Fans of Ronald Reagan are reminiscing about his glorious rule, which has prompted me to do a little digging to help recall the facts as contrasted with the conservative rhetoric. My basic understanding is illustrated well with this cartoon. But I stumbled upon another factoid that I meant to blog about a while back after watching the BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares, which is well worth the 3 hours if you haven't seen it. In that documentary I first learned of what is now referred to as Team B. Thom Hartman has a good discussion of it here, but let me offer a more Reader's Digest version.
In the mid 70's certain neoconservatives were unhappy with CIA intelligence which was indicating that the Soviet threat in fact was small and that they would likely collapse under their own weight within a couple of decades if they were just left alone. This is not what they wanted to hear, so intelligence had to be fixed in order to tell the proper story. Sound familiar? They managed to create a separate intelligence team, staffed entirely with hawks and neocons, that came to the conclusion that the situation was dire and a massive re-armament campaign was needed. Their report can be read here.
The conclusion is that the Soviet Union is not only extremely powerful, but has it's tentacles everywhere. In fact they have submarines that are so sophisticated they can't be detected with our present technology. How do we know this? Because there is no evidence to show their existence!! How else would they go undetected if they weren't so advanced?
Their report was leaked and it ultimately played a role in Reagan's presidential victory. He would use this analysis to bludgeon opponents of death squads in El Salvador and terrorism in Nicaragua. We must use massive and brutal force in these regions because these progressive movements are really KGB plots.
The CIA was also gutted. Analysts that came to frightening conclusions were promoted. Those with more measured conclusions were demoted and fired. Watch a good interview with former CIA analyst Ray McGovern for interesting details.
So who was right? On every major point Team B was wrong and the original CIA analysis was correct. See for instance here and also the Wiki entry. But in terms of promoting the neocon agenda it was a smashing success. So why not try the exact same recipe in Iraq? The exact same people that participated in the Team B falsehoods (Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz) were involved in the intelligence that was disseminated regarding Iraq. They produced the exact same outcomes.
Reagan's legacy is one of massive violence against defenseless civilians in Latin America. I wonder if his prominent admirers in politics and the media are ignorant of this. I imagine his rank and file admirers are.