Essay Instructions: Choose one of the 3 questions on the last page of the fax sent under the caption WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT. Include at least 4 citations and immediately following the direct quote put the page number in parentheses.
**Include at the top of the essay the question number chosen.**
The book is entitled The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1984)
ISBN # 0-394-74774-7
**Please do not use any other books as a reference.**
Excerpt From Essay:
Essay Instructions: I need a dissertation-level essay on time in William Faulkner's novel "The Sound and the Fury." Like other Faulkner texts indicative of Modernism, time is depicted as fragmented (unlike the Enlightenment treatment of "normal" sense of time flow forward).
The book has four narrators. If I could see how the Compson family treats time. For example, the first narrator is an idiot Benjy with hardly any capacity to acknowledge chronicity. Quentin Compson, in the second section, is given a watch by his father who tells him "Clocks slay time." How does Faulkner experiment with his story mediating time, timelessness, and even the history of the South?
I need specific passages from the text but the book can be found here FULLTEXT: http://www.usask.ca/english/faulkner/main/index.html I need ten sources, for example, one is JohnPaul Sartre's essay on time found here: http://www.usask.ca/english/faulkner/main/criticism/sartre.html
Excerpt From Essay:
Essay Instructions: William Faulkner's THE SOUND AND THE FURY chronicles the decline and fall of the Compson family, even as it tells the story of Caddy's possible Escape from that disaster. By focusing on Quentin's section, and using supporting (thematically contrasting or similar) refrences from both Benjy's and one of the later sections, discuss in detail what you consider the three most important forces, related to Caddy, which drive Quentin toward his death. Use specific quotes and interpret their signifigance in this context.
Excerpt From Essay:
Essay Instructions: After reading following material give arguements for limiting free speech
From Howard Zinn, ?Free Speech? PASSIONATE DECLARATIONS p.182-230
Growing up in the United States, we are taught that this is a country blessed with
freedom of speech. We learn that this is so because our Constitution contains a Bill of
Rights, which starts off with the First Amendment and its powerful words:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the
people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of
The belief that the First Amendment guarantees our freedom of expression is part of the
ideology of our society. Indeed, the faith in pledges written on paper and the blindness
to political and economic realities seem strongly entrenched in that set of beliefs
propagated by the makers of opinion in this country. ?
As I am about to argue, however, to depend on the simple existence of the First
Amendment is to guarantee our freedom of expression is a serious mistake, one that can
cost us not only our liberties but, under certain circumstances, our lives.
?No Prior Restraint?
The language of the First Amendment looks absolute. ?Congress shall make no law?
abridging the freedom of speech.? Yet in 1798, seven years after the First Amendment
was adopted, Congress did exactly that; it passed laws abridging the freedom of speech ?
the Alien and Sedition Acts.
?The Sedition Act provided that ?if any person shall write, print, utter, or publish? any
false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United
States of either house of the Congress of the U.S. or the President of the U.S., with intent
to defame? or to bring either of them into contempt or disrepute? such persons could be
fined $2,000 or jailed for two years.
The French Revolution had taken place nine years earlier, and the new American nation,
now with its second president, the conservative John Adams, was not as friendly to
revolutionary ideas as it had been in 1776. Revolutionaries once in power seem to lose
their taste for revolutions.
French immigrants to the U.S. were suspected of being sympathizers of their revolution
back home and of spreading revolutionary ideas here. The fear of them? became
In Ireland revolutionaries were carrying on their long struggle against the English, and
they had supporters in the U.S. One might have thought that the Americans, so recently
liberated from English rule themselves, would have been sympathetic to the Irish rebels.
But instead, the Adams administration looked on the Irish as troublemakers, both in
Europe and in the U.S?
Jefferson, a former ambassador to France, was friendly to the French Revolution, while
Adams was hostile to it. President Adams, in the developing war between England and
France, was clearly on the side of the English, and one historian has called the Sedition
Act ?an internal security measure adopted during America?s Half War with France?.
Republican newspapers were delivering harsh criticism of the Adams administration. The
newspaper Aurora in Philadelphia (edited by Benjamin Bache, the grandson of Benjamin
Franklin) accused the president of appointing his relatives to office, of squandering public
money, of wanting to create a new monarchy, and of moving toward war. Even before
the Sedition Act became law, Bache was arrested and charged on the basis of common
law with libeling the president, exciting sedition, and provoking opposition to the laws.
