The Other Side of Reagan
By Jefferson Morley
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 8, 2004; 8:19 AM
He was an "enigma" with a "pathological" fondness for Latin American military dictatorships. He was an ally of Saddam Hussein. He understood the greatness of China and befriended India. He championed globalization ahead of his time.
He was Ronald Reagan in the eyes of the international online media.
It's not that most pundits outside of the United States don't like or understand the 40th American president who died Saturday. As the BBC noted Monday, newspapers around the world "bid a mostly fond farewell" to Reagan.
But journalists around the world, like their American counterparts, are now trying to write Reagan's story into their own national histories. Viewed from outside the perspective of the United States, Europe and Russia, Reagan's legacy sometimes takes a very different form than the eulogies of the Western press.
"The Iranian people have different memories of the 40th American president," said Iran's state-run radio network, Tehran Voice of the Islamic Republic. While others remember the arms race, Star Wars and speeches against communism, Iranians remember Reagan for "America's overt and covert support for Saddam [Hussein]" in the 1980s, including "the supply of intelligence, gained through espionage" that enabled Iraq "to deal a blow to Iranian combatants on the battlefield."
The Reagan administration's "strategic pact with Saddam...included the sale of chemical weapons" that "left hundreds of thousands of people wounded and martyred," the radio report said. "Those who perpetrated or approved of such crimes, such as the current American administration's Defense Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld were not brought to justice."
A columnist for Clarin, the top-selling newspaper in Argentina, said that under Reagan the United States had a "pathological relationship with Latin American dictatorships."
"Reagan did not inspire in Latin America the sympathy and popularity that he enjoyed among many of his countrymen," noted a wire story published in El Salvador's El Mundo (in Spanish).
"Reagan was an active participant in the political and military conflicts of Central America. He intervened openly in Nicaragua's arming and financing the 'contras' who sought to overthrow the Sandinista government, an action that brought death and devastation to that impoverished country."
The headline: "In Latin America, his name was synonymous with the iron fist."
In Nicaragua, La Prensa (in Spanish) reported that a spokesman for the Catholic Church said Reagan's support for the contra war in the 1980s had done "irreparable damage" to the country.
"All men have light and shadows," said vicar Eddy Montenegro according to the report.
The paper chose to downplay those who spoke well of Reagan. The very last paragraph of the La Prensa story noted that Nicaraguan president Enrique Bolaños had sent his condolences to the Reagan family saying, "the ex-president will always be remembered for having contributed to the establishment of democracy and liberty in Nicaragua and the world."
The coverage was all the more remarkable because La Prensa and the Catholic Church had been the leading adversaries of the Sandinista government during Reagan's time.
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