Chapter: 4 Distorted Democracy
My objective all along was to withhold from the Congress exactly what the [National Security Council] was doing in carrying out the President’s policy [toward Nicaragua].
— John Poindexter, former National Security Advisor
. . . destroy this letter after reading. . . . We need to make sure that this new financing [for the contras] does not become known. The Congress must believe that there continues to be an urgent need for funding.
— Lt. Col. Oliver North1
Iran/Contragate did not begin with Oliver North. Nor is the scandal just about Iran and Nicaragua. For a quarter century, a Secret Team of U.S. military and CIA officials, acting both officially and on their own, have waged secret wars, toppled governments, trafficked in drugs, assassinated political enemies, stolen from the U.S. government, and subverted the will of the Constitution, the Congress, and the American people.
— The Christie Institute
Miguel D’Escoto, Catholic priest and head of the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry, looked tired as he sat down to address a delegation of foreign visitors. D’Escoto had recently completed a fifteen-day march for peace from the Honduran border to Managua. It had been a march “to touch the heart of God,” he said, and to call people of faith in his own country and throughout the world to bolder action to stop the U.S. war against Nicaragua.
D’Escoto agreed to answer questions. “Why did the United States break off bilateral talks with Nicaragua?” “What is the present status of the Contadora Peace Process?” “Why do you periodically take a leave of absence from official government duties in order to fast, pray, and march for peace?” “Do you really think prayers and fasts and blisters on your feet will change U.S. policies?”
D’Escoto responded to these and other concerns for about ninety minutes. There was time for one last question. U.S. delegations visiting Central America have oftentimes learned that an open-ended final question is a good way to end a session. “What message would you like us to take back to the U.S. people?” someone asked. “Tell them,” D’Escoto said, “that we are deeply concerned about them.“
The group, myself included, was somewhat taken aback by D’Escoto’s response. Most of us were expecting to hear challenging words about our responsibility to end a brutal war, financed with our tax dollars, that was imposing suffering on the Nicaraguan people. “Tell them,” he continued, “that we are deeply concerned about them because a country that exports repression will one day unleash that repression against its own people. A nation that wages war against the poor in Nicaragua will ignore the needs of its own poor. A country which in the name of ‘democracy’ fights wars against the self-determination of other peoples cannot remain a democracy. I have felt for a long time,” he concluded, “that the U.S. people will one day be the most repressed people in the world.”
U.S. citizens remain largely indifferent to the suffering of others caused by low-intensity conflict and the U.S. war against the poor. Many of us have been pacified through the sweet-sounding rhetoric about “freedom and democracy.” However, the abuse of democracy is a long-standing component of U.S. foreign policy and a central aspect of low-intensity-conflict strategy. If we are not more vigilant in defending authentic democracy, then the tyranny that the United States has exported for so long may finally come home to roost.
Democracy and the Fifth Freedom
No nation on earth has a stronger verbal commitment to freedom and to democratic principles than the United States. However, this verbal commitment bears little or no resemblance to the historical record of U.S. interventionism in defense of privilege. Rhetoric about freedom and democracy has served as a convenient cover for the defense of the freedom to rob and exploit.
The “myth of democratic ideals” has managed to survive despite near constant military and economic interventions in defense of dictatorships or unrepresentative governments throughout the globe. U.S. support for dictators in Cuba, Iran, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Brazil, South Korea, Argentina, and numerous other places did not prevent our leaders from talking with a straight face about “freedom and democracy.” Dozens of U.S. military interventions in Central America, invasions of the Dominican Republic and Grenada, a several-decade-long war in Vietnam, covert activities that ousted democratically elected governments in Guatemala and Chile, economic backing for the racist regime in South Africa, and World Court decisions condemning U.S. policies in Central America have not dampened our capacity for self-serving myths.
Behind the myths lies a historical record demonstrating that the economic demands of empire lead to a curious definition of freedom. The president of Business International, Orville Freeman, describes the period following World War II, a period in which the United States solidified its relationships with dictatorships in Latin America and throughout much of the world, as an exemplary time of freedom. “Following World War II the U.S. followed a very enlightened policy of free trade and free investment,” Freeman said.[It was] a very open world, and a very stable world. So this was one of the periods of freedom: freedom to invest, freedom to trade, freedom to have economic intercourse. Stability and freedom.”2
U.S. foreign policy has rarely if ever concerned itself with promoting democracy. It has been assigned the difficult task of providing a stable climate for U.S. economic expansion and investment in a world of stark inequalities. The treasurer of Standard Oil of New Jersey stated in 1946:
American private enterprise is confronted with this choice; it may strike out and save its position all over the world, or sit by and witness its own funeral. . . . We must set the pace and assume the responsibility of the majority stockholder in this corporation known as the world. . . .This is a permanent obligation. . . . Our foreign policy will be more concerned with the safety and stability of our foreign investments than ever before.3
Poor people throughout the world own little or no stock in this corporate world. They are disenfranchised politically and economically. Their hope of improving living standards depends on political and economic reforms that are essential for economic development and authentic democracy. Frances Moore Lappe and Joseph Collins, in discussing the “causes of powerlessness,” note that “the root cause of hunger isn’t scarcity of food or land; it’s a scarcity of democracy.“ They go on to say:
Democratic structures are those in which people have a say in decisions that most affect their well-being. Leadership can be kept accountable to the needs of the majority. Antidemocratic structures are those in which power is so tightly concentrated that the majority of people are left with no say at all. Leaders are accountable only to the powerful minority. . . .
As long as this fundamental concept of democracy — accountability to those most affected by decisions — is absent from economic life, people will continue to be made powerless . . . . Poverty and hunger will go on destroying the lives of millions each year and scarring the lives of hundreds of millions more.4
According to Lappe and Collins there is a need for greater democracy at the level of the family, the village, the nation, and the international economy.
