CPAC Keynote: Rush Limbaugh Was Wrong by Gregory Hilton

This photo was taken yesterday at CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference). That is pundit Michelle Malkin on the right, exactly where she should be!

This photo was taken yesterday at CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference). That is pundit Michelle Malkin on the right, exactly where she should be!

The news reports about CPAC emphasized the absence of DC’s power elite. CPAC events in the past always included the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House and various cabinet members. That will obviously not happen again for quite some time, but even without any stars they still managed to register over 9,000 people which is a considerable achievement. After being in the doldrums for so many years, there is real enthusiasm on the right. The Obama honeymoon will continue for quite some time, but I do see elements of a GOP comeback. This will not happen if social conservatives are in the forefront, and I was amazed to hear continued opposition to the Brady Bill which passed in 1993. (It requires a computerized criminal background check for all gun purchases). Rush Limbaugh’s speech was televised live on Fox, and he could not have had a more enthusiastic audience. To be frank, I was underwhelmed. The liberals who said they wanted us to lose in Iraq were awful, but Rush is also wrong in saying he wants Obama to fail. I do not want our country to fail.
On the other hand, I was impressed with Michelle Malkin’s presentation which was factual rather than an anti-Obama harangue. She really had my attention in talking about the impact of the new tax plan on non-profits. It would raise an estimated $318 billion over 10 years by, among other things, reducing the value of charitable contributions for people in the highest tax brackets. All of my charitable activities are geared toward major donors, and I believe this will be a direct threat to many major institutions. I was pleased to see the same concerns expressed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).
I was not the only person turned off by Rush Limbaugh’s angry tone, and his opposition to bipartisanship. This morning Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House GOP Whip, was on “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos. Cantor was asked: “So the Rush Limbaugh approach of hoping the president fails is not your approach?”
“Absolutely not, I don’t think anyone wants failure right now. We have such challenges. What we need to do is put forth solutions to the problems real families are facing today. . . There is no question the Republican Party has to return to be one of inclusion, not exclusion. We are a party with many ideas, and a commitment to promoting positive alternatives, if we don’t agree with this administration,” Cantor said.
“Let’s come up with solutions that actually produce results for a change, instead of making matters worse, which Washington is famous for.”

The Washington Ballet Has a Vital Role in the Nation's Capital

The snowflakes of The Washington Ballet in "The Nutcracker" during its three week run in December.
BACKGROUND
The Washington Ballet (TWB) is well known among the world’s leading professional ballet companies for its high standards and artistic integrity. TWB includes classical ballet dancers performing a repertory of new work. They present the very best in ballet and international members of the professional troupe include Brianne Bland of Canada, Runqiao Du of China, Sona Kharatian of Armenia, Marcelo Martinez of Paraguay, Maki Onuki of Japan, Alvaro Palau of Colombia, Luis Torres of Puerto Rico, and Laura Urgelles of Cuba.
Mary Day established the Washington School for Ballet in 1944. In 1976 she founded The Washington Ballet as an outlet for the fine dancers turned out by her school. She knew only a small percentage of the hopefuls who came through her school would have the rare combination of gifts which would enable them to dance professionally.
According to an article by Virginia Johnson, a former prima ballerina with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, “Day insisted on decorum. After the formal bow that ended each class, the students lined up to say thank you to her as well.” Mary Day died at the age of 96 in July of 2006.
The ballet’s most recent international tours have included Russia, China, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. TWB was an instrumental part of “Ballet Across America” which brought together nine of the nation’s top ballet companies for six days of ballet at The Kennedy Center. In 2000, TWB became the first American company to perform in Cuba in more than 40 years. The troupe took Cuba’s “Premio Villanueva” award for best foreign production and was later featured in a documentary, “Dance Cuba: Dreams of Flight.” The 105-minute film captured touching moments of Webre’s experiences in Cuba.
AT THE WHITE HOUSE
Many first families have been associated with the Washington Ballet. This is especially true of Chelsea Clinton and Caroline Kennedy who are among the alumni of the Washington School of Ballet. Chelsea continued her ballet study until she graduated from high school. She often attended performances of TWB and her father would attend her recitals at GWU’s Lisner Auditorium.
PEOPLE magazine on 12/30/96 reported: “When we presented the President with a freshly printed copy of the Dec. 23 PEOPLE featuring photos of his daughter dancing in the Washington Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, he paused over the pictures and was rendered momentarily speechless as his eyes misted over. Says Clifford: ‘It was as if he were confronted with the evidence that the little girl who had come to the White House in bobby socks and braces was all grown up, transformed into a lovely swan.'”
The ballet world is well represented in the Obama White House. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel trained as a ballet dancer and he must have been very talented. The former Congressman was offered a full scholarship by the world famous Joffrey School of Ballet in New York City.I do not mean to exclude the Republicans because Ronald Reagan, Jr., the son of the late President, danced professionally with the second company of the Joffrey Ballet.
President George W. Bush joined local school children in the East Room of the White House in December of 2005 for a performance of The Washington Ballet. In his remarks, the President praised THEARC program in Anacostia. This 110,000-square-foot complex was opened in 2005 housing a state-of-the-art theater, dance and music studios. It serves the most disadvantaged population in Washington, D.C.
TWB is an integral part of THEARC. The ballet already had an outreach effort, DanceDC, in public elementary schools. DanceDC began in 1999 and it now has an annual budget of $679,000 a year. The ballet offers full scholarships for handpicked youngsters to continue training in a program where they are bused, at the ballet’s expense, to after school classes at THEARC. THEARC offers 30 classes for more than 275 students duplicating The Washington School of Ballet’s curriculum at its main academy.

