The Eighties

excerpted from the book

The Greatest Story Never Told

A People's History of the American Empire 1945-1999

by Michael K. Smith

Xlibrus Corporation, 2002, paper


1980 El Salvador

The reformist junta crumbles amidst rising state terror and power shifts completely to the killing machine churning out thousands of disfigured corpses a year. With crop dusters sent by plantation owners dropping DDT on the massive procession, sharpshooters and guardsmen open fire on the largest peaceful march in Salvadoran history, leaving fifty dead on the sidewalk, a hundred wounded, and every sanctuary of the diocese overflowing with terrified refugees. Archbishop Romero announces that, "the most repressive sector of the armed forces" runs the country and calls on the Christian Democrats to resign the government. In his weekly homily to the nation he quotes from his letter imploring President Carter to suspend aid to the blood-drenched junta, which, if sent, can only serve to "intensify injustice and . . . repression" against the people, "who have fought, so many times, for their fundamental rights

A right-wing group blows up the Church radio station. Carter sends the aid.

Six masked men assassinate the Christian Democrats' attorney general in the dead of night with army regulation G-3 and M-16 rifles. On March 13th the Salvadoran Human Rights Commission publishes a list of 689 political killings since the first of the year, nearly 90% by government security forces and affiliated death squads. In a reply to Romero's letter, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance insists that, "The defense of human rights has been, and continues to be, one of the principal goals of the foreign policy of this administration ..."

1980 El Salvador

Living among the poor, Monsignor Romero has developed an insatiable appetite for God. Speaking of justice, he is accused of hatred.

He welcomes the Nicaraguan revolution, its guarantee of human rights, independent judges, freedom of speech, worship, and association, the termination of arbitrary arrest, search, torture, and murder. He applauds efforts to bring Somoza's officials to justice for crimes against the people.

His lone ambition is to intoxicate the world with the Gospel, and he holds out hope that even the nuncios and military vicariates might someday be converted. A disciple of Vatican II, he sees the Church's mission as establishing community in accordance with divine law while enlightening the people's legitimate aspirations for a just society by the example of Christian faith and hope. Peace must come, he says, but cannot unless it is the product of justice and love.

Violence is "unchristian, " but its most acute form is institutionalized violence, the planned injustice of poor majorities deprived of the necessities of life. The Salvadoran popular organizations are 'signs of Gods presence and purposes, " while their violent persecution represents "structural sin embedded in our society. " Marxism is a useful tool of social analysis but it cannot substitute for the inner conversion essential to loving community. Private property is legitimate but comes with a heavy social mortgage: derivative from God, wealth 'should reach all in just form, guided 6y justice and accompanied 6y charity."

In a packed Metropolitan Cathedral, an eerie hush falls over the congregation as Archbishop Romero appeals directly to the young conscripts ordered to kill in the name of national security: "No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God . . . In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people whose cries rise up to Heaven, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you, STOP THE REPRESSION!"

1980: El Salvador

Speaking Power To Truth

The dammed blood bursts, a scarlet torrent cascades through his skull, down into his mouth and nose, gushing onto his purple-and-white vestments as he slumps to the floor at the foot of the large crucifix behind the altar. Opening his arms to offer the Eucharist, Archbishop Romero has been shot in the heart, the most forgiving heart in El Salvador. The unforgiving bullet scatters fragments through his chest, triggering massive internal hemorrhage. Friends dash to his side and flip him on his back while a photographer shoots him again with flashes. The killer, escorted to the mass by two police patrols, escapes into the street.

Unconscious, gasping, lifeblood ebbing away, Archbishop Romero is carried from the chapel to a small truck and driven to the hospital. After he is laid out on a table in the emergency room, a nurse probes for a vein in his arm, but all have collapsed.

He strangles to death in his own blood.

1980 South Korea

Blaming "impure elements" for causing "disturbance" and fomenting 'a forceful riot," martial law troops and Black Beret paratroopers club, bayonet, and mutilate the people of Kwangju, carrying out three days of barbarity with the zeal of Nazi storm troopers," in the words of an Asia Watch investigative mission.

With the massacre in full swing, the United States receives two pleas for assistance: one, from a pro-democracy citizens committee negotiating with the government and another from General Chun, who requests the release of 20,000 U.S. troops to help the storm troopers.