Hunger and poverty are consequences of a lack of democracy. The poor would not choose to starve if they had the freedom to participate democratically in economic as well as political life. The stark inequalities that exist within and between nations cry out for the need to redistribute power and to increase the capacity of people to participate in meaningful ways in decisions that affect their lives. U.S. foreign policy sets out to restrict this freedom in defense of the rights of powerful minorities, who exercise their freedom and power to exploit the resources and markets of impoverished nations. In 1975 an executive of Best Foods noted that future markets in Latin America looked good for U.S. corporations “with a continental vision,” although the markets would be limited to select groups. Of Latin America’s total population,
a fifth will be able to buy, through their economic power, almost all the products which the industrialists here presently manufacture, while a third will be able to buy some of these products only very infrequently. The rest of the population, about half of the total, are not customers except for the most simple and basic products and probably will continue on a subsistence basis. 5
The U.S. war against the poor is a war against the democratic aspirations of the majority of the human family. There is a fundamental contradiction between authentic democracy and empire, the well-being of the poor and minority alliances between elites. Freedom defined as the free movement of capital and free trade has rewarded elites while leaving the poor free to be hungry, landless, sick and persecuted. In chapter 2 I described how, from the perspective of U.S. policy makers, Nicaragua’s “greatest crime” was to “redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor.” There is a parallel “crime” in the context of this discussion about democracy: Nicaragua is dangerous and must be destroyed, according to low-intensity-conflict planners, because it is one of the few countries in the world where economic privilege does not guarantee political control.
Democracy, consistent with prevailing myths, is a fundamental concern for U.S. leaders. Ironically, however, this concern is most acute whenever people exercise their democratic rights to challenge unjust applications of U.S. power. For example, business leaders in the aftermath of the popular protests that challenged U.S. involvement in Vietnam complained about too much democracy in the United States.6 In a similar way, free elections are held up by U.S. leaders as essential for democracy unless political parties opposed to U.S. interests win. The U.S. war against the poor has meant an effort to invalidate, destabilize, or destroy democracies that have included or encouraged significant participation from or power for the poor.
Democratically elected governments in Guatemala, Chile, and Jamaica were overthrown or destabilized through a combination of U.S. covert and overt pressures. In Guatemala and Chile, the United States strengthened right-wing elements within the military in order to overthrow democratic systems and replace them with military dictators. In Jamaica and Chile conservative business leaders and international bankers worked to make the economy scream. In Nicaragua the contras have been hired to terrorize civilians, cripple the economy, and erode the political and economic gains of the poor.
The U.S. practice of making democracy compatible with dictatorship, poverty, and repression led respected Latin American leader, Carlos Andres Perez to say:
What North Americans don’t understand is that in the long run we share a common fate — a past and a present that implicate North America in the skewed development and upheavals of the rest of the hemisphere. For decades, the United States baffled us with its unconditional support for Central American dictators — so much so that many Latin Americans now suspect the word “democracy.” The dictators created exclusive societies based on systematic injustice — breeding grounds for explosive discontent. . . .
Can’t the United States see that conflict is inevitable in countries besieged by poverty and political subjugation?
Our problems smolder, then burst into flame, but one thing remains constant: the unbearable paternalism of the United States and its apparent distrust of any Latin American with a sense of self-respect.
Elections within Low-Intensity-Conflict Strategy
A common feature of U.S. foreign policy for more than a century has been the use of elections for undemocratic purposes. Elections in the age of low-intensity conflict are generally managed more efficiently than in the past when ballot boxes were stuffed and opposition candidates killed, bribed, or exiled. Elections are an important part of the U.S. diplomatic war effort and they make valuable contributions to wars that are fought with both images and bullets. In fact elections are often carried out so that bullets and bombs can continue arriving in record numbers. The militaries in Honduras, El Salvador. and Guatemala (the real power brokers along with the U.S. embassy and economic elites) agreed to U.S. plans for elections in the 1980s after the United States assured them that, following the elections, their power would be enhanced through large increases in military assistance.
In El Salvador in the early 1980s, the myth of U.S. commitments to democracy was being buried along with murdered nuns, an assassinated archbishop, and thousands of tortured civilians. Elections were carried out as part of the same strategy that brought about the shift from generalized to selective terror. In the pre-low-intensity-conflict stage of counterinsurgency, the U.S. openly backed repressive dictators in order to “protect national valuables” and to defend U.S. interests against “the crimes of the poor.”
Low-intensity-conflict strategists recognize that dictators sometimes outlive their usefulness. Dictators become liabilities when they can no longer effectively serve as guardians of U.S. interests, that is, at the point when their repression and corruption give rise to social turmoil beyond their control. For example, the Reagan administration and the mainstream press heaped praise on the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines for its commitments to “democracy” until Marcos could no longer control the people or protect U.S. investments. When Marcos himself became a source of instability he was no longer “democratic” and he was gone.
Elections are essential when authoritarian governments fail, although the opposite is also true. Elections are part of low-intensity conflict’s preferred strategy to protect U.S. interests in the third world. However, preferences will nearly always give way to a pragmatic course of action if circumstances dictate a lifting of the democratic façade. Within low-intensity-conflict strategy elections are not a means of establishing a basis of real power, although elections may be part of a broader plan to reshuffle power among elites. They are a means of masking power.
Elections in El Salvador, like those held elsewhere as part of low-intensity-conflict strategy, did not change the fundamental power relationships within the country. The hierarchy of power remained the U.S. embassy at the pinnacle, the Salvadoran military and economic elites a little below, and the civilian government looking good in U.S. papers but nearly powerless in practice. U.S.-sponsored elections, like cosmetic land reform and managed terror, were part of the “war of images.” They were necessary ingredients in a diplomatic offensive to counter congressional opposition and unfavorable domestic and international public opinion.
In April 1988 I visited with a priest in El Salvador who, for reasons of safety, prefers not to be publicly identified. “El Salvador,” he said, “is like a big farm and the house that directs the farm is the U.S. embassy.” The quotation in context reads:
The U.S. is not interested in creating democracy in El Salvador. They are interested in their own project to keep control. They needed the Christian Democrats in order to carry out this project, although they will also work with ARENA [a right-wing party with close ties to the death squads]. The U.S. war project in El Salvador is designed to maintain a situation here like they have in Honduras where the U.S. decides what the people can and must do. El Salvador is like a big farm and the house that directs the farm is the U.S. embassy.
The U.S. project is not democracy. The U.S. project is to use “democracy” to muffle international criticism in order better to control El Salvador. “Democracy” is a façade to cover many unpleasant things.
Covert Operations: Eroding Democracy Within
Using elections for undemocratic purposes is only one example of United States manipulation of democracy in its war against the poor. There is another serious attack against democracy that is central to low-intensity-conflict strategy: a reliance upon secrecy and illegal covert operations.
