How Reagan Promoted Genocide

Special Report: A newly discovered document reveals that President Reagan and his national security team in 1981 approved Guatemala’s extermination of both leftist guerrillas and their “civilian support mechanisms,” a green light that opened a path to genocide against hundreds of Mayan villages, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Soon after taking office in 1981, President Ronald Reagan’s national security team agreed to supply military aid to the brutal right-wing regime in Guatemala to pursue the goal of exterminating not only “Marxist guerrillas” but their “civilian support mechanisms,” according to a newly disclosed document from the National Archives.

Over the next several years, the military assistance from the Reagan administration helped the Guatemalan army do just that, engaging in the slaughter of some 100,000 people, including what a truth commission deemed genocide against the Mayan Indians in the northern highlands.

Vernon Walters, a former deputy director of the CIA who served as President Ronald Reagan’s ambassador-at-large in the early 1980s.

Recently discovered documents at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, also reveal that Reagan’s White House was reaching out to Israel in a scheme to circumvent congressional restrictions on military equipment for the Guatemalan military.

In 1983, national security aide Oliver North (who later became a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal) reported in a memo that Reagan’s Deputy National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane (another key Iran-Contra figure) was approaching Israel over how to deliver 10 UH-1H helicopters to Guatemala to give the army greater mobility in its counterinsurgency war.

According to these documents that I found at the Reagan library – and other records declassified in the late 1990s – it’s also clear that Reagan and his administration were well aware of the butchery underway in Guatemala and elsewhere in Central America.

The relaxed attitude toward the Guatemalan regime’s brutality took shape in spring 1981 as Reagan’s State Department “advised our Central American embassies that it has been studying ways to restore a closer, cooperative relationship with Guatemala,” according to a White House “Situation Room Checklist” dated April 8, 1981.

The document added: “State believes a number of changes have occurred which could make Guatemalan leaders more receptive to a new U.S. initiative: the Guatemalans view the new administration as more sympathetic to their problems [and] they are less suspect of the U.S. role in El Salvador,” where the Reagan administration was expanding support for another right-wing regime infamous for slaughtering its political opponents, including Catholic clergy.

“State has concluded that any attempt to reestablish a dialogue would require some initial, condition-free demonstration of our goodwill. However, this could not include military sales which would provoke serious U.S. public and congressional criticism. State will undertake a series of confidence building measures, free of preconditions, which minimize potential conflict with existing legislation,” which then barred military assistance to Guatemala because of its long record of human rights crimes.

The “checklist” added that the State Department “has also decided that the administration should engage the Guatemalan government at the highest level in a dialogue on our bilateral relations and the initiatives we can take together to improve them. Secretary [of State Alexander] Haig has designated [retired] General Vernon Walters as his personal emissary to initiate this process with President [Fernando Romeo] Lucas [Garcia].

“If Lucas is prepared to give assurances that he will take steps to halt government involvement in the indiscriminate killing of political opponents and to foster a climate conducive to a viable electoral process, the U.S. will be prepared to approve some military sales immediately.”

But the operative word in that paragraph was “indiscriminate.” The Reagan administration expressed no problem with killing civilians if they were considered supporters of the guerrillas who had been fighting against the country’s ruling oligarchs and generals since the 1950s when the CIA organized the overthrow of Guatemala’s reformist President Jacobo Arbenz.

Sparing the ‘Non Politicized’

The distinction was spelled out in “Talking Points” for Walters to deliver in a face-to-face meeting with General Lucas and his senior advisers. As edited inside the White House in April 1981, the “Talking Points” read: “The President and Secretary Haig have designated me as [their] personal emissary to discuss bilateral relations on an urgent basis.

“Both the President and the Secretary recognize that your country is engaged in a war with Marxist guerrillas. We are deeply concerned about externally supported Marxist subversion in Guatemala and other countries in the region. As you are aware, we have already taken steps to assist Honduras and El Salvador resist this aggression.

“The Secretary has sent me here to see if we can work out a way to provide material assistance to your government. … We have minimized negative public statements by US officials on the situation in Guatemala. … We have arranged for the Commerce Department to take steps that will permit the sale of $3 million worth of military trucks and Jeeps to the Guatemalan army. …

“With your concurrence, we propose to provide you and any officers you might designate an intelligence briefing on regional developments from our perspective. Our desire, however, is to go substantially beyond the steps I have just outlined. We wish to reestablish our traditional military supply and training relationship as soon as possible.

