The notion of designating a holiday for Ronald Reagan has reappeared at the NH State House in the form of HB 448, establishing February 6 as “Ronald Reagan Day.” The bill begins:
The general court finds that:
I. President Ronald Wilson Reagan, a man of humble background, worked throughout his life advancing freedom and serving the public good, having been employed as an entertainer, union leader, corporate spokesman, Governor of California, and President of the United States of America.
It goes on from there.
“Freedom?” “Public good?” Not so fast.
With a pubic hearing on this bill scheduled for tomorrow, it’s timely to re-publish this piece I wrote when the notion of a Reagan Day appeared a decade ago.
But first it should be noted that HB 448 does not actually make Ronald Reagan Day a holiday. State holidays are designated in Chapter 288 of the State’s statute book. HB 448 merely orders the Governor to issue a proclamation each year on February 6, Reagan’s birthday, by adding a provision to an existing law concerning an annual proclamation of Genocide Awareness Day.
I offer this to spare future governors from the obligation:
“NEW HAMPSHIRE REMEMBERS RONALD REAGAN” blared the banner hanging from the State House a few days after his death last June . Remember Reagan? Indeed I did. In fact, I remembered him speaking from the front steps of the State House September 18, 1985. It was only a month after the New York Times had exposed his government for giving secret support to the Nicaraguan “contras” in violation of the will of Congress.
“Rebels fighting to overthrow the Nicaraguan government have been receiving direct military advice from White House officials on the National Security Council,” Joel Brinkley wrote in a front page story. Military aid to the contras had been outlawed by Congress the previous year. “The operation has been run by a military officer who is a member of the National Security Council,” Brinkley reported. It was one of the first public references to Oliver North.
Operating from bases in Honduras (where John Negroponte was U.S. Ambassador), the contras were known for attacks on schools and clinics. Reed Brody, a young attorney, visited Concord three months before Reagan to describe interviews he had conducted with Nicaraguan civilians about the contra attacks. “They attack towns, civilians and civilian leaders, and economic sites. They tend to do it with a barbarity that was difficult for me to understand,” Brody told the Concord Monitor [June 6. 1985].
Speaking at a public event in Concord, Brody, [who later became] a Special Counsel at Human Rights Watch in New York, quoted from a statement of a lay pastor about an attack on a Nicaraguan village. “We found [Juan Perez] assassinated in the mountains,” swore Innocente Peralta. “They had tied his hands behind his back. They hung him on a wire fence. They opened up his throat and took out his tongue. Another bayonet had gone in through his stomach and come out his back. Finally they cut off his testicles.”
The World Court, formally known as the International Court of Justice, ruled in 1986 that the United States had violated international law “by training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the contra forces or otherwise encouraging, supporting and aiding military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua.” Specific acts the Court found to be illegal included the mining of Nicaragua’s harbors, a trade embargo, attacks on ports, and publication of a training manual instructing the contras in commission of acts that violated humanitarian law.
The FBI defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in the furtherance of political or social objectives.”
In other words, the Reagan Administration committed acts of terrorism.
Twenty years after Reagan’s visit to the State House, New Hampshire’s legislature is considering a proposal to declare a New Hampshire holiday in his name. In the words of Reagan’s widow, “Just Say No.”