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The pertinence of the analogies is obvious. Simple logic suffices to show that anyone who called the 1990 Nicaraguan elections "free and fair," a welcome step towards democracy, was not merely a totalitarian, but of a rather special variety. Fact: That practice was virtually exceptionless. I have found exactly one mainstream journalist who was able to recognize -- or at least state -- the elementary truth.32 Surely other examples must exist, but the conclusion, which we need not spell out, tells us a great deal about the reigning intellectual culture.
It was apparent from the outset that the U.S. would never tolerate free and fair elections.33 The point was underscored by repeated White House statements that the terror and economic war would continue unless a "free choice" met the conditions of the Enforcer. It was made official in early November when the White House announced that the embargo would be lifted if the population followed U.S. orders.34
To be sure, the kinds of "divisions" that the Times perceives were to be found on this matter as well. There were a few who simply denied that the military and economic wars had any notable impact; what could a mere $15 billion and 30,000 dead mean to a society as rich and flourishing as Nicaragua after Somoza?35 Turning to those who tried to be serious, we find the usual two categories. The right didn't mention these crucial factors, and hailed the stunning triumph of democracy. The establishment left did mention them, and then hailed the stunning triumph of democracy.36 Keeping to that sector of opinion, let us consider a few examples to illustrate the pattern.
Michael Kinsley, who represents the left on the New Republic editorial staff and in CNN television debate, presented his analysis of the election in the journal he edits (reprinted in the Washington Post). He recalled an earlier article of his, omitting its crucial content, to which we return. Kinsley then observes that "impoverishing the people of Nicaragua was precisely the point of the contra war and the parallel policy of economic embargo and veto of international development loans," and it is "Orwellian" to blame the Sandinistas "for wrecking the economy while devoting our best efforts to doing precisely that." "The economic disaster was probably the victorious opposition's best election issue," he continues, and "it was also Orwellian for the United States, having created the disaster, to be posturing as the exhorter and arbiter of free elections."37
Kinsley then proceeds to posture, Orwellian-style, as the arbiter of free elections, hailing the "free election" and "triumph of democracy," which "turned out to be pleasanter than anyone would have dared to predict."
At the extreme of the establishment left, Anthony Lewis of the New York Times writes that "the Reagan policy did not work. It produced only misery, death and shame." Why it did not work, he does not explain; it appears to have worked very well. Lewis then proceeds to hail "the experiment in peace and democracy," which "did work." This triumph of democracy, he writes, gives "fresh testimony to the power of Jefferson's idea: government with the consent of the governed, as Vaclav Havel reminded us the other day. To say so seems romantic, but then we live in a romantic age."38
We are "dizzy with success," as Stalin used to say, observing the triumph of our ideals in Central America and the Caribbean, the Philippines, the Israeli-occupied territories, and other regions where our influence reaches so that we can take credit for the conditions of life and the state of freedom.
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32 Randolph Ryan, BG, Feb. 28. Also, outside the mainstream, Alexander Cockburn, Wall Street Journal, March 1. See also New Yorker, "Talk of the Town," March 12, 1990.
33 See my articles in Z magazine, December 1989, January 1990; chapters 9, 5 here.
34 See chapter 9, p. 299.
35 See, e.g., Robert Leiken, BG, March 4, 1990, reprinted from the Los Angeles Times. On Leiken's intriguing method of merging his Maoist convictions with Reaganism, and the appreciative reception for this useful amalgam, see Culture of Terrorism, 213, 205-6.
36 We note, however, that the distinction is not crystal clear. Thus Time magazine, as we have seen, did take ample note of the murder and destruction that had paved the way to the great triumph of democracy, though presumably it should be listed on the conservative side. The spectrum of articulate opinion is so narrow that the alleged distinctions are often hard to follow.
37 Kinsley, NR, March 19; WP, March 1, 1990. On his earlier article, see chapter 12, p. 377.
38 Lewis, NYT, March 2, 1990.