Low-intensity conflict, as stated earlier, is meant to make the U.S. war against the poor less visible, less costly, and less offensive to the U.S. people. Secrecy and covert operations are well suited to a deceptive war of images that is designed to hide real policy goals and the means that are utilized to achieve them. They have been responsible for widespread human suffering around the world while at the same time they have come to pose a serious threat to democracy in the United States.
The United States took a significant step toward becoming a national security state with the passage of the National Security Act of 1947. This act created the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council. The ethical grounding for these agencies was the belief that the United States could and should use any means in order to defend its interests. A secret report prepared for the White House in 1954 by a group of prominent citizens, including former President Herbert Hoover, states:
It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination. . . . There are no rules in such a game. Hitherto accepted norms of human conduct do not apply. . . . If the United States is to survive, long-standing American concepts of fair play must be reconsidered. . . . We must learn to subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies by more clever, sophisticated, more effective methods than those used against us.7
The Central Intelligence Agency and its significant network of contacts and agents became a sort of “presidential hit squad” that, in the name of “national security,” was sent out to “subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies.” The means used to carry out covert operations not only violated “hitherto accepted norms of human conduct,” they oftentimes circumvented the law, the will of Congress, and the consciences and political wishes of the U.S. public. “What you have,” says Morton Halperin, who directs the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union, “is a growing gap between the perceptions inside the executive branch about what the threats are to our national security, and the beliefs in the Congress and the public about the threats to national security.” Halperin once resigned his staff position on the National Security Council in protest over U.S. policy in Vietnam and Cambodia. He continues:
An affidavit submitted to the U.S. federal court by Daniel Sheehan of the Christic Institute describes the tragic results of circumventing the democratic process. The Christic Institute lawsuit charged a group of defendants, many of whom were key players in the Iran-contra scandal, with participation in a criminal conspiracy. “. . . These defendants, some of whom have been tagged by the press as ‘contrapreneurs,’ represent the very epitome of organized crime, but on an international stage. They deal wholesale in narcotic drugs, illegal weapons and violence,” the affidavit charges. “Rather than take over local businesses or undermine local government, they seek to take over whole nations. They do not hesitate to murder and destroy anyone or anything that gets in their way.”9
A brief summary of the Christic Institute’s affidavit illustrates how covert activities, so central to low-intensity-conflict strategy, are incompatible with democracy. According to the Christic Institute lawsuit:
• Behind the Iran-contra scandal there is a “secret team,” operating inside and outside the U.S. government, which has over a period of more than twenty-five years powerfully influenced or controlled U.S. foreign policy.
• Members of the secret team constituted “a virtual shadow government, directed by unelected officials of the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency, and a private network of former military and intelligence officials. In conducting unauthorized covert operations, members of the secret network placed themselves above the law in the name of ‘national security.’ “10
• Members of the shadow government were deeply involved in assassinations, drug- and gun-running activities, and covert actions. Consistent with the Hoover Report’s recommendations that the United States had to reconsider “long-standing American concepts of fair play” and “learn to subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies,” the shadow government built alliances between U.S. government officials, the Mafia, and international drug cartels; assassinated many thousands of civilians in Southeast Asia; carried out or attempted assassination of foreign leaders; trained death squads and secret police forces; worked to shore up unpopular dictators like the Shah of Iran and the Somoza dictatorship in prerevolutionary Nicaragua; worked to destabilize “unfriendly” governments such as Allende in Chile and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua; cooperated with the Colombian drug cartel to plot the assassination of the former U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, Lewis Tambs, with the intention of justifying a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua by blaming his death on the Sandinistas; contracted with the Reagan administration and the National Security Council to find ways of circumventing a congressional ban prohibiting aid to the contras, including the trading of arms to Iran in exchange for hostages and money for the contras; illegally shipped weapons from the United States to the contras and allowed returning planes to use the same protected flight paths to transport drugs into the United States;11 targeted the U.S. people for disinformation campaigns; and helped prepare contingency plans for declaring a form of martial law in the United States that would have formally suspended constitutional freedoms.
• The existence of a shadow government of unelected officials, acting independently or at times in cooperation with elected officials, presents the United States with a serious constitutional crisis:
This shadow government, sanctioned and shielded by the Reagan Administration, has violated the separation of powers doctrine that is the bedrock of our constitutional system. The contra supply operation circumvented and denied Congress its two most important constitutional powers: the authority to declare war and the power to withhold or appropriate funds.
The secrecy and deception required by covert operations are incompatible with our democracy. Abroad, these operations violate international law and our obligation to respect the sovereignty and self-determination of other nations. The survival of our constitutional system requires the restoration of public accountability and openness, the rule of law, and a responsible foreign policy.12
Whether or not the Christic Institute succeeds in proving all of these charges before reluctant federal courts, there is ample evidence from other sources of a constitutional crisis. The history of covert operations prior to the Iran-contra scandal includes attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, successful ousters of democratic governments, cooperation with mafia-type figures and efforts to deceive the U.S. people and Congress. In government hearings on the Iran-contra affair it became clear that Admiral Poindexter and Lt. Col. Oliver North, cited earlier, both intentionally deceived Congress while carrying out an illegal war against Nicaragua on behalf of the National Security Council and the President. Former General John Singlaub, a key fundraiser for the contras, indicated that funds could be raised for the “freedom fighters” through secret three-way arms deals. “The United States . . . has at its disposal a large and continuous supply of Soviet technology and weapons to channel to the Freedom Fighters worldwide,” Singlaub told CIA Director Casey in a memo, “mandating neither the consent or [sic] awareness of the Department of State or Congress.” Such illegal methods were justified by Singlaub because “with each passing year, Congress has become increasingly unpredictable and uncooperative regarding the President’s desire to support the cause of the Freedom Fighters.”13
The means that we utilize in pursuit of various ends are a spiritual window into our own souls. This is as true for nations as for individuals. When the United States terrorizes civilians in its war to inflict suffering on the Nicaraguan people it reveals a profound deficiency or sickness within the nation’s character. When verbal commitments to democracy are made a mockery of by actual practices, democracy is undermined at home and abroad. National self-deceit is no less hazardous than cancer symptoms in a person who decides to ignore the troubling symptoms rather than to receive appropriate treatment.
