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December 09, 2011

And Why Beholdest Thou the Mote That Is in Thy Brother's Eye, but Perceivest Not the 900-Foot Tall Intercontinental Ballistic Missile in Thine Own?

You know what frustrated Ronald Reagan? When people mistook some kind of bullshit image for reality. This is from an October, 1983 letter from Reagan to Meldrim Thompson, Governor of New Hampshire, about the bill for a national holiday for Martin Luther King that has just been passed:

On the national holiday you mentioned, I have the reservations you have but here the perception of too many people is based on an image not reality. Indeed to them the perception is reality. We hope some modifications might still take place in Congress.

Man, that truly deserves to be part of the permanent exhibit in the Museum of Human Self-Delusion. Yet it's almost completely unknown outside of the right-wing fever swamps. (They're mad because contemporary Republicans talk about how great King was, rather than understanding, like Reagan, that he was a commie plagiarizing adulterer.)

But wait, IT GETS BETTER. The same letter from Reagan includes a reference to the "Korean plane massacre"—i.e., the shooting down of KAL 007 two months before on September 1, 1983—and Gov. Thompson's frustration that more wasn't being done to "really punish the Soviets." The book in which Reagan's letter is published was edited by several conservative professors, and helpfully notes that

[T]he United States had secret intelligence intercepts that proved the Soviets did it deliberately...At first the CIA refused to reveal what it knew for fear of compromising our intelligence operations, but Secretary of State George Shultz insisted [Shultz, clearly an extremely manly man, also wrote the foreword to the book]. Faced with proof they had done it, the Soviets still maintained they thought the huge Boeing 747 was an American "spy plane."

Of course, this is false. Alvin Snyder, the head of the U.S. Information Agency's TV and film division in 1983, later wrote a book called Warriors of Disinformation. In it he explained that the U.S. deceitfully edited the intelligence intercepts to make it appear the Soviets had knowingly shot down a civilian airliner. In fact, what the intercepts showed was that a U.S. spy plane had been in the vicinity earlier; the Soviet pilot believed KAL 007 was that plane; and that at the instructions of Soviet air controllers, he had attempted to force the plane down and fired warning shots before finally being given orders to shoot it down. Snyder wrote in his book that "The moral of the story is that all governments, including our own, lie when it suits their purposes. The key is to lie first." And indeed, it was a giant propaganda coup for the U.S.

Did the editors of the book know this? Did George Shultz? Did even Reagan himself when he wrote the letter? Possibly not. As a great moral philosopher teaches us, "The perception of too many people is based on an image not reality. Indeed to them the perception is reality."

P.S. I found out about the KAL 007 story from Robert Parry's Consortium News. Please donate to their holiday fundraiser.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at December 9, 2011 09:13 PM

The idea that Ronald Reagan actually wrote a letter is also pretty funny if you know anything about him. Might have signed it, and maybe even read it, sort of.

Posted by: N E at December 9, 2011 09:23 PM

you signed it, you wrote it, amigo!

Posted by: almostinfamous at December 10, 2011 09:20 AM

But Jonnnnnnnnn! Reagan had to go along with the MiCFiC and our shadowy intelligence overlords, or he would have been totally assassinated! You can't blame him! The KAL007 "incident" was a CIA/NSA black op to kill American citizens! This is possibly conceivable, therefore it must be true!

Posted by: Duncan at December 10, 2011 10:58 AM

Hello Duncan (stage direction--said as Jerry said that to Newman).

The ironic thing about your comment is that Reagan WAS shot, and hit by a ricochet that missed his heart by an inch, but he was not killed. The official word was that happened because of Jon Hinkley's love of Jodi Foster and the impression Taxi Driver made on him, as I recall. Which of course makes perfect sense, because we all know it's a crazy world. It's just apparently not a world, or at least country, in which powerful people can kill a President if he gets in their way and get away with it. And certainly not in that sort of crazy way, which is preposterous. Silly me.

Sometime take a little time to read about the Reagan era and how he frustrated, worried, and aggravated everyone around him. It's very comical how no one knew what exactly he might do on any issue--it all depended on who got to speak to him last. Keeping someone from talking to him to change his position was very important early on, before he was shot in late March 81, in the Bush/Haig battle, which Haig obviously lost with the "I'm in charge" debacle.

