Last night I went to see the movie "Kill the Messenger". Aside from being a great movie, it tells some important historical facts. In fact, i'm surprised the movie even exists - and that it's so good!
A little historical background, which the movie begins to hint at:
throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s, our government supported the brutal Somoza family as the dictators of Nicaragua, who happily created a welcoming business environment for US corporations. Then, in 1979, the
Sandinista National Liberation Movement successfully overthrew the Somozas and began a serious program along social democratic lines that was less friendly towards US business interests.
The US government began to fund former members of Somoza's military (called "the contras") to overthrow the sandinistas. Their military campaign targeted civilians and carried out brutal atrocities.
However, due to incredible public pressure, Congress eventually banned military aid to the contras. There's a lesson here, for those who would pay attention, about the effectiveness our popular organizing in changing government policies.
The congressional ban on aid to the contras led Reagan to resort to cover means to fund them. Those illegal means certainly included the (secret) sale of weapons to Iran. (This is known in US popular culture as the "Iran-Contra scandal").
This brings us to the movie: California Journalist Gary Webb (who is the main character in the movie) began a journalistic investigation into allegations that another (secret and illegal) mechanism that the
US government used to fund the contras was to aid them in the sale of cocaine - large amounts of with wound up in Los Angeles, creating the birth of the "crack epidemic". (if the allegations are true, a serious
"war on drugs" would begin by bombing Washington DC).
Gary Webb wrote a book about this called "Dark Alliance", of which a couple of copies are available in the WPJC library.
The movie is well worth the price of admission, and is worthy of support - we need more movies like it! I always wonder why people read fiction, when the real world is filled with heroes like Gary Webb and villains like Ronald Reagan.