“As we are both aware, this has not yet been feasible because of our internal political and legal constraints relating to the use by some elements of your security forces of deliberate and indiscriminate killing of persons not involved with the guerrilla forces or their civilian support mechanisms. I am not referring here to the regrettable but inevitable death of innocents though error in combat situations, but to what appears to us a calculated use of terror to immobilize non politicized people or potential opponents. …

“If you could give me your assurance that you will take steps to halt official involvement in the killing of persons not involved with the guerrilla forces or their civilian support mechanism … we would be in a much stronger position to defend successfully with the Congress a decision to begin to resume our military supply relationship with your government.”

In other words, though the “talking points” were framed as an appeal to reduce the “indiscriminate” slaughter of “non politicized people,” they amounted to an acceptance of scorched-earth tactics against people involved with the guerrillas and “their civilian support mechanism.” The way that played out in Guatemala – as in nearby El Salvador – was the massacring of peasants in regions considered sympathetic to leftist insurgents.

Cables on Killings

As reflected in the “Talking Points” and as confirmed by other U.S. government documents from that time period, the Reagan administration was well aware that the Guatemalan military was engaged in mass killings of Guatemalan civilians.

According to one “secret” cable also from April 1981 — and declassified in the 1990s — the CIA was confirming Guatemalan government massacres even as Reagan was moving to loosen the military aid ban. On April 17, 1981, a CIA cable described an army massacre at Cocob, near Nebaj in the Ixil Indian territory, because the population was believed to support leftist guerrillas.

A CIA source reported that “the social population appeared to fully support the guerrillas” and “the soldiers were forced to fire at anything that moved.” The CIA cable added that “the Guatemalan authorities admitted that ‘many civilians’ were killed in Cocob, many of whom undoubtedly were non-combatants.” [Many of the Guatemalan documents declassified in the 1990s can be found at the National Security Archive’s Web site.]

In May 1981, despite these ongoing atrocities, Reagan dispatched Walters to tell the Guatemalan leaders that the new U.S. administration wanted to lift the human rights embargoes on military equipment that former President Jimmy Carter and Congress had imposed.

In essence, Walters was giving a green light to Guatemala to continue the practice of slaughtering guerrillas and their civilian supporters, a counterinsurgency strategy that was practiced during some of the darkest days of the Vietnam War in such infamous incidents as the My Lai massacre.

The “Talking Points” also put the Reagan administration in line with the fiercely anti-communist regimes elsewhere in Latin America, where right-wing “death squads” operated with impunity liquidating not only armed guerrillas but civilians who were judged sympathetic to left-wing causes like demanding greater economic equality and social justice.

In the 1970s, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and other South American countries even banded together in a cross-border assassination program that hunted down leftist and other political opponents around the world, including inside the United States.

Called “Operation Condor,” the wave of assassinations reached Washington D.C. on Sept. 21, 1976, when Chilean intelligence assets exploded a car bomb killing former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and American co-worker Ronni Moffitt as they drove down Massachusetts Avenue through an area known as Embassy Row.

The original cover story for the assassination plot had been a meeting at the CIA with Vernon Walters, who was then deputy CIA director under CIA Director George H.W. Bush. Walters also had served as U.S. military attaché to Brazil at the time of a right-wing military coup in 1964.

Reagan again turned to Walters in 1981 to serve as the President’s ambassador-at-large. One of his key roles was coordinating with right-wing governments across Latin America in their escalating wars against leftist insurgencies.

Right-Wing Butchery

Despite his aw shucks style, Reagan found virtually every anticommunist action justified, no matter how brutal. From his eight years in the White House, there is no historical indication that he was morally troubled by the bloodbath and even genocide that occurred in Central America while he was shipping hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to the implicated forces.

The death toll was staggering — an estimated 70,000 or more political killings in El Salvador, possibly 20,000 slain from the Contra war in Nicaragua, about 200 political “disappearances” in Honduras and some 100,000 people eliminated during a resurgence of political violence in Guatemala. The one consistent element in these slaughters was the overarching Cold War rationalization, emanating in large part from Ronald Reagan’s White House.

Despite their frequent claims to the contrary, the evidence is now overwhelming that Reagan and his advisers had a clear understanding of the extraordinary brutality going on in Guatemala and elsewhere, based on their own internal documents. As they prepared to ship military equipment to Guatemala, White House officials knew that the Guatemalan military was engaged in massacres of the Mayans and other perceived enemies.

According to a State Department cable on Oct. 5, 1981, when Guatemalan leaders met again with Walters, they left no doubt about their plans. The cable said Gen. Lucas “made clear that his government will continue as before — that the repression will continue. He reiterated his belief that the repression is working and that the guerrilla threat will be successfully routed.”

