The passing of Ronald Reagan produced an emotional tribute to the former president from Dan Rather, anchoring the CBS Evening News on June 5. Rather appeared to choke up at the end of the broadcast after describing Reagan’s impressive life and career. This reaction to Reagan’s death may reflect awareness, even in this crusty veteran liberal news anchor, that a truly great American who had changed history for the better had passed from the scene. But while many journalists went back in history to analyze and comment on Reagan’s extraordinary political career, they left out the name of one of Reagan’s most prominent adversaries?Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.
Kerry’s statement in honor of President Reagan mentioned that he “shaped one of the greatest victories of freedom.” This was the victory over Soviet-style communism. The Senator conveniently forgot to mention that he was on the wrong side of this epic struggle. But in a press release distributed to the media, Cliff Kincaid, editor of the AIM Report, charged that what was missing from the media’s extensive coverage of Reagan was a factual account of how Kerry tried to sabotage the former president’s pro-freedom policies in Central America.
The media recognized how Reagan contributed to the collapse of Soviet communism but not how Kerry used his position in the U.S. Senate to protect Soviet advances in the Western hemisphere. One of Reagan’s main adversaries in the Senate at the time, Kerry tried to undermine the “Reagan Doctrine” of supporting anti-communist freedom fighters, known as the Contras, in Nicaragua.
The Kerry Committee
In 1988, Kerry chaired a Senate Subcommittee on Narcotics, Terrorism and International Operations and promoted unsubstantiated charges that the Nicaraguan freedom fighters, some of their supporters, and the CIA had condoned or been active in narcotics trafficking. The purpose was to discredit the policy of stopping communist subversion in the Western hemisphere. A House Committee headed by Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton found no evidence to support the charges.
At the time, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky charged that Kerry was running the subcommittee “like a division of the Dukakis campaign.” Michael Dukakis, the former Massachusetts governor, was running against Vice President George H.W. Bush for the presidency that year. Kerry had served as Dukakis’ lieutenant governor and was clearly trying to damage Bush politically by linking him to illegal activities.
But Kerry’s office was itself accused in signed statements and affidavits of offering money to jailed mercenaries in Costa Rica if they would say negative things about Contra activities. One of the witnesses before Kerry’s subcommittee, who made wild allegations that Bush’s office had links to drug traffickers, falsely claimed a connection to the CIA.
One of the most embarrassing episodes for what became known as “the Kerry Committee” came when the Senator took false testimony from a convicted drug-money launderer, Ramon Milian-Rodriquez, who said he had funneled $10 million to the Contras through Felix Rodriquez. Rodriquez was a Bay of Pigs veteran, retired CIA operative and associate of Vice President Bush who helped the Contras and had played a role in the operation that apprehended and killed Che Guevara. Rodriquez, who dismissed the drug charges as a ploy by a convicted felon to get a reduced prison sentence, said that Kerry had asked him in a private session why he didn’t do more to save Castro associate Che Guevara’s life. He replied that while he tried to save his life, he was glad he didn’t succeed because it would have meant more communist regimes in the Western hemisphere.
Kerry’s staff, mostly left-wingers recruited from radical organizations in Washington, D.C., collaborated with the Christic Institute, an organization promoting a lawsuit against a “secret team” of former military and CIA officials that charged them with arms and drug smuggling and other crimes. Some of the defendants in the suit did support the Contras while others had no such involvement whatsoever. The suit received extensive publicity from the media but it was thrown out of court for lack of evidence.
As he moved his phony case forward, Christic general counsel Daniel Sheehan said that Kerry had been “carrying this load virtually by himself for a long period of time.” A key purpose of the Christic lawsuit may have been to try to disrupt aid to the Contras that had been flowing through private channels.
The more serious problem, however, was aid to the communists in Central America from the Soviets, Cubans and even some in the U.S.
The Christic Institute was a spin-off of the Quixote Center, a group that sent millions of dollars to Nicaragua through Sandinista-controlled channels.
While Kerry was trying to defeat aid to the Contras through a smear campaign, Senator Tom Harkin and several liberal House members were raising money for pro-Sandinista and other communist front organizations in the region. One such group, “Medical Aid for El Salvador,” provided surgery for a captured communist guerrilla leader whose organization had assassinated U.S. Embassy Marine guards in El Salvador in 1985. Another group, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), was established by a representative of the Communist Party of El Salvador. A defector said that up to 70 percent of the money raised for the group from the U.S. and other countries went to purchase weapons. The leading pro-Sandinista front was known as the “Nicaraguan Network.”
North Saves The Contras
Despite such obstacles, Reagan’s policies were ultimately successful, thanks in large measure to the efforts of National Security Council staff member Oliver North, who coordinated aid to the resistance while trying to free American hostages in the Middle East. These two operations produced the “Iran-Contra affair” when it was disclosed that proceeds from arms sales to Iran, for the purpose of freeing the hostages, were diverted to the Contras. The Congress investigated and an Independent Counsel prosecuted some officials. However, convictions against North were overturned.
