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CRIME ARCHIVES EXTREMISM ARCHIVES FEATURE ARCHIVES From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized Violence

Armies of the Right

Tim McVeigh’s revolutionary Footsteps

Moments after the cop ordered the Chevrolet Suburban to the side of the road that Saturday afternoon in Wilmington, Ohio, the man in the passenger seat jumped out, pulled a pistol, and opened fire on the officer. Staggering backward, the cop fumbled for his own gun and managed to get off a fusillade of shots. Unscathed, the car’s passenger ran into the woods. The driver, who had been standing beside his door, knocked aside another cop, got behind me wheel, and took off down the road.

Later that day the same men tangled with the cops in another shootout. Again they got away. The police all points bulletin for the men pictures a sweet-looking young man, with twin­kling eyes, his face protected by the floppy brim of a western hat straight out of Lonesome Dove.

His name is Chevie O’Brien Kehoe, 24. And it looks like he made a clean getaway across the Midwest in a Dodge Executive mobile home, along with his brother Cheyne, 20, and their wives and kids. Two weeks ago the motor home was found abandoned at an underpass on an in­terstate outside Casper, Wyoming.

The Kehoes are wanted for questioning in the robbery and grisly mur­der of an Arkansas gun dealer. But they are not just another gang of desperadoes. They are known to have ties with the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations in northern Idaho. And after the February 15 shootout in Ohio, police found in their vehicle what have by now become tell-tale tools of the far-right guerrilla war: bullet-resistant vests, two FBI logo baseball caps, two U.S. Marshal badges, handcuffs, a portable scanner radio, a gas grenade, pepper spray, a portable stretcher and body bag, latex gloves, duct tape, camouflage clothing, and three gas masks.

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The Kehoes, then, are foot sol­diers in a political army. Like others in that army, they see themselves as revolutionaries in a far-right movement who are determined to overthrow ZOG (the Zionist Occupation Government) and re­store society to its rightful protectors: white Christian men.

Some outriders in this movement look with favor toward Timothy McVeigh, whose trial begins March 31 in Denver, as another sol­dier in the fight for a white America. “I think he’s a courageous man,” says Dennis Mahon, the Tulsa leader of White Aryan Resistance. “Tremendous drive … If we had a hundred men like him in this country we’d probably change things around.” Referring to the Okla­homa City bombing that McVeigh is charged with, Mahon says, “I don’t agree with what he did particularly. My personal opinion is that that building should have been bombed early in the morning.” Mahon has offered to testify on behalf of McVeigh.

What makes this a movement and not just a collection of disparate violent acts is the web of associations that tie together the participants. The most powerful is the religious tenet of Christian Identity, which preaches that the true inheritors of the earth are White Aryans, and all others are subhuman “mud people.”

There are other ties that bind these like-minded people together. Some are pulled together because they practice polygamy. Many younger members are groupies on the skinhead circuit, follow­ing bands around the country, and picking up work at movement enclaves (like the sawmill at Elohim City) when the need arises. Others hang out together at summer camps, evening Bible studies, paramilitary training sessions, gun shows, and meetings of sympathetic militias. The reli­gious gatherings are where the hardcore, far-right operatives out of the old Ku Klux Klan or Posse Comitatus mix with less political, naive Christian religious people. The result is a potent combination of politics infused with religious zeal. It’s one thing to believe that it’s your mission under the constitution to set up, say, a citizens’ grand jury outside the corrupt court system, and quite something else to think of yourself as a Christian soldier in the opening phases of the battle of Armageddon.

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Beginning in the ’80s, groups of apocalyptic Christian fundamentalists withdrew from society, forming their own closed communities so as to more closely practice their religious beliefs and wait for the return of Christ. One group, called The Covenant, The Sword & The Arm of the Lord (CSA), aligned itself in the mid 1980s with the Order, a far-right under­ground gang. That explosive combination led to a tense showdown between 300 lawmen and some 75 heavily armed reli­gious zealots prepared to do God’s will in a shootout. The shooting was averted by last-minute negotiations.

In today’s revolutionary terrain the secluded enclaves remain, although they are of less importance now than in the last decade. Large gang-type formations like the Order have given way to a complex network of leaderless resistance cells, each made up of anywhere from six to eight in­dividuals. The cells strike at various targets, every one selected for the purpose of ad­vancing their revolution: bombing an abortion clinic, robbing a bank or ar­mored car, murdering an interracial cou­ple or someone thought to be Jewish, blacking out a big city by blowing up pow­er lines and thereby sparking a race riot (disrupting Tulsa in this manner has been much discussed at far-right gatherings), or blowing up federal buildings.

Indeed, the actual plan to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City was first hatched within the CSA during the early ’80s. The attack was aborted when the rocket that was to be used blew up in the hands of the man who was build­ing it. By adopting the leaderless resistance cell strategy, the far right made large actions like Oklahoma City possible.

These violent acts are carried out with both the aim of screwing up an oppressive govern­ment (for example, by dumping cyanide into a community’s water supply — another plan that was hatched with the help of the CSA. This time with Robert Miles, the grand dragon of the Michigan Ku Klux Klan), or the need to raise money (by, say, robbing a bank or selling dope). The money is then used to purchase land to create a white bastion, buy equipment such as radios or trucks and vans (which are sometimes stolen as well), and amass weapons and ammu­nition (which are also often ripped off through home invasions of gun dealers).

Far-right gunmen have pulled off the greatest chain of bank robberies since Jesse James­ — one a month starting in 1994, with 19 in eight states by 1996. But the bomb is their m.o. Oklahoma City was the biggest, but it was just the first of a rash of such actions: in the south, three members of the Georgia Republic Militia were convicted of stockpiling bombs. Militia members from West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania stand accused of planning to blow up the FBI’s national fingerprint center in Clarksburg. And in Vacaville, California, a federal mine inspector and his wife were critically injured in a far-right car bombing; before the car blew up, a caller had warned, “Timothy McVeigh lives on.” Other bombing attacks in­clude last-year’s Oklahoma-based conspiracy to blow up Anti-Defamation League offices in Houston, and the recent siege on abortion clin­ics and gay bars in the south.

In all, 25 states have recently experienced violent incidents linked to the far right. Amazingly the feds still see these violent acts as indi­vidual crimes.

The Oklahoma City bombing, how­ever, was clearly not a random act or terror. It was quite simply, a major operation in a growing revolution  — one that had been discussed for over a decade. And its timing suggests several intended messages: as possible retribution for the execution on April 19, 1995, of Richard Wayne Snell, a leader of the CSA who was sentenced to die for murdering an Arkansas state trooper and a pawn broker he mistakenly thought was Jewish. It may have been retaliation for the 1992 Idaho shootout be­tween the feds and Randv Weaver. And most likely, the Oklahoma City bombing could have been a response to the government’s siege at Waco.

Timothy McVeigh had been in and out of the far-right scene since he left the army in 1992, and was reportedly highly agitated by Waco. One of the main ques­tions to be answered at McVeigh’s trial, then, is to what extent did he fit into this revolutionary landscape — just how did his “cell” operate in relationship to the others now functioning across the Amer­ican hinterland?

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The Kehoe saga begins in western Arkansas with the disappearance in January 1996 of William Mueller, 53, a gun dealer; his wife Nancy, 28; and her daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Powell, age 8. They were last seen on their way to a gun show in the town of Springdale. Several weeks after the Muellers disappeared, a witness reported seeing them in a car along with several other men, fueling speculation that they had been abducted. In February, one of Mueller’s guns turned up at a pawn shop in Seattle, and it was traced to Kirby Kehoe and his son Chevie, who had sold it at a Washington gun show. The investigation dragged, and then on June 29, the badly decomposed bodies of the Mueller family surfaced in the Illinois Bayou, just north of Rus­sellville, Arkansas. Their heads were cov­ered with plastic bags and wrapped with duct tape, and the adults’ hands were cuffed.

By last summer the search for the Kehoes had widened into an interstate task force of law-enforcement officers. The witness who saw the car carrying the Muellers had identified the other occupants as Tim­othy Thomas Coombs (a white suprema­cist wanted for shooting a Missouri state trooper), and Kirby Kehoe’s two sons, Chevie and Cheyne. The cops started to close in. The Kehoes lived in a remote part of the Kaniksu National Forest in the mountains along the Washington-Idaho border — a place where most of the houses are without electricity, telephones, or even addresses. But somehow they were tipped off and witnesses reported seeing the Ke­hoes in a truck loaded with belongings, hightailing it out of the forest. The family headed for Montana where they lived until the Ohio shootout.

In December, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, police found another Mueller gun in a truck registered to the wife of Chevie Kehoe. The firearm and vehicle were in the possession of Sean Michael Haines, a 19-year-old Washington man with ties to white supremacist groups. He claimed he obtained the stolen rifle in a swap with Chevie. Haines later said he met Chevie at an Aryan Nations compound in northern Idaho, and that the two attended gun shows together. Kehoe married his first wife in a ceremony at that compound. Haines de­scribed him as less of a supremacist than a “white separatist” as well as a “constitutional­ist” and a survivalist. In their search of Haines’s truck, police found another stolen gun (traced back to Washington state), blood stains, flexible handcuffs, and duct tape.

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Eastern Washington, where the Kehoes far-right movement that has long sought to establish a “white bastion” in the mountains stretching into northern Idaho and western Montana. Its headquarters is the Aryan Na­tions compound at Hayden Lake, a suburb of the resort and retirement community Coeur d’Alene in western Idaho. But its followers are sprawled out into the Idaho panhandle around Sandpoint, where Louis Beam, the de facto leader of the movement, has bought land. Sandpoint is also the home base of America’s Promise, a Christian Identity ministry.

Three members of America’s Promise have been tied to a string of bombings and a bank robbery in Spokane last year, three men — Charles Barbee, 44; Robert S. Berry, 42; and Verne Jay Merrell, 51 — have been charged with the April 1 bombings of the Spokane Spokesman ­Review‘s Valley office and a nearby U.S. Bank branch office. They are also charged with rob­bing the same bank and bombing a Planned Parenthood clinic on July 12, just two weeks be­fore the Olympic Park bombings. The robbers left behind notes signed Phineas Priesthood, a symbol of the far-right racialist underground. Phineas is a Bible figure who is a mythic hero on the right because he supposedly slew an inter­racial couple having sex.

The suspects were arrested October 8 in Yakima after a botched attempt to rob yet another bank. The men told a federal judge in Jan­uary that they are “ambassadors for the kingdom of Yahweh,” and hence beyond authority of the government. If convicted they face life without parole. A fourth suspect, Brian Ratigan, 38, was arrested last weekend in Spokane. He is charged with conspiring to bomb buildings and rob banks in the area last year.

The government believes Merrell is the leader of the gang. The son of an upper-middle­-class Philadelphia family, he went into the Navy following high school. After serving in the Atlantic fleet for 12 years, Merrell got jobs — and security clearances — in domestic nu­clear power plants. Along with Louis Beam, he writes for Jubilee, the Christian Identity news­paper, whose owner, Paul Hall, also lives in Sandpoint.

In late January, the Spokesman-Review re­vealed that the same witness who originally led the FBI to the accused America’s Promise bombers claimed he sold them a military back­pack and talked to them about a time-delayed detonator. The Olympic Park bomb — which killed a woman and injured 111 people — came in a military backpack and was set off by a time-­delayed detonator. A witness places at least one of the Spokane suspects, Robert Berry, in Atlanta during the Olympics. And telephone records show calls to Charles Barbee’s home were made from Atlanta at about the time of the July 27 attack. Barbee had worked at AT&T in Georgia, Florida, and Idaho before quitting his job. “Half the people I worked with were women,” Barbee complained. “They were working instead of being helpmates to their hus­bands, as God requires.”

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If Hayden Lake and the western slope of the Rockies are at one end of the outlaw trail, the Ozarks and the Elohim City compound at the other. Elohim City is another stronghold of Christian Identity and a common rest stop for members of the far right’s western  faction when they travel east. The Kehoes, for example, stopped off at this safe haven, where some resi­dents practice polygamy. Elohim City is the headquarters for another spoke of the move­ment, the Aryan Republican Army bank robbers, a gang of four men who had robbed one bank each month, beginning in 1994, before getting caught by the feds early last year.

Led by Richard Guthrie Jr., who was found hanged in jail last summer at the age of 38, and Pete Lan­gan, 38, a former in­formant for the U.S. Secret Service, the ARA was partly masterminded by Mark Thomas, 46, the Aryan Nations leader of northeastern Pennsylvania.Thomas put Guthrie and Langan together with young skinheads who squatted at his farm outside Allentown. According to the federal indictment, Thomas took some of the $250,000 stolen between 1994 and ’96, and used it to aid other white-power groups. Thomas has reportedly agreed to a plea bargain, while Lan­gan has been convicted of one robbery and has yet to be sentenced.

These are the type of people and this is the world that surrounded Timothy McVeigh, He is known to have made the gun-show rounds while selling copies of The Turner Diaries and staying overnight with gun collectors. His phone records show that he made one call to Elohim City shortly before the Oklahoma City bomb detonated, and be also received a traffic ticket not far from that far-right compound in an earlier incident.

Additionally, his defense team claims, he joined an Arkansas branch of the Ku Klux Klan, and his phone records reveal several different calls to a representative of the National Alliance in Arizona. William Pierce, who heads the Na­tional Alliance, is the author of The Turner Diaries. The McCurtain Daily Gazette, a local paper in Idabel, Oklahoma, has reported that an undercover informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, says McVeigh was a figure on the Aryan scene in Elohim City and knew the ARA bank robbers. A stripper in Oklahoma also claims to have seen McVeigh along with one of the accused ARA robbers. Although tantalizing, these stories remain largely unconfirmed. It is always possible, however, that the defense will try to insinuate them, one way or another, into the trial.

If anything, the struggle between the Aryan resistance movement and the government has intensified since the Oklahoma City bombing, with one cell after another coming to the surface. With the feds refusing to recognize their existence, the attacks by these pockets will only increase in size and strength. ❖

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FEATURE ARCHIVES From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Sanctifying the Evangelical Vote

Pulpit Politics

The major political event of 1986 has been the emergence of the Christian right as a disciplined voting bloc within the Republican party. While television evangelist Pat Robertson may be its initial beneficiary, the ride of these white fundamentalist Christians could help push the Republicans further along the road towards majority party status. And in the process it broadens the ideological base for the right, some of whose leaders have been identified with fundamentalism and who have been the stalwarts of the Reagan Revolution.

Inspired by Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority (recently renamed the Liberty Federation), and unscathed by derisory press, the Christian right has shown itself to be a disciplined political machine this spring. Recently, Christian candidates in Michigan loyal to Pat Robertson outnumbered those pledged to George Bush and Jack Kemp in precinct caucuses. The caucuses are the first step in picking delegates to the Republican national convention in 1988. After the Michigan vote, Robertson and Bush were roughly even in delegate strength — about 35 to 40 percent, which Jack Kemp had 20-30 per cent. Robertson campaigned as if he were in the final stage of a presidential election, making half a dozen personal appearances and spending $100,000 to stage a political rally that was televised across the state. Overall, Robertson’s supporters spent far more than his rivals.

Right-wing Christian candidates also dominated last month’s Republican Party delegate and platform process in Des Moines, Iowa. In two Indiana House districts, avowedly Christian candidates recently scored upsets to gain Republican nominations, and in Oregon a fundamentalist Baptist minister drew 43 percent of the vote in the GOP primary against Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bob Packwood. Robertson has hosted fund-raisers for Christian Republican candidates in Tennessee and New Mexico. And fundamentalists in Minnesota are battling to win the Republican gubernatorial candidacy.

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The term evangelical encompasses Protestant individuals and groups with different political views who share a belief in the authority of the Scriptures. Some are Republicans, some are Democrats. There are significant groups of evangelicals in the South and Midwest. And within these communities, right-wing, white Christian fundamentalists of the Robertson stripe account for a small but active bloc.

If it could ever be organized, the so-far amorphous and conflicted evangelical vote could be an important factor in politics. Twenty years ago the Gallup poll, which probes evangelism, found that 20 percent of the public claimed to have had a born-again experience (the gauge of evangelism used by Gallup). In 1984, the figure rose to 39 percent. If accurate, this means there are more than 65 million adult evangelicals and potential voters. And while these figures often are dismissed as too high, they may actually underplay the strength of the evangelical movement. Two-thirds or more Americans side with Christian fundamentalists in favor of tougher pornography laws, against homosexuals teaching in public schools, and in the belief that prayer is important, according to Gallup. Over 50 percent were opposed to abortion. All of these have been hotly debated issues on the campaign trail this spring.

