National Democratic Institute (NDI), Parallel Vote Tabulation and Chaos Theory

‘Parallel vote tabulation will breed chaos’

By Times Reporter??SOME civil society organisations have said the parallel vote tabulation system is a source of post-election conflicts which cannot work in an atmosphere where people or institutions championing it have shown partisan interests.

The CSOs have also questioned the motive by the Department for International Development to give the National Democratic Institute (NDI) 13.8 million pounds for setting up a parallel vote tabulation system.

Forum for Leadership Search executive director Edwin Lifwekelo said in Lusaka yesterday that that the Government should not allow the system in this year’s elections as it would lead to conflicts.

“The bottom line is that the concept is good if it was undertaken by genuine people, but the problem is that we have suspect NGOs wanting to undertake the programme.

“The organisations that are being positioned such as Caritas, FODEP, and Freedom Committee of The Post lack focus and have already taken partisan positions, so it could be a recipe for post-election conflicts,” Mr Lifwekelo said.

Committee of Citizens executive director, Gregory Chifire also said yesterday that the system could spell trouble for Zambia if it was allowed.

Mr Chifire wondered why NDI could not strengthen the vote monitoring and election results announcing mechanism at the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ).

He said it was worrisome that NDI could consider funding a media watchdog group linked to a named private newspaper when it did not have experience in election monitoring.
?“In most African countries the parallel vote tabulation system has been a source of conflict. For example, what has been happening in Ivory Coast and back here in 2001 when the late Anderson Mazoka was told by some observer missions that he had won the elections.??“Why are they investing the 13.8 million pounds in setting up the parallel vote tabulation system, what is their interest? And what criteria did they use to identify the implementing NGOs which we are all aware have been critics of the Government?” he asked.??Meanwhile, Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) acting executive director MacDonald Chipenzi has confirmed that the organisation is developing an election monitoring concept for this year’s elections based on the parallel vote tabulation system.??“We are still sourcing for funds, otherwise the PVT is part of FODEP’s strategy of monitoring elections,” Mr Chipenzi said.??He said FODEP used the monitoring system in the 2006 and 2008 elections.??Civil society sources last weekend hinted that Caritas Zambia, FODEP and the Press Freedom Committee of The Post had been positioned to set up a parallel vote tabulation system for this year’s elections.??Efforts to get a comment from Caritas Zambia executive director Samuel Mulafulafu failed as his mobile phone went unanswered.??

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Arab Revolution Bad News for “Global Caliphate”

Arab revolts bad news for Al-Qaeda: experts

If the popular revolts that have rocked Tunisia and Egypt gain momentum and spread across the Middle East, they could strike a catastrophic blow to Al-Qaeda’s violent ideology, experts say
AFP

 

Yemen

Yemeni demonstrators chant slogans during a demonstration against the government, in Sanaa, Yemen, Friday 4 February 2011. (AP)

While some in the West fear protests in the Arab world could see authoritarian secular regimes overthrown by equally hardline Islamists, other observers say the movements pose a far greater threat to jihadi militants.

Groups like Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda have long preached that peaceful protest is useless in the face of autocracy. They condemn electoral politics and urge Muslims to use violence to combat injustice and oppression.

But if street protests in Tunisia can force an dictator into exile and in Cairo can force a regime to promise free elections and sit down with its opponents, why should angry young Arabs turn to bombs and guns?

“Ultimately, it works against the idea of the resort to violence,” Maha Azzam, who studies the Middle East for the London-based think tank Chatham House, told AFP in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which is occupied by protesters.

Two weeks ago, thousands of demonstrators occupied the square, the heart of the capital in the largest nation in the Arab world, demanding that autocratic leader President Hosni Mubarak step down and allow free elections.

The revolt has not been without violence, a police crackdown and clashes between pro and anti-regime groups have left an estimated 300 people dead, but the focus of the movement has been a peaceful demand for change.

Some in the West and in neighbouring Israel have expressed concern that a free vote in Egypt could lead to victory for the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, and that this would be a boost for violent factions in the region.