While the dealings with Iran were certainly controversial, there can be no doubt that they were motivated by humanitarian concerns about the fate of the hostages. Several were in fact released.
Regarding Nicaragua, North had been ordered by Reagan to keep the Contras alive, even in the face of congressional attempts to cut off official U.S. funding to the resistance. Reagan, however, said he was not aware of the details of how the arms deals had been arranged and handled.
North, a Vietnam combat veteran decorated for bravery, handled counter-terrorism matters for Reagan at the National Security Council from 1983-86. In addition to supporting the Contras, he played a role in the liberation of Grenada in 1983, the capture of the Achille Lauro terrorists and the bombing of Libya in 1986. He was devoted to sustaining the Contras in part because he had experienced the betrayal of our South Vietnamese allies to the Communists and didn’t want to see it happen again. Kerry, on the other hand, worked to hand over the country to the North Vietnamese Communists and wanted the Sandinistas to stay in power in Nicaragua.
Under pressure from the Contras, however, Sandinista communist dictator Daniel Ortega eventually agreed to hold a free election, which he lost in 1990, and the communist terrorist movement in neighboring El Salvador collapsed.
Ortega had been “elected” president in 1984, but the election was rigged and stacked in favor of the Sandinistas. Ortega’s main opponent, Arturo Cruz, declined to run after violent Sandinista mobs were unleashed on him and his supporters.
Ortega ran for the presidency again in 1996 and 2001 and lost both times. In 1998, his stepdaughter accused him of sexually molesting and raping her since she was 11 years old. She said the abuse began in 1979, when Ortega and the Sandinistas took power.
Dealing With Dictators
Kerry’s opposition to Reagan’s policy was so intense that he traveled to Managua, Nicaragua, with Senator Harkin to offer personal support to Ortega on April 18, 1985. A congressional vote on aid to the Contras was just days away. Kerry wanted to negotiate with the communists in Nicaragua and “give peace a chance.” Like Neville Chamberlain waving a printed statement hailing “peace for our time” with Hitler, Kerry brought back a peace proposal to derail Reagan’s request for Contra aid.
One day after Kerry and Harkin left, Ortega extended the government’s repressive state of emergency. Then, one day after the House of Representatives rejected the Reagan aid request for the freedom fighters, Ortega went to Moscow to collect a $200 million loan.
A new book by the Boston Globe on Kerry’s Senate career quotes Kerry as saying that he was “as mad as anyone” that Ortega went to Moscow. But Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd said, “Where did my colleagues think he was going to go? Disney World? The man is a Marxist.”
AIM said that Kerry’s dealings with Ortega are worth noting in the context of the Reagan legacy and Kerry’s run for the White House. “This is the Kerry record,” said Cliff Kincaid. The media should not hide it, even though he will want to run from it.”
A former Democrat, Reagan became a Republican and a staunch anti-communist. As an actor, he fought the communists in Hollywood. As president, he began the process that resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Union, which he described as the “evil empire.” He challenged the communists to tear down the Berlin Wall, and it came down about two years later.
Much has been made of the friendly relationship between Reagan and then-House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill. While they were personal friends, O’Neill was strongly opposed to U.S. aid to the Contras. O’Neill’s chief of staff went on to become a famous television journalist?Chris Matthews. But O’Neill wasn’t the only Massachusetts liberal who tried to sabotage Reagan’s pro-freedom policies. Rep. Edward Boland of Massachusetts became famous for an amendment in his name that tried to restrict U.S. aid to the Contras. And then, of course, there was Kerry.
To this day, Kerry offers no apologies for his performance. His website says nothing about his dealings with the Communist Sandinistas. However, in a reference to Kerry’s activities at the time, it says that he worked at “holding Oliver North account-able.” But North received legal advice from the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board that congressional restrictions on aid to the freedom fighters didn’t cover the National Security Council staff.
Regarding the claim that Kerry tried to hold him “accountable,” North said, “There is only one problem: it’s not true.” North said that Kerry wasn’t on the committee investigating the Iran-Contra affair, and never questioned him about supporting the Nicaraguan resistance.
Kerry’s claim about holding North “accountable” is apparently based on the activities of the controversial committee he ran that attempted to smear Contra supporters as drug traffickers.
Kerry also opposed the Reagan-North policy of confronting terrorists. In his new book, Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism, conservative author and commentator Sean Hannity uncovered a letter from Kerry objecting to the U.S. raid on Libya. In the letter, Kerry appears to buy into Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s lie that the U.S. had killed his “adopted daughter” by claiming that the raid had targeted the dictator’s family. Kerry said that “our response was not proportional to the disco bombing and even violated the Administration’s own guidelines to hit clearly defined terrorist targets?” Kerry said it was “repugnant” to go after Gadhafi in this way.
Kerry found many of Reagan’s views and policies repugnant. “I’m proud that I stood against Ronald Reagan, not with him, when his intelligence agencies were abusing the Constitution of the United States and when he was running an illegal war in Central America,” Kerry told the Democratic National Committee last year.
