Parting Shots

by Jeff Fleischer

(Mother Jones, June 9, 2004)


The passing of Ronald Reagan has brought the expected tributes from world leaders of all political stripes, with everyone from Margaret Thatcher to John Kerry warmly praising the late president. But some of Reagan’s most ardent adversaries in life used the opportunity of his death to get in the last word.

Officials from Nicaragua’s former Sandanista government took a diplomatic approach to Reagan’s passing. But his funding of the rebel Contras during the country’s civil war still drew criticism from former Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega:

“We don’t celebrate any death, but we must be honest. We will not start saying now that President Reagan respected international law, that he treated Nicaragua well. We’re not going to lie.”

Writing in the Russian newspaper PRAVDA, Vasily Bubnov took issue with George W. Bush’s glowing praise of the former president, saying Reagan “saved the world from neither fear nor tyranny” and crediting the policies of Mikhail Gorbachev for ending the “Cold War”:

“Had someone else occupied the post of the USSR’s General Secretary aside from Mikhail Gorbachev, who practically handed Reagan victory, it is highly doubtful that the 40th president of the United States could ever receive the laurels.”

Harsher words came from the Iranian press, with the newspaper Kayhan focusing on Reagan’s role in the rise of Saddam Hussein:

“It was during Reagan’s presidency that America’s weapons of mass destruction poured into Iraq, and Saddam deployed them during the Iran-Iraq war. It was also on Reagan’s orders that the Iranian passenger airline was brought down by an American missile over the Persian Gulf in 1988, killing 290 passengers.”

Not one to mince words, the state-owned Cuban radio station Radio Reloj blasted Reagan has “he who never should have been born.” Meanwhile, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddaffi mourned Reagan’s death, albeit for reasons of his own. In 1986, Reagan ordered an airstrike against Gaddafi’s Tripoli compound, missing the colonel but killing, among others, his one-year-old adopted daughter:

“I express my deep regret because Reagan died before facing justice for his ugly crime that he committed in 1986 against the Libyan children.”

But the late president can still count on the support of old friends like Iran-Contra villain-turned-radio-host Oliver North:

“Ronald Reagan was easily the greatest president of my lifetime — and he will be regarded as one of the greatest leaders this country has ever had. … [H]e brought down the evil empire and made the world safer for my children and theirs.”

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