But observers in Cairo say the Brotherhood’s power is exaggerated and that in any case it is not a violent movement like Al-Qaeda. It could play a role in multi-party politics, representing a political Islamist constituency.

“All people and all groups in Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood, demand a democratic transition to power. They all condemn political violence,” said Azzam.
“If it succeeds and if the transition is peaceful and successful, if it leads to a political system that includes all groups, it will be detrimental for the radical groups,” she added.

As she spoke, the protesters gathered in the square — within a cordon of troops — prepared to mark Sunday with a Christian mass for the members of the Coptic minority in their ranks.

Al-Qaeda, whose intellectual head and number two figure is the Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri, has long condemned any participation in elections, indeed any participation in secular political life.

The Muslim Brotherhood, in contrast, has battled for representation. In Egypt, where it is banned, the group fields candidates under the “independent” banner and it is now pushing to be involved in political reform.

“The jihadi groups are at a crossroads,” said Dominique Thomas, an expert in radical Islam at the School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences in Paris.

“If these events snowball, and raise democratic expectations in the region and people are able to overthrow dictatorships with pressure from the street, that would be a stunning blow to their theories,” he said.

“If it’s the will of the people that topples regimes, Al-Qaeda and jihadi groups will find it hard to bounce back and modify their narrative,” he said.

“And, amid all this excitement, they’ve been strangely quiet. They’re probably confounded. Bin Laden or Zawahiri will have to speak out soon, or their whole discourse will lose credibility,” he said.

Another leading expert, Jean-Pierre Filiu of New York’s Colombia University and Paris’ Sciences-Po, agreed. “Al-Qaeda was caught completely unawares by the popular uprisings in the Arab world,” he told AFP.

“They’ve gone completely silent on the subject, incapable of commenting on the news, so far is it beyond their understanding,” he said.

“The protesters are putting themselves in undeniable physical danger not to demand an Islamic state or a Caliphate, but to demand democracy, elections and transparency, all alien concepts to Al-Qaeda,” Filiu said

Signs are emerging the extremists have themselves recognised the threat.

“It is a dangerous mistake for the jihadists to separate from the peoples,” wrote radical cyber-preacher Abu Mundhir al-Shanqiti in an online sermon monitored by the US-based SITE online terrorism watchdog.

“We should forgive them, get closer to them and beg them to listen to us, because separating the jihadi movement from the popular Muslim movement is the end of this movement,” he warned his followers.

Inside the Criminal Mind

Inside the Criminal Mind

Last week, a University of Tampa student was arrested for aggravated battery after he reportedly took another man and woman into the woods, holding them at gunpoint.

Andres Marrero, of Poppy Fields Lane in Land O’ Lakes, was arrested on Jan. 27 for one count of inflicting bodily pain on a victim and another count of aggravated battery on a pregnant female.

The UT student was not alone in the crime though. Devin Nickels, a Florida State University freshman and high school friend of Marrero,19, approached him with the plan for Marrero to pretend to be an armed robber and injure Nickel’s girlfriend in the process.

The UT student was released on a $60,000 bond. Why was the student released after committing such a life-threatening crime? And more importantly, what does this say about our legal system? How can the government justify this type of crime as something less than attempt of a first-degree murder?

Nickels and Marrero planned the murder attempt, with the victim being the unborn fetus and mother. Though neither the mother nor fetus was killed, there still lurks the possibility of developmental disabilities after the baby is born and lasting emotional scars for the mother.

Marrero did not get what he deserved. Nickels offered Marrero $200 to carry out the plan. Marrero refused the money saying that “he wanted to do it for free,” according to The St. Petersburg Times.
What kind of mind thinks this way? Only the criminal mind would take part in such a heinous act and in addition, post, “Damn was last nite fun a– hell. 2011,” on his Facebook wall after the event occurred.

Although Marrero was released on bail after his crime, Nickels, the 18-year-old FSU student and boyfriend of the pregnant woman, was arrested by FSU Police and taken to Leon County jail on Jan. 21, where he will remain there until he is transferred to Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

How do we apprehend criminals who find loopholes in the system but are perfectly aware of their actions and show no remorse?
Marrero was let off with lenient charges, but they are subject to change in front of a judge and hopefully for the best.

