution
that guarantees equal rights for all and completes the country's
official transformation to democracy (USA Today, 5/9/96).