By David Swanson
Ronald Reagan had the birth of a deity. Within 20 minutes
of his inauguration, Iran freed the hostages that wimpy Jimmy
Carter had been unable to rescue. I was 11 years old at the
time and impressed but baffled. How had he done it?
No one seemed to know or very much care. Apparently the
Iranians had wanted to make a statement about how much they
disliked Carter, and we didn't want to dwell on the motivations
of Iranians. The important thing was that the hostages were
finally coming home to heroes' welcomes.
At last we'd rescue some trees from yellow ribbons. The kids
at my school who had sung "Bomb Bomb Iran" to the tune of
the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann" at the talent show would have
to get a new song. It was Morning in America, and we needed
to put our childhoods behind us. I'd be in high school soon,
and Oliver North would come warn my history class about the
danger of communism in Nicaragua.
Reagan was immortal. When he was shot, the television showed
it to us and told us about it thousands of times. Reagan cheerfully
joked with the doctors and bounced right back. The country
did not suffer during his brief absence, because he was not
absent from his essential function as an encouraging personality.
Nor did later signs of senility diminish his role.
Today, as the media pours out its tributes, as the Washington
Post lavishes over 10,000 words, as Senator John Kerry
praises good old Ronnie to the skies, much of the commentary
is about personality, almost all of it is laudatory, and I
have been unable to find one mention of hostages in Iran.
We have forgotten Reagan's birth and will soon forget his
death as well. He will become an eternal brave and smiling
president: dentures and a cowboy hat hovering over the Potomac
like a Cheshire cat. His presence will be unavoidable. Already
if anyone asks me the name of a building or highway or train
station and I don't know it, I encourage them to wait a little
while and then expect it to be called Reagan. Most things
are named or renamed Reagan these days, at least in Washington.
Reagan is the source of a number of trends in American politics.
Through the late 1970s, wages and working conditions were
improving for ordinary Americans. From the day Reagan fired
the air traffic controllers through eight years of his tax
cutting and military spending, it became clear that a divide
would be opened up between the rich and the rest of us, that
public education and care for our young, old, and ill would
be slashed in the name of militarism, and that - in short
and anachronistically - Reagan would be the most radical approach
toward a George W. Bush presidency prior to George W. Bush.
Reagan is also the source of many of the relationships in
Iran and Iraq that have troubled the United States since.
Kevin Phillips' recent book American Dynasty does a
good job of summarizing the strong evidence that Bill Casey
and George H.W. Bush made a deal with the Iranians not to
release the hostages until after the 1980 U.S. presidential
This would mean that Reagan's election was illegal, that
the trading during the Iran-Contra scandal had a precedent,
that Reagan and G.H.W. Bush's buildup of Saddam Hussein's
military was motivated in part by a desire to counter weaponry
and money that the United States had given Iran in exchange
for Reagan's election, that our media has completely fallen
down on the job, and that we're all a bunch of suckers.
That just can't be right. Please forget I mentioned it.
David Swanson's website is at www.DavidSwanson.org