Pat Robertson’s victory in Michigan last week makes it all the more likely that he will run for president. He now is a real threat to Jack Kemp, whose natural constituency he is attracting, and a serious obstacle to George Bush. Like Jesse Jackson in the Democratic Party, Robertson could become a major, if not decisive, factor in who gets the nomination and in the setting of party priorities.

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The Christian right poses a severe problem for George Bush, who in 1980 was widely portrayed on the right as an East Coast establishment figure who was both ineffective and soft on communism. Bush has since gained grudging respect from the right. But Robertson, like Reagan, is charismatic, and his right-wing credentials are unquestionable. Whatever the result of the presidential campaign, Robertson has and will act as a corrective influence on Bush, moving debate within the party further right.

When Bush’s advisers warned him recently that Robertson was moving up fast in Michigan and could wipe him out, the vice-president brushed them aside. Since the vote, Bush agents have been attempting to put their best face forward, insisting that the vice-president and Robertson equally split the vote. Privately, one Bush operative acknowledged that Robertson “got it all.”

Robertson is all the more powerful in these early stages because Bush has no real strategy for winning the evangelical vote. Jerry Falwell’s early support of Bush, once thought to be an asset, has turned into a hindrance. “There’s not one single plus in Falwell,” says a Bush adviser, who argues the Moral Majority leader has been discredited among fundamentalists because of his inflexibility (i.e., his unyielding defense of apartheid). Bush still has supporters among fundamentalists — TV evangelist Jim Bakker, for one. And he has good friends, including TV evangelist Billy Graham and Robert Schuller. In an effort to remedy his diminished stature among evangelicals, Bush will soon distribute a videotape in which he explains his position on various matters of faith. Some advisers hope Bush will ingratiate himself with evangelicals by making the protection of their political rights a campaign issue. But after Michigan, the vice-president’s advisers are glum. They acknowledge that Bush must move fast or face a cohesive fundamentalist bloc of Roberson supporters.

The rise of the Christian right within the Republican Party could be the galvanizing event that organizes the evangelical vote. Or, if the Democrats have their way, it could tar the GOP as the party of Jesus freaks. “The religious right is now institutionalized in the Republican Party … they have gained more influence over hitherto moderate candidates,” says Kevin Phillips, the political analyst. Having to address the interests of a fringe within the party, he says, “is likely to cause trouble for the Republicans rather than being an almost unmitigated plus.”

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Up the hill from sterile downtown Des Moines lies the political redoubt of the new Christian right — the large complex that houses the First Federated Church, its offices, and its Christian school. A few blocks away stands the equally impressive First Assembly of God Church. Within these buildings, fundamentalist churchmen preach both the Bible and politics. First Federated, which has a Sunday television worship program and a congregation of over 2000, has contacts with Falwell’s Moral Majority and Robertson’s Freedom Council. The church is active in voter registration and issues report cards on how politicians stand on issues that matter to its members. Recently, officials of the churches and members of their congregations have begun to organize the priorities of the city’s Republican Party apparatus.

Iowa is in the news these days because of the farm crisis. But it may turn out that religious conservatism will play a stronger role in the state’s politics than the demise of the family farm. The social issues of the Christian right have had a thorough airing in Iowa. The state, for example, has been the center of a fight to win equal time for creationism in the public schools.

The center of the Christian movement is in Des Moines (Polk County) and its suburbs (Dallas County). In mid-January, some two dozen fundamentalists in Dallas County met to organize for precinct caucuses. Both Republicans and Democrats were scheduled to hold 22 caucuses where they would elect delegates for county conventions and begin work for political platforms.

“God is giving us one last chance to get our act together,” Steve Scheffler told the group of fundamentalists in Dallas County last January. Scheffler is the state coordinator for the Freedom Council, the Virginia Beach-based organization, founded by Pat Robertson and dedicated to restoring “traditional” American values in government. The Freedom Council is a tax-exempt organization and refrains from overt political endorsement. Scheffler never mentioned Robertson’s campaign; instead, he encouraged the group to form a Christian caucus to plan for the precinct meetings.

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Scheffler himself has little experience in political organizing. He previously ran unsuccessfully for state office in Iowa; then last summer he took a training course in political organizing at the Freedom Council’s headquarters. This past winter in Des Moines, Scheffler became the catalyst for fundamentalist organizing.

“So many times we holler, but we don’t take a stand,” Scheffler told the Dallas County group. “If we want those Christian values returned, we have to get out of the pew.”

Two weeks later, 50 fundamentalists caucused informally at the Dallas Country Christian School and, taking Scheffler at his word, broke into 22 groups, one for each precinct in the county, decided who to nominate at the upcoming caucuses, and discussed possible platforms. Having shown their strength at the precinct caucuses, the Christians moved on to the county conventions and, in Dallas County, easily established dominance. Marc Stiles, a reporter for the Dallas County News who covered the event, gave a description of the debate: Moderate Republican attempts to water down a plank against abortion were easily beaten; an effort to weaken a plank supporting stronger laws against pornography, on grounds that such a law would infringe on the First Amendment, was quickly silenced. “Pornography,” said one fundamentalist delegate, “is stench on the nostrils of the holy God.”

A motion to strike the word “prayer” from a plank supporting a return to prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance in the public school system drew the ire of the Christians. “Removing prayer from the public school system was the same as removing God,” said one. The motion was decisively beaten. Next was a platform supporting the rights of business people and landlords not to accommodate gays. “Everyone thinks it’s cute to see two men kiss,” said another Christian delegate. “I think it’s sick.” The plank that labeled homosexual acts as “perverted sexual deviations not socially acceptable by American society” easily passed over objections by a man who said it was against the law in the U.S. to discriminate against people on the basis of race, religion, and lifestyle.

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Don Morris, the associate pastor of the First Federated Church in Des Moines, began to preach politics during the presidential campaign in 1984. This year he was a delegate to the Republican district convention. Morris says he was drawn to politics by other fundamentalist ministers he admires, and by the examples of Falwell and Robertson. Like many of the fundamentalists I spoke with in Des Moines in late April, Morris voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976, then, realizing the error of his ways, supported Reagan. Morris now supports Bush for president in 1988, as do, he says, many members of his church. In Morris’s view, Bush has been a loyal Reagan-supporter, and he is a more realistic candidate than Robertson.

“For the longest time we blamed the politicians for stealing our rights,” he says. “Then we finally woke up and realized that we hadn’t spoken out when we should have, and said instead of complaining, let’s do what is right as citizens and use our God to bring back to America the Judeo-Christian ethics it was founded on.” Morris is especially concerned with social values. In a pamphlet, “The Battle for Our Children,” he attacks Smurf dolls, whose magical games make them agents of Satan. “If the pulpit does a good job,” Morris says,”the Christian community will always be involved in having a voice in government and legislating morality.”

At the county convention in Des Moines in March, Christian activists distributed a set of principles that revealed how thoroughly they had thought out the political situation. “When you have control of a party,” read one, “it might not be wise to place ‘our’ people into any and every position. Get the counsel of wise Christian politicians when in doubt.”

As the Christian right’s organizing drive in Iowa picked up steam, it made allies among nonreligious conservatives. Among them is Ian Binnie, a fiscal conservative, former member of the Des Moines school board, and secretary of the Polk County Republican Party. “There is an evangelical vote in this area, and it is based on some very clear-cut issues,” Binnie says. “I am not a religious conservative by any means, but I consider them natural allies … I diverge with them on the abortion issue. I wish it would just go away. I concede them the high moral ground.” On prayer in schools: “I’m not sure it did me any good, but it didn’t do me any harm. I can’t get excited about the idea of a minute of silence.”

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“Robertson is a real force, but I don’t see him as a viable candidate,” Binnie says. “Kemp is not as strong here as theoretically he should be. These people are all for Reagan now, and Bush has a loyalty to Reagan. Bush is very powerful here.”

Having successfully gained control of precincts in both counties, then asserting themselves at the county conventions, the alliance of newly active Christian fundamentalists and fiscal conservatives went on to easily dominate the district convention. By margins of two-thirds, they adopted social policy planks attacking abortion and pornography and endorsing family values. The Des Moines Register said the coalition fielded 400 of 450 delegates and attributed the large attendance to the evangelical turnout. Operating with the precision of a political machine, the fundamentalists sought to widen their coalition, supporting moderate Republicans for the party central committee and voting down audacious amendments from their own ranks (i.e., proposals to make committing an abortion a capital crime.)

Bob Dole, the Senate majority leader from Kansas, who is unofficially campaigning for president in 1988, was in Iowa during the county conventions last month. Seeking support from where he could find it, he embraced the Christian right; “the evangelical movement in the GOP is welcome,” Dole said. “There is lots of room in the party … If we want to be the big national party, then we have to be diverse.”

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Christian fundamentalists around Des Moines believe their ideas are misrepresented by the press, which often depicts them as intolerant kooks. So it was with some uneasiness that Jim and Kathy Michael agreed to sit down with me over breakfast in their DeSoto home one recent Saturday morning. We sat in the kitchen over coffee and doughnuts and talked about politics, AIDS, communism, and Christian rock as an antidote for rock ‘n’ roll.

Kathy was brought up in the Baptist Church and, as a child, Jim attended Methodist Church. He left the church early, but became religious as an adult. Jim Michael works for the Des Moines power company. Kathy is a housewife, bringing up their five children — four boys and a girl. Both are fundamentalists and are active in Republican Party politics. Jim has served as a member of the DeSoto planning and zoning commission and most recently spent a four-year stint on the town council. Last year, he ran for mayor and came in third. Over the last four years, Kathy has been a poll-watcher at local elections. Both Michaels were active in previous precinct caucuses, but this year they ran as delegates and won. When asked who they’d support for the presidency, both said they hadn’t made up their minds. “If they were running tomorrow, I’d be in trouble.”

On abortion their views were similar to those of most Christian fundamentalists: “We recognize the amoeba as a primitive form of life,” says Jim. “If scientists can do that, then what is their problem in recognizing that two cells are tying into one and creating life.” Unlike some pro-lifers who oppose the death penalty as inconsistent with their support for sanctity of all life, Kathy Michael was adamant in her support: “An eye for an eye,” she says. “I don’t mean that if someone kills my child I should go out and take his life. I feel that we have laws and that people should abide by them.”

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AIDS has intensified the Michaels’ fear of homosexuals. Both Michaels believe the population at large should be tested for AIDS antibodies, and, “until we know” more, Kathy is for a quarantine. “It even crossed my mind when one of my children had something,” says Kathy. “He kept getting sick. I don’t know how in the world he would have gotten such a thing, but once in a while the thought will cross your mind.”

“I am against homosexuality because God says ‘no.’ But I am not against the homosexual, and there is a difference,” Kathy says. “It’s just like when I tell my children I love them very much, but I do not love everything they do.”

Should homosexuals be denied certain jobs? Should they be permitted to teach in public schools? “I have a hard time with that,” Kathy says. “How do I know if this person keeps his private life to himself. If a person chooses to be a homosexual, that is his right. Does he have the right to molest small children? Many of them do. I’m not saying all of them do.”

“It’s hard to say these people don’t have the right to teach,” says Jim. Kathy disagreed: “My instincts would tell me no because of fear for the children.”

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In the Des Moines area, fundamentalists increasingly have turned to Christian schools, and there is considerable support for teaching children at home. The Michaels support the trend. “I am 100 percent behind it,” Kathy says. “We have to be careful of the textbooks being used today … [they] have socialism in them — material on Russia versus our own country and Marx versus George Washington.”

The Michaels are opposed to communism, not only because they are fearful of aggressive war launched by the Soviet Union, but also because it runs counter to their Christian values. Jim wants to roll back communism.

“I’m not saying we should go into every place with guns,” Jim says. “I’m just saying that they [anti-Communists] may need help and we should aid them. But Communist nations mostly don’t go in and take over militarily. They go in and start educating people. They take their own agents in and begin to cause turmoil. I believe this is happening on our campuses today, that there is a certain amount of turmoil and unrest that is being bred on our campuses. They are putting a lot of questionable doubt in the minds of these future parents and leaders.”

Because they have teenage kids, rock ‘n’ roll music presents a real problem for the Michaels.

“I don’t want rock music in this house,” says Kathy. “I don’t even like this Christian rock music, but we have compromised on that. But now you’ve got backmasking. You can take records and play them backward. They’ve got hidden messages … The new thing is political rock with Bruce Springsteen. I like the music, I just don’t like the words. I think he’s teaching rebellion across the country.”

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Behind the politics of the Christian right lies the powerful engine of Armageddon theology, which lends an emotional intensity to the movement. Numerous fundamentalist leaders — Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to name but two — preach the doctrine of “premillennialism,” which holds that the world is entering a period of indescribable devastation and suffering. Its climax will be the battle of Armageddon and the return of Christ.

Premillennialists have been wrong in prophesying Armageddon at various points in history. Under President Reagan such prophecies have gained new currency. The president himself speculated on the subject in a 1981 interview with People magazine: “Never, in the time between the ancient prophecies up until now has there been a time in which so many of the prophecies are coming together. There have been times in the past when people thought the end of the world was coming, and so forth, but never like this.”

Jerry Falwell told the Los Angeles Times in 1981, “All of history is reaching a climax, and I do not think we have 50 years left.” And when Falwell was asked whether Reagan agreed with him on such matters, he replied, “Yes he does. He told me, ‘Jerry, I sometimes believe we’re heading very fast for Armageddon right now.'”

The right often pictures the farm crisis in the Midwest as a sign of the end times. Pornography, homosexuality, and AIDS are all viewed as signs of God’s judgment on sinners. The increasing conflagration in the Middle East, Libya’s threatening acts, and Communist aggression in the third world are all seen by some fundamentalists as part of an Armageddon countdown.

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In the story of Armageddon, the Middle East becomes the world’s last battleground, with God saving Israel from destruction by invading armies. In The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon, Hal Lindsey, by far the most popular writer on the meaning of the end times, unaccountably concludes that, although he believes the U.S. will decline in power, it can still survive. “If some critical and difficult choices are made by the American people right now,” he writes, “it will be possible to see the U.S. remain a world power.” The choices Lindsey has in mind amount to embracing a right-wing political program.

Tim LaHaye, self-proclaimed “Christian ambassador to Washington, D.C.,” is president of the American Coalition for Traditional Values, which supports fundamentalist politics. He says he represents 45 million “born-again, Bible-believing Christians.” LaHaye argues that God will rout the Communists: “Some Bible teachers say when God rains fire and brimstone on the armies around Israel, gathered to destroy this nation, he is also going to send a similar fire on the coastlands. Now these coastlands could be the nations of the Western Empire, so that wherever the Marxist spies are entrenched they will suddenly drop dead … That would mean in a practical sense that the Marxist spies in America, on the university campus, in the State Department, wherever they are moled out, and in Great Britain, Canada, and Australia, where they are doing their devious work—suddenly they will be eliminated by fire.”

Other fundamentalist writers counsel that survivalist techniques can help true believers make it through Armageddon until God rescues them in the Rapture. “We are considering the time when Christians will not be able to buy and sell, and will want to be independent of the utility system,” writes Jim McKeever, who says he is a computer expert, consulting economist, and Bible teacher. “You must do whatever God tells you to do at the moment.” McKeever’s brand of survivalism is popular in Christian circles. Pat Robertson wrote the forward to one of his books, and the 700 Club, Robertson’s television show, has promoted the stockpiling of food and other survivalist preparations.

Survivalism is also the connecting link between Christian fundamentalism and far-right anarchism. Some fundamentalists fear that the Antichrist will take over the world economy. National identification cards will be a warning of such an eventuality. Mary Stewart Relfe in When Your Money Fails proposes that Christians should avoid as many financial transactions as possible. They should work hard, remain free of debt, buy land in the country, and learn to live independent of city conveniences. Liquid assets should be turned into gold and silver. All this, according to Relfe, should help Christians fend off Armageddon until God can save them.

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It’s too soon to tell whether the Christian right can organize the evangelical vote and help assure the GOP majority party status. In all likelihood, the Christians will be most successful in exerting their influence within the narrow boundaries of precinct caucuses and party primaries, where small numbers of activists can have a substantial impact. On a larger scale, their influence may be more circumscribed. Though they have pushed debate over party priorities further right, forcing the presidential candidates to heed their interests, they, in turn, will be pulled by the political process toward the middle. If what happened in Iowa is any gauge of the future, the Christians themselves will moderate their program to gain power and eventually form coalitions with fiscal conservatives and even moderates. The ultimate question for Robertson and the Christian politicians is whether they can maintain their ideological program while playing electoral politics. ❖

Research: Marcia Ogrodnik; Andrew Lang at the Christic Institute. See Timothy Weber’s Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming for more on the politics of Armageddon.