The passage of the Sedition Act was accompanied by denunciations of the government?s
critics. One congressman told his colleagues: ?Philosophers are the pioneers of
revolution. They? prepare the way, by preaching infidelity, and weakening the respect
of the people for ancient institutions?
The atmosphere in the House of Representatives in those days might be said to lack
some dignity. A congressman from Vermont, Matthew Lyon, got into a fight?
Lyon had written an article saying that under Adams ?every consideration of the public
welfare was swallowed up in a continual grasp for power, in an unbounded thirst for
ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice.? Tried for violation of the Sedition
Act, Lyon was found guilty and imprisoned for four months.
The number of people jailed under the Sedition Act was not large ? ten ? but it is in the
nature of oppressive laws that it takes jus a handful of prosecutions to create an
atmosphere that makes potential critics of the government fearful of speaking their full
It would seem to an ordinarily intelligent person, reading the simple straightforward
words of our First Amendment ? ?Congress shall make no law? abridging the freedom of
speech or of the press,? ? that the Sedition Act was a direct violation of the Constitution.
But here we get our first clue to the inadequacy of words on paper in ensuring the rights
of citizens. Those words, however powerful they seem, are interpreted by lawyers and
judges in a world of politics and power, where dissenters and rebels are not wanted.
Exactly that happened early in our history, and the Sedition Act collided with the First
Amendment, and the First Amendment turned out to be poor protection.
The members of the Supreme Court? consistently found the defendants in the sedition
cases guilty. They did it on the basis of English common law. Supreme Court Chief
Justice Oliver Ellsworth, in a 1799 opinion said: ?The common law of this country remains
the same as it was before the Revolution.?
That fact is enough to make us pause. English common law? Hadn?t we fought and won
a revolution against England? Were we still by English common law? The answer is yes?
As Blackstone put it?
This is the ingenious doctrine of ?no prior restraint?. You can say whatever you want,
print whatever you want. The government cannot stop you in advance. But once you
speak or write it, if the government decides to make certain statements ?illegal,? or to
define them as ?mischievous? or even just ?improper? you can be put in prison?
That early interpretation of the First Amendment, limiting its scope to no prior restraint,
has lasted to the present day. It was affirmed in 1971 when the Nixon administration
tried to get the Supreme Court to stop the publication in the New York Times of the
Pentagon Papers, the secret official history of the U.S. war in Vietnam.
The court refused to prevent publication. But one of the justices held up a warning
finger. He said, we are making this decision on the basis of no prior restraint; if the
Times goes ahead and prints the document, there is a chance of prosecution.
So, with the doctrine of no prior restraint, the protection of the First Amendment was
limited from the start. The Founding Fathers, whether liberal or conservative, Federalist
or Republican, - from Washington and Hamilton to Jefferson and Madison ? believed that
seditious libel could not be tolerated, that all we can ask of freedom of speech is that it
does not allow prior restraint.
Well, at least we have that, a hopeful believer in the First Amendment might say. They
can?t sop free expression in advance. It turns out, however, that such optimism is not
justified. Take the case of a book, ?The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence,? written by
Victor Marchetti, a former CIA agent, and John Marks, a journalist. The book exposed a
number of operations by the CIA that did not seem to be in the interests of democracy
and that used methods an American might not be proud of. The CIA went to court
asking that the publication of the book be stopped, or at least, that some 225 passages,
affecting ?national security? (or as Marchetti and Marks said, embarrassing the CIA) be
omitted from the book.
Did the judge then invoke no prior restraint and say, We can?t censor this book in
advance; take action if you like? No, the judge said. I won?t order 225 deletions from
the book; I?ll only order 168 deletions.
Another bit of surgery on any citizen?s innocent assumption that the First Amendment
meant what it said. The book was published in 1972 with the court-ordered deletions.
But the publisher left blank spaces, sometimes entire blank pages, where the deletions
were made. It is, therefore, an interesting book to read, not only for what it tells about
the CIA, but what it tells about the strength of the First Amendment.
Or take the case of another CIA agent, Frank Snepp?
?Free Speech and National Security?
The powerful words of the First Amendment seem to fade with the sounds of war, or near
war. The Sedition Act of 1798 expired, but in 1917 when the U.S. entered WWI,
Congress passed another law in direct contradiction of the amendment?s command
that ?Congress shall make no law? abridging the freedom of speech of of the press. This
was the Espionage act of 1917.
