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Locked in a Cold War Time Warp

Drawing By Nathaniel St. Clair

On Saturday May 18th, the New York Times ran a lengthy front-page article by Alexander Burns and Sydney Ember entitled “Mayor Who Brought the Cold War to Vermont,” which exemplifies how the poisonous political climate of the Cold War has not yet receded.

The piece details presidential contender Bernie Sanders’ opposition to Ronald Reagan’s Central America Wars in the 1980s while Burlington Mayor, and Sanders’ travels to Nicaragua and meeting with Sandinista revolutionary leader Daniel Ortega.

The article also mentioned Sanders’ travels to Cuba where he came away impressed by Cuba’s “free health care, free education [and free housing],” and a trip to Yaroslavi in the Soviet Union, a Burlington sister-city, whose health care system, Sanders noted, was “free or virtually free.”

Sanders told the Times reporters: “I plead guilty to, throughout my adult life, doing everything that I can to prevent war and destruction.”

The piece, however, made a point of quoting Burlington residents who felt Sanders should have focused his energies on local matters like repairing sidewalks, and Otto J. Reich, former special envoy for Nicaragua under Reagan, who stated that “by virtue of these travels and associations, [Sanders] joined up with some of the most repressive regimes in the world.”

Burns and Ember editorialized that Sanders often “walked a line between fostering kinship with a foreign people and admiring aspects of a repressive system.”

If Sanders walked a fine line, however, what about the frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic Party nomination, Joe Biden whom The Times has never questioned for supporting repressive systems?

During the Arab Spring protests in Egypt, even National Public Radio (NPR) considered Biden to be on the “wrong side of history” when he rejected the term “dictator” to describe Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak who had at that point been in power for over 31 years.

When asked by PBS Newshour anchor Jim Lehrer whether the time had come for Mubarak, who mercilessly attacked demonstrators, to step aside, Biden said “no,” adding only that he hoped Mubarak would “be more responsive to some of the needs of the people out there.”

Two decades earlier, “lunch Bucket” Joe was again on the wrong side of history when he supported Reagan’s backing of the military junta in El Salvador, which was found by a Truth Commission to have been responsible for 93 percent of atrocities in the country’s civil war.

During the 1990s, as ranking Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee, Biden championed increased military aid to Colombia, the most repressive regime in Latin America, which set a record for the number of trade union activists killed. Biden was a key architect of Plan Colombia, a militarized counter-narcotics program that helped intensify human rights abuses carried out in the war against the left-wing Fuerzas Armada Revolucionario de Colombia (FARC).

The Times has not raised any moral qualms about these policies, or about Biden’s close friendship during his Vice-Presidency with Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq whom locals considered to be a “Shia Saddam,” or Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine who came to power in an illegal coup in February 2014.

These latter regimes possessed much worse human rights records then the Sandinistas who won free and fair elections in 1984, which have been airbrushed from history.

Locked in a Cold War time warp, the New York Times is partaking in the shameful slandering of the one Democratic Party candidate capable of mobilizing people to defeat Trump by associating him with socialist governments that actually succeeded in improving the living quality of their populations.

This neo-McCarthyite campaign – only slightly more subtle than Fox News – can succeed only because of the abysmal ignorance of the American population about foreign affairs, which is in part a product of the mainstream media’s distorted coverage.

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Jeremy Kuzmarov is the author of The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (Monthly Review Press, 2018) and Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting for the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2019).

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