The Editorial Board can be reached at editor@theminaretonline.com or you may submit a Letter to the Editor form online at http://www.theminaretonline.com.

Lashkar e-Jhangvi Still Holding Son-In-Law of Pak Joint Chiefs Gen. Tariq

Video of Gen Tariq’s abducted son-in-law emerges

LAHORE: The Pakistani authorities have finally received a videotape message of Amir Aftab Malik, the missing son-in-law of the former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Tariq Majid, saying that he was in the custody of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) militants.

Amir Malik, 35, a jeweler and the President of Barkat Market Traders Union in Garden Town Lahore, was kidnapped by gun totting men on August 25, 2010 from his Faisal Town, Lahore residence. In the videotape message showing masked militants wielding Kalashnikov in the background, a visibly shaken Amir has sttated that his kidnappers wan to be paid a ransom amount of Rs130 million as well as the release of 153 militants being held in various prisons across Pakistan.

According to well-placed security officials investigating the first ever incident of the kidnapping of a close relative of a serving army general, the hostage, who has been shown in the video with a grown up beard, did not give a deadline for the acceptance of the LJ’s demands. The sources say a copy of Amir Aftab Malik’s video message had been provided to his family members who subsequently received a phone call from the kidnappers which was meant to provide them a chance to talk to the hostage.

The sources say the case is now being handled by the country’s top security and intelligence agencies, which are trying to broker a deal between the family members and the kidnappers. A case No 692/10 had been registered against the kidnappers under section 365 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), on the complaint of Naseem Malik, the brother-in-law of Amir Malik at Faisal Town police station. The complainant told police that the victim Amir Malik, the son of Aftab Malik, a resident of 26/L, Model Town extension, reached his house by a car 932167/LXD at around 8:25 pm on August 25, 2010.

As the main gate of the house was opened by the driver Muhammad Arshad, around a dozen armed men in a Honda City Car (silver color) bearing registration number PUK-8192 along with two motorcycles approached him. They pushed both the driver and Amir Malik into the car and sped away. However, the driver was soon dropped at some unknown location.

Those involved with the case investigations say Amir Malik was being kept somewhere in the North Waziristan tribal agency on Pak-Afghan border by the Punjabi Taliban, led by Matiur Rehman, the chief operational commander of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and one of the FBI’s most wanted al-Qaeda-linked militant commander who has been traced to multiple terror plots against the West.

An anti-Shia Sunni-Deobandi sectarian turned anti-US jehadi organisation, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (Army of Jhangvi) has been involved in most of the major terrorist attacks carried out in Pakistan since 9/11 and it remains the group of choice for hard-core Pakistani militants who are adamant to pursue their ambitious jihadi agenda against the West. Launched in 1996 as a Sunni sectarian group, the LJ today has deep links with al-Qaeda and the Taliban and is considered to be the most violent terrorist organisation operating in Pakistan with the help of its lethal suicide squad.

The top three names on the list of the 153 terrorists the kidnappers of Amir Malik want to be released are Malik Mohammad Ishaq, the frightening founding member of the LJ currently being kept in a Lahore jail on terrorism charges, Akram Lahori, the Salar-e-Aala of the LJ who is being kept in a Karachi jail on terrorism charges and Mohammad Aqeel alias Dr Osman, who was captured alive after the October 10, 2009 fierce terrorist attack on the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army and is now being kept in a Rawalpindi jail.

Those investigating the case pointed out that the LJ militants had earlier tried to hijack a bus in Lahore on March 3, 2009, carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team, primarily to use the hostages as a bargaining chip to demand the release of detained LJ militants. Muhammad Zubair, the main accused in the bus attack case, has already confessed having been motivated to wage jihad by Ustad Abdullah who had narrated sufferings of the Lal Masjid students killed in the July 2007 bloody Operation Silence carried out by the Pakistan Army in the heart of Islamabad.