Titles of laws can mislead. While the act did have sections on espionage, it also said that
persons could be sent to prison for up to twenty years if, while the country was at war,
they ?shall willfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or
refusal of duty in the military ??
This was quickly interpreted by the government as a basis for prosecuting anyone who
criticized, in speech or writing, the entrance of the nation into the European war, or who
criticized the recently enacted conscription law. Two months after th Espionage act was
passed, a Socialist named Charles Schenck was arrested in Philadelphia for distributing
15,000 leaflets denouncing the draft and the war? Schenck was found guilty of violated
the Espionage Act and sentenced to six months in prison. He appealed, citing the First
Amendment? The Supreme Court?s decision was unanimous and written by Oliver
Wendell Holmes, whose reputation was that of an intellectual and a liberal. Holmes said
that the First Amendment did not protect Schenck?
Also prosecuted under the Espionage Act was Socialist leader Eugene Debs, who had run
against Wilson for the presidency in 1912 and 1916. Debs made a speech in Indiana in
which he denounced capitalism, praised socialism, and criticized the war: ?Wars
throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder? And that is war in a
nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always
fought the battles.??
He was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison? When the case came to the
Supreme Court on appeal, again Oliver Wendell Holmes spoke for a unanimous court,
affirming that the First Amendment did not apply to Eugene Debs and his speech?
Altogether, about 2,000 people were prosecuted and about 900 sent to prison under the
Espionage Act, not for espionage, but for speaking and writing against the war. Such
was the value of the First Amendment in time of war?.
A filmmaker was arrested for making the movie ?The Spirit of ?76? about the American
Revolution, in which he depicted British atrocities against the colonists. He was found
guilty for violating the Espionage Act because, the judge said, the film tended ?to
question to good faith of our ally, Great Britain.? He was sentenced to ten years in
The Espionage Act remains on the books, to apply in wartime and in ?national
emergencies?. In 1963 the Kennedy administration proposed extending its provisions to
statements made by Americans overseas?
Free speech is fine, but not in a time of crisis ? so argue heads of state, whether the
state is a dictatorship or is called a democracy. Has that not proved again and again to
be an excuse for stifling opposition to government policy, clearing the way for brutal and
unnecessary wars? Indeed, is not a time of war exactly when free speech is most
needed, when the public is most in danger of being propagandized into sending their sons
into slaughter? How ironic that freedom of speech should be allowed for small matters,
but not for matters of life and death, war and peace.
On the eve of WWII Congress passed still another law limiting freedom of expression.
This was the Smith Act of 1940, which extended the provisions of the Espionage Act to
peacetime and made it a crime to distribute written matter or o speak in such a way so
as to cause insubordination... It also made it a crime to teach or advocate the overthrow
of the government by force?
Thus in the summer of 1941, before the U.S. was at war, the headquarters of the
Socialist Workers party was raided? Their crime, it appeared was that they were all
members of the Socialist Workers party?
The First Amendment, said the Supreme Court, did not apply in this case?
The First Amendment was being subjected to what constitutional experts call ?a balancing
test,? where the right of free expression was continually weighed against the
government?s claims about national security. Most of the time, the government?s claim
prevailed. And why should we be surprised. Does the Executive Branch not appoint the
federal judges and the prosecutors? Does it not control the whole judicial process?...
Earlier in the Vietnam War, an army lieutenant named John Dippel had tried to pin the
Declaration of Independence to the wall of his barracks. This was not permitted by the
commander of the base, and the army?s legal office in Washington advised Dippel that he
had no First Amendment right to do this.
Another Supreme Court decision, in 1980, ruled that a base commander in the military
had a right to approve any written material ciculated or posted on the base?
?Police Powers and the First Amendment?
As we have seen, the national government can restrict freedom of speech in relation to
foreign policy, through judicial reinterpretations of the First Amendment. But what about
state laws restricting freedom of speech or press. For over a century, the First
Amendment simply did not apply to the states, because it says, ?Congress?? The states
could make whatever laws they wanted.
And they did. In the years before the Civil War, as abolitionists began to print
antislavery literature, the states of Georgia and Louisiana passed laws declaring the
death penalty for anyone distributing literature? ?with a tendency to produce discontent
among the free population? or insubordination among the slaves.?
