I Don't Recall

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Sun, 06 Jun 2004 12:00:00 GMT
# What do I think of Ronald Reagan? I don't recall.

Seriously, I don't think Reagan developed base criminality in the White House to nearly the extent of the subsequent holders of his office, but I think he was lying when he testified that he didn't recall. For those who don't remember (and I was one of you until I did a Google search), he was being asked about Iran-Contra. His administration traded arms for drugs, so that they could support a war that Congress had explicitly forbidden. Then they sold those drugs in America, and arrested people for using them. They started the crack epidemic. It is certainly possible that Bush the Elder pulled the wool over Reagan's eyes, so that he was not aware of much of what went on. He wasn't as stupid as Bush the Younger, but he was no bright light either.

Reagan's rhetoric was wonderful. I have enjoyed reading his speeches, and enjoyed hearing his jokes on the television last night. The reason I have no respect for the man is because while talking about smaller government, he lorded over a massive increase in the deficit, not as bad as Bush, but record-breaking at the time. And no, he had nothing to do with the fall of communism. Communism fell under its own weight, as happens to any socialist government, and as will happen, likely during our lifetimes, right here in the United Socialist States of America.

If the extent of Reagan's increase in the drug war had been to follow Nancy's advice and "Just Say No!" I'd have no problem with it. But it wasn't that way. His administration accellerated the rate of imprisonment of peaceful people for the "horrible" crime of ingesting vegetables that changed their consciousness. As far as I'm concerned, kidnapping and caging hundreds of thousands of people people because you don't like their morality is a crime against humanity.

Bottom line: Reagan was a fairly good B-movie actor who played the part of President for eight years. America loves its cowboys. Hence, he was popular.

As far as the human side of this, I'm sure it's a relief to Nancy Reagan. My grandmother died of Alzheimer's. I remember visiting her when she thought I was my Dad or didn't know me at all. My Dad died of a Parkinson's-like disease. He didn't lose his mind to nearly the extent of my grandmother, but he was often confused, and had a hard time getting around. Fortunately, my mother was able to take care of him at home the whole time. The night before he died, he described to me the process of wedging a rifle into a tire and pulling the trigger with a string so that you could test a cartridge that you thought might blow up. A little while later, I did that with my first hand-loaded .30-06 round. It didn't explode.

# The kids and I watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban yesterday. My son said he thought it was the best of the three movies. I concur. And work is already under way on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Different director. Slated to screen in November of 2005.

# S.2498, "A bill to provide for a 10-year extension of the assault weapons ban", was introduced in the senate on Thursday by Dianne Feinstein. It has 11 cosponsors to date, the standard list of traitors who should have been found swinging from local lampposts many years ago: Barbara Boxer, Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Michael DeWine, Christopher Dodd, James Jeffords, Frank Lautenberg, Carl Levin, John Reed, Charles Schumer, John Warner. The text of the bill is not yet available. Click here for Publicola's coverage. [publicola]

# Nicholas D. Kristof at The New York Times - Beating Specialist Baker BugMeNot - it seems that beating prisoners was more common than the party line, at least if you believe Sean Baker, who posed as a prisoner in a training drill until he was nearly choked to death. [claire]

# Dave Lindorff at Counterpunch - A First Glimpse at Bush's Tortureshow: John Walker Lindh, Revisited - John Walker Lindh could have told us two years ago about the commonplace torture of war-on-terror captives at the hands of the Busheviks. But to shut him up, he was offerred a plea bargain which included an agreement to never talk about it. [whatreallyhappened]

Initially threatened by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft with being tried as a traitor, Lindh was eventually charged with terrorism, consorting with Al Qaeda, and attempting to kill Americans. But he never went to trial. Instead, he pleaded guilty to just two relatively innocuous charges. But for those two charges-the first of which (carrying a grenade), probably innumerable Americans are guilty of, and the second of which (providing services to an enemy of the U.S.), could more properly be brought against a number of major U.S. corporations--Lindh had the book thrown at him by a compliant federal judge in Virginia. The judge, at the government's request, also hit him with a gag order barring him from talking about his experience. As part of his plea bargain agreement, Lindh was even forced to sign a statement saying: "The defendant agrees that this agreement puts to rest his claims of mistreatment by the United states military, and all claims of mistreatment are withdrawn. The defendant acknowledges that he was not intentionally mistreated by the U.S. military."

This outlandish and over-the-top effort to legally muzzle Lindh appears in a harsh new light now that we know the criminal nature of U.S. prisoner-of-war policies.

In the run-up to his trial, it was clear from documents submitted by the defense that Lindh had been viciously treated in captivity. Shot in the leg prior to his capture, and already starving and badly dehydrated, Lindh unconscionably was left with his wound untreated and festering for days despite doctors being readily available. Denied access to a lawyer, and threatened repeatedly with death, he was duct-taped to a stretcher and left for long periods of time in an enclosed, unheated and unlit metal shipping container, removed only during interrogations, at which time he was still left taped to his stretcher. (Hundreds of his Taliban and Al Qaeda comrades actually were deliberately allowed to die in those same containers in one of the more monstrous war crimes perpetrated during this conflict.)

In truth, the government's case against Lindh was always spurious at best. A 20-year-old, white, middle-class convert to Islam from Marin County, California, Lindh had only gone to Afghanistan in August 2001, scarcely a month before the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. At the time of his arrival there, the Taliban government, far from being an enemy of America, was still receiving funding from the U.S. government. Lindh, to the extent that he was ever a fighter with the Taliban (he hadn't had time for a decent "boot camp"training in weapons use), was in fact fighting the Northern Alliance, not America, at the time of the U.S. invasion. His attorneys maintain that he never was an enemy of his own country, and in fact had been trapped with the Taliban in Afghanistan by the surprise U.S. invasion.

What appears to have led Ashcroft and the U.S. government to drop its serious charges against Lindh, and to agree to a settlement on minor charges, was his defense attorneys' plans to go after testimony about his treatment from other Afghani captives being held at Guantanamo who had witnessed it.

Had those witnesses been permitted to testify in his case--as the judge had already said he would probably agree to, given Lindh's constitutional right to mount a vigorous defense--there would have been plenty of embarrassing evidence presented about torture and abuse at the hands of U.S. troops.

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