Founding of "Moral Majority"
- Washington conservative strategist Paul Weyrich and Virginia televangelist Jerry Falwell establish the Moral Majority to combat "secular humanism," promote conservative Christian values, and support conservative Republican politicians. Memphis evangelical activist Ed McAteer sets up the Religious Roundtable to bring political and religious conservatives together. The California organization Christian Voice begins grading lawmakers on everything from their stances on sex education to their beliefs about school prayer and abortion. 1976 saw the election of a strongly Christian Democrat, Jimmy Carter, but Carter won with the lukewarm (at best) support of Christian conservatives, who found themselves uneasy with Carter and alienated by Gerald Ford. In 1980, Ronald Reagan will be the first presidential candidate to publicly ally himself with the religious right, and wins the strong support of the Moral Majority. His overtly religious campaigning will win the votes of many traditional Democrats, even against a staunch Christian like Jimmy Carter; he will use the same strategy to win an overwhelming victory in 1984. (Kevin Phillips)
- Soviet geologists find huge oil reserves in Kazakhstan on the Caspian Sea, now called the Tengiz oilfields. Condoleezza Rice, currently on the staff of Stanford University, joins the board of directors of Chevron Oil in part to help Chevron land the development contract for Tengiz. Her work and influence helps Chevron land the contract, which will be signed in June 1990. Rice also will help develop the plans for the huge Caspian Sea pipeline from Tengiz to a Russian port in the Black Sea. Additionally, Dick Cheney, after leaving the first Bush administration in 1993, will join the Oil Advisory Board of Kazakhstan, the independent board that advised the government on its plans to develop Tengiz. Cheney will soon join the oil company most likely to profit from the deals Cheney helped negotiate: Halliburton. Halliburton will eventually build the refineries at Tengiz. (Laura Flanders)
- Pentagon staffer Paul Wolfowitz produces the first thorough study of the US's strategic interests in the Persian Gulf. He creates a classified report titled "Capabilities for Limited Contingencies in the Persian Gulf." Wolfowitz, who will become the architect of the Iraqi occupation under George W. Bush, writes, "We and our major industrialized allies have a vital and growing stake in the Persian Gulf region because of our need for Persian Gulf oil and because events in the Persian Gulf affect the Arab-Israeli conflict. ...The importance of Persian Gulf oil cannot be easily exaggerated." While most American strategists are focusing on the worry that the oil supply could be cut off by a Soviet invasion of the Gulf region, Wolfowitz takes a different tack: "Iraq may in the future use her military forces against such states as Kuwait or Saudi Arabia." (James Mann/Al Franken)
Iran becomes a religious theocracy
- January 16: After almost two years of open rebellion, Iran's government is overthrown despite the best efforts of the CIA, which tries until the very end to organize a military coup to save the Shah. Shi'ite fundamentalists led by Ayatollah Khomeini assume despotic rule, and the Shah flees to Morocco. (ZNet, Decades History Timeline, History Lesson: Middle East Timeline)
- April 10: Carter signs the Taiwan Security Act, sponsored by Congress in response to Carter's refusal to recognize Taiwan as an independent nation and his declaration that the People's Republic of China is the sole authority over the whole of China. The TRA mandates that the US will "maintain the capacity...to resist any resort by force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan." Future president Ronald Reagan will reaffirm the 1972 Shanghai Communique of Nixon and Kissinger that recognizes Taiwan as a part of China, and though Taiwan continues to remain putatively independent and under a shadow of US protection, the small island nation cannot expect to declare outright independence and have the support of the US. (Taiwan Security Research, Pat Buchanan)
- May 9: A package found in a common area at Northwestern University explodes when it is opened by graduate student John Harris. Harris suffers minor injuries. This is the second strike from the so-called "Unabomber." (Unabomber Timeline)
- June: President Carter signs a secret directive authorizing funding to Afghani rebels. The intent, as later described by security advizor Zbigniew Brzezinski, is to destabilize Afghanistan enough to draw a military response from the USSR, in effect handing the Soviets "their own Vietnam." The attempt is successful. Osama bin Laden becomes one of the point men for Washington's attempt to destabilize Afghanistan in the 1970s and 1980s as part of its goal to, in Brzezinsky's words, give "the USSR its own Vietnam." Over the next thirteen years, the CIA will spend $3 billion training and arming Islamist radicals such as bin Laden to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan; the expenditures are matched dollar for dollar by the Saudi Arabians. It will be the largest US covert operation since World War II. The program actually begins months before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Some 35,000 Muslims from 43 countries will fight with the Afghan mujahedeen, or holy warriors; another 100,000 will be influenced by the war either through military training or by attending militant Islamic schools. "[T]he whole country is a university for jihad," observes Afghan commander Noor Amin. When asked later if he had any regrets over arming and advising future Islamic terrorists, Brzezinski will retort, "What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet Union? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?" Brzezinski was not asked to extend his remarks in the light of the September 11, 2001 attacks. (CCR)
MX missiles deployed in Western states
- June: Carter reluctantly approves the placement of 200 nuclear-tipped MX missiles and 4600 "soft shelters" in Utah and Nevada. The MX has been controversial since 1971. Designed to obviate the possibility of Soviet nuclear missiles obliterating American missile sites, the MX has 10 separate re-entry warheads, all with 300-kiloton payloads, but the big difference is that it is housed on a mobile platform -- it can be moved from site to site by train, truck, and even submerged in lakes. Ranchers in Western states have bitterly opposed the MS, and the program worries the Soviets, who, like the Americans, use satellites to keep up with the other's nukes to ensure that each side isn't cheating on the arms agreements. Popular, hardline Republican Ronald Reagan, gearing up for a 1980 run for the presidency, uses the MX issue to whip up opposition to Carter in the West, but once in office, he will reverse his anti-MX stance and embrace the program.