TWB Jete Society Ball Co-Chair Ashley Taylor (Mrs. Joe Robert), TWB Artistic Director Septime Webre and Kate Marie Grinold. Under his direction, TWB's version of Elton John's Rocketman will have its world premiere on May 12th at the Harman Center.

TWB Jete Society Ball Co-Chair Ashley Taylor (Mrs. Joe Robert), TWB Artistic Director Septime Webre and Kate Marie Grinold. Under his direction, TWB's version of Elton John's Rocketman will have its world premiere on May 12th at the Harman Center.


UPCOMING PERFORMANCES
TWB is now celebrating Artistic Director Septime Webre’s 10th anniversary with a range of work from the contemporary to the classical. Highlights include Webre’s patriotic take on The Nutcracker which pitted George Washington (The Nutcracker) against King George III (The Rat King). The Company is also presenting renowned works by Bournonville, Balanchine, Tharp, Morris, Wheeldon and many others
TWB’s version of Elton John’s Rocketman will have its world premiere on May 12th at the Harman Center. It will be followed by a dinner at the Reynolds Center for Art and Portraiture. This program also features a premiere by Edward Liang and George Balanchine’s riveting Rubies.
SOME PAST PERFORMANCES
“Genius” and “Genius2” were described as ballets for smart people. They featured works by renowned choreographers at the vanguard of contemporary dance. TWB artists last year performed one of Twyla Tharp’s wittiest pieces, the jazz-based “Baker ‘s Dozen.” They then went from classical to the innovative in Mark Morris’ tour de force, “Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes”, and Christopher Wheeldon ‘s critically hailed “Morphoses.” Nacho Duato’s hypnotic pas de deux “Cor Perdut” came at the end of this engaging program.
The idea behind 7 x 7 was simple, seven works by seven choreographers, each seven-minutes-long. 7×7 focused on the universal theme of love and its myriad intricacies. As well all know, anything can happen when emotions take hold in the complicated, fickle and sometimes challenging world of relationships.
TWB in February of 2009 had an admirable production of the romantic warhorse, “La Sylphide,” at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. The staging by the Royal Danish Ballet’s Sorella Englund and Thomas Lund captured the essence of this ballet with a light touch. The cast featured petite and playful Elizabeth Gaither as the Sylph and deeply emotional David Hallberg. They acquitted themselves nicely. Guesting for the second time this season, Hallberg offered a richly textured performance as James, who is part cad, part romantic hero in his search for unattainable love.
“Washingtonian” magazine described the performance of “The Four Temperments” this way: “American Ballet Theatre principal David Hallberg joined the troupe for ‘The Four Temperaments,’ Balanchine’s stringent dissection of the medieval principal that the body contains four distinct humors or temperaments. A former student of recently hired school director Kee-Juan Han, Hallberg, with his golden-boy good looks and refined technique, danced a well-modulated Phlegmatic variation, blending naturally into this chamber-sized company with a fiercely democratic streak: there are no soloists or principals in the group, just a troupe of excellent dancers who shift and share roles for the most part equally.”
THE NUTCRACKER
For three weeks in December TWB featured Tchaikovsky’s cherished Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker. Many of us have school memories of the young dance students playing the awkward angels, the gawky snowflakes, and the bumbling clowns who all aspire to the grown-up grace of the Sugar Plum Fairy or the adventurous imagination of Clara or Marie.
The ballet takes us both backward — often to our own first ballet experiences and also to our own fond family holiday season recollections. “The Nutcracker” has become a milestone in the lives of so many. While it’s a remembrance of things past, it is also a ode to the future.
This staple of the ballet world opened to dismal reviews in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1892. “‘Nutcracker’ can in no event be called a ballet,” one critic opined. “It does not comply with even one of the demands made of a ballet.” Another wrote: ‘The production of such ‘spectacles’ . . . is an insult . . . and may soon easily lead to the ruin of the ballet.'” I always think of those comments when I read reviews today.
Some of our stars backstage. In this photo: Mako Nagasaki, Aurora Dickie, Liza Balough, Rui Huang, Laura Zimmerman, Mary Beatrice Saludares, and Beth Miller.