1986 Village Voice article by James Ridgeway on evangelical Christians and the Republican party

1986 Village Voice article by James Ridgeway on evangelical Christians and the Republican party

1986 Village Voice article by James Ridgeway on evangelical Christians and the Republican party

1986 Village Voice article by James Ridgeway on evangelical Christians and the Republican party

Categories
From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Iran-Contra: What Do We Know, and When Did We Know It?

“The Iran-Contra Scandal Ends In a Whimper”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Unlike Watergate, in which the resigna­tion of the president created an ending of sorts, there is no suc­cessful conclusion to the Iran-contra scandal that tore the government to pieces during the mid-1980s. The release last week of the report of the independent counsel, Lawrence Walsh, marks a frustrat­ing anticlimax to what clearly is a continuing crisis of American gov­ernment, based not in the execu­tive branch, but in Congress, which has been steadily under­mining its own ability to govern.

In their own investigation and subsequent report, the congressio­nal committees investigating the affair blamed the Reagan admin­istration, but never said a word about Congress’s own complicity, instead making it into a victim of the Reagan plot when in fact it was an accomplice.

There was never any official recognition of the Iran-contra scandal until November 25, 1986, when then-attorney general Edwin Meese made his “discovery” of the so-called diversion memo that for the first time officially ac­knowledged the funneling of mon­ey from the sale of arms to Iran to the rebels in Nicaragua.

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U.S. backing for the rebels was well known in Washington and co­piously reported in newspapers and on television from at least 1984 on. The National Security Archive, the independent, nonprofit watchdog outfit in Washington, which has led the way in investigating the Iran-­contra scandal, has compiled de­tailed chronologies of how the scan­dal unfolded. A simplified version, along with key documents, is con­tained in Iran Contra Scandal: A Declassified History, which should be taken as a reader’s guide to the Walsh report.

Here are a few of the events that everybody in Washington during that period of time knew about: On April 9, 1984, The Wall Street Journal revealed the CIA had se­cretly mined Nicaraguan harbors. The next month, contra rebel lead­er Eden Pastora held a press con­ference in the Nicaraguan jungle to denounce the CIA’s pressure to align his followers on the southern front with the Nicaraguan Democratic Force operating out of Hon­duras. In the midst of the confer­ence, a bomb exploded, killing eight journalists and wounding 17 others. The assassin escaped.

In April 1985, five members of the Civilian Military Assistance team, a U.S.-based mercenary operation, were arrested in Costa Rica. In prison interviews, they began to spell out details of the National Security Council’s sup­port of a southern front operation run by John Hull along the Nicaragua border. In August 1985, The New York Times ran a front-page story on the National Security Council’s role in supporting the contras. On June 25, 1986, the CBS program West 57th Street aired a documentary on the contra resupply mis­sion, identifying Robert Owen as “the bagman for Ollie North” and John Hull as the key American working for the NSC in Costa Rica. Within a year, the Associat­ed Press, Miami Herald, and CBS News had chipped away, exposing the basic outlines of the National Security Council-run enterprise.

Even though some of these re­ports caused an outcry on Capitol Hill, they had little lasting impact. Indeed, the House, in June 1985, passed legislation authorizing hu­manitarian assistance to the contras, which was well understood at the time as a way to build up the military infrastructure.

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In August 1985, Michael Barnes, then chairman of the House western hemisphere affairs subcommittee, and Lee Hamilton, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote Robert McFarlane, Rea­gan’s national security adviser, demanding an explanation of press reports that North was en­gaged in activities that violated the ban on contra aid. Together with North, McFarlane drew up a reply, stating that “at no time did I or any member of the National Security Council staff violate the letter or spirit” of congressional restrictions. That was that. Con­gress accepted this bald lie on its face.

A year later, in June, Represen­tative Ron Coleman from Texas introduced a Resolution of Inqui­ry directing the president to pro­vide documentation relating to the National Security Council contacts and support for the con­tras. By way of response, Vice-Admiral John Poindexter agreed to allow North to talk in secret to Hamilton’s intelligence commit­tee. At that meeting, on Aµgust 6, 1986, in the White House Situa­tion Room, North was all charm, denying any intention to violate the spirit, principle, or legal re­quirements of the Boland amend­ment. According to administra­tion notes of that meeting, the committee members seemed more concerned at the threats North and his family were receiving because of the newspaper exposes about his job.

Far from concerning itself about how the executive branch had methodically violated the laws it passed, in June 1986, the House passed President Reagan’s request for military and nonmili­tary support for the contras.

Three months later, on October 5, 1986, a planeload of arms was shot down over Nicaragua, and when the lone survivor, Eugene Hasenfus, was captured by the Sandinistas, the CIA station chief in Costa Rica cabled Washington that the situation requires we do necessary damage control.” Administration officials issued cate­gorical denials to three congressio­nal committees that sought answers about the flight. Elliott Abrams, in an appearance before the House intelligence committee, was asked by Hamilton: “Just to be clear, the United States govern­ment has not done anything to facilitate these private groups, is that a fair statement?” Abrams replied, “Yes, to the extent of my knowledge that I feel to be com­plete, other than the general pub­slic encouragement that we like this kind of activity.”

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The fact is that the congressional committees that are supposed to provide oversight over intelligence generally are boosters for both spooks and covert action. The intelligence committees are supposed to sort out and stop what Senator Patrick Leahy has called the intelligence community’s more “cockamamy ideas” be­fore they happen. They should have stopped Iran-contra before it happened.

But these committees sat by as the CIA mined Nicaragua’s har­bors and wrote up a murder man­ual for the contras. They watched passively as the CIA bungled a plan to assassinate a Lebanese radical religious sheikh with a car bomb that instead killed 80 by­standers. As Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive has observed, “the senators and con­gressmen who sit on the intelli­gence committees effectively become members of the covert club of government, the select clique of men and women privy to the se­crets of state. The intoxication of this privilege has transformed the committees into advocates as op­posed to counterweights.”

Michael Harrington, the former congressman who was censured in 1975 for revealing classified CIA testimony on the destabilization of Chile, said the oversight system is a “seductive game of shared secrets,” adding, “It starts with the pleasant feeling of being privy to things unknown to the ordinary citizen, but it works very much like blackmail. The more you know about dubious secret opera­tions, the more you are responsi­ble for hiding, and the more you hide, the tighter the grip of the State Department, or the CIA, or the Pentagon.”

The spooks hand-feed the com­mittees, telling them what they want to hear. And the committees can’t do anything about the spooks even if they wanted to. The CIA contingency fund allows the agency to finance whatever operation it desires until legisla­tion is passed specifically banning that operation.

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On April 26, 1984, the Senate intelligence committee put out a press release claiming Casey and the committee “have agreed on the need for more thorough and effective oversight procedures,” and that the CIA “pledged its full cooperation in this effort.” But as Congress’s subsequent investiga­tions revealed, at the same time Casey was feeding this line to the intelligence committees, he was collaborating with the National Security Council, soliciting funds from the Saudis, and meeting with retired general Richard Secord — all part of the administration’s ef­forts to get around congressional restrictions on aid to the contras.

What happened in Congress be­fore the Iran-contra scandal broke is bad enough, but the behavior by Congress after that is hard to believe. It was Congress that placidly doled out waivers of immunity to the leading participants, which everyone knew at the time would make any future criminal prosecution next to impossible.

Walsh’s report puts it in the most polite terms: “Immunity is ordinarily given by a prosecutor to a witness who will incriminate someone more important than himself. Congress gave immunity to North and Poindexter, who in­criminated only themselves and who largely exculpated those responsible for the initiation, supervision, arid support of their activi­ties. This delayed and infinitely complicated the effort to prosecute North and Poindexter.”

George Bush himself did as much as anyone could to ham­string the Walsh inquiry. In De­cember 1992, after he lost the election, Bush belatedly discov­ered notes for a political diary he had been keeping, which showed he knew about the Iran-contra arms deal from the get-go. Under an agreement with the Reagan White House, Walsh had first re­quested such documents back in 1987. And in one of his final acts as president, on Christmas eve, 1992, Bush pardoned former sec­retary of defense Casper Weinber­ger, 12 days before Weinberger was to go on trial, along with five other principal defendants. It was the first time a president ever par­doned someone in whose trial he might be called as a witness.

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During the Iran-contra hearings, Oliver North argued that the American people “ought not to be led to believe, as a consequence of these hearings, that this nation cannot or should not conduct covert operations.” And having heard the testimony, the congres­sional committee seems to have agreed: “Covert operations are a necessary component of our Na­tion’s foreign policy,” the congressional report says, and maintains that ”history reflects that the prospects for peaceful settlement [of international conflict] are greater if this country has … the means to influence developments abroad.”

A decade earlier, the Church committee had inquired into the intelligence scandals of the 1960s and 1970s, considered proposing a ban on all forms of covert action, and declared that “covert action must be seen as an exceptional act, to be undertaken only when the national security requires it  and when overt means will not suffice.”

By the time the congressional committees on Iran-contra took up the issue, such a principle nev­er occurred to the members. There never has been the hint of legislation aimed at curbing the use of covert action. And under the current administration the structures of the national security state remain in place.

It is certainly not for poor Walsh to sort out this mess. He can only gesture toward it in frus­tration: “The underlying facts of Iran-contra are that, regardless of criminality, President Reagan, the secretary or state, the secretary of defense, and the director of cen­tral intelligence and their necessary assistants skirted … the law, some of them broke the law, and almost all of them tried to cover up the President’s willful activities.

“What protection do the people of the United States have against such a concerted action by such powerful officers? … [I]n the give and take of political community, congressional oversight is often overtaken and subordinated by the need to keep government functioning, by the need to antici­pate the future, and by the ever­-present requirement of maintain­ing consensus among the elected officials who are the Government.”

He goes on: “Time and again this Independent Counsel found himself at the mercy of political decisions of the Congress and the Executive branch … Despite ex­traordinary efforts to shield the OIC from exposure to immunized testimony, the North and Poin­dexter convictions were overturned on appeal on the immunity issue…

“Congressional action that pre­cludes, or makes it impossible to sustain, a prosecution has more serious consequences than simply one less conviction. There is a sig­nificant inequity when more peripheral players are convicted while central figures in a criminal enterprise escape punishment. And perhaps more fundamentally, the failure to punish governmen­tal law breakers feeds the percep­tion that public officials are not wholly accountable for their actions.”

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Although it is seldom seen as such, the United States has main­tained since the early part of the century what amounts to a centralized, federal police that has operated in numerous occasions as a political force lodged in the FBI, beginning with efforts aimed at expelling dissenters — at first, anarchists and commu­nists — then, from the ’50s on, used to spy on black civil rights activists including Martin Luther King, and during the ’60s to spy on student leftists and radicals.

During the 1980s, the govern­ment spied on and harassed those who dissented from the war in Central America, and when that dissent became mainstream and Congress outlawed aid to the contras in the Boland amendment, the White House entered into a conspiracy against Congress, and employed what amounts to a counterinsurgency operation against it.

Not only did the Reagan administration secretly deploy a well-heeled publicity campaign to overturn the amendment, but it built a private, sub rosa foreign policy in the basement of the White House with Oliver North as the point man. In its guide to the scandal, the National Security Ar­chive dug up and printed State Department documents describ­ing how the Reagan White House used members of the army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group to organize PR, including among other activities funneling phony wire service stories to “people like Newt Gingrich to read on C-Span during the open orders and enter into the Congressional Record.”

So the techniques of covert ac­tion designed to pacify and win guerrilla war in the Third World — those parts of the world then perceived to be on the periphery of the Soviet empire — were employed within the United States against the citizenry through a mostly unsuspecting and seemingly disinterested Congress.

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If ever there was an assault on the Constitution, this was it. But Congress, itself so caught up in the process of covert action, seems not to have recognized the challenge to its own authority, let alone to have much cared. Now everyone is willing to let bygones be bygones. With Reagan and Bush gone from government, the argument is, government will once more right itself.

But Clinton himself is now en­gaged in a crime bill that effec­tively employs the same techniques of counterinsurgency against the inner cities of America. ­

And Congress? Within a weak and vestigially corrupt executive, Congress is the most important bulwark of democracy. Yet it swings aimlessly, verging as time goes on towards the irrelevant. Af­ter the lengthy fight over NAFTA, which held out the prospects of being resolved — one way or another — on the basis of actual na­tional debate, the president just stepped in and bought the votes.

This sort of erosion of credibil­ity and democracy can be sus­tained for years, but in the end it will come to a head in a pointed crisis of the state. The anarchy that grips Europe may not be so far away. ■

Categories
From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Showtime 1984: Inside the Political Theater

Inside the Political Theater
July 24, 1984

SAN FRANCISCO — With the excep­tion of Mario Cuomo and Jesse Jackson, the big-name Democrats parading on TV here sound like third-rate sellers of soap. The Democratic Party remains the large­ly unimaginative political organization that began to lose its New Deal base years ago. But for the first time in recent memory there are signs of life within it, and stripped to its essentials, the fight pits the women and minorities, symbol­ized by Ferraro and Jackson, against the still-dominant conservative wing.

The question is whether Jackson and Ferraro will be consumed by the conser­vatives or stake out fresh ground. Just as the Republican Party was refreshed in 1980 with the raw energy of the New Right, the Democratic Party, buoyed by the feminist surge and black voter regis­tration, could begin to find itself this year.

Ferraro is best known as a team player, disciple of Tip O’Neill; unlikely to stray far from his beck and call. Mondale al­ready is flooding her with his own staff, but while Ferraro may appear to be a political pawn, the forces behind her as­cendancy are not so easily controlled.

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Since Jackson’s arrival in San Francis­co, he has sounded a note of reconcilia­tion. He pledged himself to resolve ten­sions between Jews and blacks and offered a public apology: “… if, in my low moments, in words, deeds, or atti­tudes, through error or temper, taste or tone, I have caused anyone discomfort, created pain, or revived anyone’s fears, I sincerely apologize.”

For weeks now, Jackson has been hold­ing secret meetings with Bert Lance. Lance and Jackson are negotiating the terms of the minority planks, and concocting the southern strategy for Mon­dale’s campaign. Jackson is thankful to be cut into the ruling party councils, and with his help Mondale gets a shot at an expanded black vote.

At first, Jackson negotiated with Lance over delegate questions. More recently, Lance sent his advisers to brief Jackson on the economy. Much pleased, Jackson responded by making Lance’s major pro­posals the centerpiece of his convention speech, at least in early drafts.

Thus, stuck incongruously into the midst of Jackson’s powerful, poetic rhet­oric, were Lance’s corny ideas about U.S. banks being in hock to foreigners. It is Lance’s theory that Reagan, in running up the deficit, has made the United States dependent on foreign bankers from whom the country must borrow to keep going.

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Roll Call of Shame

Consider the record of this party over the last four years — what Tom Hayden called neo-Reaganism. The list is telling:

Support for the MX; refusal to oppose the deployment of Euromissiles in any serious way; Democrats in Congress, in­cluding those with liberal credentials, re­peatedly declining to oppose Reagan on Central America, with the result that American-backed contras have laid siege to Nicaragua; standing with Reagan in El Salvador in the face of mounting civilian murder. Even as this convention opened, the party leadership is preparing to back President Duarte, under whose rule the terror in El Salvador has mushroomed.

The Democratic leadership stood with Reagan on the 1981 tax bill — legislation which transferred wealth from the middle class to the rich, and in the process virtually ended the corporate income tax. The neo-liberal wing of the party has, under Gary Hart, mounted a vigorous at­tack on the labor movement as a “special interest” — at a time when the unions rep­resent the only buffer between workers and the aggressive policies of corporate business.

Most recently, the House Democratic leadership created the umbrella beneath which the Republicans successfully pushed through Simpson-Mazzoli, which, among other things, would establish a “guest worker” program for foreign agri­cultural workers. This re-creation of the bracero program — which another era of Democrats fought to eliminate — threat­ens to wipe out the Farm Workers Union, and amounts to one of the most vindic­tive, punitive, racist measures in Ameri­can history.

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The New Democrats

Despite the choice of Ferraro, the Democratic Party has persistently fought the rise of women within its own ranks. Nevertheless, Ferraro’s emergence and the Jackson campaign represent a broad challenge to the rampant neo-Reaganism in the party.

For the women who have had to fight, kicking and screaming, to the top of the Democratic Party, Ferraro’s selection represents an immense victory, and the opening of what surely will be a wider struggle for economic equality.

Ferraro is much more than a feminist candidate. The daughter of an immigrant working mother, she speaks directly to the disenfranchised base of the Demo­cratic Party, the working women who have been most hurt by the recession and placed under savage attack by Reagan’s policies — the last hired and first fired who now populate the irregular work­force and are now a critical factor in American labor.