We have been far more successful at deceiving ourselves than others. For example, the depth and cynical nature of the U.S. war against the poor has been effectively hidden from the U.S. people as a whole. Self-deception has been aided by consumer comforts, an imperial presidency, a co-optable Congress, and an accommodating mainline press. However, overall efforts to manage images to mask the reality of U.S. arrogance and power and U.S-sponsored terrorism have generally failed.
Many U.S. citizens support low-intensity-conflict strategy through the complicity of their silence but remain skeptical of U.S. intentions and policies. The United States has alienated traditional allies. The image and standing of the United States throughout Latin America has perhaps never been lower. David Steel, the head of Britain’s Liberal party, charged the Reagan administration with “encouraging cross-border terrorism in Central America.” A delegation of Western European parliamentarians wrote to President Reagan warning that “it has become increasingly difficult for elected officials throughout Europe to defend the NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] alliance because of U.S. policy in Central America. A policy which makes a mockery of Western values,” the letter continues, “which brazenly violates international law, which tramples over the very principles of the NATO charter only weakens the whole alliance.”14
If the means through which the United States carries out its foreign policy are windows through which we can better see ourselves, then one can better understand why D’Escoto expressed concern about our wellbeing, the viability of our democracy, and the likelihood of widespread repression against U.S. citizens. I remember being impressed by the atmosphere of forgiveness I encountered in Nicaragua when I began regular visits to that country in 1982. The Nicaraguan revolution that ousted a bloody U.S.-backed dictatorship in 1979 was one of the first revolutions in history that was not followed by a vengeful bloodbath. The new Nicaraguan government immediately abolished the death penalty. When I asked Nicaraguan religious and political leaders why, in Nicaragua, there had not been mass executions of former Somoza collaborators, they said that the “spiritual costs to the revolution” would have been too high. There was a clear recognition that the relationship between means and ends is not simply one of expediency; that relationship determines who we are and what we shall become.
Democracy and the U.S. Press
I am frequently asked questions about the role of the U.S. press in relation to the widespread indifference to or ignorance about the human costs of U.S. foreign policy. How do the mainline print, radio, and television media shape how we think about ourselves as a people and as a nation? Why and how does the mainline media contribute to a deeply internalized worldview of the United States as a benevolent superpower rather than as an exploitative empire? Why does the press consistently portray the United States as a bold fighter against international terrorism while ignoring U.S. sponsored terrorism in Central America and elsewhere? Why isn’t low-intensity conflict a familiar concept to U.S. citizens, who are supposed to participate in a meaningful way in shaping their democracy, including their nation’s foreign policy? Why is the U.S. war against the poor so hidden from public consciousness?
A detailed critique of the mainline U.S. media is available elsewhere and is beyond the scope of this book.15 However, I offer these observations about the mainline media, which plays such an important role in shaping our understanding of the world and the role of the United States within it. The media is a critical actor in the war of images that is so central to low-intensity conflict. It is also instrumental in determining the quality of our democracy.
“If we live in a country with a free press,” I asked myself many times while living in Central America, “then why are we so ignorant?” This question arose out of many discrepancies that I experienced: between stated and actual U.S. policy goals, between rhetoric about “freedom fighters” and terrorism against civilians, between press coverage of Nicaragua versus that of El Salvador, between the relative openness of U.S. citizens whose views on Central America had been shaped by experience or by alternative media sources versus the rather closed and arrogant perspectives of people whose sources of information were primarily television news and mainline papers and magazines such as Time and Newsweek.
There are no easy explanations as to why relatively well-educated people, living in a country with a “free press,” are basically ignorant of or misinformed about the consequences of U.S. foreign policy. The following observations are offered with the hope that they will stimulate widespread discussion of the role of the media in shaping and oftentimes distorting our worldview.
First, within the United States, people have the right and the freedom to explore and to express a variety of perspectives on political events. This freedom is important and it should not be taken for granted. The problem is that for a variety of reasons this freedom is not or cannot be exercised by many citizens. Poor people in the United States, for example, rarely if ever have the opportunity to travel to Central America or other third-world countries. It is not possible for them to take a first-hand look at U.S. policies or at liberation struggles that might help inspire their own movements for social change. Others have been psychologically wounded by years of degrading poverty, including the indignity of unemployment and welfare. The largest and fastest-growing group of poor in the United States is the group of the working poor. Millions of poor working-class people have little time or energy to think about politics, particularly about foreign policy issues. Their thoughts and actions are focused on survival.
The attitudes of economically better-off citizens are shaped by the dominant culture’s emphasis on individualism and consumerism. Those who travel are likely to be tourists in Europe. If people travel to Mexico or other third-world countries, it will most likely be to take advantage of beautiful beaches and favorable exchange rates rather than to explore the causes of hunger and poverty.16 The majority of people, rich or poor, who actually follow the news rely heavily on major television networks and local newspapers. This means that although people have the right to explore a variety of perspectives on political issues, and good alternative sources of information are available for those with the time, energy, and commitment to use them, practically speaking the vast majority of U.S. citizens are exposed to a very narrow range of ideas.
Second, the U.S. press isn’t really free if, by free, is meant that it is independent and without bias. The United States has a mainline press that is dominated by and reflects the interests of big money. The capacity of poorly funded alternative information networks seriously to challenge the dominant myths that are the foundation of empire is very limited. The reality is that people or groups with money are the major media. The institutions that make up the mainline press are not only sympathetic to big business; they are big business. What is fit to print is often determined indirectly by corporate advertisers or directly through outright ownership or control. Sociologist Michael Parenti in his book Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media writes:
To maintain the system that is so good to them, the rich and powerful devote much attention to persuasion and propaganda. Control over the communication field and the flow of mass information, helps secure the legitimacy of the owning class’s politico-economic power. We don’t have a free and independent press in the United States but one that is tied by purchase and persuasion to wealthy elites and their government counterparts.17
According to Parenti:
Ten business and financial corporations control the three major television and radio networks (NBC, CBS, ABC), 34 subsidiary television stations, 201 cable TV systems, 62 radio stations, 20 record companies, 59 magazines including Time and Newsweek, 58 newspapers including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times, 41 book publishers, and various motion picture companies like Columbia Pictures and Twentieth-Century Fox. Three quarters of the major stockholders of ABC, CBS and NBC are banks such as Chase Manhattan, Morgan Guarantee Trust, Citibank, and Bank of America.18
It is clearly not in the interests of the groups that lie behind the mainline media to challenge the myth of the benevolent superpower, daily to document U.S. attempts to manage terrorism in Central America, or to report sympathetically on the struggle of third-world peoples for self-determination. These are subjects to be avoided or distorted.