When in 1833 the Supreme Court had to decide if the Bill of Rights applied to the states,
Chief Justice Marshall said that the intent of the Founding Fathers was that it should not.
Indeed, James Madison had proposed an amendment forbidding the states from
interfering with various rights, including freedom of speech, and the Senate defeated it?
The right to distribute leaflets on public streets has been affirmed by the Supreme Court
on a number of occasions, even when the street was privately owned, as in 1946 when
the Court upheld the right of Jehovah?s Witnesses to distribute their literature in a
company town. It affirmed this conclusion (that when privately owned areas are open to
public use, the First Amendment protections are not surrendered) in the 1968 case of
union members distributing handbills about their labor dispute at a shopping mall.
Four years later, however, when a group of people were arrested in a shopping mall for
distributing leaflets against the Vietnam War, the Court said they were properly
arrested. What was the difference between this case and the other? The union people,
the Court said, were expressing themselves about an issue connected with the shopping
center. But the Vietnam War had nothing to do with the shopping center...
In other words, judges can always find a way of making the decision they want to make,
for reasons that have little to do with constitutional law and much to do with the
ideological leanings of the judges?
The point in all this recounting of cases is that citizens cannot depend on the First
Amendment as interpreted by the courts, to protect freedom of expression. One year
the Court will declare, with inspiring words, the right of persons to speak or write as they
wish. The next year they will take away that right.
A cloud of uncertainty hovers over how the the Supreme Court will decide free speech
cases. Nor is there any guarantee, if you decide to exercise your right of free
expression.. that the Supreme Court will even hear your case on appeal. It does not
have to take appeals in free speech cases, and your chance of getting a hearing in the
Supreme Court is about one out of eighty.
?Free Speech on the Job?
As we have seen, for more than a hundred years it was only Congress that was
forbidden by the First Amendment to curtain freedom of speech and press. Then in 1925
the Supreme Court wrote freedom of speech into the 14th Amendment and ruled that
states could not violate that freedom. But nothing in the Constitution says that private
employers may not limit the free speech of their employees.
Not many Americans distribute political pamphlets or speak on street corners, but most
Americans work for employers, in situations where to speak their full minds might result
in losing their jobs. And while political speakers might have recourse to the courts ? as
weak as that protection is ? speakers on the job have no constitutional support?
?Secret Police in a Democracy?
In our country, so proud of its democratic institutions, a national secret police has
operated for a long time, in a clandestine world where the Constitution can be ignored. I
am referring to the FBI and the CIA. It was a CIA official, Ray Cline who, when there
was talk of the CIA?s activities violating the First Amendment, told Congress, ?It?s only an
We might comfort ourselves with the thought that the FBI and the CIA are not as
fearsome as the KGB of the Soviet Union or the death squads that have operated in right-
wing dictatorships supported by the U.S. ? El Salvador, for instance. The scale of terror
is not comparable. A radical critic of American foreign policy is not likely to be picked up
in the middle of the night, immediately imprisoned, or taken out and shot. (Although it is
sobering to recall that the FBI conspired with Chicago police in 1969 to murder the black
leader Fred Hampton in his bed.)
But should citizens who cherish democracy use the standards of totalitarian states to
measure their freedom? We want something better than to be able to say we?re not as
bad as those countries.
The actual apprehension of dissidents is on a much smaller scale in our country
compared to theirs. But the mere existence of organizations secretly collecting
information on citizens must have a chilling effect on the free speech of everyone. The
FBI, according to a Senate report of 1976, has files on 500,000 Americans.
However, the FBI goes far beyond the collection of information?. The program began in
1956, according to the Senate committee, ending in 1971 because of the threat of public
exposure? The Senate report said: ?In the intervening years the Bureau conducted a
sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First
Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of
dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national
security and deter violence.?
Again, the excuse of national security. James Madison, back in 1798, had warned about
this in a letter to Thomas Jefferson: ?Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty
at home is to be charged to provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.??
In 1973 staff assistant in the White House Tom Huston drew up a plan, approved by
Nixon, that included wiretapping, mail coverage, and ?surreptitious entry.? ?
One wonders about the files on those 500,000 people (or is it 1 million or 2 million ? how
can we tell because the FBI operates in secret). We know from the records of the loyalty
investigations of the 1950s that the FBI filed reports on government employees who had
been seen entertaining black people, or who had been seen at a concert where Paul
Robeson sang, and so on?.