Some of our stars backstage. In this photo: Mako Nagasaki, Aurora Dickie, Liza Balough, Rui Huang, Laura Zimmerman, Mary Beatrice Saludares, and Beth Miller.


MAJOR DONORS
Among many other things, tax deductible contributions to TWB have made it possible for over 5,000 DC area students to participate in ballet activities. Some elements of the major donor campaign have included:
The “Beatles Ball” which featured excerpts from the ballet, “Always, No Sometimes”, choreographed by Trey McIntyre and set to a medley of Beatles’ tunes. Over 500 guests attended and $500,000 plus was raised. The sponsor was the Fannie Mae Foundation, but this event was held prior to the government bailout.
Last year the Spring Gala was able to recruit 75 sponsors at $35,000 and two dozen donors of $25,000 and $10,000.
JETE SOCIETY
The Washington Ballet’s Jete Society supportS the ballet’s signature education program, DanceDC. All of the cast members from the ballet attend these parties, and it is a fabulous networking opportunity for young people.
“Washingtonian” magazine described the most recent Jete Society event at the French Embassy by saying, “Guests were encouraged not only to dress to impress but also to leave conservative Washington rules behind; the event invitation encouraged them: “Be Wild. Be Sassy. Be Unexpected. Or Stay Home.” Septime Webre introduced the evening’s entertainment by warning, “This is not the ballet!” before a dozen or so scantily clad dancers from the Aaron Jackson Troupe performed an energetic number to Jimmy Jackson’s ‘Fashionista.'”
PRESTIGIOUS ALUMNI
Amanda McKerrow is the most prestigious alumnus of the Washington School of Ballet. She started with dance lessons in the cafeteria of her elementary school in Rockville, Maryland, became a student of the legendary Mary Day, and retired in 2005 after a 23-year career with the American Ballet Theatre. It was a career which was set ablaze when she made jaws drop throughout the ballet world by winning the gold medal at the Moscow International Ballet Competition in 1981, when she was 17.
UPCOMING STARS — JONATHAN JORDAN
A review of Jonathan Jordan in “Washingtonian” magazine says “It takes more than a perfect quintuple pirouette to make a great ballet dancer. And while Septime Webre lauds 27-year-old Jonathan Jordan’s technique, his intensity as a dramatic artist is what keeps Webre intrigued: ‘I’m very excited to see Jon tackling the part of James, one of the great male romantic roles of the 19th century, in our new production of La Sylphide.’ Jordan, a Silver Spring resident and Phoenix native, credits his teacher Roudolf Kharatian with shaping him as a dancer by introducing him to both martial arts and the great Western philosophers. ‘When he first came to me,’ says Kharatian, a former instructor at the Washington Ballet, ‘I saw this young, energetic man who could not control his energy or his emotion.’ In the studio, they exchange few words, but Jordan—now in his eighth year as a Washington Ballet member—has absorbed Kharatian’s physical and emotional intensity. Two years ago, the relationship deepened when Jordan married Kharatian’s daughter, fellow Washington Ballet dancer Sona Kharatian.
“The Washington Ballet is intimate enough to offer Jordan many opportunities to dance and much variety: ‘I find the joy in anything I get to do, but I definitely feel very close to classical ballet. I think I am a romantic at heart.’ Aside from playing James in La Sylphide, this season Jordan reprises his role—the one originated by Mikhail Baryshnikov—in Mark Morris’s ‘Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes.'”
A TRAGIC LOSS
Mary Saludares of the Washington Ballet Studio Company died on February 20, 2009. She was 20 years old and was struck by a car at 10:07 pm while crossing the street immediately after a performance. Along with other dancers she was on the way to dinner. Mary received the highest Royal Academy of Dance Award, the Solo Seal, in 2006. A native of the Philippines, she at first attended the School of American Ballet in New York. Mary received a full scholarship 18 months ago to the Washington School of Ballet. Because of her obvious talent she was also given a position in TWB’s Studio Company. Mary’s considerable skill and technique at such a young age was recognized in January when she became the first Filipino entry in the Adeline Genee International Ballet Competition. TWB has established a Mary Saludares Memorial Fund.
The Facebook group “We All Love You Mary!!!!” was created by Andy McDandy. It contains 139 photos of the late Mary Saludares with the introduction: “Mary was such a beautiful person, both inside and out. She was so endearing, and full of sunshine and happiness. Mary touched everyone and I cannot think of anything negative to say about her. She was such a sweet person, and a kind soul. May she rest in peace, and in our hearts.”