The U.S. dispatches the soldiers, throwing in unrequested naval and air units as a bonus. Two thousand people are executed, including children and the elderly.

After the bloodbath, the President of the Export-Import bank arrives in Seoul to float the butchers a $600 million loan.

General Chun takes over the Presidency by force.

President Carter comments that the U.S. would prefer democracy, but, "The Koreans are not ready for that, according to their own judgment, and I don't know how to explain it any better."


1980 Reagan

Four percent of the electorate votes for Ronald Reagan because he is 'a real conservative."

Reagan's share of the total potential vote (26.6%) is the third lowest of any winning candidate since 1932. His share of the total popular vote surpasses Jimmy Carter's losing effort by just half a | percentage point.

Thirty-seven percent of Reagan voters decide to vote for him in the last week. Ten to twelve percent make their decision on the last day. One-quarter report they have voted for "the lesser of two evils" only 6 percent say they have chosen "the better of goods. " Since 1952 the only candidates more unpopular than Reagan are McGovern and Goldwater. Among elected candidates, Reagan is the least popular.

Support for social programs is high, especially Social Security and Medicare. Large majorities oppose benefit cuts for the elderly, poor, handicapped, or in general health programs or federal aid to education. They favor expanded regulations to protect the health and safety of consumers, workers, and the quality of the environment.

The mass media declare a landslide victory for conservatism and the death of the New Deal.


1982 Reagan
Reagan officials Speak Out On Nuclear War

" ... it is possible for any society to survive [a nuclear war].... nuclear war is a destructive thing but still in large part a physics problem. "

Charles Kupperman Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

"You have a survivability of command and control, survivability of industrial potential, protection of a percentage of your citizens, and you have a capability that inflicts more damage on the opposition than it can inflict on you. "

Vice-President George Bush, on how to win a nuclear

"Everybody's going to make it if there are enough shovels to go around. Dig a hole, cover it with a couple of doors and then throw three feet of dirt on top. Its the dirt that does it. "

T.K. Jones, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense


"The United States must possess the ability to wage nuclear war rationally. "

Colin Gray, Arms Control Adviser

"It would 6e a terrible mess, but it wouldn't be unmanageable.

Louis Giuffrida, FEMA

Would democracy and other institutions survive nuclear war?

"I think they would eventually, yeah. As I say, the ants eventually build another anthill."

William Chipman, FEMA


1984 Reagan

The Reagan Administration withdraws from the public housing market and hundreds of thousands of Americans express a sudden preference for living in the great outdoors. On Good Morning America, the President refutes charges of callousness: "One problem that we've had, " he says, "is the people who are sleeping on the grates . . . are homeless . . . by choice. "

One of his children, about Ronald Reagan
"He makes things up and believes them."

1985 Reagan

At a White House press conference President Reagan announces that he will lay a wreath in a military graveyard in Bitburg as a gesture of reconciliation between the U.S. and Germany, once enemies, now allies. Among the 2000 German soldiers buried there, 49 are former members of the Nazi SS.

"They were victims," says Reagan of the Nazi soldiers, 'just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps. ~

1985 Reagan White House

In an article entitled Helping the Poor: A Few Modest Proposals, White House favorite Charles Murray argues for the conquest of poverty by eliminating the poor. "The notion," he writes, "is to reduce the reproduction of poor children by intensifying the unpleasantness of circumstances that precede their birth, rendering unwed parenthood . . . contemptible." He recommends that indigent women be induced to abort or give their babies to the state by threatening them with the prospect of 'a good correctional 'halfway house' .

To heighten the birth deterrent Murray advocates the abolition of New Deal style social programs, whose counterproductive doles and hand-outs foster dependency, perpetuating the misery they intend to alleviate. "Take away all governmentally-sponsored subsidies for irresponsible behavior . . . The natural system will produce the historically natural results."

Why should extremes of poverty and wealth be accepted as natural? "Some people are better than others, " Murray explains. "They deserve more of society's rewards."

1985 Third World in US

In apartments without cooking facilities on the North Side, a common dinner for elderly residents is a tin of cat food and a raw egg.

Dr. Howard B. Levy, Chairman of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital, publicly states his concern that his caseload of advanced malnutrition diseases like kwashiorkor and marasmus is growing.