These women play a major role in the expanding lower middle class, which now consists of 72 million Americans — 30 per cent of the population. They come come from households with earnings between $6000 and $18,000 a year. Since 1978, the lower middle class has grown by a third. An increasing percentage of this class is made up of households headed by wom­en, most of them minorities. It includes millions of young people who have never held a full-time job; people who once held factory jobs and now work for less than $6 an hour in service jobs; and old people living on fixed incomes.

There are within this group enough people to elect a Democratic president, but until Jesse Jackson began his cam­paign in predominantly white New Hampshire you’d hardly have known they existed. It is absolutely true that without Jackson, Ferraro’s nomination would never have been possible. The feminist movement owes a great debt to Jackson, a debt that many women seemed incapable of recognizing in the early moments of this convention.

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Tough Talking Ferraro

Ferraro is a person of progressive polit­ical instincts. Here are a few points she made in an interview with the Voice ear­lier this year:

On the MX: “I have supported re­search and development. I have not sup­ported deployment because it is destabilizing.”

On Nicaragua (asked if she thought it was a Cuban or Soviet satellite): “They are a Marxist government. There is no doubt about that. I think our problem is, frankly, that we expect it to be a democ­racy the way we define democracy, and I don’t think that’s possible.”

On El Salvador: “I would insist that the U.S. government let the people know we expect them to get their own act together, within their own units, to put someone in charge of the government. And probably the most important thing is that they do something about the amount of killing that is going on there. I would exert pressure on them to clean up their act, or they would be without economic aid.”

In one speech this year, talking about the concept of comparable worth, which fundamentally seeks to redefine the so­cial utility of work (the most potentially profound economic subject the feminist movement has taken up), Ferraro de­clared: “A woman with a college educa­tion can expect lifetime earnings equal to those paid to a man who never finished the eighth grade. Groundskeepers are paid more than nurses. Parking lot attendants are often paid more than experi­enced secretaries. We entrust our chil­dren — our most precious resource — to teachers who frequently earn less than truck drivers.”

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A New Feminist Era 

Geraldine Ferraro is not just a sym­bol. Her nomination, as Frances Fox Pi­ven puts it, is a “signal,” a tremor from within. Ferraro’s nomination opens a new era of feminist politics, for the first time placing the genuinely radical perspec­tives of the feminist movement in a far broader national arena.

Comparable worth, for example, en­tails a restructuring of the American economy and could precipitate a struggle of serious proportions with the business community. It is because Ferraro is asso­ciated with these ideas that her candida­cy will in all probability undergo formi­dable challenge.

The vice presidency would be more than a symbolic job for a woman, It offers a forum of real power and, if gained, could spark a political groundswell.

The feminist movement has so far succeeded in spanning class divisions. Things are now apt to change. Its future political course will, in all likelihood, de­pend on how successfully it deals with potentially divisive splits — the extent to which, for example, white middle-class women reach out to include black wom­en, and the measure of cooperation shown to poor working women.

The Republicans already have begun to play on these potential divisions to split the gender gap vote and open a seri­ous attack on the feminists.

As with the environmental movement a decade ago, it is certain that the modern feminist movement will focus increasing­ly on basic economic issues — equal pay for equal work, redressing inequality in the workplace, the social purpose of work in general, the feminization of poverty. In short, Ferraro’s nomination should result in a bold, new opening for feminist poli­tics, and a new radical lens through which to view the economy. ■

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives Security THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Beautiful Butchers: The Shah Serves Up Caviar and Torture

The proof that torture can look better through a cham­pagne glass and taste better after a mouthful of caviar will be provided next Tues­day by the arrival in the United States of someone who can boast of a most notable achievement: He has made torturers chic. Though Hitler won the ad­miration of half the British upper classes in the 1930s, even he could not make the same boast.

Yet the Shah of Iran, whose own father was so ardent an admirer of the Nazis that he abdicated in 1941, can claim a double distinction: being the bane of the U.S. taxpayers (who paid the bills for his instal­lation on the Peacock Throne and his maintenance thereafter) and being at the same time the toast of the smart set in Washington, New York, Paris, and London. Thus does the Shah differ from Idi Amin or the Em­peror Bokassa, for, though as many pris­oners scream in his torture chambers and face his firing squads, he is socially okay —  and so are his emissaries abroad.

The social success of the Shah in the galaxy of international despots is the end result of a careful campaign, premised on two vital ingredients: snobbery and cash. Barbara Walters was recently able to confide to her ABC audience that, “There aren’t too many kings and queens around these days. Of the handful left, two couples have particular fascination for Americans. England’s own Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. And, for different, reasons, the Shah and Empress of Iran.

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It was not always thus for the House of Pahlavi. The Shah can race a regal an­cestry only to his father, Reza Shah, a fellow of common origins who was hoisted onto the Peacock Throne in the ’20s by the British. Reza Shah’s achievements — apart from looting the Iranian people in a fairly methodical manner — included the intro­duction of torture on a wide scale. Thus, when the present Shah was finally and securely installed on the throne in 1953 with the help of the CIA, he was not particularly well placed to be a truly fashionable mon­arch.

But gradually he inched ahead of his peers, who at that time included such U.S. clients as Battista of Cuba and Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. Neither of those gentlemen ever had truly overweening social ambitions beyond the amassing of huge fortunes and the total control of their dominions. The Shah’s thoughts, however, always soared higher and he yearned to be placed in the national historical pantheon ranging back to the ancient Persian kings.

And in the eyes of international society, at least, he achieved his ambition with the famed coronation at Persepolis in 1967. Virtually every king was there except Kong. In a tented city a goodly proportion of the executives, chiselers, and spongers of western capitalism gathered to marvel and stayed to gorge at a coming-out gala for a regime of unexampled savagery.

Since then the Shah has gone from strength to strength, most notably in the boom days since the oil price hikes of 1973. Tehran is, as they say, the Mecca of every investment banker, industrialist, arms salesman, developer, and straightforward adventurer with a prospectus in one pocket and a bribe in the other.

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Steady accrual of status was expressed through the increasing social success of the Shah’s plenipotentiaries abroad — most not­ably in the career of Ardeshir Zahedi, the present Iranian ambassador in Wash­ington. This Zahedi’s father, General Fuzullah Zahedi, was one of those instrumen­tal in securing the throne for the Shah in 1953. The son himself was once married to the Shah’s daughter. His function in Wash­ington has been that of every ambassador: to lie abroad for his country. Zahedi — as is evidenced in the gossip columns weekly — ­has managed to sell the beautiful people on torture by the simple expedient of throwing large parties, amply furnished with caviar. He mastered, you might say, the political economy of Elizabeth Taylor and realized that one star-studded bash, well-reported in the gossip columns, can do much to offset a couple of Amnesty reports about torture and a few intellectuals detailing exactly how the Shah’s secret police ripped out their fingernails.

Zahedi threw the parties and in they came. Henry Kissinger, Nancy Kissinger, Senator Ed Brooke, Elizabeth Taylor danc­ing wildly with Senator Ed Brooke, Marion Javits, paid by the Iranians for the pleasure of her PR. William Rogen, John Murphy, John Lindsay, Barbara Walters, Walter Cronkite, Julian Goodman, Gregory and Veronique Peck, Phyllis and Bob Evans, the Baroness Stackelberg, Mrs. Drew Pearson, Page Lee Hufty, Polly Bergen, Buffy Cafritz, Sandra McElwaine, Diane von Furstenberg, David Frost, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Braden, Mrs. Frank Ikard, Diana Vreeland, Andy Warhol, Yolanda Fox, even Birch Bayh. On and on the list of names goes, and on and on the parties go too: the political crowd, the Hollywood crowd, the art crowd, and the straight tacky crowd.

How do they like the parties and their host? Here’s a fairly representative series of remarks from Mrs. Bill Cafritz, wife of a Washington builder. “Every adjective in the book has been used to describe Ar­deshir,” she confided to The Voice‘s Jan Albert a few months back. “He’s a warm, marvelous host, expert with food and wines. He’s not just an ordinary host. His centerpieces are famous. He’s had glass globes with flowers coming out of them. For Andy Warhol’s party, he had hearts with Campbell soup cans. All his parties, in every detail, from food to music to guests to decor are highly imaginative. He makes every guest feel that he is intent and interested in them. An invitation from Ardeshir is something to be cherished. He invites all the glamour people — Polly Ber­gen and Diana Vreeland came to the Warhol party.”

Mrs. Cafritz was then asked how she felt about the matter of torture in Iran, and whether she had asked Zahedi about it. “He’s not anti-American,” she replied. “At almost all of his parties he makes after­ dinner speeches toasting the friendship of Iran and America. He is a good friend of America’s. Besides, these reports are exaggerated. There are open lines of communication between our countries and the Shah is our friend. It’s not for me to make judgments. They should be made at a higher level. Everyone just has the best to say about him.”

To a similar sort of query from Jan Albert, Mrs. Frank Ikard (wife of the head of the American Petroleum Institute) stressed the beauties of Zahedi’s charac­ter — “the most kind, warm-hearted man, the friendliest and most outgoing” — while taking a balanced view on the matter of torture. “I have never been interested in international news,” she said. adding that she was the kind of person who felt we should “clean things up in our own back yard first. Besides, if you had a brother who was a black sheep I wouldn’t hold it against you. These reports are largely youthful mutterings. Anyway, Ardeshir’s house is not the place to find out such things.” She added that her son, a reporter in Iran for the Tehran Journal, had never mentioned such subjects to her.

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And so it goes — from Elizabeth Taylor through fascist chic’s recording angel, Andy Warhol, with his Polaroid and his tape recorder.

Would they all go to a similar sort of bash, hosted by Amin’s Washington envoy? Probably not, for reasons of taste. And of course there is the fact that the Iranians are, as you might say, sophisticated — and not even Arabs at that: the children of Xerxes rather than Ham.

If the Shah’s regime were not so repul­sive, there would be something pathetic about his pronounced social ambitions and desire to make his palace a haven for the rich, the famous, and the beautiful. Not so long ago it was the turn of Farrah Faw­cett-Majors to rest up in the shadow of the Peacock Throne. In his arriviste dreams, said one journalist long in Tehran, the Shah probably thought a double-barrelled name was a sure emblem of ancient and distinguished social lineage.

The bloom is going off the rose. Despite Zahedi’s greatest efforts and the precipi­tate rush to his parties by the beautiful people, there is general recognition that the Shah’s regime is not an emblem of liberty. The U.S. will continue to sell him arms. American universities will go on taking his money, socialites will go on drinking his champagne and eating his caviar. Money always talks, but it will have to do so amid increasing clamor about one of the most savage regimes of the 20th century. ■

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How Rich is the Shah?

The present inhabitant of the Peacock Throne has attained the dream of every rich person around the world: he has funneled his assets into a private founda­tion whose proceedings are secret and whose operations are beyond scrutiny. The Pahlavi Foundation, now 19 years old, is thought to have assets of more than $1 billion and is a combined charitable foundation and family trust fund. The Shah is its chief officer and selects all board members. The income is tax-free and can be drawn only the Shah’s family.

The Shah’s father (a former army sergeant who seized the throne under the aegis of the British in 1926) laid the basis for the Pahlavi family’s wealth by simply stealing it. He confiscated vast estates which he designated as crown lands. His son later sold off some of this land and began to invest in industrial and financial enter­prises: the cement industry (which the Shah virtually controls); sugar-processing installations; insurance and banking businesses; assembly plants; hotels; computer equipment marketing, and the like. The Shah is thus not only the leader of his country; he is also its chief stockholder.

In addition, the national budget provides expenses for the imperial court, plus $1 billion for a revolving discretionary fund. Prudently mindful of the possibility of exile one day, the Shah is also thought to have over $1 billion banked abroad.

As the Pahlavi Foundation’s chief officer, the Shah is entitled to 25 percent of the income of the foundation. He has stipulated that he is not accepting this money. His son and heir will become entitled to the 25 percent take, which as Eric Pace of The New York Times pointed out last year in a report on the foundation — could run into tens of millions of dollars annually.

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New Yorkers who desire an immediate sense of the Shah’s financial status can proceed to the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street where a 36-story building for the tax-exempt Pahlavi Foun­dation of New York is being erected. The Pahlavi Foundation of New York was created by the Pahlavi Foundation of Iran in 1973. The nominal charitable purpose of the New York outfit is to provide funds for Iranian students going to American universities. In an article on the U.S. founda­tion published last fall, Ann Crittenden reported in The New York Times that, “Two individuals close to these early arrangements say that from the first, howev­er, the acquisition [of the site] was con­sidered solely as an investment for the Iranian foundation and as a showcase site for offices of Iranian companies and government agencies in New York City — such as the Iranian consulate, the National Iranian Oil Company, the Bank Melli, and various tourist offices. One man who was intimately involved and who asked not to be identified, laughed when asked if the scholarship program was ever discussed: “It’s egregious,” he said,”with all of the problems New York City has, for an immensely wealthy foreign outfit to come in and receive a tax exemption at almost the same moment when the same government has just created an oil crisis.’ ”

Vitally concerned with the establishment of the tax-exempt foundation here were several well-known local faces: one was William Rogers, former secretary of state under Nixon and partner in the law firm of Rogers and Wells. Rogers set up the foun­dation and its address is currently at his law office. Also involved was Representative John Murphy of Staten Island, a frequent visitor to Iran. He, along with Rogers, is on the board of the foundation and has acknowledged his involvement in its business affairs, particularly in the construction contracting for the Fifth Ave­nue building. And indeed, helping out one would-be contractor — John Tishman of Tishman Realty and Construction Company — was former Mayor John Lindsay. The architect is John Warnacke. Another adviser to the Pahlavi Foundation is former Assistant Treasury Secretary James A. Reed. He told Crittenden that foundation officials in Tehran had said they would not go ahead with the New York operation unless they were able to get tax-exempt status. Thus, American tax­payers help finance an operation designed to further the Shah’s personal and political interests abroad. Even Amin hasn’t the gall to demand these kinds of favors. ■

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The Iranian National Pastime: Torture

“The torture on the second day of my arrest consisted of seventy-five blows with a plaited wire whip at the soles of my feet. I was whipped on my hands as well, and the head torturer took the small finger of my left hand and broke it, saying he was going to break my fingers one by one, each day. Then I was told that if I didn’t confess my wife and thirteen-year-old daughter would be raped in front of my eyes. All this time I was being beaten from head to toe.

“Then a pistol was held at my temple by the head torturer, Dr. Azudi, and he prepared to shoot. In fact, the sound of the shooting came and I fainted. When I opened my eyes, I was being interrogated by someone called Dr. Rezvan. The interrogation, combined with psychological torture and sometimes additional beating, went on for 102 days until I was let out…

” … There were also all sizes of whips hanging from nails on the walls. Electric prods stood on little stools. The nail-pluck­ing instrument stood on the far side. I could only recognize these devices upon later remembrance and through the description of others, as well as by personal experience. The gallows stood on the other side. They hang you upside down and then someone beats you with a club on your legs, or uses the electric prod on your chest or your genitals, or they lower you down, pull your pants up and one of them tries to rape you while you’re still hanging upside down …

” … This is what happens to a prisoner of the first importance. First, he is beaten by several torturers at once, with sticks and clubs. If he doesn’t confess, he is hanged upside down and beaten; if this doesn’t work, he is raped; and if he still shows signs of resistance, he is given electric shock which turns him into a howling dog; and if he is still obstinate, his nails and sometimes all his teeth are pulled out, and in certain exceptional cases, a hot iron rod is put into one side of the face to force its way to the other side, burning the entire mouth and the tongue. A young man was killed in this way. At other times he is thrown down on his stomach on the iron bed and boiling water is pumped into his rectum by an enema.

“Other types of torture are used which have never been heard of in other despotic systems. A heavy weight is hung from the testicles of the prisoner, maiming him in only a few minutes. Even the strongest prisoners are crippled in this way. In the case of the woman, the electric baton is moved over the naked body with the power increased on the breasts and the interstices of the vagina. I have heard women screaming and laughing hysterically, shouting, ‘Don’t do it, I’ll tell you.’ Rape is also a common practice. Thirteen-year-old girls have been raped in order to betray their parents, brothers or relatives.” Reza Bahareni was finally freed from the Shah’s prisons in 1974 under international pres­sure. His descriptions come from his book, God’s Shadow and from an article by him published in The New York Review of Books on October 28, 1976. Other state­ments attributed to Bahareni in this issue of The Voice are taken from the same article. ■

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Some Facts at a Glance 

• “The Shah of Iran,” said Martin Ennals in the introduction to Amnesty International’s Annual Report for 1974-5, “retains his benevolent image despite the highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture which is beyond belief.” The total number of political prisoners for 1975, stated the report, “has been reported at times throughout the year to be anything from 25,000 to 100,000.”