The Weekly Standard also found the following quotation from Kerry, delivered to liberal journalist Bill Moyers. The Reagan/Bush administration, said Kerry, was “willing to literally put the Constitution at risk because they believed there was somehow a higher order of things, that the ends do in fact justify the means. That’s the most Marxist, totalitarian doctrine I’ve ever heard of in my life?”
So Kerry found Marxism in an anti-communist policy of the Reagan administration but couldn’t find it in Managua, Nicaragua, where a communist and alleged pedophile was running the show. These controversial views are certainly worthy of news coverage and comment.
WILL GADHAFI ESCAPE JUSTICE IN TERROR WAR?
Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who has the blood of hundreds of innocent Americans on his hands, has been welcomed back into the “international community” and recently made a triumphant visit to the European Union headquarters, where he received a boxed set of euro coins. The press didn’t speculate as to whether or not Gadhafi would apologize for mass murder and terrorism. It was simply not an issue. Not only did Gadhafi not apologize, the rehabilitated dictator denounced U.S. policy in Iraq and talked about returning to the days of car bombs and using “explosive belts.”
American Jeremy Hall is one of Gadhafi’s victims, seeking justice 18 years after being seriously wounded and disabled in the Berlin LaBelle disco bombing carried out by Gadhafi’s henchmen. He was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, off-duty at the time. Hall was recently in Washington, D.C. asking members of the Congress for help and the media for publicity. But most journalists would rather write about mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners and whether the U.S. engages in torture.
Hall has a radical idea?that the Libyan regime should pay a price, finally, for killing and injuring Americans in that horrific incident. It may not be deemed newsworthy by Al Jazeera, but shouldn’t American reporters cover this demand for justice?
The Bomb Blast
In an interview, Hall described a blast blowing him through a door, burning skin falling off victims, picking up someone’s severed leg, and trying to help other seriously injured people in the chaos. The disco was targeted by Libya because it was frequented by U.S. servicemen. Hall suffered hearing loss and other wounds and lives on disability payments.
More importantly, however, he is concerned that the U.S. government has left its soldiers on the battlefield. The victims of LaBelle were two dead U.S. servicemen, both friends of Hall, a Turkish woman, and 230 wounded, including 80 U.S. military personnel.
Some think Libya has settled the much-publicized Pan Am 103 bombing case. This bombing killed 270 people, including 189 Americans. However, only one Libyan intelligence agent got a prison term and the regime agreed to pay some money to the families of the victims. Gadhafi himself escaped justice through a deal brokered by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. And since Gadhafi has now agreed to give up his weapons of mass destruction, the dictator has received a bonus?U.S. economic sanctions were lifted, enabling U.S. oil companies to return and make money for themselves and the regime.
The Reagan Strike
But those economic sanctions were imposed on Libya before Gadhafi ordered the destruction of Pan Am 103. The sanctions were imposed in 1986 after Libya bombed the Berlin disco. President Reagan, citing hard evidence of Libyan involvement, ordered a retaliatory strike over this act of war and bombed several Libyan targets. But the bombs missed Gadhafi, and the dictator got the last laugh by peddling a phony story to the Western media that his “adopted daughter” had been killed. People felt sorry for Gadhafi, rather than his hundreds of victims, and Reagan was depicted as a barbarian.
Germany is still insisting on compensation from Libya for the disco atrocity. The U.S., however, doesn’t seem to be pressing the issue, which is one reason why Jeremy Hall and other victims came to Washington for help.
In a link to Iraq, evidence has emerged that the LaBelle attack was carried out under the direction of Gadhafi himself, and that it was executed by Libyan intelligence agents assisted by Yasser Mohammed Chreidi, a Palestinian member of the Abu Nidal Organization.
Abu Nidal left Libya in 1998 and relocated eventually to Iraq, under the protection of Saddam Hussein. In November 2002, he died in Iraq under mysterious circumstances. Iraq claimed he committed suicide. A writer for Time called it an “assisted suicide,” since he reportedly had several gunshots to the head. It’s not clear why he died or was killed. But the State Department said the fact that Nidal died in Iraq was further proof of Iraq’s support of terrorism. It was Libya, however, that worked with the organization to kill two American soldiers and injure 80 others in Berlin.
Can the media put aside the Abu Ghraib Iraqi prisoner abuse story long enough to focus on the American victims of Gadhafi?
Gadhafi Attacks Reagan
Acting confident that he has escaped justice, Gadhafi on June 5 stated, “I regret that former U.S. President Ronald Reagan had died without ever being tried for 1986 air strikes on Libya.” Last March, while Libya was engaged in talks with the U.S., Gadhafi told Libya’s official news agency, “Ronald Reagan is an invalid and is like a dog that hides under the table from his master, who is also his wife.”
The American Libyan Freedom Alliance condemned the comments of Gadhafi and expressed the hope that U.S. leaders would demand an official apology from the Libyan government. It said Gadhafi should be tried for terrorism and crimes against Americans.
What You Can Do
Send cards or letters of your own choosing to Mike Wallace of CBS News and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.
Mr. Mike Wallace
524 West 57th Street
New York, N.Y. 10019
Mr. Andrew Card
Chief of Staff
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500