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Ronald Reagan on War & Peace

President of the U.S., 1981-1989; Republican Governor (CA)


1984: Laid to rest Unknown Soldier of Vietnam War

Reagan restored the basic confidence of Americans not only in their economy but also in their country as a whole. Reagan had put the bitter hangover of Vietnam behind us; I still remember watching the ceremony, back in 1984, when our president presided over the laying to rest of the Unknown Soldier from the Vietnam War. And when Reagan presented the Unknown with the Congressional Medal of Honor, tears were streaming down my face. Later that year, our president traveled to Normandy for the fortieth-anniversary commemoration of D-day, reminding Americans of the heroism of U.S. forces, particularly the Army Rangers.
Source: Core of Conviction, by Michele Bachmann, p. 87 , Nov 21, 2011

Strong support for Saddam Hussein throughout 1980s

Washington's strong support for Saddam Hussein thought the period of his worst atrocities in the 1980s, when he was so admired in Washington that his most shocking crimes--the murderous slaughter of Kurds--were denied by the Reagan administration and congressional protests were blocked. The excuse offered is that Iran was more dangerous, but apart from the cynicism, such apologetics cannot be taken seriously. Well after Iraq's war with Iran, the US continued to support Saddam, even to expedite his development of weapons of mass destruction.

In 1990, Pres. Bush I even sent a high-level congressional delegation, led by Sen. Bob Dole, to convey his personal greetings to his good friend and to assure him that he should disregard criticisms by "the haughty and pampered press," who are out of control.

A few months later Saddam defied or misunderstood orders, and shifted from admired friend to the embodiment of evil. All such matters have been consigned to the usual repository of unwelcome fact.

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p.127-128 , Jun 1, 2010

1981: Strategy against Soviet Union: We win; they lose

In 1981, when President Reagan replaces the strategy of d‚tente and accommodation toward the Soviet Union with a strategy of victory (or as he described the strategy, "We win, they lose"), his approach was replacement, not reform. The result was the decline and collapse of the Soviet Union.
Source: To Save America, by Newt Gingrich, p.151-152 , May 17, 2010

Supported Saddam in Iraq against Iran

In the 1980's, Iran's revolution slowly changed the equation and led, eventually, to US support of Saddam's regime, at least for a few years.

The new government had a destabilizing effect on Lebanon. Lebanon had been friendly to America, but had fallen into a devastating civil war, with one side fueled by Syrian and Iranian support and influence. In response, Pres. Reagan ordered an American armed force into that country--a move intended to protect our interests in the Middle East. A year later, however, with the deadly attack on the marine headquarters in Beirut, we would get our first deadly lesson in the determination and abilities of anti-American crusaders.

Lebanon should have taught us that the traditional hardware of war was becoming obsolete in a world in which enemies increasingly utilized deception, guile, misdirection, and other guerilla tactics--not as an adjunct of traditional forces, but as a replacement for them. In the end, Reagan ordered all military forces out of Lebanon.

Source: The Test of our Times, by Tom Ridge, p. 35-36 , Sep 1, 2009

1983: Lebanon attack killed 241 Marines

[Regarding Lebanon, McCain said in Congress in 1983] in post-Vietnam realism: "The fundamental question is "What is the US' interest in Lebanon?" It is said we are there to keep the peace. I ask, what peace? It is said we are there to aid the government. I ask, what government? It is said we are there to stabilize the region. I ask, how can the US president stabilize the region?

"The longer we stay in Lebanon, the harder it will be for us to leave. We will be trapped by the case we make for having troops there in the first place. What can we expect if we withdraw from Lebanon? The same as will happen if we stay. I acknowledge that the level of fighting will increase if we leave. But I firmly believe this will happen in any event."

Less than one month later, 241 Marines were killed by suicide bombers in Lebanon, marking the deadliest attack on US soldiers during the Reagan presidency. The House tried to cut off funding for the deployment, but the measure failed, with McCain voting against it.

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.156 , Oct 9, 2007

1983: sold Saddam precursors for chemical weapons

Iraq was at war with neighboring Iran. Shortly after Saddam's 1983 gassing of Iranian troops, Pres. Reagan sent his Middle East envoy Donald Rumsfeld to hold friendly talks with Saddam. Rumsfeld called the meeting a "positive milestone in development of US-Iraqi relations."

Rumsfeld was right. In the years afterward, the Reagan and HW Bush administrations authorized the sale to Iraq of precursors to chemical and biological weapons, including anthrax and bubonic plague, as well as conventional weapons such as Chilean cluster bombs.

The 1988 gassing of thousands of Kurds hardly dimmed the enthusiasm of the two Republican administrations. In fact, US military intelligence actually expanded its contributions to the Butcher of Baghdad after the gas attack. But all of that came to an abrupt end when, on August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. That put Saddam Hussein in control of 20% of the world's crude oil reserves. The love affair between the Republican right and the Baathist ultraright was over.

Source: The Truth (with jokes), by Al Franken, p.221-222 , Oct 25, 2005

WWII Army Air Force captain in motion-picture unit

To have fought in World War II was a badge of honor. Three young naval lieutenants who did not know each other but fought in the South Pacific at the same time would become President of the US, in no small part because each could claim service in this war: Kennedy, Nixon, and Bush. Directing the European theater of operations was General Eisenhower, whose country would also reward him for his service with 8 years in the White House.

World War II was such a glorious political credential in the 20th century that some men felt the need to manufacture a more heroic war record for themselves. Even as President, Ronald Reagan fabricated stories about being an Army photographer assigned to film the horror of the Nazi death camps. The truth is that he never left California during the war. As a captain in the Army Air Force, he was assigned to a motion-picture unit in Hollywood, where he narrated training films and played the lead in musical comedy about the army.