Human rights groups saw the same picture. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission released a report on Oct. 15, 1981, blaming the Guatemalan government for “thousands of illegal executions.” [Washington Post, Oct. 16, 1981]

But the Reagan administration was set on whitewashing the ugly scene. A State Department “white paper,” released in December 1981, blamed the violence on leftist “extremist groups” and their “terrorist methods” prompted and supported by Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

What the documents from the Reagan library now make clear is that the administration was not simply struggling ineffectively to rein in these massacres – as the U.S. press corps typically reported – but was fully onboard with the slaughter of people who were part of the guerrillas’ “civilian support mechanisms.”

More Massacres

U.S. intelligence agencies continued to pick up evidence of these government-sponsored massacres. One CIA report in February 1982 described an army sweep through the so-called Ixil Triangle in central El Quiche province.

“The commanding officers of the units involved have been instructed to destroy all towns and villages which are cooperating with the Guerrilla Army of the Poor [the EGP] and eliminate all sources of resistance,” the report said. “Since the operation began, several villages have been burned to the ground, and a large number of guerrillas and collaborators have been killed.”

The CIA report explained the army’s modus operandi: “When an army patrol meets resistance and takes fire from a town or village, it is assumed that the entire town is hostile and it is subsequently destroyed.” When the army encountered an empty village, it was “assumed to have been supporting the EGP, and it is destroyed. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of refugees in the hills with no homes to return to. …

“The army high command is highly pleased with the initial results of the sweep operation, and believes that it will be successful in destroying the major EGP support area and will be able to drive the EGP out of the Ixil Triangle. … The well documented belief by the army that the entire Ixil Indian population is pro-EGP has created a situation in which the army can be expected to give no quarter to combatants and non-combatants alike.”

On Feb. 2, 1982, Richard Childress, another of Reagan’s national security aides, wrote a “secret” memo to his colleagues summing up this reality on the ground:

“As we move ahead on our approach to Latin America, we need to consciously address the unique problems posed by Guatemala. Possessed of some of the worst human rights records in the region, … it presents a policy dilemma for us. The abysmal human rights record makes it, in its present form, unworthy of USG [U.S. government] support. …

“Beset by a continuous insurgency for at least 15 years, the current leadership is completely committed to a ruthless and unyielding program of suppression. Hardly a soldier could be found that has not killed a ‘guerrilla.’”

The Rise of Rios Montt

However, Reagan remained committed to supplying military hardware to Guatemala’s brutal regime. So, the administration welcomed Gen. Efrain Rios Montt’s March 1982 overthrow of the thoroughly bloodstained Gen. Lucas.

An avowed fundamentalist Christian, Rios Montt impressed Official Washington where the Reagan administration immediately revved up its propaganda machinery to hype the new dictator’s “born-again” status as proof of his deep respect for human life. Reagan hailed Rios Montt as “a man of great personal integrity.”

By July 1982, however, Rios Montt had begun a new scorched-earth campaign called his “rifles and beans” policy. The slogan meant that pacified Indians would get “beans,” while all others could expect to be the target of army “rifles.” In October, Rios Montt secretly gave carte blanche to the feared “Archivos” intelligence unit to expand “death squad” operations. Based at the Presidential Palace, the “Archivos” masterminded many of Guatemala’s most notorious assassinations.

The U.S. embassy was soon hearing more accounts of the army conducting Indian massacres. On Oct, 21, 1982, one cable described how three embassy officers tried to check out some of these reports but ran into bad weather and canceled the inspection. Still, the cable put the best possible spin on the situation. Though unable to check out the massacre reports, the embassy officials did “reach the conclusion that the army is completely up front about allowing us to check alleged massacre sites and to speak with whomever we wish.”

The next day, the embassy fired off its analysis that the Guatemalan government was the victim of a communist-inspired “disinformation campaign.” Dated Oct. 22, 1982, the analysis concluded “that a concerted disinformation campaign is being waged in the U.S. against the Guatemalan government by groups supporting the communist insurgency in Guatemala.”

The Reagan administration’s report claimed that “conscientious human rights and church organizations,” including Amnesty International, had been duped by the communists and “may not fully appreciate that they are being utilized. … The campaign’s object is simple: to deny the Guatemalan army the weapons and equipment needed from the U.S. to defeat the guerrillas. …

“If those promoting such disinformation can convince the Congress, through the usual opinion-makers — the media, church and human rights groups — that the present GOG [government of Guatemala] is guilty of gross human rights violations they know that the Congress will refuse Guatemala the military assistance it needs. Those backing the communist insurgency are betting on an application, or rather misapplication, of human rights policy so as to damage the GOG and assist themselves.”

