The Gipper fumbles: First & ten for the U.S. Left!

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It’s the start of the fourth quarter. The ball’s at midfield, score tied at zero. The Gipper takes the snap and drops back. He fakes a hand-off to Shultz and rolls right. It looks like a keeper on an end-around and — Fumble! The Gipper loses the ball! And the Reds have it! First down and ten yards to go!

As football metaphors go, this one doesn’t do badly at characterizing political reality since Irangate broke. Reagan and crew were caught selling arms to Iran and sneaking the proceeds to contra terrorists, in defiance of law, good sense, avowed policy, and the will of the U.S. majority. Caught, they tried and are trying lamely to lie or stonewall their way out of trouble. The public isn’t buying it. And in the midst of investigations into the mess, the Gipper, moral bulwark of resurgent Americanism and scourge of “terrorists” worldwide, stands revealed as a liar, an incompetent, and a squalid political fixer in the international arena.

Yes, indeed, Reagan fumbled. And it’s a brand new ballgame for the U.S. Left and all the underdogs itching to score on the team of cutthroats in Washington.

The dummy defense

Washington’s spin control specialists are desperate to contain the crisis engulfing the presidency. And they have decided that the Gipper, having so decisively lost the public’s trust, is an expendable political commodity.

Congressional and presidential investigative bodies, the mainstream media, and even administration officials are loudly decrying the president’s woeful “inattention to details,” his “lack of grasp” of the issues, his “inability to recall” what’s said and what’s done in his name. On February 26 the Tower Commission concluded that the Gipper is a senile dodderer asleep at the wheel for years while Oliver North and his National Security Council crazies ran amok in the Mideast and Central America.

Washington hopes that the public will swallow the idea that Reagan’s know-nothingism somehow allowed low-level mavericks to seize control of foreign initiatives. Irangate can then perhaps be passed off as an aberration, rather than the logical outcome of U.S. imperialist policy, which it is.

Unfortunately for Washington, no one believes that a mere lieutenant colonel in the Marines like North could swing a deal of this magnitude without the knowledge and approval of administration and Pentagon higher-ups. Indeed, the sheer weight of emerging evidence points inescapably to the conclusion that the whole damn White House brigade, from North to McFarland to Casey to Meese to Shultz to Regan to Bush to the Gipper himself, are in it up to their necks.

Reagan admitted in testimony to the Tower Commission that he approved the arms shipments. Then he said he “couldn’t remember” — the classic Nixonian dodge of lying presidents. And who can believe that Reagan didn’t know about the diversion of funds to the contras? His administration has, after all, been covertly shoveling money and arms to those butchers for years.

In any case, while it’s foolish to think that Reagan didn’t know or support what was happening, the precise extent of his personal involvement isn’t the point. Those were Reagan’s political soul brothers out wreaking havoc in the world. To the Gipper, North remains a “national hero.” More than that, the CIA and NSC ratpacks who finessed the arms deal are the same clandestine operators that Reagan and all postwar presidents, Republicans and Democrats, have used to man the trenches in the war for “freedom,” from the Bay of Pigs to southeast Asia to the overthrow of Allende in Chile to Irangate.

Game plan Mideast

Irangate is no accident or aberration, but is an outgrowth of imperialist necessity. U.S. capitalism lives or dies by its ability to subjugate and exploit the labor and resources of the earth. In the Mideast this means throttling the Iranian and Arab revolutions in order to hold onto the oil. This in turn means making friends with the Ayatollah Khomeini, which is what Reagan was trying to do when he sold the arms to Iran. (The Gipper’s explanation, that he was hoping to forge closer ties with Iranian moderates — whoever they are — is hogwash. So is the contention by the Tower Commission and congressional investigators that he was merely bargaining for the release of U.S. hostages in Lebanon.)

The arms deal was a natural despite Khomeini’s anti-American rhetoric and the genuine hatred of the Iranian people for the Great Satan in Washington. Khomeini is, with the bourgeois Arab states and Israel, a pro-capitalist hangman of communists and Mideast revolt. His slaughter of Iranian leftists after the overthrow of the Shah, his solicitous preservation of Iranian capitalism, and his virulent anti-Sovietism and support for the rightwing Afghani mujahideen leave no room for doubt. His “anti-Americanism” is demagogic trickery: Khomeini wants to establish Islamic theocracies throughout the Mideast, and he figures that the surest way to win political clout among the downtrodden Iranian and Arab masses is to pose as an enemy of imperialism.