Iraq: Were There Weapons of Mass Destruction and was Joe Wilson Correct? by Gregory Hilton

Valerie Plame and her husband former Ambassador Joe Wilson

Valerie Plame and her husband former Ambassador Joe Wilson


Many people continue to believe that Iraq had no connection to weapons of mass destruction. We now know the Senate Intelligence Committee received the same briefings as President Bush in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq. All of the Democratic lawmakers on this panel reached the same conclusion as the President. Every intelligence agency believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and the post-invasion UN Duelfer report concluded that he maintained the capability to produce them on short notice.
Saddam had destroyed most, but not all of his WMD stockpile. On June 14, 2003 the U.S. Army discovered over 550 metric tons of uranium yellowcake at a facility in Tuwaitha , 12 miles south of Baghdad. Once refined, this quantity would make 142 nuclear weapons. At the same location the Army uncovered four devices for controlled radiation exposure. Over 500 chemical weapons (mustard and sarin gas) were also found.
In July of 2008 the last of the yellowcake was shipped to Canada where it is now being processed into nuclear fuel. Most of the uranium was acquired prior to 1991, but Saddam still had it in 2003. He was holding onto it in order to wait out the U.N. sanctions when he could restart his WMD program.
This one discovery should put to rest the canard peddled by Joe Wilson who made a career out of claiming “Bush lied” about Iraq seeking yellowcake from the African country of Niger. After numerous investigations it appears the person who lied was Wilson, not Bush. The Senate Intelligence Committee and the British parliament both concluded that Wilson was lying about many things. Iraq was seeking additional yellowcake in Niger, and Wilson accurately reported this at the time, before changing his story.
Bush’s “16 words” in his 2003 State of the Union Address were accurate. Wilson lied about the documents he had seen, and he also lied when he claimed his CIA officer wife was not instrumental in sending him to Niger,
According to Wilson’s own testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki of Niger said an Iraqi delegation was seeking to acquire additional yellowcake in 1999, but they let the matter drop because Iraq was under international sanctions.
Wilson’s wife, former CIA employee Valerie Plame wrote the book, “Fair Game: My Life As A Spy, My Betrayal By The White House.” You don’t even have to get to the first page of Plame’s book to find something misleading, because it’s right in the title, in the ‘My Betrayal By The White House’ part. It wasn’t the White House who first told Robert Novak that Plame worked for the CIA, it was Richard Armitage, a State department Iraq war critic, hardly a Bushie. Novak was the one who outed Plame by saying she worked at the CIA in one of his columns. You would think it was Cheney who announced it in a press conference if you listened to the propaganda. After prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s endless investigation of the White House, nobody was ever charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) for outing Valerie Plame, though Scooter Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, was convicted of making false statements to the FBI during the investigation for not remembering who told him Plame’s name first several months after the fact. Libby would not have been in any trouble if he had just said “I do not recall.” Hillary Clinton used that phrase over 250 times when she was under oath.
Valerie Plame was never deep under cover. The CIA confirmed her employment over the phone when they were called by Bob Novak.