Third, U.S. government officials have the capacity to flood the media with distorted information that effectively sets the parameters for debate of crucial issues. The State Department holds a daily press briefing. The White House and the Pentagon each hold two. The State Department and the Pentagon each issue more than 600 press releases a year, while the White House issues between 15 and 20 each day. Press releases and briefings are supplemented by interviews, background papers, leaks, and a variety of staged events. Referring to the success of U.S. government efforts to bias press coverage against Nicaragua, the organization Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) states: “By sheer force of repetition, the administration has driven home its anti-Sandinista propaganda themes in the media. No matter how outrageous the allegation,” FAIR continues, “few reporters bothered to include a simple disclaimer: ‘The charge could not be independently verified.’ “19
The media under the guise of “objective reporting” often serves as a mouthpiece for U.S. government propaganda. The degree to which the press accepts the parameters established by government officials can be illustrated by press coverage of the Arias Peace Accords. The Arias plan required each of the Central American countries to carry out simultaneously certain reforms, including arranging cease fires with armed opposition groups, dialogue with internal opposition forces, preventing armed groups such as the contras from operating from the territory of any Central American country, press liberalization, and several other provisions. U.S. media coverage of the Arias Peace Plan focused little or no attention on the compliance of U.S.-backed governments often at war against their own people but did flood the U.S. people with information consistent with the administration’s agenda.
Writer Alexander Cockburn did a search of available New York Times files over the five-and-one-half month period immediately following the signing of the peace accord. Although each country in Central America was required to comply with various provisions of the accord, Cockburn found “about 100 stories on Nicaragua’s compliance with the accords; half a dozen on El Salvador’s, two on Honduras’ and none on Guatemala’s.”20 Setting the parameters of the debate is a powerful way to influence and restrict discussion of critical issues. Once parameters have been narrowly set, the credibility of those who offer fundamental criticisms is in doubt. In general, it is acceptable to criticize a specific policy or to call attention to various problems as long as you do not violate the terms of the debate by focusing on causes or by challenging systems. Brazilian Archbishop Dom Helder Camara once said that when he gave food to the poor they called him a saint, but when he asked why people were poor they called him a communist.
The reluctance to overstep acceptable boundaries helps to explain why Democrats in the U.S. Congress or journalists who disagreed with U.S. support for the contras rarely if ever spoke about positive aspects of the Nicaraguan revolution or about Nicaragua’s right to self-determination. The terms of the debate were clear: Nicaragua was “evil” and the United States had to take appropriate steps. Differences arose over what constituted appropriate steps.
Government- and press-determined boundaries have made the U.S. two-party system both dull and narrow in scope. U.S. voters must choose between a much more limited range of views and policy options compared to those offered by political parties in other Western democracies or in “totalitarian” Nicaragua for that matter. In Nicaragua seven political parties participated in the 1984 elections, including several to the left and to the right of the Sandinista party. U.S. government leaders and an “objective” press described the Sandinistas in Nicaragua as “communist,” “Marxist,” “Marxist/ Leninist,” “totalitarian,” “Cuban-backed,” or “Soviet-backed” so often that few U.S. citizens knew that Sweden was giving more aid to Nicaragua per capita than to any other country or that while Nicaragua does have both a Communist party and a Marxist-Leninist party these two parties together received less than 3 percent of the vote and are distinct from and hostile to the Sandinista party.
The U.S. political process is still deeply scarred from the purges and paranoia of the McCarthy period. The acceptance of boundaries that limit debate has become a form of self-censorship that distorts the information flow that is necessary for a well-informed citizenry, on which authentic democracy depends. Therefore, for political leaders and the mainstream press, capitalism is sacred and not to be criticized, socialism always fails, U.S. interventions in the third world are either justifiable or are “mistakes” that are well intentioned and exceptional, and abuses of power such as those of Watergate or the Iran-contra scandal are problems of individuals and not systems. The list could go on and on.
When someone like Raymond Bonner reports honestly about U.S-sponsored terror in El Salvador for a major newspaper like the New York Times, he gets transferred to the financial pages. This has a chilling effect on other journalists who consciously or unconsciously learn that it is acceptable to criticize this or that policy but it is never acceptable to challenge the system that gives rise to that policy. When it comes to evaluating systems, the only acceptable political stance for owners or journalists within the mainline press is a politics of assurance. For example, in the Introduction to the Tower Commission Report [the Tower Commission was appointed by President Reagan to investigate the Iran-contra scandal], the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, R. W. Apple, Jr., describes the Iran-contra affair as “a pair of grievous missteps” which were not as serious as Watergate. “This is not a portrait of venality. It is a portrait of ineptitude verging on incompetence,” Apple writes. “It is a portrait not of inadequate Institutions but of stumbling, shortsighted stewardship of the national trust at a moment of crisis.”21
The political landscape is also surrounded by ideological fences that confine debate within acceptable boundaries. With the possible exception of the challenging role played by Jesse Jackson in the Democratic primaries, Republicans and Democrats rarely pose radical challenges to deeply ingrained myths. Not surprisingly, Jackson was feared by the power brokers of his own party, who were hopeful he could bring new voters to the Democratic party but terrified that he might actually win the nomination for or the actual presidency. Michael Dukakis was so concerned about fitting within the ideological mainstream that he chose Lloyd Bentsen as his running mate even though they disagreed on nearly every major policy issue. The successful Republican campaign of red-baiting Dukakis as a “liberal” illustrates that the range of acceptable thought is extremely narrow. Political economist John Kenneth Gaibraith notes how political conservatism benefits from
the deep desire of politicians, Democrats in particular, for respectability — their need to show that they are individuals of sound confidence-inspiring judgment. And what is the test of respectability? It is, broadly, whether speech and action are consistent with the comfort and well-being of people of property and position. A radical is anyone who causes discomfort or otherwise offends such interests. Thus, in our politics, we test even liberals by their conservatism.22
Fourth, a fundamental bias against the poor tends to distort rather than illuminate reality in coverage in the mainline media. Powerful groups influence the media and they tend to see the rich and powerful as the newsmakers. Poor people rarely make the news other than as an occasional “human interest story” or as part of a series on “welfare cheats.” One in five U.S. children are now born into poverty and the infant-mortality rate in parts of Detroit is higher than in Honduras, but the structural causes of poverty go unreported and remain invisible.