Hailing the Dictator

Reagan personally joined this P.R. campaign seeking to discredit human rights investigators and others who were reporting accurately on human rights crimes that the administration knew, all to well, were true. On Dec. 4, 1982, after meeting with Rios Montt, Reagan hailed the general as “totally dedicated to democracy” and added that Rios Montt’s government had been “getting a bum rap” on human rights. Reagan discounted the mounting reports of hundreds of Maya villages being eradicated.

On Jan. 6, 1983, Rios Montt was informed that the United States would resume military sales to Guatemala. The dictator expressed his thanks, according to a cable from the U.S. Embassy, “saying that he had been convinced that the USG had never abandoned Guatemala. He commented that the guerrillas in country and its propaganda machine abroad would now launch concerted attacks on both governments.”

On Jan. 7, 1983, Reagan formally lifted the ban on military aid to Guatemala and authorized the sale of $6 million in military hardware. Approval covered spare parts for UH-1H helicopters and A-37 aircraft used in counterinsurgency operations. Radios, batteries and battery charges were also in the package.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government’s cover-up of the Guatemalan bloodshed continued. State Department spokesman John Hughes said political violence in Guatemalan cities had “declined dramatically” and that rural conditions had improved too.

In February 1983, however, a secret CIA cable noted a rise in “suspect right-wing violence” with kidnappings of students and teachers. Bodies of victims were appearing in ditches and gullies. CIA sources traced these political murders to Rios Montt’s order to the “Archivos” in October to “apprehend, hold, interrogate and dispose of suspected guerrillas as they saw fit.”

Despite these grisly facts on the ground, the annual State Department human rights survey praised the supposedly improved human rights situation in Guatemala. “The overall conduct of the armed forces had improved by late in the year” 1982, the report stated.

A different picture — far closer to the secret information held by the U.S. government — was coming from independent human rights investigators. On March 17, 1983, Americas Watch condemned the Guatemalan army for human rights atrocities against the Indian population.

New York attorney Stephen L. Kass said these findings included proof that the government carried out “virtually indiscriminate murder of men, women and children of any farm regarded by the army as possibly supportive of guerrilla insurgents.”

Rural women suspected of guerrilla sympathies were raped before execution, Kass said, adding that children were “thrown into burning homes. They are thrown in the air and speared with bayonets. We heard many, many stories of children being picked up by the ankles and swung against poles so their heads are destroyed.” [AP, March 17, 1983]

Involving Israel

Publicly, senior Reagan officials continued to put on a happy face. In June 1983, special envoy Richard B. Stone praised “positive changes” in Rios Montt’s government, and Rios Montt pressed the United States for 10 UH-1H helicopters and six naval patrol boats, all the better to hunt guerrillas and their sympathizers.

Since Guatemala lacked the U.S. Foreign Military Sales credits or the cash to buy the helicopters, Reagan’s national security team looked for unconventional ways to arrange the delivery of the equipment that would give the Guatemalan army greater access to mountainous areas where guerrillas and their civilian supporters were hiding.

On Aug. 1, 1983, National Security Council aides Oliver North and Alfonso Sapia-Bosch reported to National Security Advisor William P. Clark that his deputy Robert “Bud” McFarlane was planning to exploit his Israeli channels to secure the helicopters for Guatemala. [For more on McFarlanes’s Israeli channels, see Consortiumnews.com’s “How Neocons Messed Up the Mideast.”]

“With regard to the loan of ten helicopters, it is [our] understanding that Bud will take this up with the Israelis,” wrote North and Sapia-Bosch. “There are expectations that they would be forthcoming. Another possibility is to have an exercise with the Guatemalans. We would then use US mechanics and Guatemalan parts to bring their helicopters up to snuff.”

However, more political changes were afoot in Guatemala. Rios Montt’s vengeful Christian fundamentalism had hurtled so out of control, even by Guatemalan standards, that Gen. Oscar Mejia Victores seized power in another coup on Aug. 8, 1983.

Despite the power shift, Guatemalan security forces continued to murder with impunity, finally going so far that even the U.S. Embassy objected. When three Guatemalans working for the U.S. Agency for International Development were slain in November 1983, U.S. Ambassador Frederic Chapin suspected that “Archivos” hit squads were sending a message to the United States to back off even mild pressure for human rights.

In late November, in a brief show of displeasure, the administration postponed the sale of $2 million in helicopter spare parts. The next month, however, Reagan sent the spare parts anyway. In 1984, Reagan succeeded, too, in pressuring Congress to approve $300,000 in military training for the Guatemalan army.

