In my previous post, I referred to an article by Robert Parry in which the great, but unfortunate effect Ronald Reagan’s presidency had on our country was described. Parry’s article prompted me to then read his recent book entitled America’s Stolen Narrative: From Washington and Madison to Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes to Obama . Assuming the story line of this thoroughly documented book is accurate, it provides an illuminating set of explanations for several crucially important events in America during the post-LBJ era beginning with the 1968 election of Richard Nixon. This book should be required reading for all Americans interested in the history of their country. Hopefully, this book will prompt a rewriting of America’s history over the last 50 years. The events described in this book include the following.
During the election year of 1968, President Johnson was desperately trying to end the war in Vietnam by arranging a peace treaty between the governments of North and South Vietnam. Presidential candidate Richard Nixon was concerned that if the Johnson administration was able to do that, Vice President and 1968 presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey would win the upcoming presidential election. Therefore, Nixon had his Republican representatives in Saigon convince the South Vietnam government that they should stall the pending peace negotiations with the promise that the South would get a better deal under a Nixon administration. The South then did back out of the 1968 negotiations in Paris and the war was not ended under Johnson’s watch. Instead, the Vietnam War went on for four more years eventually resulting in the complete destruction of South Vietnam, the loss of about a million Vietnamese lives, the deaths of 20,763 additional American servicemen with 111,230 wounded. In addition, the neighboring country of Cambodia was destabilized leading to years of genocide in that country.
Thus, by undermining the efforts of a sitting president to end that war, Richard Nixon became, literally, a traitor to his country. At that time, President Johnson learned what Nixon was doing but decided to keep it a secret because of the shame he thought it would cast on the USA. Many now believe that Johnson’s decision to protect the reputation of his country by not exposing Nixon’s treachery was a great mistake that later led to Nixon’s inexplicable efforts – such as the Watergate breakin – to find and destroy secret historical records that might prove to be incriminating to him. In any case, it is clear that because of Nixon’s treasonous actions in 1968, he, instead of Hubert Humphrey, won the Presidency in the extremely close election of 1968. Because Humphrey would have been a very different president with very different goals, Nixon’s treasonous behavior arguably set the USA on a very different course than it might otherwise have taken.
A similar and equally important event in American History occurred twelve years later in the election year of 1980 when President Carter was facing the Republican candidate, Ronald Reagan. I will only summarize that event here because I have already related this incident in my previous post. Turns out that via his Republican Representatives, which included George H.W. Bush, and several officers from the CIA including Robert Gates, a career-long yes-man for the Bush family and recent Secretary of Defense, Reagan made an unsavory request to representatives of the Iranian government. He asked Iran to not release the American hostages that had been held in Tehran since the takeover of our Iranian embassy in November of 1979 until Reagan had been elected and taken office. Thus, on Jan 18, 1981, after 444 days of confinement, the 52 American hostages were released moments after Reagan was sworn in. President Carter had previously hoped for an “October Surprise” in his attempt to arrange a more timely release of those Americans. Thus, for their personal gain, Reagan and his coconspirators interfered with the efforts of the US government under Carter to free our embassy employees in a more timely manner. Such behavior, perpetrated by Reagan, Bush, Gates and other Republican supporters was clearly illegal under American law and constituted treason against the USA and its citizens.
A few years later, the Iran-Contra Affair came to light. By this secret agreement Reagan’s administration illegally and secretly sold weapons to Iran and gave the proceeds to the right wing dictatorship of Nicaragua. Why would Reagan have done such a favor to Iran – which would then use those weapons for their own distinctly anti-American programs? One of the few logical explanations is that it constituted a payoff to Iran for helping Reagan get elected. Yes, that sorry tale is now part of our country’s history.
An exceedingly important revelation also made clear in Parry’s book is that the Reagan administration did everything it could t0 hide the notion (coming from its own personnel in the US State Department) that the Soviet Union had been falling apart before Reagan’s presidency and that it would pose much less of a threat to US dominance in the future. With the assistance of CIA officer Robert Gates, Reagan managed to squelch those reports and portrayed instead the opposite view of the Soviet Union to the American public. Reagan preferred to continue and even enhance the Cold War with the USSR in order to continue and increase massive funding of our military. For that reason, Reagan needed to have a very “scary enemy” out there that was seeking our downfall. And as we now know, after the Cold War ended, the “neo-con” Republicans who carried on Reagan’s mischief in foreign policy simply changed the envisioned “scary enemy” from the communists to the “Radical Islams” of the world and, since then, have been doing everything they can to fuel wars with the Muslim world.