The White House has constant access to the media to issue diatribes against the Nicaraguan revolution. However, few stories are written from the perspective of poor Nicaraguan campesinos who received land in Nicaragua’s agrarian reform, learned to read in the literacy crusade, and, as a consequence of the revolution, now send their children to local schools and health clinics. As United States low-intensity-conflict strategy succeeds in making life miserable for all Nicaraguans the press can be expected to report on economic hardship as evidence of the failure of the revolution without describing such hardship as the intent and result of United States policy. If Nicaragua’s economic and social reforms are discussed in the U.S. press it is likely to be from the perspective of U.S. government officials or Nicaragua’s business elites who speak English and are eager to talk to the press about “totalitarian” Nicaragua.
Finally, our relative ignorance about low-intensity conflict and the U. S. war against the poor has to do with sophisticated efforts to manage the news. We would be naive to think that our nation’s capacity to distort and manage the news overseas would not be used at home. Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga in a poem about one of the international outlets for U. S. propaganda, the voice of America, writes:
People should realize
that this is the Voice of those who have a voice because they have their dollars
and they have the power to kill, with a button, the whole human race
and under their own roof the power
to kill, day by day, with counterinformation
their own sickly conscience.23
The United States, which extols the virtues of freedom of the press, regularly places foreign journalists — and, according to former CIA agent John Stockwell, has “many” U.S. journalists — on the CIA’s payroll. The CIA funds books to influence U.S. public opinion without acknowledging CIA involvement. It also regularly plants false stories with overseas papers or wire services that often are later quoted in the U.S. media, without of course citing the CIA as the source of the information. The agency also fabricates events to justify U.S. interventionism. According to Ralph McGhee, who worked with the agency for more than twenty-five years: “where the necessary circumstances or proofs are lacking to support U.S. intervention; the CIA creates the appropriate situations, or else invents them.”24
In chapter 3, I indicated how disinformation is central to the low-intensity-conflict strategy of controlling the hearts and minds of the U.S. people. U.S. citizens are considered strategic targets in a war of images. The Reagan administration in 1984, consistent with this view, upgraded and renamed the State Department Office of Public Liaison (now called the Office of Public Diplomacy) to carry out “perception management operations.”25 According to documents released by the Iran-contra investigating committee, National Security Council members Oliver North and Walter Raymond directed efforts by the State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy to orchestrate negative news coverage of Nicaragua. The documents reveal how the National Security Agency leaked intelligence information, directed covert operations within Nicaragua to influence U.S. public opinion, and developed other elaborate programs for the diplomacy office to help the Reagan administration persuade Congress to renew contra aid. “If you look at it as a whole,” a senior U.S. official, quoted in the Miami Herald, said, “the Office of Public Diplomacy was carrying Out a huge psychological operation of the kind the military conducts to influence a population in denied or enemy territory.”26
The National Security Council did not limit its disinformation efforts to the Office of Public Diplomacy. It also contracted with Robert Owen’s public relations firm, I.D.E.A. Inc. Owen was a courier who shuttled back and forth between Washington and Central America with messages and money on behalf of the contras. He once said that giving aid to the contras was like “pouring money down a sinkhole.” However, his agency accepted $50,000 earmarked by Congress for humanitarian assistance to the contras. I.D.E.A. Inc. carried out public relations campaigns on behalf of the contras, worked to set up a private citizen-operated contra support group, and helped to divert attention from the illegal CIA support for the contras.27
Robert Owen and the National Security Council were selling a positive image of the contras to the U.S. public even as they offered more-honest assessments among themselves. Owen in a memo to B.G., the initials of Oliver North’s code name “Blood and Guts,” said of the contra leadership:
“Unfortunately, they are not first rate people: in fact they are liars and greed and power motivated. They are not the people to rebuild a new Nicaragua.” In the same memo he indicated: “This war has become a business to many of them; there is still a belief the marines are going to have to invade so let’s get set so we will automatically be the ones put into power.
The United States government has not formally censored the U.S. press except in times of formally declared war. This has led people to the faulty conclusion that the press in the United States is “free” and that the people of the United States therefore are a well-informed and objective people who can trust the words, intentions, and actions of elected and corporate officials. Michael Parenti describes how this view may be dangerous to our own freedoms:
The structures of control within the U.S. media are different from the institutionalized formal censorship we might expect of a government-controlled press; they are less visible and more subtle, not monolithic yet hierarchical, transmitted to the many by those who work for the few, essentially undemocratic and narrow in perspective, tied to the rich and powerful but not totally immune to the pressures of an agitated public, propagandistic yet sometimes providing hard information that is intentionally or unintentionally revealing. .
That we think the American press is a free and independent institution may only be a measure of our successful habituation to a subtler, more familiar form of suppression. The worst forms of tyranny — or certainly the most successful ones — are not those we rail against but those that so insinuate themselves into the imagery of our consciousness and the fabric of our lives as not to be perceived as tyranny.28
Democracy in Crisis
The U.S. war against the poor is a costly war. Its victims include people in far-off places who are distant enough from our lives so as to not trouble our consciences or challenge our basic worldview. U.S. citizens do not see the blood of Herbert Anaya or Nicaraguan land-reform workers on their hands. Most people who live relatively affluent lives remain politically on the sidelines while trusting in the essential viability and goodness of the U.S. democratic system.
Indifference and ignorance can be both comforting and dangerous. I believe that our democracy is in serious crisis. We may be entering, or may in fact already have entered, a period in which democracy in the United States is more illusionary than real. By pointing to present danger signs and speculating about the future of U.S. democracy I hope to shatter the complacency that binds many of us. I would rather risk being called an alarmist than deal with the consequences of being timid, just as I would rather alert my neighbors to the possibility of a fire based on seeing smoke than remain silent until flames engulf their entire house. Time will tell whether such fears about U.S. democracy are fully justified.