Ronnie had a charming simplicity. In his talks with Gorby later on, he kept repeating "trust but verify" over and over again, which came to get on Gorby's nerves. But the folks who really got worried by Ronnie's simplicity were all those MICFiC types you don't believe in, who really had to work overtime, both in Iceland and Berlin, to keep Ronnie from agreeing to get rid of all the nukes or end the cold war. Yikes--that would really have screwed the pooch! Those MICFiCers even called Nixon and Kissinger in to try to talk some sense into Ronnie, which caused some good comic moments too. Nixon and Kissinger just couldn't believe that anybody could be as stupid and naive as Ronnie. Or so they said, but then again, those guys were a little self-impressed.

To me the most surprising thing about Ronnie was that absolutely no one in his administration seemed to feel close to him, if you take their own writings and statements to his and their biographers seriously anyway. They don't seem to have even particularly liked or respected him all that much. He has the reputation as having been beloved and so warm and likeable, but apparently that was TV. In person he seems to have been stiff and cold and hard to talk to, especially later, and a very dim bulb. (Maybe some of that was dementia or Alzheimers starting.)

The KAL shenanigans probably did have a goal, the same one that such shenanigans in the past had--keeping the Cold War going. You might have noticed how important it is to keep constant war going, and also that if people aren't whipped into enough of a frenzy they start to THINK and wonder how all this war and the expense of it is helping them. Fortunately, sarcasm also reduces thinking, so you're certainly doing your part to help prevent too much of that from happening.

Poor Ronnie had no idea about the KAL shenanigans or much of anything else. He tended to believe his lines, which was useful often, but also a real problem when someone like Gorby came along and offered to end the cold war or the arms race. See above.

Ronnie's vulnerability to manipulation was also a problem whenever factions like the Bush and Haig factions disagreed about policy matters like how best to control the world. But heaven forbid anyone believe that factions and power struggles and all that happens in the United States of America, or that people in those factions might do anything evil just for power. That's crazy. The world may be crazy, but it's not crazy that way. Right?

Posted by: N E at December 10, 2011 12:16 PM

That's all true, NE, and it's also pretty well known. Francis Fitzgerald wrote about all that in "Way Out There in the Blue", but anyone paying attention at the time would have noticed that stupid as Reagan was most of the time, he was right about Gorbachev's sincere desire to end the Cold War while all the "wise men" around him were in a blind panic over the danger that Reagan was becoming a peacenik.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at December 10, 2011 01:54 PM

These wars are only profitable if ya WIN. If one is to take that hard look in the mirror, then one MUST admit winning does not best describe what's been going on over all since WWII from the viewpoint of "Cannonfodder Folk". The gun makers have done well but then swordmakers&armorers ALWAYS have. I attribute it all to halliburton's bottom line, more important than mine---or YOURS. At least the ruskies know that its Hillary who they're REALLY after there dayz which could be progress on their part.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 10, 2011 05:54 PM

Donald Johnson

I was only in my 20s then, but everybody paying attention at the time definitely did NOT include me, at least with that level of insight, and I don't really think many people but you and some keen observers and a smattering of other folks knew all that stuff at the time. It took me a lot of reading and head scratching many years later to come to those conclusions, beginning when I decided that so many people were spouting complete crap around the buildup to the Iraq war that I quit believing just almost EVERYONE. And rightly so.

By the way, I don't know that Reagan thought Gorbachev was sincere. Reagan just actually wanted to end the Cold War--he really thought that was the whole point of what we had been doing for 30 years. If he were alive today, he'd probably think that our present-day war against Islamofascism is real, because he was dumb as a post. Others of the Nixon Rove Gingrich Cheney type know that stuff is just bullshit for the average American, who Nixon so aptly compared to the child in the family. To those guys, all that simplistic nonsense is for our own good, and they think good people who knew what they do would approve of all they do for us. We're lucky not to have to do what they do and know what they know and such, blah blah blah.

Posted by: N E at December 10, 2011 07:24 PM

Maybe KAL007 got shot down for the sake of shooting at something. It happens even in cold wars.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 11, 2011 07:06 PM

Ah, N E. "all those MICFiC types you don't believe in" ... who said I don't? Why do you assume that I haven't read about Reagan, either during the period itself (I was 30 when he took office) or since? You know what happens when you assume.

Your MICFic sound like a bunch of wusses, though. They tried once to get Reagan, they missed by a hair, so they gave up and let him bring the Cold War to an end! (He was on board for turning Latin America into a charnel house in the name of the Cold War, and then there was Iran Contra, which as we know, neither Reagan nor Bush I had anything to do with, right?) Sounds like Obama doesn't have that much to worry about.