By mid-1984, Chapin, who had grown bitter about the army’s stubborn brutality, was gone, replaced by a far-right political appointee named Alberto Piedra, who was all for increased military assistance to Guatemala. In January 1985, Americas Watch issued a report observing that Reagan’s State Department “is apparently more concerned with improving Guatemala’s image than in improving its human rights.”

According to now declassified U.S. records, the Guatemalan reality included torture out of the Middle Ages. A Defense Intelligence Agency cable reported that the Guatemalan military used an air base in Retalhuleu during the mid-1980s as a center for coordinating the counterinsurgency campaign in southwest Guatemala.

At the base, pits were filled with water to hold captured suspects. “Reportedly there were cages over the pits and the water level was such that the individuals held within them were forced to hold on to the bars in order to keep their heads above water and avoid drowning,” the DIA report stated. Later, the pits were filled with concrete to eliminate the evidence.

The Guatemalan military used the Pacific Ocean as another dumping spot for political victims, according to the DIA report. Bodies of insurgents tortured to death and of live prisoners marked for “disappearance” were loaded on planes that flew out over the ocean where the soldiers would shove the victims into the water.

Regional Slaughter

Guatemala, of course, was not the only Central American country where Reagan and his administration supported brutal counterinsurgency operations — and then sought to cover up the bloody facts.

Reagan’s attempted falsification of the historical record was a hallmark of the conflicts in El Salvador and Nicaragua as well. In one case, Reagan personally lashed out at an individual human rights investigator named Reed Brody, a New York lawyer who had collected affidavits from more than 100 witnesses to atrocities carried out by the U.S.-supported Contra rebels in Nicaragua fighting to overthrow the country’s leftist Sandinista government.

Angered by the revelations about his pet “freedom-fighters,” Reagan denounced Brody in a speech on April 15, 1985. The President called Brody “one of dictator [Daniel] Ortega’s supporters, a sympathizer who has openly embraced Sandinismo.”

Privately, Reagan had a far more accurate understanding of the true nature of the Contras. At one point in the Contra war, Reagan turned to CIA official Duane Clarridge and demanded that the Contras be used to destroy some Soviet-supplied helicopters that had arrived in Nicaragua. In his memoir, Clarridge recalled that “President Reagan pulled me aside and asked, ‘Dewey, can’t you get those vandals of yours to do this job.’” [See Clarridge’s A Spy for All Seasons.]

It was not until 1999, a decade after Ronald Reagan left office, that the shocking scope of the grisly reality about the atrocities in Guatemala was revealed by a truth commission that drew heavily on documents that President Bill Clinton had ordered declassified.

On Feb. 25, 1999, the Historical Clarification Commission estimated that the 34-year civil war had claimed the lives of some 200,000 people with the most savage bloodletting occurring in the 1980s. The panel estimated that the army was responsible for 93 percent of the killings and leftist guerrillas for three percent. Four percent were listed as unresolved.

The report documented that in the 1980s, the army committed 626 massacres against Mayan villages. “The massacres that eliminated entire Mayan villages … are neither perfidious allegations nor figments of the imagination, but an authentic chapter in Guatemala’s history,” the commission concluded.

The army “completely exterminated Mayan communities, destroyed their livestock and crops,” the report said. In the northern highlands, the report termed the slaughter “genocide.” [Washington Post, Feb. 26, 1999]

Besides carrying out murder and “disappearances,” the army routinely engaged in torture and rape. “The rape of women, during torture or before being murdered, was a common practice” by the military and paramilitary forces, the report found.

American Blame

The report added that the “government of the United States, through various agencies including the CIA, provided direct and indirect support for some [of these] state operations.” The report concluded that the U.S. government also gave money and training to a Guatemalan military that committed “acts of genocide” against the Mayans.

“Believing that the ends justified everything, the military and the state security forces blindly pursued the anticommunist struggle, without respect for any legal principles or the most elemental ethical and religious values, and in this way, completely lost any semblance of human morals,” said the commission chairman, Christian Tomuschat, a German jurist.

“Within the framework of the counterinsurgency operations carried out between 1981 and 1983, in certain regions of the country agents of the Guatemalan state committed acts of genocide against groups of the Mayan people,” Tomuschat added. [NYT, Feb. 26, 1999]

The report did not single out culpable individuals either in Guatemala or the United States. But the American official most directly responsible for renewing U.S. military aid to Guatemala and encouraging its government during the 1980s was Ronald Reagan.

The major U.S. newspapers covered the truth commission’s report though only fleetingly. The New York Times made it the lead story the next day. The Washington Post played it inside on page A19. Both cited the troubling role of the CIA and other U.S. government agencies in the Guatemalan tragedy. But, again, no U.S. official was held accountable by name.