• Thousands of people have been executed over the last 23 years. According to Bahareni, more than 300,000 people have been in and out of jail in the last 20 years.

• Ninety-five percent of the press is controlled by two families taking their orders from the Shah and the police.

• There is only one political party — the Resurgence Party — whose membership is compulsory for the entire adult popula­tion.

• The vast bulk of the population is desperately poor, undernourished, and un­educated. In Quri-Chai, the northern slums of Tabriz, there is only one school for 100,000 children.

• There are 34 million people in Iran. Only half are Persian; the rest are Azar­baijanis, Kurds, Arabs and Baluchis, along with Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. The Shah considers all Iranians to be Aryan, who must learn one language, Persian. He is attempting to purge the Persian language of all Arab and Turkish elements, thus proscribing 40 percent of the vocabulary. The Shah himself speaks Persian badly, faring better in French and English. ■

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Why the US Backs the Shah

The reason the Shah is where he is today is because the U.S. government put him there.

By 1949, the Middle East was perceived by American foreign policy planners as perhaps the most critical area in the world in the contest between the U.S. and the Soviets. As George McGhee, then assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, recently recalled in congressional testi­mony: “The governments in the area were very unstable. We had no security pact covering this area. The Soviets had threat­ened Greece, Turkey, and Iran. As a result of the very strong position taken by President Truman we were able to dislodge the Soviets from northern Iran, where they had demanded an oil concession. Although we had already bolstered Greece and Turkey through the Greek-Turkish aid program, both were still in a precarious state. The Arab states were hostile to us because of our involvement in Israeli affairs.”

McGhee pointed out, “At this time the principal threat to the Middle East lay in the possibility of nationalist leaders mov­ing to upset regimes which were relatively inept and corrupt, and not attuned to the modern world. There was also always in the background the reaction in the Arab states to what happened elsewhere. For example, had there been a Communist seizure in Iran, we would have expected a similar threat in the Arab states.” And, of course, underlying American concern for the politics of the region was the business of oil, which McGhee described as “the jackpot of world oil. To have American companies owning the concession there was a great advantage for our country.”

It was against this background that Iran’s nationalist premier, Mohammed Mossadegh, sought to increase the country’s participation in the affairs of the British-controlled Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.

When the British refused to meet his demands, Mossadegh nationalized the company. The seizure reverberated throughout the Middle East. In Saudi Ara­bia the finance minister threatened to shut down the Aramco concession if more money was not forthcoming.

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Both Aramco officials and the U.S. State Department, acting independently, con­cluded — as McGhee later put it — that a “big move had to be made.” Thereupon, the Middle East underwent political con­vulsions which eventually were felt within the U.S. itself. First, this country did a secret deal with Saudi Arabia that allowed Aramco to take a tax break, offsetting its royalty payments to Saudi Arabia against U.S. taxes. The net effect of this was a subsidy, continuing to this day, of Saudi Arabia and the oil companies by the U.S. taxpayer.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department, quite independently of other branches of government, began to press actively two grand jury investigations, attacking the international petroleum cartel. These in­vestigations followed publication of a lengthy report by the Federal Trade Com­mission, which spelled out the details of the cartel’s operations. When Dean Acheson, then secretary of state, found out about the Justice Department probe, he opposed it vigorously, on the grounds that the results of such an investigation “will probably be to cause a decrease in political stability in the region [Middle East].” Acheson’s view eventually prevailed and President Tru­man himself downgraded the inquiry from a criminal to a civil proceeding, on national security grounds.

Eisenhower, taking office at the start of 1953, held to the same line. By the middle of 1953 Allen Dulles, head of the CIA, turned up in Switzerland for meetings with Loy Henderson, the ambassador to Iran, and with the sister of the present Shah. Soon after, American intelligence agents — not­ably Kermit Roosevelt — appeared in Te­hran. The Shah dismissed Mossadegh, who paid no attention and remained in office. The Shah left the country. On August 18, units of off-duty police and soldiers joined mobs in overthrowing Mossadegh. The Shah returned from exile and, thus aided by the CIA and Iranian associates, took charge of the country.

Two months after the Shah was restored to power, Herbert Hoover, Jr., set to work reorganizing the Iranian oil industry. Hoover soon persuaded major American oil companies to join in a consortium that would exploit Iran’s oil: In part, they agreed with the plan because of the down­grading of the Justice Department’s cartel case. Eisenhower’s attorney general formally sanctioned the new deal, ruling that the proposed consortium would not, in itself, constitute an unreasonable restraint of trade. The cartel was never brought to trial and instead members of the consor­tium signed a participants’ agreement which had the effect of sanctioning the cartel and indeed making it an instrument of cold war policy.

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Hence it is no academic exercise to regard the Shah not only as a U.S.-­sponsored oppressor of his own people but of the American people as well. His role has been to help maintain the international oil cartel, with the resulting bogus shortages, price hikes, and penalties attaching to the present international system of oil extrac­tion and distribution.

Oil, of course, forms the basis for American interest in Iran. But in the last 25 years the game has changed somewhat from its original primitive terms. Now, in order to get the oil, the American government has to pay off the Shah in other ways. As part of the U.S.’s policy to maintain the Shah and his repressive apparatus, it was necessary to train and supply a police force and army for him. The tastes of the army have grown more profligate over the years.

In 1972, the U.S. was sending the Iranians a half-billion dollars worth of military armaments. In the current fiscal year the U.S. is sending $5.3 billion worth of weap­ons. This is paid for by Americans in the form of higher prices for petroleum products, and in aid. The long-term scheme for Iran is a vast process of industrialization, with American companies forming joint ventures with Iranian companies, leading toward the establishment of industries such as aluminum, steel, and a whole variety of mining exploration. The idea in this is not to make life any better for the Iranian people, but to achieve savings in manufac­ture, due to the plentiful and immediate supply of energy (natural gas).

The Shah, always a client of the United States, visits Washington next week (until the postponement of his trip, President Carter was to have dropped in on Tehran for lunch later in the month in the course of his grand tour). As Henry Kissinger remarked, the interests of the United States and Iran coincide, and Zbigniew Brzezin­ski, Carter’s security adviser, agrees. Iran is one of those impending powers, argues Brzezinski, to which the U.S. may pay court. Other nations on the Carter schedule included Venezuela, Brazil, and Ni­geria. For all the talk about human rights, the Carter administration has been careful not to offend Iran. The king of torturers will be received with decorousness and respect, even though any honest toast at the White House banquet would demand silence and sorrow for the thousands who have died for opposing a regime built in blood. ■

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Law Enforcement in Iran

Every tyranny needs an efficient secret police force and Iran can boast of one of the most awesome in recent world history —  namely, the infamous SAVAK.

The Sazamane Ettella’at va Amniyate Keshvar (State Security and Intelligence Organization) was set up in 1956 with the help of the American CIA and, according to some reports, Israeli intelligence. The Shah himself has claimed that SAVAK has about 3000 people. Other estimates put the number at more than 60,000 and beyond that to an army of agents and informants amounting to hundreds of thousands. SAVAK, controlled by the Shah, is now run by General Hossein Fardust, a former classmate of the Shah, described by him as “a special friend.”

SAVAK is not only the cutting edge of oppression and torture in Iran, but operates on a worldwide scale as well. Documented cases of its activities in Europe and the United States have received much publicity — including espionage and harassment of Iranian students working abroad and of political exiles. Agents of SAVAK have been dispatched abroad with missions of assassination.

This army of spies and torturers should have a special meaning for American citizens. As exiled writer Reza Bahareni put it: “Imagine a more tyrannical and primi­tive George III being crowned 6000 miles away by the very descendants of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin with money raised by the American taxpayer. The CIA re-created the monarchy, built up the SAVAK and trained all its prominent members, and stood by the Shah and his secret police as their powerful ally. Iran became the police state it is now.” Ba­hareni did not mention that as a final expression of courtesy Richard Nixon sent former CIA head Richard Helms to be the American ambassador in Tehran. ■

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Welcoming Committees 

Already, law enforcement officials In Washington are worried about reception committees for the Shah when he arrives next Tuesday. It is possible that as many as 20,000 demonstrators will converge from around the country for the two-day visit. A compromise supervised by the Secret Service and the National Park Service has stipulated that on Tuesday pro-Shah demonstrators will be allowed to congre­gate nearer the White House. Anti-Shah Iranian students will be given the prime spot on Wednesday, when he leaves.

According to Iranian students in the U.S. opposed to the Shah, SAVAK agents have been carefully building up for the Shah’s visit, offering individuals from all over the U.S. up to $300 to travel to Washington to demonstrate their loyalty. Iranian students in the New School’s political economy division have stated that they have been approached and offered bus fare to Washington, if they join the pro-Shah group. Anti-Shah demonstrations will also be held in San Francisco. The Shah will be staying in Blair House. No demonstrators will be allowed within 500 feet of the building.

Anti-Shah Iranian students in the United States have not only been harassed by SAVAK agents, but also by college administrations and U. S. police. Darioush Bayandor, adviser to Iran’s ex-prime min­ister Hoveida, has been quoted as saying that “SAVAK has agents outside Iranian borders to detect subversive elements and their links with other countries that might be against Iran and to penetrate the ranks of students and make sure their organizations are not used to harm Iran.” Iranian student groups at American colleges around the country have protested the interference of college administrations and police in their meetings, demonstrations, and finally their private conversations.

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At Emporia College in Kansas, a group of Iranian students were told that they would be arrested if they picketed in the presence of an Iranian government representative at a cultural day on campus. The official pretext was that the students were not an officially recognized organization. They had made repeated applications and were denied approval.

Ninety-two students in Houston, marching in front of the French Consulate at the end of 1976 to protest the expulsion of some Iranian nationals from Paris, were arrest­ed and beaten up by local police. Many witnesses have testified to the fact that the demonstration was orderly and peaceful and that the attack by police was unprovoked.

At San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, students were forbidden to form a club by school officials who insisted that tapes of any meetings held in their native tongue be made and handed over to the administration for review. If held in Eng­lish, a school representative was to be present. This harassment culminated in several students being arrested for conversing in Persian over lunch. A teacher approached them and reminded them that it was against the rules to hold meetings in “a foreign language.” Police arrived and charged students with resisting arrest and menacing police and school authorities. In this and other in­stances, the police passed the names of Iranian student transgressors along to the Iranian consulate, and received letters of congratulation on a job well done and thanks from Zahedi. ■

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Anarchy in the U.S.A.: The GOP Plays a Dangerous Game With It’s Far-Right Fringe

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Behind the Waco and the Whitewater hearings lies a concerted effort on the part of Republican right “revolutionar­ies” to make use of its anarchist fringes.

Ever since Newt Gingrich turned self-hate into a campaign manifesto last November, the GOP has been conducting a risky affair with the far right. Now, though, this “we’re crazier than the crazies” stance seems to be backfiring. As the Waco hear­ings have demonstrated, it helps to know a little about the cause you’re supporting. Far from martyring David Koresh’s Branch Davidians and hence elevating the Christian right above law and order, the testimony of one Davidian survivor last week only reinforced the government’s accusations that Koresh was a child abuser.

No doubt Republicans, and their NRA sponsors, will have better luck beating up on the ATF and FBI once hearings begin into the 1992 Ruby Ridge raid on the home of white supremacist Randy Weaver, but for the moment they are split on how to play their far right wing.

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Gingrich continues to indulge the anarchists, just last week weighing in on the favorite wacko topic of who killed Vince Foster. Meanwhile, Helen Chenoweth in the House and Larry Craig in the Senate continue to run wild, attacking the effrontery of federal agents and invoking the specter of the dreaded black helicopters.

But last week mainstream con­servatives regained their voice. In the Washington Times, Peter King, Republican congressman from Long Island, wrote in an op-ed, “Why now are some conservatives so willing to turn the presumption against federal law enforcement agen­cies such as the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms? Why was it wrong to call cops ‘pigs’ in the ’60s, but acceptable to call federal agents ‘Nazis’ and ‘jack-booted thugs’ in the ’90s? If it is because gun own­ers are considered to have a status different from blacks and left wing demonstrators, that would be unac­ceptable since principles are immutable and cannot be altered to suit the situation.

1995_Village Voice Thomas Goetz chart covering killings by the government from 1969 - 1993

“Nothing that happened at Waco and Ruby Ridge justifies citizens arm­ing themselves for some eventual struggle with the government. That is not what we do in a democratic society where we have the means to control government abuses at the voting booth and through the courts. Militia supporters talk of the ‘spirit of the Founding Fathers,’ but it was George Washington, the Father of our country, who denounced Shay’s Militia and the Whiskey Rebel­lion as threats to ‘republican gov­ernment.’ Any armed force with a political agenda in a democratic society is a threat to republican government.”

The Waco hearings have provided little substance. Unlike Watergate, or even the Iran-contra inves­tigation, there has been little or no effort by the Republican chairmen to figure out why the raid was staged, and the hearings have largely omitted the ludicrous attempts of the ATF to woo the press that played a major role in the timing of the first raid. From start to finish, the hearings have been a PR move, basically an effort to publicly attack the ATF in order to revoke the assault-weapon ban. More sub­tly, the hearings have played to the Christian right, key supporters of the Republican majority, and an entity everyone in Congress fears. But more than anything, the hearings have provided a dazzling display of farce and hypocrisy. Repub­licans who had been slashing away at the Fourth Amendment on the House floor earlier this spring in their determination to pass a tough crime bill have now been portray­ing themselves as feel-good liberals, invoking the rights of the Constitu­tion on behalf of Koresh and the other “individualistic” Christians within the compound.

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Aside from the desire to pander to Christian conservatives and the gun lobby, the Waco hearings are also an attempt to play to the lib­ertarian-anarchist wing of the party. Behind the attack on the ATF is anarchist frothing for the role of county sheriff in govern­ment. In Waco, the sheriff was on friendly terms with Koresh and clearly had no intention of challenging the Davidians, despite the accusa­tions made against the group. Indeed, various Republicans at the hearings came awfully close to suggesting that the sanctity of pri­vate property should have acted as a barrier against any federal intrusion. The argument that what Koresh was doing was his business and nobody else’s will get any politician, Christian right or other, firmly clobbered in the polls.

At first look, the new love affair with the role of county sher­iff might seem to go well with the overall Republican effort to decentralize govern­ment, removing power from Washington and spreading it out to the states — whose gov­ernors Republicans see as natural allies in the revolution to remake the federal government within the frame­work of states’ rights. But states’ rights is not county rights, and invariably states are opposed to county rights, siding again and again with the federal government against efforts to wrest control of land and water from the feds. State governments, especially in the West, where county rights is a much-publicized movement, are generally dri­ven by their urban citizenry, who stand to lose power should rural, often sparsely populated, counties suddenly grab more political power.

Western revolutionaries, such as the Wise Use and county movements, have gained national prominence, and a degree of legitimacy, over the last year, but just how the Republican right, centered around the followers of former interior secretary James Watt, intends to rope in these loos­er-than-loose cannons is unclear. Whipping up emotions over the sovereign rights of the county sher­iff may be good as a Gingrichian sound bite, but is a card no serious Republican politician who wants to stay in office is apt to play.

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Why, to cite but one example, would any serious Republican (or Democ­ratic politician) in Nevada want to put rural Nye County, the hotbed of the county secession movement, on an equal footing with Las Vegas, the fastest growing city in the nation?

And playing to anarchist Repub­licans almost inevitably opens an attack on the whole structure of local government. In Oklahoma, for instance, the Oklahoma Tax Com­mission revoked Woodward County agent June Griffith’s appointment after she filed what she called her “sovereignty papers.” According to the Enid News & Eagle, “similar papers show up in courthouses across Northwest Oklahoma, with only the filing party’s name changed, rejecting Social Security numbers, birth certificates and marriage licenses and renouncing U.S. citizenship.”

In northwestern Oklahoma this movement, which threatens to play havoc with the local Republi­can organization, “appears to be little more than a loosely orga­nized collection of disgruntled property owners who have lost their land in foreclosure actions and who hold forth on farms and in homes across Northwest Oklahoma to redress their grievances against the system.” The result is clogged court filings with false judgments against banks, bogus liens, phony subpoenas for state prosecutors, lawsuits against federal, state, and county governments.

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Through the Wise Use, county, and property rights movements, the GOP has built a supercharged engine of conservative politicking. This attack group leads the fight against environmentalists and is the driving force of every move­ment aimed at tax reduction. It is an angry and highly motivated group that Republican politicians have actively encouraged, and one that they can scarcely afford to have split and turn on itself.