Remembering Gary Condit

Former Congressman Gary Condit (D-CA) is shown with Andrea Kanze and Chip Dent at the Gold Cup races in 2000.

Former Congressman Gary Condit (D-CA) is shown with Andrea Kanze and Chip Dent at the Gold Cup races in 2000.


The 2001 disappearance of intern Chandra Levy will apparently soon be solved. This case dominated the news 8 years ago when the 24 year old was tragically murdered and her body was not discovered for a year. The reason for all of the attention was because of Chandra’s relationship with then Congressman Condit. Many people falsely believed he was responsible for her death.
He lost his Congressional seat, and left California because of the bad publicity. His Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop in Arizona was not successful, and for the past two years he has been writing a book. I was sad to see the photos of him scooping ice cream because it was such a waste of his obvious talent. Condit apparently cheated on his wife with Chandra and several other women who came forward after they were paid by the “National Enquirer.”
Condit… Read More’s personal life is not our business and Mrs. Condit has apparently forgiven him. There were thousands of Condit stories years ago but none of them mentioned his outstanding legislative record.
Condit served in House for 14 years and I knew him as a senior member on the House Intelligence Committee. He spoke out forcefully to stop the genocide and “ethnic cleansing” in the former Yugoslavia. He was also obviously impacted by the genocide in Rwanda, and it was an issue he continued to raise. Furthermore, Condit was the founder of the Blue Dog Coalition, which is the alliance of moderate Democrats. He was one of the few lawmakers who was respected on both sides of aisle and was able to unite the two parties. When Democrats failed to appoint him to a Conference Committee, the Republicans gave him the slot. That rarely happens.

Why Are We in Iraq?: Did Bush Lie and Was There Any Link to Terrorism by Gregory Hilton

President Bush Speaking in Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace in Baghdad in November of 2003

President Bush Speaking in Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace in Baghdad in November of 2003


