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Reagan's Robe and Glory

Regan's secret is Bush's lie.
As the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, President Bush justifies his war by assuming the robe and glory of Ronald Reagan. What is held up as Reagan's glory is the Reagan Doctrine, an unwavering hard-line resolve to defeat the Soviet Union. It is reasoned that because Reagan's Cold War resolve led to victory over the "evil empire", Bush's unwavering resolve in the War on Terror will lead to victory over the "axis of evil". Unfortunately, the syllogism is rooted in fraudulent history. At the height of the Cold War confrontation, in late 1984, the events and the words of world leaders disappeared from history. This sin of omission stains the logic of the Bush administration.

What follows is a partial account of this Cold War turning point. And much like an actor's blemish, this flaw in the Reagan iconography is hidden under a thick layer of pancake make-up.


The first Reagan administration -- emboldened by military prowess, and fired with a rabidly anti-communist ideology -- challenged an enfeebled Soviet leadership. Tension mounted in the tit-for-tat of dominance escalation. When America deployed the nuclear-tipped Pershing 2 missile in central Europe in 1983, the Soviets responded by an aggressive deployment of an improved nuclear-powered attack submarine. The deployment of this submarine was to shake the American nuclear war-fighting establishment to its foundation.

U.S. Navy officials were chided after the March 21, 1984 collision of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk and a Soviet attack submarine. It was inconceivable that a Soviet submarine could penetrate undetected an aircraft carrier battle group's anti-submarine defensive perimeter. In the painful nine months to follow the U.S. Navy would discover that not only had the Soviets quieted their newest attack submarines, they had also compromised the entire American anti-submarine defense infrastructure. This failure would be attributed, after their arrests in 1985, to the espionage activities of the John Walker spy ring.

As a result of this espionage the Soviet Union was able to detect and track America's Trident missile submarine.

History has written that Cold War animosities peaked in 1983. This lie is exposed by the comments of then U.N. Secretary General Javier Pe'rez de Cue'llar who, in a December 12, 1984 General Assembly address, criticized the superpowers for allowing an "ideological confrontation" to "jeopardize the future of humanity". On December 14 the Soviet delegate of the Stockholm conference on European Security accused the United States and NATO of preparing for war. When Mikhail Gorbachev, in what was his first international appearance, arrived in London on December 15 he stated that he hoped "to have a frank exchange of opinion on ways to overcome the present dangerous development of the international situation and make the world healthier again." In a speech to the British House of Commons on December 18 Gorbachev said: "The world situation remains complicated and the danger of war is the reality of the day."

The events of late 1984, however, have fallen into the black hole of secrecy. On April 8, 1987 the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published "A P-I Special Report: Submarine Intruders" by reporter Ed Offley. In the article "Spy ring helped Soviets sneak subs to Whidbey" it was revealed that: "One [Soviet] submarine is known to have ventured as far as the entrance to Admiralty Inlet between Whidbey Island and the Olympic Peninsula, a key passage for the Trident submarines traveling between their base at Bangor and the ocean." In a companion article "Soviets score a coup with sub progress" Mr. Offley states that "The ability of Soviet submarines to slip inside the Strait of Juan de Fuca at least as far as Whidbey Island, location of a key Navy base, comes from Soviet knowledge of blind spots and weaknesses in the anti-sub defense system detected because of the Walker betrayals." The Navy denied, without comment, the veracity of these articles.

It was nonetheless obvious when this intrusion occurred. On the morning of December 7, 1984 the shipping lanes through and the air space above Admiralty Inlet were closed to all traffic. Richard Wright, commanding officer of the Coast Guard's Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service, said that shipping lanes were closed down due to "extremely hazardous conditions". He said that it was the first time anyone could recall that shipping lanes were totally closed. When United Press International's Seattle bureau chief queried the Coast Guard she was referred to the FBI. The FBI when queried cited "national security."

Other Puget Sound events indicative of submarine warfare occurred. On December 13 a Navy EA-6B electronic counter-measure aircraft exploded in mid-flight over the northern entrance of Admiralty Inlet. On December 21 a large oil spill of a heavy marine grade distillate mysteriously washed ashore at the southern entrance of Admiralty Inlet. On January 11 a fishing boat hauled to the surface an anti-submarine mine from Rich Passage, the waterway leading to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

If the security of the American ballistic missile submarine fleet were threatened a vigorous response would be expected. The missile submarine was the invulnerable leg of the Triad; an array of intercontinental bomber, land, and submarine based nuclear warhead delivery systems. In 1984, the American submarine based missile did not have the accuracy to destroy the hardened silos of the Soviet land-based ICBM. The missile submarine functioned as a massive deterrent against a Soviet first strike. In the logic of the Triad, if American nuclear-war planners could not be assured of a missile submarine's wartime survival, the Triad would crumble. Without this deterrence U.S. strategic weapons would be placed on a launch on warning status. The world was one step from all-out nuclear war.

The Soviets had America in check -- America had the next move.

Due to ease of detection and questionable reliability, the Soviets held their missile submarines close to home. They would only deploy in the open ocean in the prospect of a nuclear exchange. In the American nuclear war-fighting plan U.S. naval forces were to blockade routes to the open ocean, and in conjunction with an attack on Soviet land-based missile silos, destroy the Soviet missile submarine fleet. To counter that scenario, the Soviets would need their most capable attack submarines to protect their highly vulnerable missile submarines. Unfortunately for the Soviets, when the U.S. Navy paid a visit, their most capable attack submarines were deployed across the ocean, in the strategic waters of the Pacific Northwest.

On December 19, 1984 the New York Times reported on this incident. Described as the largest naval engagement since World War II, U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups sortied on the naval bases of the Soviet Far East. This feigned attack functioned to draw the forward deployed Soviet attack submarines back to home waters and eliminated the immediate threat to the Trident missile submarine. The Soviet response to this provocation was described as "the kind of alert the Russians would launch if their defense controllers thought Soviet military installations were about to be attacked."

Mikhail Gorbachev had by this time arrived for his historic London visit. Margaret Thatcher pronounced Gorbachev "a man that the West could do business with." The slide to Armageddon had been arrested.

Military tensions would gradually subside over the next several months. On December 28 an errant Soviet cruise missile crossed Norwegian airspace and then passed into Finnish airspace before disappearing. On January 11, 1985 a German based American Pershing 2 missile ignited in its launch cradle and sent tremors down the backs of officials in the U.S. Department of Defense, the Soviets, adding rather succinctly, that such an accident "could become the cause of outbreak of a nuclear war."


What is obvious in this hidden history is that the Reagan Doctrine brought the world to the very brink of nuclear war. Fortunately, Mikhail Gorbachev was waiting in the wings for Soviet leadership when history called. Another man may not have been as deft in the role of peacemaker. As for Ronald Reagan, he went soft at the Reykjavik summit of October 1986. He agreed to the elimination of all nuclear weapons, and had to be quickly reeled back in. In Gorbachev's view, Reagan was "being held captive by this (military-industrial) complex."

Twenty years later we inhabit an eerily parallel universe. The military-industrial complex runs George W. Bush as the mythic Ronald Reagan vanquishing an evil foe. No mention of an almost vanquished world. Blind to this past we walk blind into an unknown future, leaving to fate the thread of humanity.