It was inevitable that the imperialists would seek rapprochement with Khomeini, and he with them, as soon as possible after he rode to power on the back of the Iranian revolution in 1979. The U.S. Mideast proxy Israel sold arms to Iran as early as 1980. Three years later, the CIA helped Khomeini crush the Iranian revolution by fingering the leadership of the communist Tudeh Party for assassination by the Ayatollah’s goon squads. Now come the latest arms sales — a continuation of business-as-usual.

Double reverse

But this business is not without risks. “Iranian terrorism” provides a major pretext for continued U.S. aggression in the Mideast, and it wouldn’t do for the U.S. to be seen bedding down with the mullahs. Hence the spy-novel secrecy of the arms deal. (Ironically, Iranian terrorism exists primarily as a weapon against Iranian dissidents and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon — to Washington’s undoubted delight.)

Further complicating matters, Khomeini’s theocratic ambitions pose a serious threat to the political stability of the “moderate” capitalist Arab regimes such as Iraq, with whom Iran is presently at war. The U. S. worries about upheaval that would accompany an Iranian victory in the war, and has sought to shore up the Iraqis. This has created genuine tension between Washington and Teheran, and this lies behind the kidnappings of U .S. personnel by Khomeini loyalists in Lebanon. The Ayatollah has been seeking to persuade the U. S. to re-assess its support for Iraq.

Washington, looking for more of an in with the mullahs, shipped them munitions. But it has also continued to arm Iraq — to prolong a stalemate in the conflict and thereby maintain the tenuous balance of power that has kept the lid on leftist Mideast revolt.

This lethal double-dealing is wholly consistent with the bottom-line U.S. imperative to stop socialist revolution and keep hold of the oil. Yet revelations of the nature and intent of the maneuver now threaten to provoke uproar at home: what can even the most ardent “free enterprise” advocate say in defense of U. S. efforts to prolong a slaughter that has claimed nearly a million lives.

Busted play

If the Iranian arms deal came as a surprise to the public at large, disclosures of illegal funneling of monies to the contras was — or by itself would have been — less of a shock. Covert CIA aid to these murderers has been an open secret for the last six years, which has not overly troubled Washington.

The reason for this is that pro-Democratic Party antiwar leaders — intimidated by Reagan’s popularity at the polls — have refused to challenge Reaganite redbaiting against the Sandinistas and themselves, and have thus blunted public resistance to covert initiatives. These leaders’ buckling under to jingoist racism against Iranians and Arabs has to an even greater degree helped keep the U. S. “anti-terrorist” holy war alive in the Mideast.

But the Gipper’s political magic, and his chimerical vision of Resurgent Americanism are decomposing now in the acid bath of Irangate revelations. And antiwar radicals can now swiftly recover lost ground.

Revelation of the ugly profiteering essence of U.S. policy in the Mideast will force even deeper scrutiny of the Central American holocaust and the other U.S. adventures in Angola, Afghanistan, etc.

And the deeper the scrutiny, the greater and more radical the outrage.

Cheerleading donkeys

It’s no wonder that official Washington jumped for the tall grass when Irangate exploded — or that those burrowing for cover were equally Republicans and Democrats.

Who, if not congressional Democrats, have allowed Reagan literally to get away with murder these past six years?

Virtually the entire Congress has, out of pro-Israel sympathy, echoed Reagan’s Mideast anti-terrorist mummery. Also, congressional Democrats voted resumption of legal funding last June when Reagan needed bipartisan support to keep the contra war alive. And it shouldn’t be forgotten that in September 1984, they squelched the congressional investigation into the National Security Council’s illegal contra assistance program.

The Democrats with Reagan have dragged us into a sinkhole of global violence, for the simple reason that this — backed by the threat of fascism and nuclear holocaust — is capitalism’s survival option in today’s revolutionary world. Democrats are by definition procapitalists, and are good soldiers in the system’s war to save itself at our expense. The odd Democrat who opposes Reaganism, tactically or “philosophically,” is merely an anomalous, impotent gadfly among swine.

This isn’t to say that the Democrats aren’t happy to see Reagan twist in the wind. They want the White House in ’88. But the trick is to hang Reagan while keeping his policies and the imperial presidency safe from the rope.

Now the Democrats are trying to tailor the proliferating Irangate evidence to fit the conclusion that damages the nation’s “credibility” the least, i.e., the conclusion that Reagan’s an idiot.

The Democratic congressional investigators insist like the Tower Commission that Reagan slept through the Irangate deal, awakening only to approve a swap of arms for hostages. What better evidence the man’s a fool? And if we swallow it, what but Reagan’s stupidity to blame for the scandal?