Winston Churchill once said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” The United States has 4% of earth’s population but produces one-quarter of the world’s wealth every year. America is the only superpower. We have aircraft carrier battle groups in every ocean, troops in 27 different countries, 16 intelligence agencies, and no one else comes close to our power projection capabilities. If we cut back militarily, our national wealth will decline.
America is truly a great nation, and we will not continue to enjoy the benefits of freedom without our national security role. As a great nation we have global responsibilities, and that is why we are in Iraq. The conflict is not over, but 27 million people are living in freedom and I believe history will prove our cause just.
Britain was the superpower of the 19th century. Unlike the United States, they were a colonial power and believed in imperialism. That will never be America’s policy but there is a similarity. The UK was never known for its large army but they nevertheless controlled India with very few soldiers. How did they do that?
There were internal tensions and conflicts in India, and at that time the nation included Pakistan and Bangladesh. They wanted Britain’s role, and for a time it stopped their internal conflicts. The United States is a power for peace, and our role in NATO, the Korea DMZ and the Persian Gulf is wanted.
Sandy Berger, the National Security Advisor to former President Clinton, spoke a few years ago about America’s role in the world. “We cannot be everywhere and do everything. But we also cannot afford to do nothing, and be nowhere,” Berger said. Without American leadership the job will not get done. Iraq is an example of where the US had to lead in order to maintain security and maintain prosperity. We cannot hunker down if we want our children to live safely and thrive. Many people say we must be engaged in the world — but they never want us to do so when our engagement is needed.
The UN inspectors were asked to leave Iraq before President Clinton’s Operation Desert Fox in 1998. They did not return until President Bush insisted. Every intelligence agency in the world told us WMD was still present. Saddam’s high command did not realize he had destroyed the stockpiles, because it was a state secret. If President Bush lied about Iraq, then so did President Clinton, Prime Minister Blair, President Chirac and Chancellor Schroder.
Saddam Hussein did not live up to the 1991 cease fire agreement by meeting HIS burden of proof to disclose the whereabouts of the WMD. Saddam Hussein did not plan the 9/11 attack, and this was never claimed. He was a significant threat to both the United States and the Middle East peace process. The CIA did produce faulty intelligence but there were still numerous reasons to topple Saddam.
It is disappointing the news media rarely reports the direct connections between Saddam’s Iraq and numerous terrorist organizations. This was addressed in a March 2008 Pentagon-sponsored study entitled “Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents.” It was based on a review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents captured after the 2003 US invasion. The study noted “Saddam supported groups either associated directly with al Qaeda (such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led at one time by bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri) or generally shared al Qaeda’s stated goals and objectives.” According to the Pentagon study, there were many terrorist and jihadist groups that Iraq’s former dictator funded, trained, equipped, and armed.
Saddam was willing to use operatives affiliated with al Qaeda, and this “created both the appearance of and, in some ways, a ‘de facto’ link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust.” The report says Saddam had the will to use his terrorist capabilities directly against United States.
The late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda Iraq was responsible for a number of deadly attacks. He and his men trained and fought with al-Qaeda for years. Zarqawi’s network helped establish and operate an explosives and poisons facility in northeast Iraq. Zarqawi and nearly two-dozen al-Qaeda associates were in Baghdad before the fall of Saddam’s regime.

Rick Santelli: The Government is Promoting Bad Behavior by Gregory Hilton

CNBC's Rick Santelli on the trading floor at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange

CNBC's Rick Santelli on the trading floor at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange


Reporting from a trading floor in Chicago, CNBC reporter Rick Santelli heatedly blasted President Barack Obama on February 19th over his plan to ease the housing crisis. “The government is promoting bad behavior. . . This is America. How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? President Obama, are you listening?”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had an angry response today and says Santelli should read the President’s plan. He used Santelli’s name five times, and the CNBC reporter is being portrayed as the next Joe the Plumber. This is ironic in light of the recent debate on the Stimulus Bill.
Santelli published a long post on CNBC’s website defending himself and denying any connection to the “tea party movements that have popped up” since the rant aired, such as those orchestrated by FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit group that put Santelli’s image on its home page soon after the rant aired, along with the words “Are you with Rick? We are.” Santelli says his goal is to spark a debate. “I want the new administration to win this one,” he said. “It’s a question whether spending our children’s money is going to make us win or not, or is it going to take its own time to heal, like a cold going away?”
Santelli noted that numerous Members of Congress said they were forced to vote on a $750 billion bill without reading it. The promise to post it on-line for 48 hours prior to the vote was broken. When it did go on-line the search function was disabled.
Many of my friends are in real estate and some of them have to wait for 7 months before financing is approved. That has to change, and perhaps it is not so bad for the market to find a natural low which determines a true fair price. A 20% down payment on a house sounds like a realistic requirement to me.

Back to the Cold War: Did the U.S. Push Castro and Ortega into the Arms of the Soviet Union

Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega in Managua in 1985.

Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega in Managua in 1985.