Low-intensity conflict is a totalitarian-like strategy that is incompatible with authentic democracy. Information, which is central to responsible citizenship, is distorted for political purposes both within exploited third-world countries and within the United States. If the United States is capable of using elections in El Salvador as part of a conscious strategy to undermine democracy, then it seems likely that something similar may be happening at home. Is there not a direct relationship between elections that mask the sources of real power in El Salvador and the existence of a “secret team” in the United States? Senator Daniel Inouye at the Iran-contra hearings described the network that had subverted the U.S. Constitution and carried out illegal foreign policy as “a shadowy government with its own air force, its own navy, its own fundraising mechanism and the ability to pursue its own ideas of the national interest, free from all checks and balances, and free from the law itself.”29
During the Iran-contra hearings Oliver North had the following exchange with Senate Chief Counsel Arthur Liman:
COL. NORTH: The director [CIA Director William Casey] was interested in the ability to go to an existing, as he put it, off-the-shelf, self-sustaining, stand-alone entity, that could perform certain activities on behalf of the United States.
MR. LIMAN: Are you not shocked that the director of Central Intelligence is proposing to you the creation of an organization to do these kinds of things, outside of his own organization?
COL. NORTH: Counsel, I can tell you I’m not shocked.
Mr. Liman phrased his question in terms of a future possibility, but the “stand-alone entity” may already exist and may already have been operating for more than twenty-five years. It does not bode well for United States democracy that despite the Iran-contra hearings not one meaningful step has been taken to dismantle the shadow government.
There is also an important connection between reconsidering “longstanding American concepts of fair play,” in pursuit of foreign enemies, as was recommended by the Hoover Report, and domestic spying and repression. Bill Moyers, in his report on The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis, says:
But the secret government had also waged war on the American people. The [Church] hearings examined a long train of covert actions at home, from the bugging of Martin Luther King by the FBI under Kennedy and Johnson, to gross violations of the law and of civil liberties in the 1970s. They went under code names such as Chaos, Cable Splicer, Garden Plot, and Leprechaun. According to the hearings, the secret government had been given a license to reach all the way to every mailbox, every college campus, every telephone and every home.30
Revelations of U.S. government infiltration of the Sanctuary movement and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) harassment of organizations opposed to U.S. policy in Central America, such as CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador), are indications that the “license” has not yet expired. “It is imperative at this time,” a statement from the FBI’s file on CISPES says, “to formulate some plan of attack against CISPES and specifically against individuals . . . who defiantly display their contempt for the U.S. government.”
The U.S. government has the capacity to target the people of the United States with the sophisticated spy technology used against foreign enemies. The Iran-contra affair reveals that there are people in and outside of that government with the will to do so. After studying U.S. spy technology and documenting abuses by the CIA and the FBI up to the mid-1970s, Senator Frank Church concluded:
At the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such [is] the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. . . . I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.31
Are we still on the bridge leading to the abyss or have we reached the other side? A people that allows its president to declare a national emergency within the United States in order to justify an economic embargo against the impoverished country of Nicaragua could easily lose its freedom. In April 1986, according to the Christic Institute lawsuit, President Reagan issued a top-secret National Security Decision Directive, which authorized the creation of ten military detention centers within the United States capable of housing 400,000 political prisoners. These detention centers were to be used “in the event that President Reagan chose to declare a ‘State of Domestic National Emergency’ concurrent with the launching of a direct United States military operation into Central America.”32 This was only one of at least 280 secret National Security Decision Directives issued by President Reagan.33
People who express unquestioning confidence in the U.S. democratic system place great faith in the U.S. electoral process and the “free press.” Elections and lack of government censorship are cited as proof of the effectiveness of our democratic system. It seems important to remember, however, that low-intensity conflict is a war of images designed to obscure reality. In El Salvador the goal was to maintain control through more subtle forms of tyranny. Selective repression was preferred over generalized repression. Elections that served as a cover for real power were better than blatant dictatorship. Repression and tyranny were managed according to how much violence and intimidation were necessary to maintain control.
If images can obscure reality in El Salvador then they may also do so in the United States. The boundaries of our freedom have not been tested. An uninformed and largely passive populace has made overt repression less necessary in the United States. Journalists and politicians who consciously or unconsciously are skilled in the art of self-censorship have made harsher government measures to curb meaningful debate unnecessary.
If we wake from our slumber and build a movement capable of challenging the U.S. war against the poor, or if our historical situation changes significantly, then we will see if our democracy is in fact deeply rooted. Shadow governments subverting the U.S. Constitution, Salvadoran death squads operating in the United States, and presidential directives authorizing detention centers are indications that hard times may be on the horizon.34
The world that U.S. leaders will confront in the coming decades will likely be more unstable at home and abroad. The alternative to greater global justice is a “fortress America.” Low-intensity-conflict strategy fails to address any of the real causes of social turmoil throughout the third world. Social tensions will continue to build and explode as economic injustice gives rise to movements for social change. The U.S. war against the poor will be an increasingly frustrating and costly proposition.
If there is a shift in the United States toward more Overt forms of tyranny, It will likely be a response to a serious economic crisis. One ironic result of the U.S. war against the poor could be the collapse of the international economy. The inability of third-world countries either to pay their debts or to provide sufficient markets for goods produced in the United States or other industrial countries could contribute to a major worldwide depression.
The United States over the next several decades will face serious economic difficulties and an erosion of living standards even without an all-Out collapse of the world economy. The Reagan presidency marked a turning point in recent U.S. history in which the United States shifted from being the world’s largest creditor country to being the world’s most indebted country. At the same time, record government deficits raised the national debt from about $900 billion in 1980 to more than $2 trillion in 1988. The people of the United States, guided by shortsighted leaders, have mortgaged the futures of many generations to come.
The political significance of a major economic crisis or significant economic decline is hard to predict with certainty. The relative affluence of many U.S. citizens has tended to cover up or mask serious problems of racism and antagonism between social classes. Already during the Reagan presidency decisions were made about how to divide up limited resources. Not surprisingly, the poor were big losers as savings from cuts in social
programs were used to feed an unprecedented military buildup and offset tax breaks for the rich. Increased military spending contributed to the deficit, and its emphasis on nonproductive growth was a major factor in the declining competitive position of the United States in world trade.
Austerity programs similar to those imposed on third-world countries by the International Monetary Fund may soon be required of the United States. When this happens the poor will be further victimized and U.S. economic elites can be expected to use racism and ideological campaigns blaming the victim to take attention away from their own role in managing a crisis in defense of their own interests. The political climate could turn nasty as the United States intervenes throughout the third world in order to block meaningful reforms while at the same time it confronts growing social turmoil at home.
