http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl? ... 07/1927239
Monday, June 7th, 2004
Noam Chomsky on Reagan's Legacy: Bush Has Resurrected "The Most Extremist, Arrogant, Violent and Dangerous Elements" of Reagan's White House
BY AMY GOODMAN
DEMOCRACY NOW - The network and newspaper coverage of the death of Ronald Reagan has brought forth a chorus of praise from Democrats and Republicans alike. Much of the reporting and commentary, under the guise of respecting the dead, has represented a dramatic rewriting of the history of the Reagan years in office.
Looking back at the Reagan presidency doesn't mean we actually have to look back. Many of the same people who populated his administration are in the George W. Bush administration as well: James Baker, Elliot Abrams, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, John Poindexter, John Negroponte, just to name a few.
We asked leading dissident Noam Chomsky to reflect on the policies of Reagan's administration during his 8 years in power and Reagan's influence on the current Bush Administration.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, can you talk about this, the people that are now running the administration are some of the very people who ran the Reagan administration more than 20 years ago?
NOAM CHOMSKY: That's quite true. The Reagan administration is either the same people or their immediate mentors for the most part. I think one can say that the current administration is a selection of the more extremist and arrogant and violent and dangerous elements of the Reagan administration. So on things like - I mean, that is true on domestic and international policy they are, both in the Reagan years and now, they are committed to dismantling the components of the government that serve the general population -- social security, public schools and so on and so forth, but in a more extreme fashion now. Partly because
they think they have achieved a sort of higher stage from which to launch the attack, and internationally it's pretty obvious. In fact, many of the older Reaganites and Bush, number one people have been concerned, even appalled by the extremism of the current administration in the international domain. That's why there was unprecedented elite criticism of the national security strategy and the implementation in Iraq - narrow criticism, but significant. So, yes, they're there, in fact, you cannot -- some of the examples are remarkable, including the ones that you mentioned. And very timely they picked Negroponte, who of course has just been appointed, the new ambassador to Iraq where he will head the biggest diplomatic mission in the world. The pretense is that we need this huge diplomatic mission to transfer full sovereignty to Iraqis and that's so close to self-contradiction that you have to admire commentators who sort of pretend not to notice what it means, also to overlook, consciously, what his role
was in the Reagan administration. He also provided -- he was an ambassador in the Reagan years, ambassador to Honduras where he presided over the biggest C.I.A. station in the world, and the second largest embassy in Latin America, not because Honduras was of any particular significance to the U.S., but because he was responsible for supervising the bases from which the U.S. mercenary army was attacking in Nicaragua, and which ended up practically destroying it. By now, Nicaragua is lucky to survive a few generations. That was one part of the massive international terrorist campaign that the Reaganites carried out in the 1980's under the pretense they were fighting a war on terror. They declared a war on terror in 1981 with pretty much the same rhetoric that they used when they re-declared it in September 2001. It was a murderous terrorist war. It devastated Central America, had horrendous effects elsewhere in the world. In the case of Nicaragua, it was so extreme that they were condemned by the World Court,
by two supporting Security Council Resolutions that the U.S. had to veto, after which, of course, they rejected the court judgment and then escalated the war to the point where finally the effects were extraordinary. By the analysis of their own specialists, the per capita deaths in Nicaragua would be comparable to about 2.5 million in the United States, which as they have pointed out is greater than the total number of casualties in all U.S. wars, including the Civil War and all wars in the 20th century, and what's left of the society is a wreck. Since the U.S. took over again, it's gone even more downhill. Now the second poorest in the hemisphere after Haiti and not coincidentally, the second major target of U.S. intervention in the 20th century after Haiti, which is first. The recent health administration statistics show that about 60% of children under two are suffering from severe anemia caused by malnutrition and probable brain damage. Costa Rica, the United States is trying to - doing enough low-lev
el work so that they can send back some remittances to keep the families alive. It's a real victory. You can understand why Colin Powell and others are so proud of it. But Negroponte was charge of it in the first half the decade directly, and in the second half more indirectly in the State Department and National Security staff where he was Powell's adviser. And now he is -- he is supposed to undertake the same role and similar role in Iraq. He was called in Nicaragua "The Proconsul," and the "Wall Street Journal" was honest enough to run an article in which they headlined "Modern Proconsul" on which they mentioned his background in Nicaragua without going into it much and said, yes he will be the proconsul of Iraq. Now, that's a direct continuity, but there's a lot more than that. What you mentioned is correct. Elliot Abrams is an extreme case. I mean, he's now the head of the Middle East section of the National Security Council. He was -- as you know, he was sentenced for lying to Congress. He got a pr
esidential pardon, but he was one of the most -- he was in charge in the State Department of the Central American atrocities, and on the Middle East, he is way out at the extreme end of the spectrum. This does reflect the -- in a way the continuity of policies, but also the shift towards extremism within that continuity.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Chomsky, I wouldn't want to end this discussion without talking about the Reagan years and Africa, particularly southern Africa.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the official policy was called "constructive engagement." I recall it during the 1980s, by then there was enormous pressure to end all support for the apartheid government. Congress passed legislation barring trade and aid. The Reagan administration found ways to evade the congressional legislation, and in fact trade with South Africa increased in the latter part of the decade. This is incidentally the period when Collin Powell moved to the position of national security adviser.
. was strongly supporting the apartheid regime directly and then indirectly through allies. Israel was helping get around the embargo. Rather as in Central America where the clandestine terror made use of other states that served as -- that helped the administration get around congressional legislation. In the case of South Africa, just look at the rough figures. In Angola and Mozambique, the neighboring countries, in those countries alone, the South African depredations killed about million-and-a-half people and led to some $60 billion in damage during the period of constructive engagement with the u.s. support. It was a horror story.<br>