That, though, as Democrats have learned over years of internal rift, is always a danger when mobilizing angry constituencies. The Waco hear­ings exposed one more time that the fragile coalition that makes up the Republican right is itself riven with contradictions.

It is seldom understood, for example, that the Christian right is not made up of anarchists. As a group, it believes in strong federal government that can institute and enforce the repressive codes of social conduct in birth control and education that they advocate. Unlike the racist survivalist faction, the Christian fringe has no interest in retiring to some wilderness tract in the Northwest. It wants to take power in Washington and then exercise it.

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When you strip down the revolutionary rhetoric coming from Congress, it isn’t hard to see what a dangerous game the GOP is playing.

If the Republican majority were seriously interested in addressing the Waco raid, then, turning to the Treasury Department’s excellent indictment of its own handling of the matter, it could seek to prose­cute the leaders of the department for dereliction of their duty. Top of the list is former Treasury head Lloyd Bentsen, a conservative Republican in all but name, whose han­dling of the raid points to a clear case of incompetence and derelic­tion, leading up to direct violation of constitutional rights.

Also, the Treasury’s report makes a powerful case against the ATF as an institution. Add to that the bureau’s recent history of sex­ual harassment cases, not to men­tion its racist “good ol’ boys” reunion. Here, sunset legislation to abolish this agency, turning its duties over to other existing law enforcement agencies, would be a welcome and most constructive step forward.

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Why not abolish the ATF? That would definitely play to the anar­chist crowd, and to the money bags at the NRA. It would help carry on the sense of revolution infused by Gingrich. But it would also run the powerful risk of opening its spon­sors to charges they are soft on crime — a charge that right-wing Democrats showered on the hear­ings from the beginning. Most importantly, it would turn over the duties of the ATF to other law enforce­ment agencies, i.e., the Secret Ser­vice, something the NRA would fight hard to avoid.

Sooner or later the Republican anarchists will get the message that they are being played with by the Republican right, and bolt off into the gullies and under the rocks from which they only lately have emerged. They will especially get the message when the Republican right sides with the government in wiping them out, which can’t be far from happening. ■

Additional reporting by Julian Foley, Pat McDonald, Vinita Srivatava

1995_Village Voice article by James Ridgeway about the paranoid far right

1995_Village Voice Thomas Goetz chart covering killings by the government from 1969 - 1993

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From The Archives NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Jerry Ford’s America: The Chicken Has Lost Its Head

True fear comes to a patient when he realizes his doctor’s a quack. For the country laid out on the operating table, there was a sudden realization last week, amidst the outpouring of reports from Washington, that the leaders of the country had lost all sense of reality. The truth came home in a number of different ways.

• There was Dr. Arthur Burns, seemingly the most collected and powerful member of the govern­ment, insisting that a default by New York City would not injure the international economic system. Even as he pronounced these views, international bankers were talking of withdrawing funds from New York banks and were saying that a default by New York would have “a major negative impact on international financial markets.”

• More profoundly there was the sight of the appointed Presi­dent of the United States uncomfortably trying to explain a botched in-house coup in which his chief of staff had seized the De­partment of Defense to boost his own political career and in which the chief of the CIA had been fired in favor of a political hack from Texas. It became clear to all that Ford is a continuation of Water­gate by similar means; that the country is run by a bungling junta exclusively preoccupied with the supposed threat presented by a retired actor and his wild-eyed horde streaming toward Washing­ton from the Western provinces.

• In Congress, presumed center of democratic supervision, the mood was one of listless hysteria. “Everyone here thinks the whole thing is coming to an end,” said one Senate aide to us last week as he hurried in to yet another meet­ing about antitrust.

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As a matter of rational analysis there is no doubting the serious­ness of the situation. Nobody likes to shout “Fire” in a crowded theatre, but it is obvious that even a two-day delay in welfare checks could mean a frontal assault on supermarket windows; beyond that, the possible shut-off of electricity and gas, the closing of 51 schools and hospitals, and the wind-down of other vital services may well follow from a default.

At the moment the headline story in ongoing crisis is the situation of the New York banks. Because of the complex and secret internal operations of banking, much of this talk is pure speculation. But by the end of last week there were clear signs that the big New York banks were under some measure of strain, signified by the fact that they were having to pay more money for certificates of deposit lodged with them by large corporations in and outside the country. Until a few weeks ago a Chicago bank would have had to have paid a higher interest rate than a New York one. By the weekend the situation was re­versed. There were other signs that individual investors may have been shifting funds from the banks to Treasury securities. Yields on Treasury securities were going down, reflecting a heightened desire to buy them.

Various banking analysts and trade periodicals have begin to discuss the names of specific banks which they believe to be under acute pressure. Most com­monly mentioned are Chemical Bank, long a focus of discussion because of poor management; the Chase Manhattan, because of the sickness of its $900 million real estate investment trust; and Bankers Trust, which has sunk millions in foreign investments. There was even talk that Bankers Trust was looking for a merger. All these banks own city and state paper — and the imminence of de­fault throws into harsher relief their long-term problems.

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There is certainly no agreement on what would happen if any of the banks were on the edge of failure. Burns has made it clear that the Federal Reserve will bail them out. But such a process is not as simple as it sounds, for if a tremor ran through the banking industry straining several banks at once Burns would be hard put to pour enough money into them to plug the dikes without removing significant sums from other sectors of the economy and there­by risking a deeply damaging structural blow at the “recov­ery.”

In Congress legislation to avert default became dimmer than ever, with the unions holding out against the possibility of federal revision of their contracts and pensions in a post-default situation. Revisions of bankruptcy laws allowing New York to be considered a supplicant before the courts underwent some reverses in Congress, but according to some congressmen, looked as though they would struggle through.

This is rational talk. More dominant was the simple, irrational statement expressed by almost all involved that no one knows what is going to happen.

New York’s problems are pre­sented against the backdrop of an alleged “recovery” in the national economy. But there are doubts about this, too, and whether the recovery is already over.

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Despite the much-touted but now concluded “upturn,” unemploy­ment remains high and in some instances is increasing. In New York, for example, the October rate was 11.9 per cent — up from 7.3 per cent last year. In Boston the rate is 12.9 per cent, up from 6.9 per cent last year. In Detroit, where the auto industry is alleged­ly enjoying a modest upturn, the rate is 13.6 per cent.

World trade in basic commodi­ties does not appear to be improving. We have previously reported the deep slump in iron ore, which has led to reduction of 40 per cent or more of iron ore imports by European steelmakers. Only last week news came that U.S. steel producers were cutting back their production along with investment programs for future expansion. Pessimism about the future of the economy is the reason for the steelmakers’ timorous prudence.

The world shipping industry is in severe decline. Oil demand, as we have noted before, is down. Such facts should not be construed as mere statistical embroidery. For the last year everyone has known that world copper trade was in severe decline and that efforts to curtail production by producing countries had failed. The end re­sult hair been that Zaire, one of the major copper producers in the world, has defaulted on loans from major New York banks. This de­fault led to frantic demands for special bail-out legislation by Congress, in which millions would be lent to Zaire in an effort to avert domino third world defaults.

We have already mentioned the situation of the big U.S. banks. Many of the economic thunder clouds could be dispelled if people would only increase their spend­ing. There is little sign of this. Worse still, there is real resistance to purchasing high-priced cars and appliances, and simple lack of financing to buy a house. The construction industry remains in a deep slump.

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In a rational world, as the capi­talist system has shown over time, there could indeed be a recovery and a reorganization of the economy by 1977. World trade could take a turn for the good and U.S. trade profit by the strength of the dollar.

But it is plain that the country is not under rational control. Its leaders are unable to focus on reality and prefer to drift along on a broad river of illusions:

• There is the illusion, fundamental to the situation of New York City, that things will right themselves if only the canons of private enterprise are applied.

• There is the illusion that the Federal Reserve is indeed a central bank and can control the monetary system. But the Federal Reserve is not the central bank of Western Europe and Japan and cannot control economic activities there.

• There is the illusion that the country can survive high structur­al unemployment without enormous social strains. There is the concomitant illusion proposed by advocates of “the capital shortage.” They say U.S. industry needs capital presently being devoted to social spending. They call for a simple redistribution of wealth toward business. Their illusion is that the country could comfortably survive such a reallocation without enormous turmoil.

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Running behind these contradic­tions is a long-term and destruc­tive self-deception: that the United States is controlled ultimately by a pluralistic democracy, replete with checks and balances; that all will be well if those “crooked politicians” are chased out. The events of the last few months have made it clearer than ever that the U.S. is dominated by large corporate institutions and run from day to day by a junta which makes any banana republic seem a model of stability and restraint. One way that these illusions can be maintained is to have a strongly run country: in the case of the United States a strong president who leaves freedom for illu­sion beneath the umbrella of authority. This crucial pact was shattered with the assassination of John Kennedy, the central trauma of the postwar era. In the wake of the trauma came dislocation: the disaster of the Vietnam War; the other assassinations; the ruin of democratic procedures at the Chicago convention in 1968; ultimately the discrediting and collapse of Nixon; his spiritual survival in mangled form with the Ford junta.

People yearn for a reknitting of old pacts, for some sense of con­tinuity in authority. This is what explains a fact incomprehensible to some: the popularity of Hubert Humphrey as a Democratic can­didate. Humphrey links us to the New Deal, to institutional contin­uity. It also explains why the Newsweek cover of Richard Nixon was among its better selling issues.

If this is so, the real question is not whether there should be a strong president — or a dictator. Things may have slid beyond the point where a dictator could spring successfully to the levers of power. By failing to govern, by lying badly and by acting the fool, Ford has finally shattered the pact. What he is nominally leading is a people whose illusions are broken, whose structure of society is eroded and who face panic. It is this situation which renders almost impossible the seemingly simple rational acts required to repair — if only for a time — the political and economic order.

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From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Republican Nation: The War on Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Make no mistake. The goal of the Republican Revolution is to dismantle government as we know it.

They aim to eliminate at least six cabinet-level departments, can smaller agencies, and combine others into much smaller units. In addition, the Republican right will move promptly to end farm subsidies, speed up executions, bundle up all social-welfare programs in block grants and send them back to the States, and move forward with privatization of the social security system.

This new right sees itself as a wrecking crew for the state governors, who will wield all power in the new America. If they are successful in dismantling govern­ment as we now know it, the crew will abolish their own full-time jobs and turn Con­gress into a part­-time institution.

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Consider just a few of the planks of the real Republican contract, as set forth by the folks who put together the Reagan transition in 1980 — the Heritage Foundation:

WOMEN AND GAYS. The Republicans have yet to say how they will tackle the politically charged issues of abor­tion and gay rights. But they have weighed in on the mili­tary. The right wants gays out of the armed services, and if the courts don’t rule in their favor, they will draft legisla­tion to get them out. Women are already too involved in combat, and if the administration doesn’t pull them back, the Republicans will act in Congress to keep them off the front lines.

THE ENVIRONMENT. Return the public lands, compris­ing one-third of the nation’s landmass (as well as the bulk of its energy resources, national parks, forests, ranges, moun­tains, deserts, and the outer-continental shelf), to state gov­ernments for use as they see fit. Prevent the government from making new environmental regulations that encroach on private property — such as blocking a new factory over pollution concerns or halting the drilling of an oil well in a city’s backyard.

FEDERAL REGULATIONS. The rules that govern much of the nation’s economic life will go. The GOP will propose an immediate moratorium while new legislation to end the complex web of laws is drafted. New regulations would re­quire a two-step procedure in which, after legislation is passed, Congress would have to pass a second act setting forth in detail how it would be implemented. If it is decid­ed that the legislation would put a drag on the economy, then other related regulations would be cut back.

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LABOR. The minimum wage is out the window. Fair la­bor standards will go, as will current federal efforts to con­trol unsafe labor practices in the workplace. The Republi­cans will move to terminate Davis-Bacon (1931), Walsh-Healy (1936), and Service Contract (1965) — acts that require the federal government to pay union scale wage rates for anything made under contract with the federal gov­ernment. “These laws,” the Heritage Foundation argues, “make it virtually impossible for low-skilled workers, especially minorities and young people, to be hired on govern­ment jobs because their productivity cannot justify the man­dated wages. Besides their inherent unfairness, these laws cost taxpayers dearly.”

FOREIGN AID. The Republicans want to end the U.S. Agency for International Development as it currently ex­ists, tying economic development to free-market economies. The Heritage Foundation has published an Index of Eco­nomic Freedom, which argues that U.S. foreign aid reform should be rooted in the recognition that “the free market is the only proven method of promot­ing economic growth and development.” By using the In­dex, policymakers can identify which countries are making progress toward free-market reforms and which are not.

THAT’S JUST THE BEGINNING. Delaware Re­publican Bill Roth, incoming chair of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, proposes to cut federal agencies by up to 50 percent, in some cases privatizing the work. But his real goal is to eliminate entire agencies. Chief candidates are the Appalachi­an Regional Commission, the Interstate Commerce Commission, and the Economic Development Administration. Roth is eager to abolish six entire federal de­partments: Commerce, Transportation, Interior, Energy, HUD, and Labor.

The Republicans will try to do away with Congress as we know it. They will begin by defunding committees, cen­tralizing power under the Speaker as they return various functions to state governments. At the same time, they want to reduce by one-quarter to one-third the $329 million al­located every year to the General Accounting Office, which performs independent studies for members of Congress. The Republicans would privatize GAO, subcontracting its functions to the lowest bidders. They also want to shift the Government Printing Office to the executive branch, and then privatize most of what it does. The Library of Con­gress is next in line for cuts, especially the Congressional Re­search Service, which provides research for members. The GOP would like to get rid of the Office of Technology As­sessment, or at least sharply reduce its functions.

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THE RESULT of these cuts will be to drastically re­duce the flow of information to legislators on intri­cate issues such as telecommunication, the effects of biochemical pollution, and genetic engineering, not to mention hampering investigations into private-­sector fraud and high-tech crimes. But the most tangible effect of the Republican ax will be felt in the District of Columbia, the vio­lence-prone capital that is virtually bankrupt. The federal cuts will almost surely result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, devastating the black and white middle classes in the city. As the capital disintegrates, Congress can take back con­trol of the city’s finances and arrange for its ultimate disposal as a subdivision of the state of Maryland. So much for D.C. statehood — and the likely addition of two black senators.

Cutting down domestic social programs and the agen­cies that manage them frees up money for defense, which the right wants to increase. They also intend to cancel the War Powers Act, end the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, and reverse the current limits on an arms buildup.

Such moves bolster the corporations that depend on mil­itary contracts. The private sector, in fact, will reap a windfall from the Republican revolution. Undertaken in the name of decentralization, the right’s program amounts to a scheme for turning over more and more power to private corpora­tions. When turning a governmental function back to the states complicates matters for corporations, as in the regula­tion of private health insurance plans, then right-wingers fa­vor federal regulation to accommodate the corporate interests.

MEANWHILE, IN THE White House, President Bill Clinton is under siege, from all quarters: drive-by shooters, gun-toting survivalists, homeless men brandishing knives, wackos on the Hill. But un­like most sieges, the object here is not to get the enemy to surrender. Bill Clinton can’t surrender. Not that he hasn’t tried. Since his election, Clinton has hoisted the white flag time after time — on gays, on supporting cities, on social welfare, on Bosnia, on the environment. But the Republicans refuse to accept his surrender. That’s because he’s more useful to them where he is. They want him to remain permanently on his knees, to go through the ritual act of surrender again and again. They want Clinton in office so they can keep taunting him. And the longer he stays, the more opportu­nities they have to wear down any remaining opposition to their revolution in American politics.

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What conceivable purpose does Clinton serve by sitting in the White House during this period of turmoil? The un­happy truth is that he serves the Republican interest in de­moralizing the electorate. The more disheartened people are by the spectacle of a lame-duck president, the less likely they will be to vote — and the Republicans need a low turnout in 1996 to win the presidency. They won Congress with 35 percent of the electorate. You could win a House seat with as little as 18 percent of the vote. The way to discourage peo­ple from voting is to keep them dispirited. What better ve­hicle for such a project than the hapless figure of Bill Clinton?

Of course, it’s always possible that Clinton will, for the first time in his life, discover his nerve. After all, Nixon faced a hostile Congress and that didn’t stop him from ad­vocating his policies. Nor did it stop Reagan or Bush. When the Democrats blocked Reagan, he pushed ahead rather than cave in.