The U.S. war against the poor may one day come home with a vengeance. The result could be a more visible tyranny including dictatorship, even fascism. The June 1988 issue of Success magazine described the drastic measures that were necessary to rescue floundering companies. An article entitled “Ruthless Leaders” was about “The Brutal Men Who Slash Divisions, Fire Employees, and Save Companies.” There may be frightening parallels between the article’s justification of tyranny to save a failing company and a broader corporate response to a major national economic crisis:
A company is staggering toward death. Management has taken some steps to stave off decline. . . Can this company be saved from bankruptcy and oblivion?
The board calls for help, and brings in a turnaround artist. He’s a corporate drill sergeant: plain spoken and unafraid — a specialist in kicking a flabby company into a shape that will make money.
The turnaround artist is a . . . fiery, flamboyant loner who isn’t afraid to make sweeping changes and brutal decisions. He is the unwelcome interloper who fires executives, lays off workers, and sells or closes divisions — regardless of the personal grief that results, the careers that are ruined, the reputations that are swept away.
Like a ship’s captain, the leader must be ruthless, even dictatorial. In the first months of the crisis, he orders more and more baggage overboard, allowing no questions, no hesitation . . . . [As one turnaround artist] put it when he first came aboard, “Until we turn profitable, something akin to martial law will be in effect.”
“I bust asses,” one said to me. “I make the men sweat blood,” said another. Most admit they use fear to motivate managers and workers to exceed past performances.35
The religious right can be expected to provide a theological justification for a tyrannical response to political or economic crises. The sons and daughters of the empire will once again rally around the flag, turn the cross
on its side, and use it as a sword in an ongoing war against the poor. Television evangelist James Robison believes God will one day lift up a tyrannical leader in order to protect the American way of life. God will send a tyrant in order to confront the “communist propaganda and infiltration” that are linked to “satanic forces,” which are attacking the United States. “Let me tell you something about the character of God,” Robison told a group of pastors at a training session on how to mobilize congregations for conservative political causes. “If necessary, God would raise up a tyrant, a man who might not have the best ethics, to protect the freedom interests of the ethical and the godly.”36
Religious support for tyranny seriously distorts Christian faith. It demonstrates how Christians living in an empire can be easily co-opted and how the gospel’s liberating message can be perverted and placed at the service of the empire.
1. The quote from Poindexter is from testimony before the Joint Select Committee, July 19, 1987. The quote from North is from an undated letter to Robert Owen. Both are found In Contempt of Congress: The Reagan Record on Central America, The Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, D.C., 1987, pp. 8-9.
2. Jack A. Nelson, Hunger for Justice: The Politics of Food and Faith (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1980), p. 40.
3. Ibid., p. 59.
4. Frances Moore Lappe and Joseph Collins, World Hunger: Twelve Myths (New York: Grove Press, 1986), pp. 4-5.
5. Nelson, Hunger for Justice, p. 41.
6. Holly Sklar, ed., Trilateralism: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management (Boston: South End Press, 1980).
7. This quotation is taken from the written transcript of a Public Affairs Television special, with Bill Moyers, entitled The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis. The program was a production of Alvin H. Perlmutter, Inc., and Public Affairs Television, Inc., in association with WNET and WETA. Copyright 1987 by Alvin H. Perlmutter, Inc., Public Affairs Television, Inc. The written transcript was produced by Journal Graphics, Inc., New York, New York. Quotations from this transcript are hereafter cited as from The Secret Government.
8. Ibid., p. 14.
9. “Affidavit of Daniel P. Sheehan,” filed on December 12, 1986, with minor revisions January 31, 1987. The affidavit is available from the Christic Institute 1324 North Capitol Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20002. Further quotations from this source will be referred to as “Affidavit of Daniel P. Sheehan.”
10. This quotation is taken from a pamphlet produced by the Christic Institute, “Contragate, the Constitution and the 1988 Elections.”
11. For specific information on the illegal weapons shipments and flow of drugs, see Leslie Cockburn, Out of Control (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1987).
13. This quotation is taken from an information sheet put out by the Coalition for a New Foreign Policy, 712 G Street SE, Washington, D.C. 20003.
14. Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, The Politics of Compassion, (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1987), p. 119.
15. For a provocative critique of the U.S. media from the perspective of a Marxist sociologist, see Michael Parenti, Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987).
16. There are, of course, exceptions. People who want to travel to third-world nations such as Mexico, the Philippines, the countries in Central America and the Mideast with the specific purpose of exploring the causes of poverty and the impact of U.S. policies can contact the Center for Global Education, Augsburg College, 731-21st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55454. The center leads approximately forty travel seminars each year to the countries listed above. Most trips are for approximately two weeks.
17. Parenti, Inventing Reality, p. 6.
18. Ibid., p. 27.
19. This quotation is taken from the October/November 1987 issue of Extra, the newsletter of FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting), vol. 1, no. 4, p. 1.
20. “Reagan Sees to It That ‘Peace Process’ Won’t Hinder Contra Plans,” St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 28, 1988.
21. The Tower Commission Report (New York: Random House, 1987), pp. xi, xvi.
22. Ibid., p. 14.
23. Bishop Pedro Casaldàliga, Prophets in Combat (Oak Park, Ill.: Meyer Stone Books, 1987), pp. 24-25.
24. Ralph McGhee, “Foreign Policy by Forgery,” The Nation 11 (April 1981).
25. William I. Robinson and Kent Norsworthy, David and Goliath: The US War against Nicaragua (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1987), pp. 36-37.
26. Miami Herald, July 19, 1987.
27. See Cockburn, Out of Control, p. 35, and “Affidavit of Daniel P. Sheehan,” p. 16.
28. Parenti, Inventing Reality, pp. 6-7.
29. The Secret Government, p. 5.
30. Ibid., p. 13.
31. James Bamford, The Puzzle Palace (New York: Penguin Books, 1983), p. 477.
32. “Affidavit of Daniel P. Sheehan,” p. 5.
33. The Secret Government, p. 18.
34. Information on Salvadoran death squads operating in the United States can be found in NACLA Report, vol. 21, no. 3.
35. Robert Boyden Lamb, “Ruthless Leaders,” Success magazine, June 1988, p. 42.
36. Bill Moyers’ Journal: Campaign Report #3 (1983), p. 7. This is a transcript of a document aired on WNET, channel 13, by the Educational Broadcasting Corporation.