reagan administration

WARNING: No Compassion. Proceed with Caution.

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Where is the compassion in our economy and our politics? It says much of the economic system that Sojourners even needs to campaign for a "moral budget." How do we, as Christians, challenge structures that allow billions of dollars to be wasted via tax loopholes while 1 in 6 Americans live in poverty?

Will we, as Sachs hopes,

The Case for the Christic Lawsuit

[If] any of these little left-wing outfits like the Christic Institute have something [on me], let's see what it is. Let the American people have it examined and have a fair resolution made.--Vice President George Bush, May 27,1988

Whether the vice president was bluffing or, like many Reagan administration officials, has professed his ignorant innocence so many times that he actually believes it, George Bush deserves to be taken up on this statement. Let us, the American people, see the long-hidden facts behind the Iran-contra scandal and our country's long-secret foreign policy. Let us analyze the evidence.

That, despite some factual weaknesses and rhetorical flights of fancy, was what the Christic Institute's much-maligned "contragate" lawsuit was all about. It sought to make government officials and private individuals accountable to the law of the land and to the people of this country.

Such accountability is needed to restore the integrity of our constitutional system because, while some have ridiculed general counsel Danny Sheehan and others at the Christic Institute for their "conspiracy theory" of U.S. foreign policy, conspiracy is exactly what the maintenance of a national security state requires: a conspiracy of secrecy and deceit.

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The Policy is Still Wrong

The Iran-contra hearings have provided a summer-long opportunity for Reagan administration spokespersons to make their case for the contras on national television. During the hundreds of hours of testimony and speeches, I heard only one person make reference to the significant and constant opposition of U.S. church people to the contra war.

In his testimony before the joint congressional committee investigating the Iran-contra arms scandal, Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams declared that he simply could not understand why churches and church groups in the United States would oppose aid to the contras. I would like to help Mr. Abrams and the administration he represents to understand.

U.S. churches and church-based groups have sent more people to Nicaragua and sent them for longer periods of time than have the State Department, the U.S. Congress, and very likely the entire U.S. government. What we have seen and heard convinces us that U.S. policy toward Nicaragua is wrong and horribly destructive.

The Reagan administration policy to overthrow the government of Nicaragua is not just mistaken, but is, in our view, morally corrupt and politically indefensible.That is our firm conviction. Church groups challenge almost every assertion made about Nicaragua by this administration. What the administration says are facts that support its policy we say are lies that are used to justify unspeakable violence.

Truth-telling is central to our biblical tradition, and this war has been built on a scaffold of deception. We have seen the work of Ronald Reagan's "freedom fighters" and know them to be terrorists instead. His "Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance" is in reality a U.S.-created and -sponsored mercenary army carrying out a proxy war for the Reagan administration.

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Turning Away From Star Wars Idolatry

Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus rode toward Jerusalem in what has come to be known as the triumphal entry. Scripture tells us that, as he caught sight of Jerusalem, he wept for the city, saying, "Would that you knew the things that make for peace" (Luke 19:41-42).

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Public Television

Who is the "public" in public television? When your local station wants your money, they say "You are." But where are "you" when decisions are made about the content and direction of "your" programming?

Public television still delivers most of the worthwhile children's programming in the United States. And it can still occasionally cough up a revelation like "Eyes on the Prize" (see page 41 of this issue). But for the most part, public television today serves a very narrow cultural and political agenda, the boundaries of which are set by Reagan-appointed board members and (guess who?) our friends in the Fortune 500.

In the first year of the Reagan administration, public television stations aired a documentary on the Nicaraguan revolution titled "From the Ashes" that was partially funded by a Carter-era grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The next day Reaganaut NEH Director William Bennett (now secretary of education) announced his horror at public money going for pro-Sandinista propaganda. He said things like that wouldn't happen any more. And they haven't. The boards that make funding decisions at NEH and at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) have been stacked with Reagan appointees bent on a cultural jihad against "unbalanced" programming, meaning anything that casts doubt on their vision of America and the world.

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An Elaborate Web of War

Like salt in a wound, news of the shipment of official U.S. aid to the Nicaraguan contras has been painful for many of us. Knowing that the money and guns are flowing--the beginning of the $100 million in aid approved last June--has made us even more acutely aware of our limited capacity to help our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters by influencing U.S. policy, and of the increased pain and suffering those dollars are sure to bring.

The $100 million in contra aid represents a fundamental, qualitative difference in the United States' war against the people of Nicaragua. No longer limited to covert funding and guidance of a proxy army, the Reagan administration plans to supplement its monetary aid with the full array of U.S. military, intelligence, and administrative resources.

The contra war is deepening, and U.S. involvement in it is escalating to new, yet frighteningly familiar, levels. In the words of Republican Sen. David F. Durenberger of Minnesota, hardly a strong opponent of U.S. policy in Nicaragua, "Regardless of what anybody says, this is Vietnam."

Some of us have been sounding that warning for a long, long time. And a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last April found that 62 percent of the respondents said they "fear the United States will get involved in Nicaragua as it did in Vietnam." The signposts of intensive, long-term U.S. commitment to the Nicaraguan war are more numerous and evident than ever.

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Finding the Filipino Path

All analysis aside, there was much to be simply thankful for in the recent change of governments in the Philippines. The sight of hundreds of unarmed citizens linking arms to guard their ballot boxes was a reminder of the living ideal behind the oft-tarnished reality of electoral democracy. The picture of thousands of people stopping tanks and artillery with their bodies and their prayers was a rare testimony to the spiritually rooted political power of nonviolence. And Corazon Aquino's personal qualities of integrity and compassion are extremely rare among the world's heads of state.

But the ousting of the Marcos dictatorship was not a simple matter of good vs. evil. Nothing is ever that simple, especially when strategic U.S. military bases are involved. While the decisive role in forcing Marcos out was played by the Filipino people, the United States clearly played an important part in shaping the process of Marcos' removal and did so in a way that safeguarded U.S. influence in the post-Marcos period.

Before Defense Minister Juan Enrile and Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos moved against Marcos, the Aquino forces were anticipating a political struggle of strikes, boycotts, and massive civil disobedience over a period of months that would eventually end the dictatorship. This would have necessarily involved an alliance between the moderate middle-class reformers of the Aquino campaign and the more radical grassroots organizations of workers, peasants, church people, students, and the unemployed grouped in the BAYAN coalition. In fact, Western press reports in the days immediately after the February 7 election indicated that such an alliance was in the making.

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