On March 1, 1999, the Washington Post’s neoconservative editorial board addressed the findings but did not confront them, except to blame President Carter for having cut off military aid to Guatemala in the 1970s, thus supposedly preventing the United States from curbing Guatemala’s horrific human rights conduct.

The editorial argued that the arms embargo removed “what minimal restraint even a feeble American presence supplied.” The editorial made no reference to the substantial evidence that Reagan’s resumption of military aid in the 1980s made the Guatemalan army more efficient in its slaughter of its enemies, armed and unarmed. With no apparent sense of irony, the Post editorial ended by stating: “We need our own truth commission” – though there was no follow-up of that idea.

During a visit to Central America, on March 10, 1999, President Clinton apologized for the past U.S. support of right-wing regimes in Guatemala dating back to 1954. “For the United States, it is important that I state clearly that support for military forces and intelligence units which engaged in violence and widespread repression was wrong, and the United States must not repeat that mistake,” Clinton said. [Washington Post, March 11, 1999]

However, back in Washington, there was no interest, let alone determination, to hold anyone accountable for aiding and abetting the butchery. The story of the Guatemalan genocide and the Reagan administration’s complicity quickly disappeared into the great American memory hole.

For human rights crimes in the Balkans and in Africa, the United States has demanded international tribunals to arrest and to try violators and their political patrons for war crimes. In Iraq, President George W. Bush celebrated the trial and execution of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein for politically motivated killings.

Even Rios Montt, now 86, after years of evading justice under various amnesties, was finally indicted in Guatemala in 2012 for genocide and crimes against humanity. He is awaiting trial.

Yet, even as Latin America’s struggling democracies have made tentative moves toward holding some of their worst human rights abusers accountable, no substantive discussion has occurred in the United States about facing up to the horrendous record of the 1980s and Reagan’s guilt.

Rather than a debate about Reagan as a war criminal who assisted genocide, the former president is honored as a conservative icon with his name attached to Washington National Airport and scores of other public sites. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews gushes over Reagan as “one of the all-time greats,” and Democrats regularly praise Reagan in comparison to modern right-wing Republicans.

When the U.S. news media does briefly acknowledge the barbarities of the 1980s in Central America, it is in the context of how the little countries are bravely facing up to their violent pasts. There is never any suggestion that the United States should follow suit.

To this day, Ronald Reagan – the U.S. president who signaled to the Guatemalan generals that it would be alright to exterminate “Marxist guerrillas” and their “civilian support mechanisms” – remains a beloved figure in Official Washington and in many parts of the United States.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

 

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21 comments on “How Reagan Promoted Genocide

  1. incontinent reader on said:

    Another fine article. It would be helpful, maybe in a follow up to draw the connection between Eliot Abrams and Negroponte in Central America, and our COIN policies in Iraq twenty years later (again with Negroponte spearheading it, this time with Robert Ford (his number two man)- the same Ford who resurfaced as Ambassador to Syria, and who is suspected to have coordinated the COIN special ops program resulting in the Homs, Hama, and Houlas massacres and the other terrorism atrocities that have occurred in Syria since 2011.)

  2. Ronald Reagan was an actor – both in the Hollywood and at the White House. He copied the scripwriters and never applied his brain. During his last days in the White House, he used to spent only two-hours in the Oval Office and rest of 22 hours insie his bedroom.

    Many Americans don’t know that Reagan was a great admirer of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of fanatic Jewish Chabad group. In April 1982, Reagan proclaimed a National Day of Reflection to honor him.

    Ronald Reagan is not the only US president who fits the definition of a “War Criminal”. Truman, Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, Dubya Bush and Barack Obama – all can share that award.

    In 1982, President Ronald Reagan sent 600 Marines to Lebanon to protect Israeli interests. On October 23, 1983, Israelis carried a bombing operation at US Marine barracks at Beirut Internation Airport – killing 241 Marines, mostly aseleep. A few minutes later, a similar explosion blew up a French military barrack – killing 56 French soldiers. The purpose of the operation was to trigger US invasion of Lebanon.

    In 1986, President Ronald Reagan sent 66 US jets to bomb Tripoli and Benghazi. The jets flew from British military bases and killed 100 civilians including one of Qaddafi’s adopted young daughter. Reagan supported his decision by saying: “When our citizens are attacked or abused anywhere in the world on the direct orders of hostile regimes, we will respond so long as I’m in this office.” Reagan was referring to the Berlin Dico bombing, which according to German TV, was a CIA-Mossad operation.

    http://rehmat1.com/2011/03/24/americas-war-presidents/

    • “…Truman, Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, Dubya Bush and Barack Obama – all can share that award.”