The FBI also maintained files on a number of famous American writers? There was a file
on Ernest Hemingway, whom the FBI labeled a drunk and a Communist. The novelists
John Steinbeck (?The Grapes of Wrath?) and Pearl Buck (?The Good Earth?) were in the
FBI records as people who promoted the civil rights of blacks. John dos Passos
(?U.S.A.?), William Faulkner (?The Sound and the Fury?) and Tennessee Williams (?A
Streetcar Named Desire?) were all on the list. About Sinclair Lewis, on whom there was
a dossier of 150 pages, the FBI said his novel ?Kingsblood Royal? was ?propaganda for
the white man?s acceptance of the Negro as a social equal.??
?The Control of Information?
We have not yet come to perhaps the most serious issue of all in regard to freedom of
speech and press in the U.S. Suppose all of the restrictions on freedom of speech were
suddenly removed ? the Supreme Court?s limitations on the absolute words of the First
Amendment; the power of the local police over people wanting to express themselves;
the fear of losing one?s job by speaking freely; and the chill over free speech caused by
the secret surveillance of citizens by the FBI. Suppose we could say anything we want,
without fear. Two problems would still remain. They are both enormous ones.
The first is Okay, suppose we can say what we want ? how many people can we reach
with our message? A few hundred people or 10 million people? The answer is clear: it
depends on how much money we have.
Let?s say no one can stop us from getting up on a soapbox and speaking our mind. We
might reach a hundred people that way. But if we were the Procter and Gamble
Company, which made the soapbox, we could buy prime time for commercials on
television, buy full-page ads in newspapers, and reach several million people.
In other words, freedom of speech is not simply a yes or no question. It is also a ?how
much? question. And how much freedom we have depends on how much money we
have, what power we have, and what resources we have for reaching large numbers of
people. A poor person, however smart, however eloquent, truly has very limited
freedom of speech. A rich corporation has a great deal of it?
Not only is the usefulness of the First Amendment dependent on wealth, but when
occasionally a state legislature tries to remedy the situation slightly, the corporations
plead the First Amendment. This is what happened in 1977 when the Massachusetts
legislature said corporations could not spend money to influence a public referendum.
The idea behind the law was that corporations could so dominate the debate around a
public issue as to make freedom of speech on that issue meaningless for people without
The corporation lawyer, arguing before the Supreme Court, said, ?Money is speech??
The Supreme Court decided heroically that the First National Bank of Boston should not
be deprived of its First Amendment rights by limiting its use of money to influence a
The second enormous problem for free speech is this: Suppose no one ? not
government, not the police, not our employer ? stops us from speaking our mind, but we
have nothing to say. In other words, what if we do not have sufficient information about
what is happening in the country or in the world and do not know what our government is
doing at home and abroad? Without such information, having the freedom to express
ourselves does not mean very much.
It is very difficult for the ordinary citizen to learn very much about what is going on, here
or in other countries. There is so much to know. Things are so complicated. But what if,
in addition to these natural limitations, there is a deliberate effort to keep us from
knowledge? In fact, that is the case, through government influence on the media,
through self-censorship of the media (being prudent, as Mark Twain said), and through
the government?s lies and deceptions?
In 1954 the U.S. government was secretly planning to overthrow the democratically
elected government of Guatemala, which had decided to take land from the United Fruit
Company. A New York Times correspondent there, Sidney Gruson, thought it was the
job of the press to report what it saw. His reports became troublesome. CIA Director
Allen Dulles contacted his old Princeton classmate, Julius Ochs Adler, business manager
of the times, and Gruson was transferred to Mexico City.
In the late 1960s the editor of the Nation magazine, Carey McWilliams, was informed by
a Latin American specialist at Stanford University, just returned from Guatemala, that
Cuban exiles were being trained in that country by the U.S. for an invasion of Cuba.
McWilliams wrote an editorial on this and sent copies to all the major news media,
including the Associated Press and the United Press International. Neither the AP nor the
UPI used the story. Nine days later, the New York Times reported that the president of
Guatemala denied rumors of any pending nvasion.
The press went on playing the role of adjunct to the government, even though the
evidence of a U.S. sponsored invasion began to grow. Time magazine (which later
confirmed that it was a CIA operation) at first talked of Castro?s ?continued tawdry little
melodrama of invasion.? This was right in line with the statement by the U.S.
ambassador to the U.N., James J. Wadsworth, who said the Cuban charge of a planned
invasion was ?empty, groundless, false and fraudulent.
