by Robert Parry
February 21, 2013
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
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
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.
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
“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
But the operative word in that paragraph was
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.”
U.S. intelligence agencies continued to pick up evidence of these
One CIA report in February 1982 described an
army sweep through the so-called Ixil Triangle in central El Quiche
“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
“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
“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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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]
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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.
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
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
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
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.