Those investigating the case say the prime motive behind Amir’s kidnapping could be the lead role played by General Tariq Majeed in the Operation Silence, which was carried out against the fanatic clerics of the Lal Masjid and their jihadi followers. General Tariq, who had retired from the Army service on October 7, 2010 [hardly five weeks after the kidnapping incident] was the Corps Commander of Rawalpindi at the time of Lal Masjid operation.

His one-year stint as the Rawalpindi corps commander was eventful as it featured the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and the siege of Lal Masjid. Being the Commander of the X Corps, General Tariq was incharge of the armed forces, which were tasked to take down the militants stationed inside the Lal Masjid. Soon after the Operation Silence was over, he was elevated by General Musharraf as the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee – a post he held from October 2007 to October 2010.

Sources say the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had issued an “Eilan-e-Umumi” (general announcement) after the Lal Masjid operation, stating that revenge would be taken from all those responsible for the bloody raid in which the military was used to flush out the militants from the mosque.

Those named in the “Eilan-e-Umumi” included then President and Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf, then Director General of the Inter Services Intelligence General Ashfaq Kayani, then Director General Military Intelligence Major General Nadeem Ejaz, and then Corps Commander Rawalpindi General Tariq Majeed. On 30 October 2007, hardly three weeks after General Tariq Majeed was elevated as the CJCSC, a suicide bomber exploded himself at a checkpoint outside General Tariq Majid’s official residence in the high security garrison town of Rawalpindi, killing seven people and injuring 31 others.

Two gas pipelines and power pylon blown up In Balochistan

Two gas pipelines and power pylon blown up, BRA claimed responsibility for attacks

Occupied Balochistan: Two gas pipelines and another power pylon were blown up by unknown militants in separate attacks in Naseerabad and Jaffarabad districts on Tuesday. 

Talking to this correspondent a senior Police officer said unknown men planted an explosive device with a gas pipeline in Tool Plaza area situated near Dera Allahyar, which went off with huge blast destroying 18-inch diameter of gas pipeline. The blast caused disruption of natural gas supply to provincial capital and Naseerabad division the personnel of Balochistan Levies and Police reached the spot soon after the blast and threw a cordon in the area.

The flow of traffic on national highway in Dera Murad Jamali was also disrupted as the area was covered with huge smoke of fire erupted from destroyed gas pipeline. Militants also blew up another gas pipeline of 12-inch diameter in the same area. “The gas supply to Quetta, Sibi, Dadhar, Naseerabad, Jaffarabad and other townships were suspended. Gas supply to CNG stations and industrial units are also stopped,” an official of SSGC said adding that the remaining gas in pipeline was being supplied to domestic consumers which might remain for next eight hours.

Open in new windowMeanwhile, unknown militants had blown up another power pylon of 220 kv near Dera Allahyar in Naseerabad district on Tuesday. According to QESCO spokesman, unknown militants planted the explosive materials with power pylon of 220 kv in Dera Allahyar area of Naseerabad district. Resultantly the power pylon was destroyed affecting the supply to Naseerabad division.

“The teams had been sent to the area to carry out repair work and repair works on four damaged power transmission lines in Mach Town are also underway,” spokesman added.

The Baloch Republican Army (BRA) claimed the responsibility of the blowing up gas pipelines. Its spokesman calling from undisclosed location who introduced himself as Sarbaz Baloch vowed to carry out such attacks in future as well.

It may be mentioned that 15 districts of Baloch are without electricity for the past two days and there was a shortage of 1000MW power in Balochistan after the incidents of blowing power pylons. QESCO is carrying out twelve hours of load shedding in provincial capital and around 20 hours in 40 grid stations of 15 districts, sources said.

Disruption of gas supply caused trouble: The disruption of natural gas supply to Quetta city has caused hardship and difficulties for the domestic consumers who are currently dealing freezing temperatures and their routine life come to a halt. The residents of Quetta and surrounding areas including students, businessmen and office employees were compelled to leave their houses without breakfast due to non-availability of the gas.