      Thank you for ruining everything … now nothing here is believable.

  3. incontinent reader on said:

    One had the sense that when Walters entered the scene it was curtains or lights out- the final spectre of death for any noncompliant leader he was sent to admonish.

  4. F. G. Sanford on said:

    When I was a kid, we had a family friend who had escaped from the Soviet Union and ended up in Israel. As a gifted physicist, he had little difficulty making himself useful to Ben Gurion’s government. To his chagrin, he found that Israel was even less inclined to let him leave than were the Soviets. So, he managed another escape, and ended up in the United States. Again, he was able to make himself useful. But he remained bewildered by American politics. One evening, we were at the dinner table. The topic of Reagan came up. In his heavy Russian accent, he exclaimed, “Akkk-torrr for Prrresss-ident. Izzz abbbsssUUURRRD”! The collective intellect of the enlightened world must roll its eyes in disbelief at our leadership choices. Chris Matthews is fond of that “American Exceptionalism” rhetoric. He, like most Americans, fails to distinguish between exceptional and delusional. Absurd indeed.

  5. gregorylkruse on said:

    This article makes me proud to be a supporter of Robert Parry and ConsortiumNews. It is a worthy cause to publish true history even though most people don’t want to hear about it. Instead of the “memory hole” it should be called the “forget it hole”.

  6. Thanks for staying on top of this story. I remember clearly the adamant denials by administration figures, Congressmen, and their enablers in the mainstream media, that any of these events were happening and then, when the forensic evidence became too clear, their statements that the origins of the massacres were some kind of mystery. These people were serial murderers and liars. My disgust was rekindled as the military, government officials, and the press debated the merits of the “Salvador Option” in Iraq – embracing the exact tactics that were so strenuously denied twenty years before.
    These types of counterinsurgency campaigns are terrorism , and the practitioners and supporters are vicious murderers who need to be identified as such.

    • mmdccbslm on said:

      and the ‘drug war’ in Mexico is yet another example of the same people doing more damage.

  7. mmdccbslm on said:

    where is the surprise? this same president promoted genocide on the american unions and genocidal indifference to AIDS among gays.

  8. Good article that points out the biggest Reagan fault (and there were MANY of them) — his virtual embracing of terrorism. After reading books by people like H.Zinn, N.Chomsky, E.Herman, W.Blum etc, I’m not naive enough to believe that the US has ever been the internationally benevolent nation it likes to try to believe it is, but there were some presidents who (DEFINITELY NOT to their credit) reluctantly went along with military invasions and US terrorism abroad, while there were others who actively embraced, promoted, and initiated these deadly activities, and they include Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan. If there was a hell, it would have a special place for the likes of them…

    • nonsense on said:

      You know who started the policy of setting up puppet dictators and instigating terror in south america ? KENNEDY ! his administration was the one who set up this policy to prevent countries ‘taking their destinies into own hands’, following ‘the cuban example’. these are their words. as a result, ~100 million people died in south america in 50 years.

  9. more delusional nonesense

  10. Bruce Wilson on said:

    In researching for an Alternet article on Paul Ryan’s social security privatization scheme and the so-called “Chilean model”, I came across the fact (of which I had been unaware) that CONDOR documentation, showing the massive extent of the torture and killing had accidentally surfaced a few years back. Looks like CONDOR was of almost similar magnitude to the Guatemalan genocide (see “Born Under Punches: Ryan Social Security Ideas Pioneered By Brutal Military Dictatorship”).

  11. Jang Trang on said:

    Oh wow and I thought Reagan was the cool one.

    http://www.NetAnon.da.bz

  12. Reagen was merely doing his duty as the main figurehead politician lackey of the ruling-elite class, corporate USA, etc.

    Maintaining the elite-class status quo world-wide is of prime importance.

    Look at USA history for a long line of hostile actions taken against common folks inside and outside the USA to ensure the ever-upwards movement of wealth and power to the top of the socio-economic hierarchy.

    Basically, class warfare with the USA propaganda systems incredibly effective at indoctrinating its citizens into supporting their enslavers.

  13. NoOneYouKnow on said:

    Thanks for this article, Mr Parry. The US government was and remains one of the world’s greatest criminal organizations. Perhaps one day justice will be applied to our many war criminals.