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p. 77-78 , Sep 14, 2004

1988: Opposed ousting Panamanian dictator Noriega by force

Unlike Kennedy, Bush personally knew his nemesis, having met with Noriega twice. Bush had paid him $110,000 a year as a CIA operative, which may have accounted for the strongman's boast "I have Bush by the balls." From February through May 1988, the Reagan administration had tried to find a way to remove Noriega from power without sending in the troops. The White House and Noriega negotiated through the papal nuncio in Panama. As VP, Bush had objected to these negotiations in favor of force. According to Secretary of State George Shultz, President Reagan stood firm. "I'm not giving in, " Shultz quoted Reagan as saying. "This deal is better than going in and counting our dead. I just think you [Bush] are wrong as hell on this."
Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.486-487 , Sep 14, 2004

Grenada invasion: deter Soviets & Cubans

Several times Reagan took military action, either as an instrument of foreign policy or as a possible deterrent to terrorism. In October 1983 he ordered the invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada, declaring that Americans there were in jeopardy and that the country had become a potentially dangerous Cuban-Soviet military base. The Grenada operation occurred just two days after a terrorist attack on the U.S. Marine peacekeeping contingent in Lebanon caused the death of 241 servicemen.
Source: Grolier Encyclopedia on-line, “The Presidency” , Dec 25, 2000

Ok to break law on Iran-Contra to protect hostages

The Special Prosecutor on Iran-Contra Welsh asked: Could the president confirm any of his contemporaneous statements on Iran-contra developments? "Does that sound like you?"

"Yes, it does," Reagan answered. "I don't have a memory of it all taking place but I can see that, yes, that would be my attitude." The president talked about his anger at Congress for restricting aid to the contras and the arms embargo with Iran. "I was just madder than the devil about them and their doing this to us." Reagan said "I felt as far as being the president that a thing of this kind to get back five human beings from potential murder, yes, I would violate that other law."

The prosecutor asked deferentially, "In other words, to avoid responsibility for the death of the hostages, you would explain to the American people who you violated that law?"

"Yes," Reagan said.

It was an astounding admission. Reagan had essentially said he had violated the law. In the context of Reagan's memory, though, it meant nothing.

Source: Shadow, by Bob Woodward, p.163-164 , Jun 15, 1999

OpEd: Iran-Contra contradicted "Never deal with terrorists"

It appeared that the Reagan Administration, which had insisted that it would never deal with terrorists under any circumstances, had swapped arms for hostages held by terrorists.

The President told [NSC staff] that we had, in fact, supplied arms to Iran, but it was only a small amount and we had not swapped for hostages. He knew, of course, that the US had shipped antitank and anti-aircraft missiles to Tehran and that certain Iranians had exerted influence over terrorists in Lebanon to facilitate the release of American hostages. But in Reagan's own mind that did not constitute a swap of arms for hostages.

At the time, I myself believed that the potential benefits--not only the return of the hostages, but also the opening of a dialogue with a faction that might one day come to power in one of the most strategically important countries in the world--outweighed the risk. Of course I did not at that time know all the secrets. Neither did the President.

Source: For the Record, by Donald Regan, p. 30-31 , May 2, 1988

We support the Mujahidin, freedom fighters in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the freedom fighters are the key to peace. We support the Mujahidin. There can be no settlement unless all Soviet troops are removed and the Afghan people are allowed genuine self-determination. I have made my views on this matter known to Gorbachev. But not just Afghanistan--yes, everywhere we see a swelling freedom tide across the world: freedom fighters rising up in Cambodia & Angola, fighting & dying for the same democratic liberties we hold sacred. Their cause is our cause: freedom
Source: Pres. Reagan's 1988 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 25, 1988

Invaded Grenada right after Beirut bombing

On Oct. 22, 1983, six East Caribbean states formally requested American assistance in restoring democracy to Grenada. If the Cuban-fomented revolution there was allowed to succeed, then they feared fore their own freedoms. Reagan said, “There’s no way we could say no to this request,” [and ordered] “an outright invasion” of Grenada.

On Oct. 23, a grinning suicide bomber had driven a yellow truck full of explosives through the guard gate of the Marine headquarters at Beirut International Airport, killing 241 US troops. The next few days, Reagan was involved in post-tragedy and pre-invasion meetings.

“Operation Urgent Fury” was an embarrassingly clumsy success. The world’s ranking superpower, hampered by old tourist maps and incompatible radio frequencies, needed two full days to overcome the resistance of an island not much bigger than Washington DC. Democracy was restored, and some damp Cuban documents impounded, along with 24,768 signal flares-clear evidence of incendiary Red activity.

Source: Dutch, by Edmund Morris, p. 501-4 , Oct 22, 1983

Protected Israel, but demanded they stop shelling Beirut

William Clark insists that Reagan’s protectiveness toward Israel was compassionate rather than religious and based on a sensible reading of history. The little Jewish state had been menaced for decades by outside terror. Its recent discovery that Iraq was on the verge of a nuclear capability could only have confirmed the neurosis of a Menachem Begin that somewhere, always, someone was building an oven for the Jews.

This did not mean that the President forgave Begin and Ariel Sharon for encouraging the carnage in Beirut. Revealingly, at the height of Israel’s bombardment of Beirut, he had invoked race memory in a phone call to Begin: “I told him to stop or our entire future relationship was endangered. I used the word holocaust deliberately and said his symbol was becoming a picture of a seven-month old baby with its arms blown off.” Begin called back within minutes to say that the attack had been stopped.

Source: Dutch, by Edmund Morris, p.464-465 , Aug 12, 1982

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Other past presidents on War & Peace: Ronald Reagan on other issues:
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George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

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Page last updated: Mar 16, 2014