Back to the Cold War: Did the U.S. Push Castro and Ortega into the arms of the Soviet Union by Gregory Hilton–A myth continues to circulate in leftist circles that the United States pushed both Cuba and Nicaragua into the arms of the Soviet Union. Sandinista supporters claim this happened because of embargoes and the cut off of medical, humanitarian and food aid.
The problem with the myth is that it conflicts with public statements of Castro and the Sandinista leaders. The FSLN was founded in 1961 by Carlos Fonseca, who always described himself as a Communist. In discussing the origins of the FSLN, Fonseca said it was “a successor to the Bolshevik Revolution. . . the ideals of Lenin are the guiding star in the struggle in which the revolutionaries in Nicaragua are waging.”
Human rights was the focal point of President Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy, and he made no secret of his opposition to the Somoza government. He clearly wanted the Nicaraguan opposition to be successful, and Carter imposed a ban on arms sales to Nicaragua during his first week in office. This was later over turned by the U.S. Congress, but President Carter was able to accomplish it through an executive order. In the FY 1979 budget submitted by the Carter Administration, Nicaragua would be listed as the only nation denied the right to purchase military equipment.
The U.S. government also vetoed funding for Nicaragua from the World Bank, the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank. Nicaragua was entitled to a $20 million line of credit at the IMF, but American opposition stopped it. The biggest blow was denying Somoza money from coffee and beef exports. The United States was able to work with the OAS to stop all cargo ships from entering Nicaraguan waters.
If the promises made by the FSLN during the civil war had been implemented it would have been a clear victory for Carter’s human rights campaign. Carter needed a success for his 1980 re-election where he was vulnerable on foreign policy issues after the seizure of hostages in Iran, the failure of SALT II and the setbacks to detente because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The U.S. embargo on Cuba is still in effect, but few nations have adhered to our action, and today America is the only country to maintain the embargo. Cuba can trade with everyone else. Fidel Castro has never said we pushed him away. He maintains that he was a communist going back to 1954. The USSR and Chairman Mao are gone, eastern Europe is no longer behind the Iron Curtain, Vietnam has adopted a free market, but Castro has not changed his ideology.
The situation in Nicaragua is equally clear and the FSLN was supported by the USSR well before they achieved power. The United States provided funding during the Somoza era to opposition labor unions and newspapers. America was also an active participant in the Nicaraguan power transfer process, including negotiations with the FSLN government in exile when they were based in neighboring Costa Rica.
America did stop arms shipments to Somoza, but the U.S. did not stop arms shipments to the FSLN from Cuba, Costa Rica, Panama or Venezuela. Venezuela was providing the funding, Soviet bloc equipment was sent through Cuba and transshipped on flights to Panama and later to the FSLN bases in Costa Rica.
The civil war began in September of 1978 but by the summer of 1979 the Somoza ammunition stockpile was almost depleted. The major reason Somoza’s National Guard stopped fighting was because they ran out of ammunition. An Israeli ship filled with 50 caliber ammunition and mortars was close to the coast of Nicaragua in June when the Carter Administration was able to cancel the order and the ship turned around. Somoza later wrote “This one ship could have easily turned the tide of the war.”
Nicaragua had not made a significant purchase of modern military equipment since 1957, and the arms used by the FSLN were far superior to Somoza’s National Guard. The Somoza government had a very small air force and navy, and their army lacked anti-tank and anti-personnnel grenades.
The four Somoza tanks were out dated and knocked out immediately by Chinese made RPG rockets. The same rockets caused havoc at National Guard installations. The sentries stationed at check points throughout Managua held automatic weapons but they were without ammunition. The FSLN also made effective use of French bazookas, Belgian mortars and hand grenades.
The Organization of American States passed a resolution on June 23, 1979 which demanded Somoza’s resignation. After that, any arms sale was impossible, and it would not have mattered because the government no longer had significant dollar reserves. No one would accept the Nicaraguan currency and payment had to be made in dollars.
With the advance approval of the FSLN, the US allowed General Somoza and members of his government to seek exile in Miami. On the afternoon of his arrival in Miami, Somoza was told by Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher that he would have to leave the U.S. because his supporters in Managua were not cooperating. Somoza left after two days and was assassinated in Paraguay the next year.