"Malnutrition has clearly gone up in the last few years. We have more low-birth-weight babies. We are seeing so much TB that my house staff is no longer excited by it. "

1986 Media
New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis

[It is appropriate to] " ... kill innocent civilians, or murderous states would never fear retribution."

1986 El Salvador
A U S. Mercenary Speaks Out On Counterinsurgency

"The army is not killing communist guerrillas, despite what is reported. It is murdering the civilians who side with them. "

"Its a beautiful technique. By terrorizing civilians the army is crushing the rebellion without the need to directly confront the guerrillas. "

'Attacking civilians is the game plan.... Kill the sympathizers and you win the war."

1986 El Salvador

Interview with ex-Treasury policeman fro El Salvador

Q: "The torture that you were present at-was putting peoples heads in buckets of excrement, electrical torture . . . ?" A: "Oh, this is nothing. . ." Q: "Did it get worse than that?" A: "Electrical shocks-nobody will die unless it is too severe. But if you cut somebody-their skin-or you take somebody's eyes-this is actually what they did at the torture-with a pencil you take one eye out and you say, 'If you don't talk I will take another one. 'And you say 'I will pull your teeth out,' and they do-one by one.

I don't know-do you want to hear all that?-you cut the fingers, you know why? Do you think this person will go alive after you cut a finger or you take their eyes or you destroy the ears with sound or with hitting this person in the ears-or when you take the organ of this person, the genital organ, you cut it-if a man you cut his organ?

This is the torture.

And this person bleeds to death, and then you laugh around him, drinking, smoking marijuana, using LSD, all kinds of drugs. And you feel bad after the torture takes place, after the person disappears-you throw the person away. You say 'This guy was hard to kill' this is the conversation after the torture.

But in the torture you try to destroy this person physically-this is how they fight terrorists, Communists-to eliminate a person-this is it. They are trained to eliminate."

1986 US Military Budget

Budget Of A Garrison State

Gross federal revenue $794 billion
Less Social Security $294 billion
Actual Federal Revenue $500 BILLION
Defense $286 billion
Foreign Arms $12 billion
Nuclear Weapons (Energy Dept.) $8 billion
Veterans' Benefits $27 billion
Interest on Past Arms and Wars $142 billion

1987 Oliver North

Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North sits ramrod straight, looking without blinking at the Congressional investigating committee facing him and the television cameras recording the moment. With his loyal-wife-Betsy behind him and a stack of telegrams from his supporters in front of him, he confesses his undying devotion to Ronald Reagan, the contras, and the oppressed people of Nicaragua.

From the White House basement he organized a lucrative trade in cocaine, weapons, and American hostages involving Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, South Africa, China, and other devotees of liberty and justice for all. The profits went to killing Nicaraguans.

"Blood and Guts" North is asked about having lied in previous testimony. North replies that he wasn't authorized to tell the truth.

1987 Oliver North

The media boldly describe North's chin line, haircut, and the way his voice chokes up. ABC's Ted Koppel claims North held "an entire nation enthralled." John Chancellor calls his testimony 'a terrific performance." Dan Rather declares it "Washington theater at its best." Seizing on North fans buying Ollie T-shirts and getting Ollie-style hair-cuts, the networks portray him as a folk hero.

Murdered Nicaraguans, many thousands gone, cannot attend the festival of self-congratulation.

Their next of kin are not invited.

1989 East St. Louis - America's Soweto

Under a pollution-darkened sky, raw sewage backs up into homes, playgrounds, and schools, provoking warnings of cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid. Uncollected garbage piles up in lead-contaminated backyards, spawning a plague of rodents and flies. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch observes that the odor of burning trash "has become one of the scents of spring. " A year ago a policeman reported 'rats as big as puppies" outside his mother's house.

Sandwiched between Pfizer and Monsanto plants and a trash incinerator, East St. Louis sits enveloped in clouds of poisonous fumes that belch forth from vents and smokestacks 24 hours a day. Toxic spills and the wail of alarm sirens are so routine that Monsanto maintains a standing account at St. Mary's Hospital. Local children suffer from one of the highest rates of child asthma in the United States.

Of 66 cities in Illinois, East St. Louis ranks first in fetal death, first in premature birth, and third in infant death. It has no obstetric services, no regular trash pick up, and almost no jobs. Three-quarters of its population subsists on welfare.

A local school named after Martin Luther King is 100% black.

It is full of sewer water and its doors are locked with chains.

The Greatest Story Never Told

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