Kill The Messenger
Those of us who are hopelessly
optimistic about our country, and always in support of its elected leaders, no
matter what: we
all want to believe that our Presidents are always acting in our enlightened
interest as a country, and that they are fully operating under the constraints
of the laws of the land while they do.
Of course, experience has proven that this is not
always the case, but some of us wish to give to those in high office the
benefit of the doubt (see I Timothy 2:2, Titus 3:1).
That’s why this film is particularly disturbing
to those of us who like to think that Presidents don’t do anything willfully
illegal, just predictably unpopular.
In the Reagan years, we, as a
country, were still operating under the assumption that it was our highest
duty to stop the pernicious spread of Communism (this assumption not only
carried us through the Cold War, and into the Cuban Missile Crisis, but also
propelled us into the quagmire of
Reagan, for one, devoutly believed that it was important to support the
, especially as the rebels were seen as attempting to undermine
Socialist regimes. (Besides,
are perilously close to our inherent national interest in
access to the
But Congress, then, as now, was
bi-partisan, and the President’s obdurate opposition effectively blocked his
requests for funding the Contras.
(It’s a time-honored tradition in a two-party
system for the party not occupying the White House at the time to be as
un-cooperative as possible regarding any Presidential request for legislation.
Some things never change.)
President Reagan was apparently so
convinced of the righteousness of his cause to fund the Contras that he
(and/or his dutiful minions) concocted a grand surreptitious funding scheme:
the CIA would run drugs, using paid local
operatives to transport them from Central American into the
the money that was made in their sale and distribution inside our biggest
cities was then covertly funneled into secret purchases of weapons and
ammunition for the Contras.
The thinking was somewhat along the lines of,
“Well, the drugs are going to get run, anyway, we might as well make the
profits off them ourselves, and use the proceeds to fund something important
to us, that the idiots around us can’t seem to grasp the significance of.”
Of course, that plan was illegal for all kinds of
reasons, not to mention immoral, in providing easy access to the poisonously
addicting “crack” cocaine on hapless
citizens who were mostly poor minorities.
Whole communities became social wastelands.
And some very bad people were profiting mightily,
with the apparent support and cooperation of the
Secretly, of course.
National security, you know.
A reporter for a somewhat obscure
newspaper, Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner), stumbles upon this
nefarious plot because he received a tip from the estranged wife of one of the
drug runners, who had her own motivations for blowing the lid off this
explosive deception. Webb
had apparently developed a local reputation of one who sought “The Truth”
in his stories, because the public had a right to know.
But aggressive investigative
journalism is not an example of a course in How To Win Friends and Influence
first, Webb’s little paper wanted confirmation of the details of the story,
some of which Webb came by sources wishing to remain anonymous, but his
editors were proud to share basking in the glory of the national spotlight
when the nasty revelations first emerged.
However, it was not long before the
“push-back” came, with many higher-up people having lots of motivation to
discredit Webb, threaten his family, and generally make the whole thing go
away quietly (in part by only reluctantly admitting part of the culpability,
and then only when the country was completely distracted by other, bigger,
headlines, like Clinton/Lewinsky).
But powerful, as well.
Especially since it’s based on a true story.
The trouble is, we’ll never really know all the
truth here. But
even the part that is revealed is enough to rattle your confidence in the good
intentions of our duly-elected political leaders.
As if we need more of that right now.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,