  14. U.S. world politics are based on commerce, corporatism/capitalism and anti social, anti-socialist, anto communal, anti co-op, anti-grouping forc es even churches religions, that would constrict slave-labor, corporate ownership, and the U.S. Dollar.With the spectre of a rising Commmunist Block in Asia and a diminishing at home of economic power, the U.S. has chosen to beat theor slave -labour and favor the share holder class once again, they will builod military prowess on the backs of trhe peons, now bereft of union power, and without reasonalble recompense for thirty years to further enrichen the shareholder class, even if it be a foreigmn plutocratic or oligarcy, a Multi national compendium of even Asian banksters? That Reagan was a “Mouthpiece” is no surprise. That Obama fills the same role and for the same “shareholder” class is no surprise.

  15. These is one more razon bacause God say:

    PROPHECY FOR THE SPIRITS OF AMERICA: ISSUED BY UNIVERSAL LIVING Telepathy BY THE DIVINE FATHER LORD, by the Divine Father Jehova from ITS DIVINE HEAVENLY RESIDENCE AND FROM ALL OVER THE INFINITE COSMOS; TRANSCRIPTION of the COLOSSAL TELEPATHIC writing, handwritten by THE DIVINE FATHER SUN ALFA AND OMEGA (JESUS CHRIST) WHO ONCE AGAIN RETURN AS THE SON OF MAN, BRIGHT LIKE A SUN OF INFINITE WISDOM TO BRING A NEW LIGHT ON HUMAN KNOWLEDGE. –
    The spirits of America that requested the prove of life to God, they asked to be judged by the elements, within the very laws of life, because they did not know that was the feeling of being judged by the elements of a Planet in trouble , who did not know, because when you ask God, for life forms that are not known, such a request is made, starting from the largest innocence, that the mind can imagine, so that all the feelings that everyone has within their individuality, the spirit did not know, that is why it was written in the divine Gospel of God: Every spirit is tested in their own feelings, by God, and also is mentioned: The test of life, which means you are on a planet of related evidence ; spiritual tests and evidence testings.

    The Spirits of North America, did not suffer major damage in the Second World War, by men, because the damage left of the men were not asked to God, they requested the damage from the elements, if they provoked to violate the divine law of God, and raped her, because they improving, they did so based on unequal laws; the unequal does not please God, because inequality never reaches true happiness, the inequality perpetuates injustice and unhappiness, it produces a strange uneven ephemeral happiness, and rests on the injustice suffered by millions of people, trying to conquer happiness for all, without giving up the inequality, is simply a chimera, demonstrated by the irrefutable fact of hundreds of centuries consumed in unequal laws, the creators of happiness based on unequal laws, can dispose of millions of years ahead, and never achieve perfect happiness for all; the creators of a strange way of life, based on the inequality, wait for horrible moments , because it will be fulfilled in them, the divine judgment of the elements, first it will be cold, then water and finally fire; in the Judgment of the water the Oceans will overflow, flooding three-quarters of North America; the fire of the Sun, will scorch their land and it will be none a trace of water for drinking, because all of it will be evaporated and the elements will destroy in minutes what took years and centuries of work; the Economic Power of North America will be reduced by 70%, which is why it was written in the Divine Gospel of God: Seventy thousand times, this divine parable of God, meant a strange sensing, made in numerical imbalance, because 7 does not have an end average equity; halves of 7 are not equal, one has more, and the other less, the 1.000 represented the advent of a fair doctrine, it is the number of power, new power comes from the strange psychology of inequality, and means that all nations who were forced to live in the rough wake up and form a single nation, these nations manage to let go of what you create unbalanced and balanced, become independent of the old system of unequal laws, when the spirits of America, asked God, be judged by the elements, they did a crazy request, because the elements are infinite and have no limits, but instead the punishment of men against men, is limited and the damage it causes a war among men, soon are repaired, it is within the human limits; the experience that left the Second World War demonstrated that; the fall of America as a world power will be for poverty and this poverty is so immense that its inhabitants will be requesting food , and it will be fulfilled in them, that that was written in the divine gospel of God: For your deeds you will be judged; the American work, left a toll of millions of poor, of all classes, which in part were forced to do it; because the American beast, took the unusual debauchery of using force to impose its laws, and the proof of life was, not to be tempted in the use of force, because being God all love, all without exception , had asked him laws of love, as the divine final judgment, requested by Humanity to God, included everything imaginable, that is why those who are tempted in the use of force during the test of life, fall by the force, and the force of the elements, destroy them; but if they had sown love, they will receive Love. –

    Write by: ALPHA AND OMEGA
    read more in http://www.alfayomega.pe

  16. Cynicus42A on said:

    I’m very impressed by Robert Parry’s well-researched long form article. I knew about the US role in the 1954 coup d’etat against Jabobo Arbenz, but not about recently declassified 1980′s memos. I expect to return to http://consortiumnews.com/ .

    –Cynicus