But Clinton is different. He has no core convictions — he swings in the wind. His only institutional connection to the American people is within the Democratic party; and that barely exists except in the bank accounts of lobbyists and corpora­tions. As for the Democratic Na­tional Committee, it is less an ap­pendage of Clinton than of the lobbyists and corporate figureheads who own the party.

What’s left of the Democrats is to be found in Congress, mostly in the House, where Dick Gephardt, the minority leader, and David Bo­nior, the whip, may build a follow­ing. Both men fought Clinton on NAFTA and GATT, the two defining issues of this Congress. There’s almost no reason for them to side with the White House now; they will have to forge their own coalitions and discover their own politics.

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(Just to remember how differ­ent things might have been, note that, had Clinton stood with the rest of his party and fought these two pieces of legislation, the Democrats, even though in the minority, would still be calling the shots in the Re­publican Congress. Instead of spend­ing the first 100 days debating the Contract with America, the Democ­rats could fire up a debate on GATT that might split the Republican majority. But there will be no debate be­cause Clinton has already given away the store.)

With the Republicans pulling the levers in Congress, they can eas­ily crank up an investigation of Whitewater, pushing the two independent counsels already working on the probe. The possibilities for investigating Clinton are endless, reaching from Whitewater to the Tyson chicken empire. That includes Hillary Clinton’s mysterious com­modity trades and now accusations of cash payments sent by Tyson to Clinton himself. The Vincent Foster case is still alive. There are now ques­tions about Clinton’s past campaign funding and the behavior of numer­ous White House staffers. Beyond that, there is the continuing saga of his personal relationships. Any or all of these issues can be easily brought into the spotlight on Capitol Hill, and Clinton can be made to either apologize one more time or, if it is in the Republican interest, forced to resign.

Under this continuing pressure, the Democratic Party could actually break up. Since the election, both Gephardt and Bonior have made it clear they will turn their backs on the White House. Paul Tsongas is push­ing for a third-party movement, and Jackson hasn’t given up the presi­dential ghost. Meanwhile, Clinton’s own supporters are clamoring for the president to follow them to the right.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario that would deny the right-wing control of the White House in 1996. Under the best of circumstances it will take many years for what’s left of the Democratic Party to regroup. In the meantime, the Republicans have a clear path ahead. The only thing standing in their way is Bill Clinton, who really is no obstacle at all. ❖

Research: Valerie Burgher 

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From The Archives From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES Security THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized Washington, D.C.

Annals of the Age of Reagan: Missile Mess in Europe

True Story of the SS-20 and Pershing II

In the last few weeks, some of the larg­est demonstrations in the postwar history of Western Europe have surged through the streets of London, Brussels, Bonn, Rome, Milan, and Paris. With varying em­phasis, they have been directed against the growth of so-called “theater nuclear” weaponry — primarily the U.S.-made Pershing IIs and Cruise missiles to be deployed by NATO, and the SS-20 missile deployed by the Soviet Union. 

Western European fears are not hard to explain. The Reagan administration, rabid on the topic of the Russian threat, has escalated bellicose rhetoric to a level which quite simply terrifies people. Ensuing assertions by the administration that deployment of the new NATO missiles will go hand-in-hand with talks with the Rus­sians on reduction of these and the Soviet missiles seem either specious or ludicrous. 

Reaganite rationale for the Pershing IIs and the Cruise, following the line of the Carter administration — which promulgated the policy — is that something had to be done about the threat posed by the fearsome SS-20s, and that it was in fact Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Ger­many who asked for the new weapons in the first place. In a talk with U.S. journal­ists on October 29, Schmidt denied this, and said Carter had proposed the plan at the Guadeloupe summit in January 1979. 

Whatever the truth of Schmidt’s asser­tion, the proposed deployment of the new missiles threatens his own leadership and has posed enormous problems for NATO, confronted by a peace movement broader by far than the campaigns of the late 1950s. 

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Crisis at Nadiradze
Acres of newsprint in recent years have been covered with spine-shriveling ver­biage about the Soviet SS-20 medium­-range missiles, invoked by U.S. and Western European arms lobbies as the most conspicuous evidence of Soviet de­termination to Finlandize the continent from the Elbe River to the Bay of Biscay, and as a threat which had to be countered. 

But in all the high-minded discussion about the famous SS-20s and the NATO response to them, much essential data has been omitted. 

Arms debates, as conducted by politi­cians, strategists, and the press, invariably ignore an important point: weapons are made by people who want to make money out of them. And if these people have no weapons to make, they will be out of a job. 

Such was the grim prospect faced by at least some of the comrades at the Nadiradze Design Bureau in the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s, and by their op­posite numbers in the Martin Marietta Corporation in the United States. 

The Nadiradze Design Bureau has, for the last 20 years, been charged with the responsibility for constructing a solid­-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile for the Strategic Rocket Forces of the Soviet Union. Other bureaus in the Soviet Union, such as the Yangel and Cholomei, have been briskly turning out liquid-fueled ICBMs (the SS-11, 17, 18, 19), all of a type abandoned by the U.S. some 20 years ago. 

After herculean efforts, the Nadiradze Bureau finally managed to come up with a prototype for the SS-16 in the mid-’70s. It was not a success. Test-firings, monitored by the U.S., almost invariably went wrong, and the SS-16 never went into production. Glum faces in the comfortable dachas inhabited by Nadiradze bureaucrats and engineers — and in the adjacent dachas inhabited by the generals of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces, who had been promised up-to-date missiles of the sort flaunted by the Americans.

From this crisis emerged the SS-20, hailed by Nadiradze salesmen and by U.S. threat-inflaters as super-accurate and terrifyingly MIRVed with up to three warheads. In fact the SS-20 is our old friend, the SS-16, chopped down by a third. The Russians began to deploy it in the late 1970s across the breadth of the Soviet Union, aimed at both the Chinese and NATO hordes.

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…and at Martin Marietta
Meanwhile, in the early 1970s, a crisis rather similar to that afflicting the Nadiradze/Strategic Rocket Forces complex was brewing between the Martin Marietta Corporation, headquartered in Florida, and the U.S. Army. 

By 1970, Martin Marietta was in danger of losing its treasured status as a “prime contractor” for military aerospace items. A prime contractor makes complete systems — a plane, a missile, a ship — thus lording it over humbler accomplices making subsystems: parts. One of the corporation’s more successful recent products had been the Pershing I medium-range nuclear missile, contracted for by the U.S. Army and deployed in Europe. But the days of Pershing I production were ebbing. Martin Marietta was faced with the disaster of no follow-on contract, and the U.S. Army with the prospect of being without an up-to-date nuclear missile and losing the last vestiges of nuclear missile turf to the enemy — the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy. 

At the time, there were no plans in NATO to purchase a fresh range of nuclear missiles for deployment in Europe. NATO was amply equipped with nuclear bombs on planes, on the aforementioned Pershing I, and on Polaris submarines. Undeterred by the absence of a policy decision by the NATO powers (and certainly undisturbed by the SS-20 threat, which had yet to be invented by the Nadiradze Bureau), the U.S. Army funded the development of the Pershing II, which, it claimed, would have a longer range than its predecessor and unprecedented accuracy.

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A Blessed Threat
Development of the Pershing II went limping along, to the gratification of the army and Martin Marietta but unbeknownst to all but the most assiduous readers of U.S. military budget statements. No production contracts had been awarded. Then came salvation, with the news that the SS-20 was being deployed. Threatmongers, notably Richard Burt — then at the Institute for Strategic Studies, subsequently defense correspondent for The New York Times, and now a Haig deputy in the State De­partment — and Uwe Nerlich, a West Ger­man defense analyst, began to bewail a NATO “escalation gap” which supposedly had opened up, requiring the deployment of a fresh generation of missiles in Europe. 

Thus, in the face of the dreadful SS-20 threat, began the campaign for installation of Pershing II and Cruise missiles — every­one conveniently forgetting that in the ’60s the U.S. had withdrawn medium-range missiles capable of hitting the Soviet Un­ion from Europe in favor of missiles of equal prowess based on submarines cruis­ing in the North Atlantic and Mediter­ranean. 

The advantage of the Pershing II over the Pershing I is that it will be capable, if deployed, of hitting the Soviet Union — a fact not lost on the Soviets, who are less worried about the slow-moving and wildly inaccurate Cruise than the Pershing II, which can reach their territory in five min­utes. 

NATO proposes to deploy 108 Pershing IIs and 464 ground-launched Cruise mis­siles. The Soviets have about 259 SS-20s deployed in the Soviet Union. 

It goes without saying that both the Pershing II and SS-20 have far fewer technical capabilities than those usually pro­claimed on the printed page. Veterans of Pentagon procurement say that even by the usual relaxed standards, the tests of the Pershing II guidance system were “outrageously faked.” The SS-20, some­times called “highly mobile” but with the relative speed of movement of an oil rig, has also turned out to be much less ac­curate than claimed. 

Today, the collective lunges at self-preservation and profit of the Nadiradze Bureau and Martin Marietta have led to the rebirth of the disarmament lobby and a mass movement in Europe, and the corresponding derogation of NATO. 

The uproar has greatly benefited the Russians. For years, the Soviet Union has been trying to get forward-based tactical nuclear systems included in arms-limita­tion talks. For years, the U.S. has stoutly resisted. Now, under pressure from Western European allies, the U.S. may at last have to enter into serious limitation talks about these very systems. 

If the U.S. decides to abort such talks, the Russians come out ahead once again­ because European disarmament cam­paigns will continue with redoubled force. 

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From The Archives From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES Protest Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Violence

Beyond the Tiananmen Massacre

June 13, 1989

The Seeds of Civil War
By James Ridgeway

By yesterday, the battle be­tween the army and the stu­dents had died down, but the battle for control of the Peo­ples’ Liberation Army was just beginning. 

In Beijing, elements of the crack 38th Army, renowned in China for routing Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, was believed to have come to the aid of the students. In early skir­mishes, the 38th reportedly engaged units of the 27th Army, the instrument of the Party hierarchy in Saturday’s massacre. An exchange of gunfire was reported in the western suburbs at a military airport, followed later by an attempted assassina­tion of Li Peng. 

In downtown Beijing Tuesday morn­ing, Michael Morrow reported a general strike had shut down the city. Emotions were running high. The people are rebel­lious, defiant, and determined above all to liquidate the 27th Army, now viewed as an army of assassins. “They can kill as many of us as they want,” a resident said, “but they can’t kill us all.” 

The troops of the 27th are skittish, moving along streets in patrols, usually under covering fire. Passport control and airport security are lax at the Beijing airport. Troops (possibly from the 38th) along the road into the city are friendly, and not until visitors reach the down­town does a sense of great tension take hold. 

“You must be careful how you walk in the streets, being careful not to gesture or speak, lest you come under fire,” Morrow said. “People are being killed by stray shots. The people place perhaps undue hope in the 38th, believing that troops loyal to the people of Beijing will arrive to liquidate the 27th.” 

Although sporadic firing could be heard in the streets of the city as well as rumors of firefights between troops from the dif­ferent armies, it was difficult to pin down any actual exchange. Some of the firing may have come from snipers. Visitors and reporters in Beijing found it difficult to move around the city, and watched troop movements through binoculars from their hotel windows. But they were getting their best information on what was going on at a nearby street corner from CNN out of Atlanta. 

To begin to understand the maelstrom of events in Tiananmen Square, one must have some idea of the complex organiza­tion of the Chinese Army. From now on, the outcome of the struggle could depend on the army. 

***

The Chinese armed forces number about three million peasants, no more than a third of whom are in the air force and navy. About half the remainder are regular forces, whose job it is to maintain internal order. The other half are specially trained, heavily armed members of some 40-odd field armies. 

The country is broken down into seven military regions, each one including sev­eral different provinces. The Beijing re­gion, for example, encompasses four provinces. Each region includes several field armies trained to be deployed against foreign invaders. In addition, each region maintains separate and dif­ferently trained troops to maintain inter­nal order, not unlike the state National Guards in the U.S. Finally, there are the local police. 

The Beijing region has the largest con­centration of military forces in the coun­try, including eight different field armies. Among them is the 38th Army, which refused to attack the students during the hunger strike two weeks ago; instead, the soldiers deserted, dropped their guns, or simply burst into tears. Based 40 miles south of Beijing, the 38th is the best-equipped army in the country, forming a strategic reserve in the event of a possible Soviet attack. 

The 38th consists of six divisions total­ing about 60,000 men, including three in­fantry divisions, one tank division, an anti-aircraft division, and an artillery di­vision. The army not only is well­-equipped, but has high morale. 

When the 38th refused to move on the students, Deng traveled to the southern part of the country to recruit military support. During the civil war in the late 1940s, Deng was political commissar to the second of four big front armies, which were deployed in the south after the war. Deng turned to his old comrades for as­sistance in implementing martial law last month, quietly moving their troops north to the capital. In addition, he enlisted the support of commanders of other field ar­mies, apparently including elite units sta­tioned along the Soviet border. These battalions were then dispatched to Beijing and the troops prepped to put down a student revolt. 

On Saturday, June 3, when the troops moved into Beijing, the first units were from the 27th Field Army, whose former commander, Chi Hao Tian, is now head of the general staff of the Liberation Army. The 27th’s current head is Yang. Chin Qu’un. The 27th is intertwined with top party leadership, and very hard-line. It ferociously attacked the students and played a major role in the savagery mounted against them. Following the 27th came the 38th, whose soldiers again refused to fight, and instead shouted, shot into the air, even gave their guns to the students. Appearing next were ele­ments of the 79th Independent Division, a vicious attack force from the coastal city of Jinan, which proceeded to chase down students and civilians, shooting them in the back. The 40th Army, from Shenyang to the northeast, and the 42nd Army, from Canton in the south, were both reportedly deployed in the capital streets. The 42nd was thought to be tak­ing positions in support of the 38th. ■

This article is based on additional report­ing and analysis by Yu Bin, a political scientist from Beijing University now studying in the United States. He served on a divisional planning staff in the 38th Army, and is currently a commentator for the Pacific News Service. 

 

Revolution Without Borders
By Yuen Ying Chan

The Tiananmen massacre has generated a giant wave of pro­tests among Chinese-American communities across the country. Thousands of Chinese students and long-time U.S. residents of Chinese heritage have taken part in demonstrations condemning the regime for premeditated murder and atrocities against its own citizens. Taking their cause to the White House, the steps of Congress, and the United Nations, they have issued an urgent appeal for international support. 

Gone are the pleas for government re­form that dominated student discussion only a week ago. In their place, Chinese studying at American universities (the largest single group of foreign students in the U.S.) openly call for the overthrow of Deng Xiao-ping and Li Peng. “The task is to overthrow the fascist and reaction­ary clique ruling China. This is the agen­da of the day,” said Xia Wen, an organiz­er of student protests in New York.

The New York Chinese community­ — which has always been torn between alle­giance to Beijing or its arch-rival, the Kuomintang government in Taiwan — has come full circle to discover common ground in the politics of their homeland. Since the student protests erupted almost two months ago, New York Chinese newspapers representing opposite politi­cal orientations are suddenly speaking the same language; Chinatown organiza­tions that were suspicious of or antago­nistic to each other in the past now find themselves voicing their indignation in a similar pitch and tone. The selflessness and ultimate martyrdom of the Chinese students have struck a universal chord among Chinese around the world. 

This Friday, thousands of Chinese im­migrants and students will gather at the United Nations and march across town to the Mission of the People’s Republic of China at West 66th Street near Lincoln Center. Billed as the largest Chinese­American demonstration ever, the coffin-­carrying march is expected to include ev­ery part of the Chinese community spectrum — millionaire entrepreneurs and toilers working at below-minimum wage, immigrant mothers and their American-­born daughters, the communist sympa­thizers and the anticommunists, the “up­towners” and the “downtowners” — who will converge in a massive outpouring of anger against the Chinese government. 

“This is your time to do something for China,” said Peter Lee, a protest organiz­er and former Chinatown reporter who quit his job two weeks ago over his pub­lisher’s call for a crackdown on the stu­dents in Beijing. “If you don’t stand up now, you may never stand up for any­thing else in your life.” Chinese students in New York are racing to construct a replica of the “goddess of democracy” crushed in Tiananmen Square for the march, to show that Chinese around the world have taken up the cause. 

Accusing President Bush of a double standard in his human rights policy — his angry and very specific denunciations of rights violations in the Soviet Union con­trast sharply with his guarded warnings to the Chinese leaders he befriended as envoy there in 1974 — has become the vogue since the recent turmoil began. One might as well go for a field day hunting down double standards in Chinatown. 