The White House asked the magazine New Republic not to print a planned story about the
invasion preparations, and it complied. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. later referred to this as ?a
patriotic act which left me slightly uncomfortable?.
Four days before the invasion began, Kennedy told a press conference, ?There will not be
under any conditions an intervention in Cuba by U.S. armed forces.? Kennedy knew that
the CIA was using Latin Americans for the invasion. But he also knew that American
pilots were flying some of the planes in the invasion. Four of those pilots were killed, but
the circumstances of their deaths were withheld from their families. By the time of that
press conference, the evidence of U.S. complicity in the invasion was clear, yet the
press did not challenge Kennedy.
When the Times Latin American correspondent Tad Szulc prepared a story that the CIA
was behind the invasion plans, and that the invasion itself was imminent, the big guns of
the times ? publisher Orvil Dryfoos, editor Turner Catledge, and columnist James
Reston ? got together to edit Szulc?s story to eliminate references to the CIA and to the
imminence of the invasion. Instead of a headline running over four columns, it was
given a one-column headline?.
The slavishness of the major media (with a few heroic exceptions) to the power and the
bullying of government goes a long way toward nullifying that right declared in the First
Amendment, ?the freedom of the press.? More instances of government influence on the
media include the following:
1. When VCBS correspondent Daniel Schorr managed to get a copy of the House
of Representatives report on the CIA in 1976 (a report suppressed and withheld from the
public), he was investigated by the Justice Department and then fired by CBS.
2. At one time the CIA secretly owned hundreds of media outlets and also used
the services of at least fifty individuals who worked for news organizations in this
10. When in 1981 the U.S. government leaked documents designed to prove that
the Cubans, with the aid of the Soviet Union, were suddenly sending large amounts of
arms to El Salvador ? a claim that turned out to be a great deception ? CBS
correspondent Diane Sawyers reported it without a critical examination. It was an
attempt to portray the rebellion in El Salvador as a foreign operation rather than arising
from the terrible conditions in the country.
In general, according to Washington Post writer Mark Hertsgaard, during Reagan?s
presidency the press, although claiming objectivity, was far from politically neutral ?
largely because of the overwhelming reliance on official sources of information.
Hertsgaard said the press and television were ?reduced?. to virtual accessories of the
White House propaganda apparatus.??
The evidence is powerful that the government has tried, often successfully, to manipulate
the press. But, as Noam Chomsky has said, ?It is difficult to make a convincing case for
manipulation of the press when the victims proved so eager for the experience.?
In short, the First Amendment without information is not of much use. And if the media,
which are the main source of information for most Americans, are distorting or hiding the
truth due to government influence or the influence of the corporations that control them,
then the First Amendment has been effectively nullified?
Public radio and television teeters between constant caution and occasional courage? It
loads its programs with establishment spokesmen and cannot discuss any major issue
without bringing in government officials and members of Congress. It is open to
untraconservatives, but not to radicals?
The problem with free speech in the U.S. is not with the fact of access, but with the
degree of it. There is some access to dissident views, but these are pushed into a
?The Iran Contra Affair?
Covert action and ?plausible denial? once again became prominent news stories during
the second Reagan administration. A dispatch in the foreign press led to disclosures that
were enormously embarrassing to the White House. It is not a tribute to the American
press that aside from a few isolated stories here and there, it did not do the kind of
investigative work that would have exposed the ?Iran-Contra? affair earlier.
The root of the situation was the Nicaraguan Revolution of 1979, in which the rebel
Sandanistas overthrew the Somoza regime, a family dictatorship that was long the
darling of the U.S. government. The revolutionaries were named after the Nicaraguan
rebel Sandino, who in the 1920s and 1930s had led a guerrilla force against the
dictatorship and against the occupation of Nicaragua by the U.S. Marines. Sandino
signed a truce, then was lured to a spot where he was executed by the National Guard
headed by Colonel Somoza, who established the Somoza dynasty in Nicaragua.
The Sandanistas, a coalition of Marxists, left-wing priests, and assorted nationalists, set
about to give more land to the peasants and to spread education and health care among
the very poor and long-oppressed people of Nicaragua. Almost immediately, the Reagan
administration began to wage a secret war against them, hoping to get rid of a
government that would not play ball as submissively as the Somozas did.
