I took a break from the old Clint Eastwood westerns where everything was pretty clear cut… someone wronged Clint so Clint got even. I watched “Kill The Messenger“, the story about how an investigative reporter named Gary Webb broke the news to us that the CIA was involved in cocaine trafficking into the USA. The cocaine came in and was re-produced as “Crack” cocaine and then distributed to and through gangs and dealers in populated areas like Los Angeles. His belief was that this influx of cocaine fueled the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s.
As I watched this movie develop, I had this feeling like it was going to be unfortunately sad and yet kind of like Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate Papers… revealing some big government wrong that was going on. Not quite. Not to spoil much of it, things did not go so well for Webb.
As I thought about this, it occurred to me that I was likely alive in 1996 when all of this started to come out. Using the internet, I started to research a few things. Why did I not remember this? Sure, I recalled the Iran-Contra crisis or “affair” as they called it. I recalled Oliver North taking the 5th. I recalled his secretary, Fawn Hall, doing some shredding and some testifying. I recall that it was a dark time for Reagan and that there were questions of what he knew and when he knew it. The tricky details in all of that have faded for me over the years. I was able to get some info.
Nut-shelling it: We (USA) had long controlling ties to both Iran and Nicaragua. In 1979, new government regimes took over in both places. There were the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the Ayatollah Khomeini became the supreme religious leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Sandinista government is Social Democratic, which is (according to Reagan) almost Communist – and we certainly can’t deal with those people. In order to fight the Sandinistas, we (the CIA) funded and trained a group called the Contras. These guys were horrible rapey, murdery dudes who were our best bet to regain control (USA would be able to continue to run the show).
Then, under the Boland Amendment, congress said that it would be illegal to fund the Contras. What to do, what to do?
Of course, the answer to that is to go around the law. Remember Iran? Remember how we weren’t besties anymore? Remember how beyond the Iran Hostage crisis there were 7 Americans being held in Lebanon by Iranian people? Well, there was that.
The plan, and for you who are new to history you’ll think I’m making this shit up but noooooo… was to sell weapons to Israel. But don’t stop there, those weapons would then be sold to Iran. We were not supposed to sell weapons to Iran or negotiate with terrorists – but we were going to do a work around. Israel would sell the weapons to Iran and some of the profits of the sale would be funneled back to the Contras to fund the war against the Sandinistas. There was also the hope that “moderates” in Iran would do everything possible to aid in the release of the 7 hostages in Lebanon.
Did Reagan know? Maybe. In fact, in one address to the Nation he says he might have given the go ahead on this plan but since they were keeping shitty records at the time, he just did not recall (line 34). There were a bunch if people indicted or convicted and pretty much everyone involved got off or got pardoned by G.H.W. Bush in his final days in office.
Years later, Webb discovered that while all of that was going on, another way to raise shit loads of cash was for the CIA to allow Nicaraguan cocaine to be shipped into the United States. This product would be sold as crack cocaine – in most of our black communities – and those profits would go back to the Contras.
Why did I not remember this? It seems that when this news came out, we were all too concerned about whether or not Monica Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton were doing late night work in the Oval Office. While we were not caring about the story, the story became more about crazy allegations by Webb than investigating any facts – which eventually all came to be true.
What a historical pain in my ass. But that’s not all. As I was scrolling around on FB, one of the people I know had posted a heart tugging All American video along with an ALL CAPS statement that all Americans should watch this video. Well, I’m an American… I watched.
It started out with the head of an Eagle and then segued into a background of a triumphant musical score and a grainy video of Ronald Reagan giving a motivational speech on how we, as Americans, must sometimes pay the highest price (life) to secure freedom and be the most bad-ass country on the globe. A few scrolls down the page, someone else in an unrelated posting effort posted a political cartoon showing on one side – the pomp, circumstance and dignity involved in celebrating the Unknown Soldier, while on the other side showing a homeless Vet on the street begging for some help. Pretty realistic. On my first trip to DC, we visited Arlington Cemetery and watched the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier. This was after we had watched G.W. Bush give a speech to dedicate a statue while a homeless woman slept in the grass about 50 yards away – until some security guy gave her the boot. This would just not look good.
I guess it is pretty easy to suggest that we need to honor the dead Veterans. I don’t disagree with that at all. What I disagree with is how easy it is to do just that and absolutely nothing more than that. You can wave your flag and hold your hand over your heart and post all kinds of memes or videos reminding everyone how they should be as patriotic as you are. And then you can stop and feel good about it. Forget that there are a shit load of live Vets who need to somehow fit back into a normal life. Forget the ones that are suffering from wounds or traumatic psychological situations and that the VA is so backlogged that it is months or years before there is resolve. Those are not the easy ones to remember. We want easy. We want to remember and honor the ones we never actually have to deal with.
In the opening, it also says “how to bum yourself back in.” There’s a movement called “Random Acts of Culture” online. I urge you to check it out. These are like a flash mob deal but instead of a bunch of people dancing and lip-syncing to some famous tune (which can be cool as well) these are symphonies, orchestras and choirs who perform as a surprise in some open area. This is where (unlike planning an attack on New York or planning to fund a war in Nicaragua) a group of people plan to unleash nothing but a good time to a bunch of non-suspecting people.
This is why you (kids) need to practice that damned French horn or clarinet.