***

In the face of the monstrous criminal acts committed by the Chinese gov­ernment against its own citizens, the lines between the genuine and the fake in Chinatown have been sub­merged — at least for the time being — by the higher call for freedom and democra­cy. In the past month, the leaders of the Chinese Consoliuated Benevolent Associ­ation, an umbrella organization of 60 family organizations in Chinatown, has become a strong advocate for democracy in the People’s Republic — even though it has maintained a stony, 40-year silence on the military rule of the Kuomintang in Taiwan. 

No less ironic is the case of Fred Tang, one of the chief organizers of Friday’s march for justice. As president of the Chinese-American Planning Council, a multimillion-dollar social service agency, ‘Tung oversees a revolving-door cheap la­bor program for the City of New York. In the name of “training,” the CPC, a con­tractor for the city, pays immigrant workers $5 an hour (without medical in­surance or other benefits) for doing reha­bilitation work in rundown neighbor­hoods. The CPC also sets a limit of six months of employment. Prevailing wages for similar work in the general construc­tion industry run between $12 to over $20 per hour. 

Thus, the massive show of strength and unprecedented unity by the Chinese community masks the real contradictions and challenges confronting the city’s Chi­nese-Americans. For the last hundred years, events in China have always had tremendous impact on Chinese commu­nities overseas. “Since Chinese immi­grants were denied the right of natural­ization [until after World War II] and thus effectively disenfranchised from the democratic process, most Chinese in the United States channeled their energy and resources into strengthening China as the only means for achieving full protection and respect from Americans,” said Berkeley professor of Asian-American studies and community activist Ling-chi Wang. 

It wasn’t until the tail end of the civil rights and antiwar protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s that Chinese began to fight for equal rights in this country. In the past few years, with the easing of tensions between Taiwan and the main­land, divisions based on loyalties to the motherland seemed to give way to healthy disputes over local Chinatown is­sues like city politics and school board elections. 

But against the backdrop of the epoch­al tragedy in China, issues such as the city’s charter revision or minimum wage enforcement in Chinatown seem mun­dane. Yet it is precisely these concerns that would empower the Chinese-Ameri­can community. After all, the most far-­reaching impact of the events in China will be in matters of daily survival, such as jobs, housing, and education for one’s children. 

Already, residents of Hong Kong, due to return to China in 1997, are talking in hushed voices of massive emigration to any country in the world that might take them. Many Hong Kong students here, who were undecided over whether to re­turn or make a career in the U.S. just one week ago, have received midnight phone calls from panicked parents at home. The messages are all similarly direct: “By all means, stay. Find a way to get residence papers. You are now the hope of the whole family.” 

Dick Netzer, senior fellow at New York University’s Urban Research Center, says that if Hong Kong is persuaded that things will really be “bad” after the Chi­nese takeover in 1997, “an enormous wave of immigration from Hong Kong could be triggered very quickly.” He esti­mates that perhaps one million people would emigrate, of whom 300,000 to 400,000 could settle in the New York re­gion. It can hardly be disputed that events of the past week in China would meet the “really bad” criterion.

It’s almost a foregone conclusion that the recent tragic events in China will act as an explosive push factor in the global Chinese diaspora. Statistics from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services between 1983 to 1987 showed that Manhattan’s Chinatown had attract­ed the largest number of Chinese immi­grants (mostly from the mainland and Hong Kong), while the more affluent im­migrants from ‘Thiwan prefer Chinese neighborhoods in Queens. An influx of legal or illegal immigrants will put addi­tional strains on housing, the schools, and social services in the area. 

At the same time, one cannot expect the new money pouring in from the other side of the Pacific to filter down to the bottom of the community. Indeed, past experience has shown that the new riches have in fact created a community polar­ized between the haves and the have­nots. Real estate in Chinatown is such a high-stakes game now that local brokers admit that, increasingly, only the trans­national consortiums with big cash and “staying power” can manage to buy. A local store owner cannot even dream of buying a modest building in the neighbor­hood in case his lease expires. 

Already, the influx of money from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the rest of Southeast Asia is drastically changing the face of Manhattan’s Chinatown. In 1984, the BCC building on Canal Street became the first dilapidated factory loft building to be converted into a modern office com­plex on the Canal Street corridor. Now at least eight more major factory buildings within the 12-block area around the La­fayette-Canal intersection have under­gone similar conversions, with another seven targeted to go. Along Canal Street, squalid, century-old brick outer walls are giving way to glittering glass facades, and their tenants, mostly immigrant women who work at Juki sewing machines, are being replaced by young pin-striped Chi­nese yuppies (called Chuppies) who sit at computer terminals. A Chinese developer pointed out with glee that the center of Chinatown is shifting from good old Mott Street to Lafayette and Canal, where in­vestors have found good housing stock, better access to the subways, and room to grow towards Soho, Tribeca, and the City Hall area. 

In other parts of Chinatown, new con­struction is booming. Chinese developers, many in partnership with Hong Kong investors, are rushing to build on any empty lot they can lay their hands on. Learning from their defeat in a mid-’80s zoning battle that effectively killed the city’s plan to give luxury high-rises a free ride in Chinatown, developers are build­ing “as-of-right” to avoid the hassle of seeking variances or community approv­al. The slogan of the industry now is to build and build fast. The new construc­tion is for the upper-middle class never­theless, selling at $300-350 per square foot, and the Hong Kong gentry are a prime marketing target. Working people who cannot afford the high prices of these condominiums have no choice but to double up in crumbling Chinatown railroad flats or move to Ridgewood, Sun­set Park, and the few remaining afford­able neighborhoods in the outer boroughs. 

Even before the massacre, major banks from the colony had already landed in New York in a big way, in part to provide a more convenient conduit for the ex­pected influx of money in 1997. At least two premier Hong Kong banks are plan­ning major expansions in New York’s Chinatown. The Bank of East Asia, which is owned by the most affluent and influential Chinese elite in Hong Kong, has just moved from its Fifth Avenue offices downtown to Mott Street and in­stalled a full-service branch. And if all goes according to plan, East Asia will have the distinct honor of being the only bank in Chinatown housed in new, cus­tom-designed headquarters at Canal and Mulberry, the heart of old Chinatown, by early 1991. The new bank, estimated to cost $10 million, will replace the loft building now standing at the site, which the bank bought for $5.5 million in 1986, a bargain in retrospect. 

Not to be outdone, the Hang Seng Bank, the leading consumer bank in Hong Kong, is completing its rehab of the five-story cast-iron building on Canal Street that it bought for $7 million last year. Meanwhile, Hong Kong Bank, the de facto central bank of Hong Kong (which has nine branches in New York), recently switched its advertising agency and is launching a new market campaign. 

Canal Street now boasts eight bank branches within a 10-block area. On the other side of Chinatown, East Broadway, with another nine banks, competes with Canal for the title of the “Chinatown Wall Street.” And the banks are still roll­ing in — two more branches are currently under renovation on East Broadway. 

The construction boom has not given Chinese immigrants, among whom skilled construction workers number in the hundreds, a chance to enter New York con­struction unions. In major construction work in Chinatown, elite plumbing and electrical jobs remain in the hands of mostly white union workers. When Chi­nese workers are lucky enough to be hired, they can only expect to work at wage scales far below those prevailing in the industry as a whole without benefits or job security. Just last year, an undocu­mented Chinese worker from Malaysia was killed in a Queens house under reno­vation when slabs of concrete collapsed from the ceiling. The Chinese employer boldly announced that the unfortunate victim was “just a visitor” who happened to be there, looking for work. 

Such inequities render the cheap labor program run by the Chinese-American Planning Council even more repugnant. Is there a link between the real estate industry and the CPC, which operates a separate Local Development Corporation and has publicly stated its interest in sharing the city’s $500 million in public housing money? By staunchly defending its practice of paying $5 an hour for con­struction jobs, CPC institutionalizes cheap labor and does a service for real estate interests — and tries to give coolie labor a good name. 

Only two weeks ago, a protest against martial law at the Chinese consulate in Washington, D.C.­ — attended by 3000 Chinese stu­dents from across the eastern seaboard — had an almost surrealist air as the students marched under fluttering red flags in this belly of the beast of capitalism. Over and over, the marchers sang the National Anthem of the People’s Republic of China and the Internation­ale, the battle hymn of international communism. 

This past Sunday, the day after the massacre, a march by many of the same students in New York City took on a decidedly different mood. Mourning the dead in Tiananmen, angry students with black arm bands carried wreaths and wore white paper flowers pinned to their chests. The red flags and cries of “Arise, ye prisoners of starvation…” are gone. 

Gone too was the national anthem, a song written in the first years of the Chinese Communist Party. But at the same time, isolated shouts of “Down with communism!” seemed to receive little support. 

One can only surmise that the shift of symbols signifies a profound soul-search­ing among these young democrats of the republic. The problem they face is noth­ing less than the viability of world com­munism itself. 

As chants of “Down with the fascist clique” roared through the crowd and re­ports on the mounting toll in Beijing were circulated, Xia Wen, a doctoral stu­dent in sociology at Columbia, said, “It’s irrelevant to count the dead now. The important thing is that we are continuing the struggle. China will not be the same China, and the people will no longer be the same people.”

That determined optimism is shared by Ming Ruan, a deputy director of the theoretical office of the Chinese Commu­nist Party Cadre School until he was purged from the party in 1982. “The fas­cist ruling group is unable to control the situation with their reign of terror. The people are more angry than scared by the bloodshed. And they are still defiant and fighting. The days of the hardliners are numbered.”

Ming now believes that it is not enough to change the party’s political line. Chi­na’s governing institutions must also un­dergo fundamental reform to introduce freedom of the press and checks and bal­ances.

“This is a transition point for the Chi­nese people and a new beginning,” Ming said. “Today’s winners are bringing their own demise, and will be tomorrow’s losers.”

 

It All Started With Jan & Dean
A Chronology

The student movement in China didn’t begin with the hunger strikes last month. James Ridgeway pieced together the following account, drawing statements made by students and professors from Orville Schell’s recent book, Discos and Democ­racy. Schell recorded these texts during numerous trips to China over the last two decades.

In December 1978, Chinese students began to express themselves for the first time since the Cultural Revolu­tion, and their elderly leaders found it to their advantage to appear to support dissent. At the time the pro­tests were limited to putting up posters on a street wall, called Democracy Wall, in downtown Beijing. “Democracy Wall is good,” Deng told visiting journal­ist Robert Novak.

Among the famous posters was “De­mocracy: The Fifth Modernization,” written by Wei Jingsheng, a young for­mer solider who worked as an electrician at the Beijing zoo. It was sharply critical of Deng’s modernization efforts: “Do the people enjoy democracy nowadays?” Wei Jingsheng wrote. “No! Is it that the peo­ple do not want to be their own masters? Of course they do. This was the very the Nationalist Party… The slogan of ‘people’s democracy’ was replaced by the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat,’ making a very small percentage of the hundreds of millions of people the leaders. But even this was cancelled, and the despotism of the Great Helmsman took over. Then came another promise. Because our Great Leader was just so great, we arrived at the superstitious belief that a great leader could bring the people far more happiness than democracy could. Up until now, the people have been forced time and time again, against their will, to accept ‘promises.’ But are they happy? Are they prosperous? We cannot hide the fact that we are more restricted, more unhappy, and the society is more backward than ever…

“If the Chinese people wish to modern­ize, they must first establish democracy and they must first modernize China ‘s social system. Democracy is not a mere consequence, a certain stage in the devel­opment of society. It is the condition on which the survival of productive forces depends… Without democracy, society would sink into stagnation and economic growth would encounter insuperable obstacles.”

In the autumn of 1979, Wei was brought to trial on charges of leaking military intelligence on China ‘s war with Vietnam and “openly agitating for the overthrow of the government of the dic­tatorship of the proletariat and the so­cialist system in China.” He was convict­ed and sentenced to 15 years in a Beijing jail, where Amnesty International report­ed he died.

***

Among the main supporters of the student movement was Fang Lizhi, vice-president of the university in Hefei, where early protests broke out in the fall of 1986. In November of that year, Fang Lizhi gave a speech at Tongji University in Shanghai.

“We now have a strong sense of urgen­cy about achieving modernization in Chi­na,” he said. “Chinese intellectual life, material civilization, moral fiber, and government are in dire straits… The truth is, every aspect of the Chinese world needs to be modernized… As for myself, I think all-around openness is the only way to modernize. I believe in such a thorough and comprehensive liberaliza­tion because Chinese culture is not just backward in a particular respect but primitive in an overall sense… And frankly, I feel we lag behind because the decades of socialist experimentation since Liberation have been — well, a failure! This is not just my opinion; it is clear for all to see. Socialism is at a low ebb. There is no getting around the fact that no socialist state in the post-World War II era has been successful, nor has our own 30-odd-year-long socialist experi­ment… I am here to tell you that the socialist movement from Marx and Lenin to Stalin and Mao Zedong has been a failure…

“Clearing our minds of all Marxist dog­ma is the first step… We must remold our society by absorbing influences from all cultures. What we must not do is isolate ourselves and allow our conceit to convince us that we alone are correct…

“The critical component of the demo­cratic agenda is human rights. Human rights are fundamental privileges that people have from birth, such as the right to think and be educated, the right to marry, and so on. But we Chinese consid­er these rights dangerous. Although hu­man rights are universal and concrete, we Chinese lump freedom, equality, and brotherhood together with capitalism and criticize them all in the same terms. If we are the democratic country we say we are, these rights should be stronger here than elsewhere, but at present they are noth­ing more than an abstract idea [enthusi­astic applause].

“I feel that the first step toward de­mocratization has come to mean some­thing performed by superiors on inferi­ors — a serious misunderstanding of democracy. Our government cannot give us democracy by loosening our bonds a bit. This gives us only enough freedom to writhe a little [enthusiastic applause]. Freedom by decree is not fit to be called democracy, because it fails to provide the most basic human rights… In a demo­cratic nation, democracy flows from the individual, and the government has re­sponsibilities toward him… Science should be allowed to develop according to its own principles, free of any ideological straitjacket… The products of scientific knowledge should be appraised by scien­tific standards. We should not be swayed by the winds of power. Only then can we modernize, and only then will we have real democracy.”

***

Almost simultaneous with the pro­tests at Hefei, students in Shang­hai took to the streets. The first wave of protests followed the ap­pearance of the American surf rockers Jan and Dean in November and December 1986. In Shanghai, the pro­tests brought downtown to a virtual halt for four days.

One Shanghai handout, an “Open Let­ter to All Fellow Citizens,” said, “Be­tween the past and the future, there is only the present. We cannot rewrite his­tory, but we can change the present and create the future. In the face of the reali­ty of poverty and autocracy, we can en­dure. However, we cannot just allow our children to grow up abnormally in shack­les and in the absence of freedom, democ­racy, and human rights. We cannot just allow them to feel poor and abused when standing together with foreign children. Fellow citizens, please understand! Bu­reaucracy, obscurantism, and the lack of democracy and human rights are the roots of backwardness.”

At People’s Park in downtown Shang­hai, a political science student addressed the crowd: “So long as there is one-party domination and no rule of law, the enter­prise of liberation is not finished.” He ended by saying he would shed blood “for the early achievement of real democracy in China.”

***

Soon after the student demonstra­tions abated in Shanghai, they broke out in Beijing. Students de­manded a debate with university officials over democratization, and soon marched into the streets chanting such slogans as “Long live freedom and human rights ” and proclaiming solidarity with their fellow students in Shanghai. A small group broke away to march on Tiananmen Square, but were turned back by the police. As the days went by and the students continued to march in Beijing, the demonstrations spread to at least 11 other cities. Alarmed, the government took steps to ban demonstrations.

But the students were determined, and before dawn on December 29, 1986, stu­dents marched from Beijing Teahers’ University to Beijing University, shout­ing, “We want freedom.” More wall post­ers went up. Some were exhortations: “Beijing University comrades: The cir­cumstances for democracy are ripe. Raise your hands in an iron fist. What we must now do is act like heroes.”

Others were sarcastic: “…In the United States there is the false freedom to support or not to support the Commu­nist Party. In our country we have the genuine freedom of having to support the Communist Party. In the United States there is the false freedom of the press. In our country we have the genuine freedom of no freedom of the press.”

On New Year’s morning, several thou­sand students began a march on Tianan­men Square. A few got through security lines. Most of them, turned away by po­lice, dissipated.

By the end of 1986, student demonstra­tions had engulfed more than 150 univer­sity campuses in 20 cities across China, representing the largest mass movement in the country since the Cultural Revolution.

In interviews the protesting Chinese students have never been especially spe­cific about what they mean by democra­cy. Perhaps two Shanghai wall posters in the winter of 1986 came close:

“I have a dream, a dream of freedom. I have a dream of democracy. I have a dream of life endowed with human rights. May the day come when all these are more than dreams.

“When will the people be in charge?” ■