The covert war against Nicaragua consisted of organizing and training a
counterrevolutionary force, the contras, many of whose leaders were former National
Guard officers under Somoza. The contras seemed to have no popular support inside
Nicaragua and so were based in Honduras, a very poor country dominated by the U.S.
and dependent on U.S. economic and military aid. From Honduras, they moved across
the border into Nicaragua, raiding farms and villages, killing men, women and children;
and committing many atrocities.
When one of the contras? public relations people, Colonel Edgar Chamorro, learned what
they were doing ? essentially acts of terrorism against poor Nicaragan farmers ? and saw
that the CIA was behind the whole operation, he resigned, telling his story to the
newspapers. He also testified before the World Court.
We were told that the only way to defeat the Sandinistas was to use the tactics the CIA
attributed to Communist insurgencies elsewhere: kill, kidnap, rob, and torture? Many
civilians were killed in cold blood. Many others were tortured, mutilated, raped, robbed,
or otherwise abused.
When I agreed to join? in 1981, I had hoped that it would be an organization of
Nicaraguans, controlled by Nicaraguans? It turned out to be an instrument? of the CIA.
One of the reasons for the secrecy of Reagan?s operations in Nicaragua was that public
opinion surveys showed that the American people were not in favor of U.S. military
operations in Central America. He decided hecould do certain things openly, like
strangling the Nicaraguan economy with an embargo, which the law permitted him to do
if he declared the situation a national emergency.
But other actions were to be taken secretly. In 1984 the CIA, using Latin American
agents, put mines in the harbors of Nicaragua to blow up ships. Secretary of Defense
Caspar Weinberger told ABC news, ?The U.S. is not mining the harbors of Nicaragua.?
The deceptions multiplied after Congress, responding perhaps to common sense, public
opinion, and the memory of our involvement in Vietnam, passed the Boland Amendment
in October 1984, making it illegal for the U.S. to support ?directly or indirectly, military or
paramilitary operations in Nicaragua.?
The Reagan administration decided to ignore this law and to find ways t fund the contras
secretly, by looking for ?third-party support.? Reagan himself solicited funds from Saudi
Arabia, at least $32 million. The friendly government of Guatemala was used to get
arms surreptitiously to the contras. Honduras was used, as always, for the final passage
to the contra army on its soil. Israel, so dependent on the U.S. and, therefore, so
dependable, was also used.
All of this was illegal, but the only ones prosecuted were several of Reagan?s aides.
Reagan himself was kept out of it. It was a perfect example of plausible denial, where
an operation is conducted by underlings, so that the president can simply deny he was
involved and no one can prove it.
At Reagan?s news conference November 19, 1986, when asked about the disclosure that
weapons had been sent to Iran (supposedly a bitter enemy of the U.S.) and profits from
this given to the Contras, he told four lies: that the shipment to Iran consisted of a few
token antitank missiles (it turned out to be 2,000), that the U.S. didn?t condone shipments
by third parties, that the weapons had not been traded for hostages, and that the
purpose of the operation was to promote a dialogue with Iranian moderates (the purpose
was to help the contras).
In October 1986 when a transport plane that carried arms to the contras was downed by
Nicaraguan gunfire and the American pilot captured, the lies multiplied. Assistant
Secretary of State Elliot Abrams and Secretary of State Schultz lied (?no connection with
the U.S. government at all?). There was so much nonsense being told the public that
even the patient New York Times became irritated and wrote in an editorial, ?It may
cross the reader?s mind that Americans are learning more of the truth from Managua
The whole Iran-Contra affair is a perfect example of the double line of defense of the
American establishment. The first defense is to lie. If exposed, the second defense is to
investigate, but not too much; the press will publicize, but they will not get to the heart of
the matter? The media in a country with a First Amendment, kept the public informed
only on the most superficial level?
?Taking our Liberties?
If the government deceives us and the press more or less collaborates with it ? to keep
us from knowing what is going on in the most important matters of politics: life and
death, war and peace ? then the existence of the First Amendment will not help us.
Unless, of course, we begin to act as citizens, to put life into the amendment?s promise of
freedom of expression by what we do ourselves. British novelist Aldous Huxley (?Brave
New World?) once said, ?Liberties are not give; they are taken.?
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