“There is no natural gas available for the past 15 hours and I left for office without taking breakfast,” Haseeb-ur-Rehman, resident of Saryab Road told this scribe adding that blowing up gas pipelines and power pylons have become a routine matter. The residents of the areas are using wood as a fuel for cooking food wherein this regard long queue were also seen outside Tandoors shops. Another man Kamran Ahmed also complained regarding suspension of gas supply to Sirki Road of Quetta. “The temperature dropped to minus degrees Celsius and how can we deal such a cold weather without gas,” he said and added “We are confined to house.” People also complained that the patients admitted in hospital are also suffering because of suspension of gas supply.(Courtesy: DailyBalochistanexpress)

Power supply to Balochistan areas not yet restored: Most parts of central and northern Balochistan were without electricity due to the destruction of power pylons in the Aab e Gum area of Bolan district the other day.

According to the Qesco officials, unknown attackers up four power pylons shouldering 220 kv and 132 kv transmissions line in Aab e Gum on Saturday night, which caused disruption of electricity to 35 power grid stations in Quetta, Zhob, Pishin, Chaman, Noshki, Kalat, Khuzdar and other areas.

Presently, electricity was being provided to only five grid stations in the provincial capital from alternative sources. The officials said that both the Qesco (Quetta Electric Supply Company) and NTDC (National Transmission and Dispatch Company) had assembled their personnel and resources and were awaiting security clearance around the areas of the destroyed pylons.

The officials expressed their inability to give any timeframe for the completion of repair of the pylons and normal restoration of electricity to these areas. When contacted, officials concerned said that the provincial government had enhanced security and deployed additional personnel around the area in order to ensure security for the Qesco and NTDC staff.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrint … D=30041&Cat=2&dt=2/8/2011

Dawn Newspaper report: The sources said although the repair work had been launched, a timeframe could not be given for a complete restoration of power supply from the national grid. “The engineers and technical staff were making all-out efforts to restore power supply as soon as possible,” they said.

The people of Quetta were also facing water shortage because tubewells could not be operated without electricity.

Baloch Liberation Army spokesman Merak Baloch has claimed responsibility for blowing up four pylons in Aab-i-Gum area. http://www.dawn.com/2011/02/09/baloch … -blasts-in-pipelines.html

The psychology of revolution

‘Hindsight bias’ tells us what’s happening in Egypt was predictable, so why weren’t we forewarned?

BY DAN GARDNER, POSTMEDIA NEWS FEBRUARY 9, 2011

The protesters were as astonished as they were angry. Not long before, no one had imagined the regime was vulnerable. Now the streets were filled with millions of people marching and shouting. The Shah must go!

For those struggling to understand what’s happening in Egypt, and what will happen, the Iranian Revolution of 1978-’79 is an obvious reference point. It’s also handy for lazy pundits. The Shah used violent repression? Then violent repression will fail in Egypt. The Iranian Revolution ultimately produced an Islamist government? Then Egypt is going Islamist. Pick your parallel and place your bet.

These facile equations are useless. Iran is not Egypt, the Shah is not Hosni Mubarak, and 1979 is not 2011. Every event is unique. History is not math.

But there is another way in which the Iranian Revolution brings events in Egypt into focus.

Go back and look at the months and weeks before the revolution and it’s evident that essentially no one saw it coming. Not the Shah and his officials. Not the opposition. It was “unthinkable,” said Mehdi Bazargan, the future first prime minister of the revolutionary government.

The Central Intelligence Agency was also caught by surprise, despite the close watch it kept on a key American ally: A mere five months before the Shah was forced to flee, with protests growing steadily, the CIA reported Iran “was not in a revolutionary or even a ‘pre-revolutionary’ situation.”

For ordinary people -the people whose presence on the streets would ultimately decide the fate of Iran -the moment of crisis was both thrilling and terrifying.

“Being in a revolution is such a confusing time,” says University of North Carolina sociologist Charles Kurzman.

“It’s a time when you don’t know, literally, what tomorrow will bring. If you plan to go to a demonstration, you don’t know if you’re going to be the only one out there, or one in a sea of millions. Whether the police will shoot you, or join you in the streets protesting against the regime.”

For his 2004 book The Unthinkable Revolution, Kurzman consulted a wide array of sources to see just what Iranians were thinking in the fateful months and weeks before the toppling of the government. There was overwhelming uncertainty. Coping with it was a constant struggle.