The Carter Administration immediately recognized the new FSLN government and provided them with $10.5 million in aid which originally had been intended for Somoza before it was frozen. This was followed by emergency assistance of $8.8 million, $75 million in foreign aid and 100,000 tons of food in the first two years. Daniel Ortega was invited to the White House, and America had the power to block World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank assistance to the FSLN, but this did not happen.
These actions were taken despite the fact that the FSLN repeatedly lied to American negotiators. The only condition requested by the Carter Administration was a pledge from the FSLN to stop arms transfers to the FMLN in El Salvador. This did not happen and when the arms shipments increased many Democrats in the U.S. Congress urged a cut off in further aid to the Sandinista government.
President Carter took this step 12 days before he left office, and President Ronald Reagan froze all aid to Nicaragua two days after his Inauguration. Reagan’s action was reported in the news media as a continuation of Carter’s policy.
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), the current Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has said “True to its revolutionary beliefs, the Sandinista leadership was more interested in promoting revolution in Central America than in cultivating better relations with the United States. . . With close ties to Fidel Castro, the Sandinista leaders went about the task of setting up a regime modeled on that of their mentor. They invoked press censorship, established a powerful secret police, mounted systematic attacks on the church, and built up a large military force.
“In a little over a year in power the Sandinista popular army was the largest in Central America, having grown from 5,000 to at least 24,000 men. All this, it should be noted, came about prior to the Contra insurgency. In fact it was these policies that contributed to the rise of an armed resistance movement, soon to be known as the Contras. ”
In May 1983, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence confirmed this point. It noted that: “A major portion of the arms and other material sent by Cuba and other Communist countries to the Salvadoran insurgents transits Nicaragua with the permission and assistance of the Sandinistas. . . . The Salvadoran insurgents rely on the use of sites in Nicaragua, some of which are located in Managua itself, for communications, command-and-control, and for the logistics to conduct their financial, material, and propaganda activities.”
In August of 1981, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Enders went to Managua to meet with the Junta. He promised a very generous aid package and no support for any opposition groups in return for one promise — a complete halt in arms shipments to the FMLN which was actively making progress in its effort to overthrow El Salvador’s government.
The American offer was rejected. Sergio Ramirez of the Junta told Enders: “Today we have revolutionary Nicaragua and revolutionary Cuba. Tomorrow we will have revolutionary Salvador.” Four months later the first $20 million in funding was approved for the Contras. Their first assignment was to stop arms shipments into El Salvador, and this was not a covert program.
In announcing it Reagan said: “Our purpose is to prevent the flow of arms [from Nicaragua] to El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica.”
The U.S. Congress passed the Boland Amendment in May of 1985 which barred funding to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. The legislation was overturned in July of 1986 when Congress approved. $100 million in lethal and nonlethal assistance for the Nicaraguan resistance. Military success on the ground for the Contras was undermined by political scandal in Washington. In November 1986 the Iran-Contra affair broke. All efforts by the administration to build public support for its policy toward Nicaragua came to a halt. The momentum for continued military assistance to the resistance fighters was lost. This was confirmed in early February 1988 when by a vote of 219-211 the House of Representatives voted against further military assistance to the Nicaraguan resistance.
If the military pressure of the Nicaraguan resistance helped force the ruling Sandinista regime to agree to hold elections, equally significant was the economic embargo the United States placed upon Nicaragua in May 1985. Those sanctions on top of earlier Sandinista mismanagement of the economy took a heavy toll. By 1989, Nicaragua had been brought to economic disaster with widespread poverty, widespread shortages of consumer goods, an unemployment rate of more than 25 percent, and an inflation rate of 36,000 percent, a world record.
It was obvious the Sandinista revolution had never benefited the poor. In fact, the opposite is true–the revolution benefited the ruling elite at the expense of everyone else in the country. The experience of Nicaraguans replicated the experience of the peoples of Eastern Europe who suffered under 40 years of Communist misrule. The people of Nicaragua knew who had made them poor by wasting resources on unproductive state enterprises in addition to the mansions and luxury automobiles for the commandantes.