Kill one for the Gipper. Before the beatification of Ronald Reagan is complete, we might want to step back and consider his administration's involvement (somehow, the phrase his involvement inevitably rings false) in one of the seamier episodes of the 1980s: US support for Guatemala's right-wing death squads.
According to this Tim Weiner piece in this morning's New York Times, the worst possible outcome has been avoided -- that is, former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, a butcher (and born-again Christian!) trained at the notorious School of the Americas, did not make the runoff.
James S. Henry has written an excellent overview of how the Reagan White House supported right-wing terrorism in Guatemala, which claimed nearly all of the 200,000 lives that were lost during that violent time. After crediting Jimmy Carter with substantially reducing assistance to the butchers of Guatemala, Henry writes:
But when Ronald Reagan took office in January 1981, the old public policy of mutual understanding and back-scratching returned. Indeed, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Michael Deaver's LA/DC- based PR firm, Deaver and Hannaford, was hired by the junta's cronies, a substantial amount of Guatemalan money reportedly found its way to the Reagan war chest, and sanctions against US arms purchases disappeared.
Thanks to Al Giordano's Big, Left, Outside weblog for pointing me to Henry.
Meanwhile, NPR yesterday ran one of the most bizarre stories you're ever likely to hear. Apparently a major issue in the Guatemalan election campaign is the demand for back pay by former members of the right-wing death squads.
You can listen to the report in Real Audio by clicking here.
Hypocritic oath. Let's get this straight. George W. Bush, just as he did in the 2000 campaign, has opted out of the public campaign-finance system.
Howard Dean knows he can't keep up with Bush unless he follows suit. So, according to John Kerry, Dean has gone over to the dark side.
Kerry on Dean: "I'm disappointed that Governor Dean has taken a very different road than Democrats have stood for as a matter of principle."
But Kerry knows he can't keep up with Dean unless he opts out of the public system. So that's exactly what he intends to do later this week. Kerry, though, wants us to know that his reformist credentials are intact.
Kerry on Kerry: "We're going to make our decision over the course of the next day or so. Now, whether I will or not, I'll make that decision. But I'm prepared to.... I've always said if any Democrat decides not to live by it, then I think, within the universe of Democrats, we have to make our decisions."
Whether you like what they're doing or not, the truth is that Dean and Kerry are doing precisely the same thing for precisely the same reason.
Here is Andrew Miga's Boston Herald account of Kerry's appearance on CBS's Face the Nation yesterday.