“In order to deal with this uncertainty, I found that people are obsessive about talking politics,” says Kurzman. “They talk politics with everybody. With their butcher. With folks standing at the bus stop. People they never really talked to, ever.”

Protests are a game of numbers. If huge crowds turn out, there is relative safety and a greater chance of success. If not, those present are more likely to fail. And die. Predicting what other people will do “is a matter of life and death,” says Kurzman.

So people talk politics with strangers, constantly.

“They’re trying to sample outside their family and friend network to find out what everyone else is going to do,” Kurzman says.

Should I go to the protest? Should I join the strike? Millions of people asked these questions every day. Their decisions depended on what they thought everyone else would do. And they could change right up until the very moment of acting.

In this tense atmosphere, rumours and emotions surged through the population like electric charges. Excitement could give way to terror in an instant. Despair to hope. And back again.

“You can’t read off people’s attitudes from a year before, a month before, even a day before, and predict what they are going to do on any given day under these circumstances,” Kurzman says. Even what people wanted was liable to sudden, startling change.

“What your end goal is depends on what you think is possible,” Kurzman notes.

“If the fall of a dictatorial government suddenly seems achievable, then that may be the most important thing in your life today. Whereas yesterday, it may have seemed pie-in-the-sky and you would go about your business and not even form an opinion about the topic because it seems so unviable.”

This is precisely what’s happening in Egypt now. There are many possible outcomes, and no way of predicting which will happen.

To everyone but cocky pundits and those who think like them, that may seem obvious. Even trite. But it’s not. It’s an essential insight. And it’s likely to be forgotten.

Because the drama will end, and when it does, the outcome, whatever it is, will feel far more likely than it does now. Psychologists call this phenomenon “hindsight bias.” It’s a big reason why people think the future is more predictable than it is.

On top of this, experts will develop elaborate stories that claim to explain why what happened had to happen (Kurzman picks apart several such stories about the Iranian Revolution). This, too, encourages us to think the future is more predictable than it is: if we can connect the dots after the fact, we should be able to do the same in advance.

And if the outcome in Egypt could have been predicted but wasn’t, it follows that someone blew it. The blame game will begin. Intelligence agencies, in particular, will be attacked for failing to forecast the storm, as the CIA was after the Iranian Revolution.

In fact, this has already begun. Israel’s intelligence chief is now in hot water because, on the day the unrest in Egypt started, he told a Knesset committee that Mubarak’s government was in no danger.

“Remember this moment of uncertainty,” Kurzman advises. It is a much clearer glimpse of the truth than what we will hear after the fact.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun


Reagan’s Third-World Reign of Terror

Reagan’s Third-World Reign of Terror

by Dennis Hans

As the nation pays tribute to Ronald “Dutch” Reagan on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth, media coverage is every bit as laudatory as when he turned 90. I wrote in 2001 about PBS’s fawning tributes on the Charlie Rose show and the Jim Lehrer NewsHour [http://www.alternet.org/media/11076/looking_at_reagan_through_(charlie)_rose– colored_glasses]. Then, as now, one of the most glaring omissions was the human cost of his foreign policies. In the interest of filling out the Reagan portrait, let us consider a few regions unfortunate enough to capture his attention, starting with Central America.

In January 1981, the newly inaugurated Reagan inherited Jimmy Carter’s policy of supporting a Salvadoran government controlled by a military that, along with the security forces and affiliated death squads, killed about 10,000 civilians in 1980. In the first 27 months of the Reagan administration, perhaps another 20,000 civilians were killed. El Salvador’s labor movement was decimated, the opposition press exterminated, opposition politicians murdered or driven into exile, the church martyred.

In April 1983, seeking to shore up shaky public and congressional support for continued aid to El Salvador, Reagan went on national television before a joint session of Congress and — with a straight face — praised the Salvadoran government for “making every effort to guarantee democracy, free labor unions, freedom of religion, and a free press.” The Great Communicator/Prevaricator achieved his objective; aid — and blood — continued to flow.