Which brings us to our war with Iraq. Taking advantage of the mood in the US following 9/11, the neo-cons of the George W. Bush administration including even the widely-respected, but go-along-to-get-along servant of the Bush family, Colin Powell, orchestrated an attack on a country, Iraq, that had nothing to do with the events of 9/11. Not sweating that latter “minor detail”, the younger Bush managed to get a good war going there – one which has now spread to Syria and all neighboring states. The USA, as well as the entire Middle East, has paid dearly for that mistake in terms of human life, material resources and international reputation.
Which brings us to the presidency of Barack Obama. While President Obama initially inherited some of the neo-cons left over from the administration of George W. Bush (including Secretary of Defense, Thomas Gates), he did not share their view that any war with the Islamic world is a good war. He actually favored peaceful coexistence with other countries. Thus, the Republican Party came to hate and automatically criticize President Obama on each and every other detail they could without justification. Note, for example, that when Obama was first elected in 2008, the GOP Leader of the Senate , Mitch McConnell, was asked what his first priority would be when Obama was seated. McConnell’s answer, repeated often, was “to ensure that Obama was a one-term President”. Does McConnell’s statement also not constitute near-treasonous behavior against one’s government? That is, isn’t a government official obliged to perform his duties under whatever chain of command is selected by the public in a presidential election? Is it permissible for a government official’s first priority be the ruination and replacement of a new and overwhelmingly favored President who just arrived on the scene? Only if viewed relative to precedence’s set by of the recent Republican Presidents, Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush, can I image that McConnell’s statement might not constitute traitorous behavior.
Thinking of the future, what’s to become of the details revealed in Parry’s book concerning the real recent history of America? Will those details become part of the American story as related in the history books of our public schools or will they be ignored or altered so that our recent leaders are presented in a morally acceptable manner. On one hand, the latter seems likely to occur. After all, how can we teach our youngsters to be good citizens if a large fraction of America’s recent Presidents are shown to have indulged in traitorous behavior for their own personal gain? And how can Americans continue its self- perception of “exceptionalism” when so many of their recent Presidents are shown to have indulged in low-level criminal behavior against their own country’s leaders at pivotal points in our nation’s history.
This anticipated battle between covering-up or openly telling the American history revealed in Parry’s book will undoubtedly be fierce. In preparation for it, it is worth remembering the motto George Orwell assigned to the authoritarian government he envisioned in his book entitled “1984”. That motto was “those who control the past, control the future and those who control the present, control the past”. Thus, if the neo-cons of America continue to control the present, we can expect to read very little in our history books about the treasonous actions of some of our recent Presidents. If our history is to be accurately written, more conscientious Americans will have to wrestle for control of the present.
In his book, Parry also points out the great failure of the Democrats during this period. They let the Republicans control the present and past by theft of the American narrative. We will never know, of course, what the world might have been like today if other people, such as Humphrey and Carter, had been elected in 1968 and 1980. This is because Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes made that decision for us. Winning “at all costs” was their mantra even if that required trashing our democratic traditions as laid out in the Constitution of the United States. But while all of this was happening, the Democrats tended to be silent “for the good of the country” – starting with LBJ when he did not release his information concerning Nixon’s treason in Saigon back in 1968.
So what, some of you might be wondering, does any of this have to do with the main theme of this web site – climate change. The answer, of course, is that no organization can honestly deal with its greatest and most complex issues without a universally agreed upon foundation providing a minimal level of trust and respect between its participants. The story related here has greatly eroded that trust. Nevertheless, solutions to our greatest issues, such as climate change, can still be greatly facilitated by a correction of our country’s narrative – to one that more accurately reflects who we really are and how we got to our present state. We cannot continue down our current path of political polarization so extreme that personal ideologies have become more important than common sense and the laws of our country.