You know what’s amusing? Reading Peter Wehner (via Zeitlin) blast Joe Biden for standing up to Ronald Reagan’s attempts to fund death squads in Nicaragua and El Salvador and to throw billions of dollars into a complete scientific impossibility.
The SDI question is easy, just like the question of whether we should equip all Marines with light-sabers is easy; it’s fundamentally a question of science, not politics. But I find it really revealing that Wehner not just believes that funding the Contras and the puppet regime in El Salvador were good calls, but that it’s obvious that they were. Among people who cares about people not dying and stuff, it’s pretty much the opposite. This shouldn’t need saying, but the Sandinistas were a democratically elected government that left power because of a democratic election. The only real human rights being abridged there were those of the victims of Contra thugs. And I really think Wehner ought to read Mark Danner’s opus on El Mozote before deeming our involvement in entrenching the dictatorship in El Salvador justifiable.
That said, I suspect the fact that our support for the Contras and the Salvadoran government constitutes something close to war crimes doesn’t phase Wehner. After all, “rights” and “national autonomy” and “not getting your face blown off” are just liberal concepts promoted by those assholes at the UN. But conservatives always pride themselves on recognizing that there’s a war of ideas being waged in international politics, both today and especially during the Cold War. Does it really enhance the image of democratic capitalism for it to be seen as ideology that permits seizing a village, raping all the women and young girls, torturing the men to death, killing all who survive and then burning it to the ground? Does it really enhance the image of the United States as a paragon of democracy for President Reagan to back a dictatorship in El Salvador and trying to militarily overthrow a democracy in Nicaragua?
In absolute terms, control of Nicaragua and El Salvador didn’t amount to anything in balance of power terms. They’re teeny weeny itsy bitsy little countries that the US could definitely allow to fall out of its orbit without much consequence. Where they did matter, though, was in spreading America’s image as a country that promotes the systemic rape and murder of entire towns as a means of political revenge. It made us look despicable because what we did was despicable. Even if Wehner doesn’t agree with those of us who think any decent society would have placed Eliot Abrams in solitary for the rest of his life over this, the fact that there are millions who held that view in places of strategic significance during the Cold War should give him pause.