"he was dumb as a post." Way back in the day, Gore Vidal wrote about Reagan. He quoted a journalist who'd followed Reagan for some time, and who said that Reagan wasn't stupid, "He's just lazy and ignorant, which isn't the same thing." Vidal also, as I recall, shot down the constructed image of Reagan as a warm, fuzzy guy. He was an actor, you'll recall.

"But heaven forbid anyone believe that factions and power struggles and all that happens in the United States of America, or that people in those factions might do anything evil just for power. That's crazy. The world may be crazy, but it's not crazy that way. Right?" As I've often asked you without getting any kind of coherent answer, who exactly do you think you're talking to?

Though I wonder why you think that killing Reagan would have been "evil"; as I've pointed out many times before, your nose for evil only extends as far as the killing of Americans. Internecine struggles, even to the point of violence, between factions among our rulers seem to me to be of very slight importance compared to the millions of dusky foreigners that our government has slaughtered since World War II.

"To those guys, all that simplistic nonsense is for our own good, and they think good people who knew what they do would approve of all they do for us. We're lucky not to have to do what they do and know what they know and such, blah blah blah." Straw men again; maybe even projection. Of course, to some of us, these cloak-and-dagger tales you find so fascinating sound like "simplistic nonsense", while you clearly think your willingness to swallow them whole despite no great evidence (while ignoring or brushing aside the ample evidence of State violence and terror against people who don't matter) makes you subtile as serpents.

Like Malcolm X, I think that the assassination of JFK, whoever did it, amounted to chickens coming home to roost. But to maintain your own simplistic, black/white, good vs. evil scenario, JFK must have been a good guy who wanted to fix things but was stymied by the Evil Boyars who surrounded him. Isn't it at least possible that JFK (no naif, remember -- he was a famously corrupt and mendacious career politician from a corrupt, wealthy family, much like Dubya though brighter) was one of the MICFiC players rather than one of their victims? Do you weep for a Mafia Don who gets gunned down as part of the gang wars in which he has been a prominent participant? Or is that abyss too terrifying for you to look into?

Posted by: Duncan at December 12, 2011 12:13 PM

I cried for a week when JFK died. Mobbed up or not he was STILL good for the country. He aimed US at the Moon, and THAT'S a good thing. The FACT that the human race accomplished such a feat is AMAZING.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 12, 2011 01:12 PM

Jonathan, glad you reinforced the truth about KAL 007. Even in the intelligence community there were many unwilling to believe what the intercepts clearly demonstrated -- that the Soviet air defense system believed the "target" to be a US RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft. People insisted to me that the Soviet pilot "had to know" he was shooting at a 747, refusing to yield even after I patiently explained that, as a former commercial pilot who had been stacked up over LAX or Chicago often enough, I found it impossible to determine airliner types at night from a distance of a mile or more.

Now, if you can just do the same sort of reality adjustment on those USS Liberty conspiracy holdouts....

Posted by: Ralph Hitchens at December 12, 2011 03:01 PM


Sorry, but what you describe aren't my views, and what you consider me ascribing to you aren't what I said either. My straw isn't being used here. The things you say I say I don't, and this is a waste of time even if it is good clean fun. I just reiterate that sarcasm is barely over the heads of the audience of The Housewives of Orange County. On the IQ meter, it doesn't move the needle. (By the way, that show is funny for a couple of minutes, I have to say.)

Your comment about JFK does remind me of the JFK debate in general though, with generally people spouting off a lot of bullshit they haven't thought much about and don't know much about. That's how we all talk about most things, myself included, because it's hard to be as informed about nuclear energy as Aaron, or as informed about about power and humor and media as Jon, or as informed about preaching and Indian chiefs as Caruso, or as informed about my fetish for Obama as you are. So we all make do, and most of the time we sound like we're talking out are asses, but I do try to provide content that I remember once in a while. I like content, having been fooled before. In the words of Pete Townsend, don't get fooled again.

I'm glad you knew all that stuff about Reagan, and Gore Vidal sure has written some really good essays, but Ronald Reagan was dumb as a post and Gore Vidal damn well knows it now and knew it then. So did and does Chomsky--I mean, puhleeze. I'd like to see Gore Vidal defend Ronald Reagan's intelligence and argue that he was just ignorant--that would be fun.

Anyway, make fun mistah charley's MICFiC all you want. Ultimately, the joke's on you.

Posted by: N E at December 12, 2011 04:54 PM