|Ronald Reagan just died. The news media is awash in
patriotism over the great communicator (i.e.
the actor). CNN proudly quoted Bush Jr. who
(with a straight face) proclaimed him a gallant
leader in the cause of freedom. I never trust what
Bush says, but this is particularly atrocious.
First, let me explain that although he just died of Alzheimer's, I'm not taking advantage of his senility (although it was rampant through his entire Presidential stint). My grandfather died of Alzheimer's less than 10 years ago, and it's no laughing matter. But, we must be able to critique public figures, and it seems far easier after they have passed off this earth.
Let's take a look at his life: early on he was an actor, not a very good one, mind you, but he was decent at union politics. He was able to work his way up to being President of the Screen Actor's Guild by 1947. He used this prominence to squeal on his fellow actors when McCarthy's witch-hunt roared to life. He was a key player in Hollywood's blacklisting of suspected communists.
Take a look at his later life: while running for President against incumbent Jimmy Carter, he negotiated the late return of the American hostages in Iran till after the election. The corresponding criticism of Carter's inability (thanks to Reagan) to get the hostages home safely delivered the election to Ronny.
Early in his first term he sent a clear message to his ex-union pals around the country by brutally busting an air-traffic controller's strike. His hypocrisy seemed to know no boundaries, nor did the hypocrisy of the powers that be when they further rubbed the noses of the airline workers in Reagan's filth by renaming the D.C. Airport the Ronald Reagan Airport.
As it is well-known that his administration was more instrumental in policy formation than Reagan himself, we probably shouldn't be too hard on 'old Ronny, but it's tough to not hold him responsible for all the violence he caused in Central America. Whether he knew what he was saying or not, absurd statements like the Sandanistas (in Nicaragua) being one-day's march from the Texas border were not only scandalous, but were typical of his even more scandalous actions such as arming the Contras that murdered (in sadistic and torturous ways) tens-of-thousands of peasants in that country. His equally criminal support (financial, weapons, training, political) for the corrupt governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras perpetuated even more deaths. Let's face it, Ronald's hands are blood red.
Despite what Bush was quacking about, Reagan was not in favor of freedom. At least that's what the World Court decided when it held the US government directly responsible for laying mines off the coast of Nicaragua. He was a terrorist, not a freedom-fighter (as he also called the Contras). He also armed terrorists, such as the Muhajadeen that the US trained to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan... including Osama bin Laden. Once the Russians were pushed out, they turned their fire power against the US oppressors. Later, those same people are suspected of helped plan the attacks of September 11th, 2001. (Do I even need to mention Reagan's support for Saddam Hussein during his worst atrocities such as gassing the Kurds and with his war with Iran? I think not.)
Reagan's anti-freedom politics towards the USSR do not end in Afghanistan. He actively spent the USSR into the ground over a dangerous and pointless arms race that blew the US's debt completely off the charts, underfunded desperately needed domestic social programs, and left the Soviet Union equally unable to take care of its citizens. The CIA and others knew that the USSR's economy was on the verge of collapse, and thus Ronny's spending spree was nothing more than a handout to the military industry and a chance to rub salt in the wound.
And, there's really no need to discuss his Star Wars fantasy. Lucid or not, Reagan's ideas were never meant to be taken without a large dose of sugar.
The pundits may argue that he hastened the end of the Cold War. In part that may be true, but he was also a proud Cold Warrior, who benefited greatly from playing that game. The same sinister figures who pulled the puppet strings during his administration are pulling them once again in Bush Jr.'s. I will mourn the death of a human life who was taken by Alzheimer's, but I see no reason to celebrate the life of a man who was instrumental in helping the rich get richer, the poor get squeezed within an inch of their lives, and the unlucky around the world get murdered. C'est la vie!