ON DECEMBER 24th, 1992, George Bush bestowed presidential pardons on six former henchmen: Caspar Weinburger, ex-War Secretary; Duane Claridge, former head of covert CIA wars in Latin America; Alan Fiers, closely linked to Central American death squads; Eliot Abrams, whose Goebbels-like spin on U.S. Latin American policy provided cover for the above, and former National Security Advisor (and Iranscam figure) Robert McFarlane.
ALL OF THESE MEN faced criminal charges in the Iran-Contra scandal. The charges consisted largely of perjury and withholding information from Congress about illegal arms sales to Iran and a multi-million dollar arms pipeline to the Contras.
GEORGE BUSH SAYS THAT these men he pardoned are good and honorable men. True patriots. The reality and moral dilemma is that these men are killers. They were links in a chain of command that turned parts of Central America into graveyards. Somehow they find honor in claiming innocence and being unwilling to see their victims as anything other than ideological pawns, without flesh, without blood.
WE ARE TOLD BY the pundits that few Americans can understand the complexities of the Iran-Contra scandal. Yet, the media's focus on the scandal has omitted the most serious crimes committed by the Reagan-Bush criminal enterprise: War crimes, and crimes against humanity. The "complexities of the Iran-Contra scandal" are no more complex than firing an M-16. And fire it they did ... Americans are capable of understanding that a person who supplies a weapon to a murderer is an accessory-to a murder. Supply a multi-million dollar diversion of weapons, ammunition, training, and other lethal aid to CIA-backed Contras and you bear direct responsibility for what follows.
IT'S NOT COMPLICATED. The U.S. weapons pipeline enabled the Contras--offspring of the Somoza dictatorship--to rape, torture, mutilate, and murder their way into Nicaragua from sanctuaries in Honduras. The CIA/Contras mined Nicaraguan harbors, bombed oil refineries, and attempted to overthrow a sovereign government through a pattern of terror. The terror claimed predominantly civilian victims. Weinburger, et al, should have faced more than probation from their classmates on the federal bench. They should have faced an international court of law, holding them responsible for 30,000 deaths in Nicaragua and bottomless suffering endured by a people who sought no more from their Revolution than true independence and a better life.
REMEMBER, THE IRAN-CONTRA cover-up pertains only to that time period in which the Boland Amendment prohibited direct or indirect aid to the contras. Congress proved more than willing to fund extraordinary amounts of lethal aid to the contras, as long as they approved it.
NO SUCH COVER-UP WAS NECESSARY regarding U.S. military aid to the murderous regimes of Guatemala and El Salvador. U.S. weapons, equipment, training, and advisors flowed through an open pipeline, and with predictable results-70,000 killed in El Salvador, 100,000 in Guatemala. Part of the pardoned Eliot Abrams' job was to make crimes against humanity digestible to the American public. Lying to the public is not a prosecutable offense.
ABRAMS AND HIS PREDECESSORS, in one example, denied the Salvadoran Army's massacre of almost 1,000 civilians at El Mazote, Moraz—n Province, in December of 1981 a massacre that was documented at the time by human rights organizations. The documentation established that the Fort Bragg-trained and U.S. supplied Atlactl Battalion butchered the people of El Mazote, littering their corpses with M-16 casings. Shortly before Bush issued his pardons, a group of forensic anthropologists from Argentina was still digging up skeletons from one of El Mazote's mass graves--37 in this most recent find, mostly children. There was no need to lie about the U.S. role in El Salvador; the Administration boasted of its involvement and complicity. The duplicity of its propaganda is merely used to camouflage its worst abuses.
BUSH STATED THAT those pardoned were not motivated by greed or personal gain. This is little consolation to the people of Central America who suffered for these men's blood-lust and quest for power. The narrow focus on a single dimension of Iran-Contra doesn't account for the parallel devastation that the Reagan-Bush clique brought to bear on Southern Africa, Lebanon, Palestine, Libya, Panama, and Grenada. Commander-in-Chief Bush led his own assaults on Iraq and Panama. And when the finger of U.S. imperialism isn't directly on the trigger, it is pulled by one of its client states.
BUSH REFERRED TO Weinburger, et al, as true American patriots. Sunshine patriots is more like it. Suited in seats of power, they designed policies that others implemented through covert operations and wars. The result was death, while the quintessential Ugly Americans slumbered in their suburban Washington homes. Once they were threatened with investigations that threatened them with more than a tarnished image or probation, they began to whine like spoiled children. Fiers whined all the way into the U.S. Attorney's office and then provided tearful testimony against Clair George--his former boss at the CIA. Undoubtedly, Bush had a further rat in the pack in mind when he pardoned the lot for "their conduct relating to the Iran-Contra affair". Weinburger was scheduled for trial in January.
BUSH AND THOSE HE PARDONED had established themselves as predators that feed off the misery of others. They flaunted both domestic and international law while using their powerful positions to fill graveyards.
THE PUBLIC IS FOREVER fed the fiction that there is equal justice under the law for all. It's in the Pledge of Allegiance. What isn't in the Pledge is that the U.S. has the largest and most racist prison system on Earth, and approximately 150 political prisoners dispersed throughout the Gulag. Just us poor folks in prison, and more Blacks imprisoned per capita than another U.S. client state--South Africa.
PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE, radicals and revolutionaries, are not pardoned. They are imprisoned for years on end that often turn into decades. Nor are we in country club facilities reserved for the few imprisoned miscreants of the ruling class, and the plague of government snitches. We are chained in the bowels of hell.
CASE IN POINT: Those of us convicted of armed actions against U.S. military facilities and war profiteers. The intent and purpose of our actions was to draw the American people's attention to horrendous crimes being committed by their government, in their name, against the people of Central America. It was one of the numerous courses of action necessary to bring the repression and killing to an end.
WE BROUGHT the El Mazote Massacre to the attention of people years before the current revelations. The actions pointed out that revolutionary Nicaragua didn't slaughter its own people as U.S. clients in Central America do, so the U.S. intervened with its own brand of barbarism. Pointed out also was the Sandinistas' survival and improvement programs for the poor, again distinguishing it from U.S. client states in the region--programs which the U.S. spared no effort to subvert. To the American people, clandestine organizations sent the message: What good is conscience and moral judgment if we lack the will to take strong action to stop war crimes and crimes against humanity. To know and do nothing is complicity.
BUSH'S STATED REASON FOR THE PARDONS:
1) His criminal associates were "motivated by patriotism". Yet, any political prisoner or defendant who has stolen a pair of shoes can tell you that courts do not permit motivation as defense. The denial of a politically-based defense to those who resist government and corporate crimes are one aspect of criminalizing resistance. In any event, the intent of channeling weapons to Nicaragua was to increase the body count and implement U.S. policy through hired killers.
2) Weinburger, et al, "did not profit from their conduct." But they did. They retained government positions throughout the Reagan-Bush years. They secured Third World lands, resources, and exploitable labor for U.S. banks and multi-nationals--the capitalist family business. Which directly relates to the third reason:
3) "Each has a record of long and distinguished service to this country." Indeed--as racketeers in service to an ongoing criminal enterprise called imperialism. Lucrative careers preceded their entry into the Reagan-Bush administration, and the corporate world awaits their return. As Iran-Contra windbag Oliver North has shown, $50,000 speaker fees await those with the blood of Nicaraguans on their hands.
To know and do nothing is complicity.
4) "They have already paid a price--in depleted savings, lost careers,
and anguished families." Such crap is often used by convicted felons of
the ruling class to avoid prison sentences, or sentences to the worst prisons.
They assert their constitutions are too delicate to be placed next to convicts
who have stolen goods, sold drugs, or wielded guns. They plead to be spared
even the shortest prison sentence because they shelled out a half a million
for the best lawyer that can be bought. They've lost their government jobs,
though private corporations will find ways to parlay their corrupt ways
into profit. The family is embarrassed, not for what they did, but because
they got caught. Not surprisingly, this type of appeal often succeeds because
the judges are classmates. Bourgeois scum. In this case, the boss of bosses
BUT IF YOU ARE one of those jailed during the L.A. uprising, in Rikers Island for jumping subway turnstiles, or stealing cars in Newark, you got nothing coming but heartache. In fact, you should consider yourself lucky you aren't being summarily executed. To be poor, Black, Latino, jobless, homeless, underpaid or underfed are not acceptable reasons to stay out of prison. It's your ticket in.
THE POLITICAL PRISONERS who've stood out from the profiteers and careerists through their commitment to fight oppression and their personal sacrifices have no savings to deplete or careers to be lost. It is our lives that are at stake. Some, like Angel Rodriguez Cristobal, Ahmed Evans, George Jackson, and Kuwasi Balagoon have been murdered or killed by medical neglect. Pedro Albizu Campos and AndrŽs Figueroa Cordero suffered years of abuse in Federal prison, only to die of their illnesses shortly after release. Alan Berkman and Sylvia Baraldini fought courageous battles against cancer under the most debilitating conditions. Numerous former members of the Black Panther Party have been imprisoned for 18, 20, 22 years. Mumia Abu Jamal faces execution by the state of Pennsylvania.
WE MUST NOT LOSE SIGHT of the real death-dealing crimes of Reagan-Bush-Weinberger et al. And neither should the lives and freedom of political prisoners be denied.
THE PUNDITS SAY there's nothing that can be done about the pardons-they're enshrined in the Constitution and irreversible. That's what was said about slavery. There is no statute of limitations on war crimes and crimes against humanity.
WHILE HISTORY'S INDICTMENT continues to build against our common enemy, a fire needs to be lit to free political prisoners. If the ruling class can protect its own, we should be able to save lives and gain the freedom of 150 of our own. Whether a blanket amnesty (for which there is ample precedent) or an uncompromising movement to stop the State's execution of Mumia Abu Jamal, the time is now.
Marion Prison, January, 1992
"Thank God for [people who] have some life in them and some conscience, some anguish over others... Gandhi used to say that those who do nothing are far more guilty than those who do violence against tyranny."
-Philip Berrigan, referring to the OHIO 7.
Ray Luc Levasseur, 10376-016, PO Box 150160, USP Atlanta, Atlanta, GA 30315