There is supposedly “no evidence” that Reagan knew of the diversion of money to the contras, and the investigators will try to ensure that none turns up. If it were to sink in that Reagan kept tabs on and approved North’s Central American activities — which included a plot to assassinate the U. S. ambassador to Costa Rica and thus provoke U.S. invasion of Nicaragua — the issue of the president’s stupidity would not matter much to the public.

Congressional investigations are expected to drag on through September. Electioneering Democrats will continue to harp on Reagan’s incompetence and to stonewall the realization that Irangate is the offspring of bipartisan imperialist aggression. They will also attack the de-haloed Reagan on matters such as the deficit — to further convince us that they walk with angels and are best suited to lead in “putting Irangate behind us.”

But what lies ahead? Democrats no less than Republicans are committed to keeping the Mideast oil and Central America. They like Reagan are bound to Khomeini and contra wars.

Go Reds!

It is particularly critical now to turn up the flame under Reagan and the congressional investigators.

Antiwar radicals must demand immediate, unconditional U.S. withdrawal from the Mideast, Central America, Angola, Afghanistan, et al. They must push for complete disclosure of the facts surrounding Irangate. They must demand that Reagan be impeached and prosecuted for crimes revealed in the disclosures.

Radicals must call for an open and independent investigation, with fully televised hearings and unhampered public access to all information. The congressional investigators will stall the demand for openness, of course, and radicals must focus public attention on Congress’s collusion with the administration. They can point out, for example, that the Senate preliminary investigating committee allowed the CIA to censor its findings in December on grounds of “national security,” and demand that a truly independent panel of popularly elected labor and social movement leaders be empowered to take over the investigation.

The public, buoyed by resurgent and radicalized antiwar opinion, will surely support the demand.

Socialists meanwhile must fight to radicalize the antiwar movement. And this means fighting the present pro-Democratic Party antiwar leadership for the right to be heard in the movement.

Ironically, this pro-liberal leadership includes erstwhile Trotskyist and Stalinist groups such as Socialist Action, Line of March , and the Socialist Workers Party. These groups, each seeking to dodge redbaiting reaction, have so far refused to build an antiwar movement to match the scope of the U.S. offensive — one that could have prevented Irangate — for fear of offending their Democratic “allies” in Congress. They have continued to hope in vain that the liberals would halt Reagan’s Central American assault. And they have refused even to address the Mideast question because those pro-Zionist congressional liberals have cheer-led the Gipper’s war on “terrorism” there.

Even now, the April Actions Coalition for Jobs, Peace and Justice, which has scheduled regional antiwar demonstrations in Washington and on the west coast, April 25, refuses to touch this issue. The opportunist leadership plans to focus exclusively on opposing the contra war, a “safe” course given that this war is already hugely unpopular. But what is “safe” is also ineffective; the deference to liberal opinion which stops the opportunists from coming to grips with the Mideast question also prevents them from protesting the contra atrocities effectively, that is, from an anti-capitalist standpoint.

Honest radicals must make their opinions heard and win over the antiwar movement. They must explain why the U.S. has, with Khomeini and Israel, created a terror axis in the Mideast, and why imperialist terror is inevitable in the region as long as oil can be pumped for profit. They must deepen the public’s understanding that the contra war is, equally with the Mideast aggression, a profiteers’ slaughter. And they must again and again point out why the Democrats have cheer-led and underwritten these atrocities.

This course of action is prerequisite to rejuvenating the antiwar movement. And rejuvenation of the antiwar movement will hasten and intensify political explosions over injustice at home.

The Svengalis who gave us Irangate have also created a pestiferous climate of civil repression, race and sex bigotry, and despair that increasingly blights the lives of the U.S. working majority. Radicals must now link Irangate to mounting domestic grievances and build for political action that will address and eliminate both.

What better time than now in the midst of Irangate to call for formation of a labor party, independent of the Democrats and Republicans? The fight for such a party, an anti-capitalist Rainbow party of the working majority, that really will battle for dismantling of militarism, for race and sex equality, for job rights, for defense and extension of threatened civil liberties, could swiftly ignite a political grounds well in the U.S. that will culminate in a socialist revolution.

Radicals need only fight to make that dream a reality and events will bring the majority to their side.

It is indeed a brand new ball game in the U.S. political arena. The score is still tied. But the Gipper has been stripped of the ball, and the Left can take it in for a touchdown.

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