In neighboring Nicaragua, the U.S.-backed Somoza dictatorship slaughtered perhaps 40,000 civilians from 1977 to 1979 in a desperate bid to hold power. Candidate Reagan was sad to see Somoza go, and once in office his administration turned to officers from Somoza’s hated National Guard to spearhead a “liberation” movement. Known as the contras, they never managed to hold a single Nicaraguan town in their eight years as Reagan’s proxy army, though they were quite proficient at raping, torturing and killing defenseless civilians. Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans died in a war that never would have been were it not for good ol’ Dutch.

A common criticism of Reagan is that this self-proclaimed fighter against the scourge of terrorism traded with a designated “terrorist state” — the hostage-holding fundamentalist regime in Iran — to generate funds for the contras after Congress turned off the tap. That’s true as far as it goes. But the contras themselves were terrorists, as were those elements of the Honduran army that the CIA and Ollie North employed to help the contras, as was the notorious Salvadoran air force that assisted in the contra resupply effort. All murdered noncombatants to achieve political objectives. If they were “terrorists” — and if words have meaning, they were — what does that make their paymaster and cheerleader in the Oval Office?

In Guatemala in 1982, the dictator Efrain Rios Montt — an army general and evangelical minister branded by critics the “born-again butcher” — launched his “beans and guns” scorched-earth counterinsurgency campaign. The army destroyed hundreds of villages and slaughtered thousands of civilians. Reagan was furious. Not at our blood-soaked ally, but at Amnesty International and others who documented his depridations. Rios Montt was getting a “bum rap,” Reagan whined.

In Southeast Asia, Reagan picked up where President Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski left off in collaborating with the Chinese government to support Cambodia’s murderous Khmer Rouge, which had been driven from power in 1979 by a Vietnamese government that had grown weary of the Khmer Rouge atttacking villages on Vietnam’s side of the border. Along with two hapless non-communist Cambodian guerrilla groups, the ousted Khmer Rouge utilized neighboring Thailand —with the blessing and backing of the U.S. and China — as a base from which to launch attacks inside Cambodia.

A bit odd, Reagan backing communist mass murderers. But he did so for a high-minded principle: self-determination. So strongly did he believe in this principle that he instructed his U.N. Ambassador to recognize the deposed Khmer Rouge, rather than the regime imposed by Vietnam, as the legitimate government of Cambodia.

Alas, it was all an act. Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Indonesia continued to occupy East Timor, the island it had invaded in 1975 with the blessing of the Ford administration. In this case, Reagan chose to oppose the Timorese resistance and support the Indonesian occupiers. Hey, what good are principles if they’re not flexible — or disposable?

To give Reagan his due, a crucial difference between the occupations must be noted: Vietnam’s (which he opposed) ended a bloodbath; Indonesia’s (which he supported) constituted a bloodbath.

In southern Africa, Reagan was an enthusiastic champion of South Africa’s illegal occupation of Namibia and vicious destabilization of Angola and Mozambique. He considered the apartheid government a card- carrying member of the “Free World” and thus worthy of a “constructive engagement” policy. Like Dick Cheney, he dismissed Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress as communist terrorists.

Reagan’s African heroes were Zairian kleptocrat Mobutu Sese Seko and Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. When Savimbi’s horrific human rights record could no longer be denied, even some conservatives who had once sung his praises turned against him. Reagan stood steadfast. He had earlier hailed Savimbi as a “freedom fighter,” just as he had elevated the Nicaraguan contras and the extremist Islamic fundamentalists fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan (many of whom are now fighting us in alliance with the Taliban) to “the moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers.”

By providing apologetics, diplomatic support and/or military aid to some of the worst governments, rebel forces and terror-prone proxy armies of the 1980s, Reagan was an accomplice in hundreds of thousands of deaths. That’s a big part of his legacy, and it’s no cause for celebration.

*************

Bio: Dennis Hans is a former adjunct professor of American foreign policy and mass communications at the University of South Florida. His essays on those topics as well as basketball and other matters can be found at http://dennishans.blogspot.com; he can be reached at hans_d@mail.firn.edu.