- When Reagan takes office, he will first propose that the MX be stored in superhardened silos, but that idea, obviating the MX's central design of mobility, quickly dies in Congress. Reagan then appoints a commission, chaired by national security advisor Brent Scowcroft, to figure out what to do with the MX. One of the commission members is Donald Rumsfeld, Ford's secretary of defense. The Scowcroft commission decides that 100 MXs should go permanently in existing Minuteman silos, and smaller, single-warhead rockets called "Midgetmen" will complement the MX, which Reagan euphemistically dubs the "Peacekeeper." Congress will later approve only 50 MX missiles.
- Democratic House speaker Tip O'Neill opposes the MX program entirely. Referring to Reagan's terming the Soviet Union the "evil empire," O'Neill caustically counters that the "evil" is inside the White House. "When you mention the peacekeeper, the president thinks it's a missile," O'Neill says. "That's not what the Lord meant." Though O'Neill is a Christian of deep faith, House Republican Dick Cheney accuses O'Neill of using Biblical metaphors to "poison national politics" and sully the dignity of his office.
- Conservative libertarians like John Perry Barlow, the noted Grateful Dead lyricist and a friend of Cheney's, are split from the Republican majority over the MX. Barlow says that, in his extensive discussions with numerous Congressmen about the MX, Cheney "was the only one who knew more about it than I did." But Cheney is adamant in his support for the program. Barlow's meeting with Cheney to discuss his concerns is joined by Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory, who says to Barlow after the meeting, "I think your guy Cheney is the most dangerous person I've seen up here." Barlow recalls, "Cheney believes the world is an inherently dangerous place, and he sees the rest of the world as populated by 4-year olds with automatic weapons." (Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein)
Sandinista government in Nicaragua falls
- July: After years of opposition by the leftist Sandinistas, the US-friendly dictatorship of General Anastasio Somoza falls in Nicaragua. (Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said of Somoza, "Somoza may be a son of a b*tch, but he's our son of a b*tch.") Somoza flees to Miami. The new ruling junta includes Sandinista leaders Daniel Ortega and Moises Hassan, novelist Sergio Ramírez Mercado, businessman Alfonso Robelo Callejas, and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, a publisher whose husband, Sandinista leader Pedro Chamarro, was assassinated in 1978. (Somoza ordered the assassination of Chamarro because he believed Chamarro was being groomed as his replacement by the US.) After Robelo and Chamorro resign from the junta, the Sandinistas under Ortega's leadership become undisputed heads of the new government and undertake a radical program for economic transformation and reconstruction of the war-torn country. Parts of the Sandinista program are inspired by Fidel Castro's socialist system in Cuba, while other parts are modeled after social democracies in Europe and the US.
- Somoza's flight was planned and executed by the US State Department once it became clear that Somoza would be defeated in the national elections. The US ambassador to Nicaragua tells Somoza exactly when to leave his country.
- Almost immediately after Somoza's ouster, Congressional Republicans, joined by the State Department, the CIA, and some Democrats, begin planning the destabilization and eventual overthrow of the Sandinistas. It isn't long before the US begins financing and assisting a rebellion against the Sandinistas, to be known as the Contras. The Contras are considered terrorists by the Sandinistas but labeled "freedom fighters" by the Reagan and Bush administrations. Many of the Contras' attacks are against civilian targets, particularly against defenseless farm collectives. The Contras operate primarily out of Honduras, and are led by former National Guard (army) colonel Enrique Bermudez and later by wealthy businessman and anti-Sandinista politician Adolfo Calero. Former Sandinista Eden Pastora creates another opposition group that allies itself with the Contras in 1983. The US will support the Contras through legal and illegal means, including illegal arms supplied from the Middle East via the "Iran-Contra" connection as well as profits from CIA-run drug smuggling operations both in Latin America and inside the US itself. Chamarro and her newspaper, La Prensa, become fierce opponents of Ortega's regime; in return, Ortega has Chamarro's newspaper shut down several times, accusing Chamarro of taking US monies and supporting the US-backed Contra insurgency against the Sandinistas. Ortega wins the presidency of Nicaragua in 1985, but will lose a hotly contested, fraud-marred election to Chamarro in 1990; Chamarro leads a US-sponsored coalition of Nicaraguan political parties collectively called the United Nicaraguan Front; the UNO is organized and named by US colonel Oliver North. Ortega continues to lead the Sandinista party in the Nicaraguan parliament. (Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Larry Kolb, Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein)
- July 15: Carter gives his famous "malaise" speech, where he tells the country, "I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy.... I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might. The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation." Although viewed by some as overt sermonizing (Carter is a devout Baptist), the speech resonates with many, recognizing the problems of the country's current languishing in a recession and with inflation and unemployment at record levels. However, Carter fails to show a way out of the darkness, and suffers much criticism of being a weak leader who may recognize the problem but has no real solutions. In the following days, Carter asks for the resignations of his entire Cabinet, and accepts five of them. His support among the citizenry drops even further, exacerbated by his economic policies, which in hindsight righted the country from its slide into economic recession, but necessitated a painful period of adjustment where unemployment spiraled before inflation could begin dropping. (Wikipedia
Saddam Hussein installed as Iraq's leader through auspices of the CIA
- July 16: Saddam Hussein, with the blessings of the CIA, takes over the leadership of the government and becomes Iraq's dictator, citing General al-Bakr's "failing health" and falsely blaming Syria for trying to destabilize the Iraqi government. The CIA officer who oversaw the operation that placed Hussein in power called it "my favorite coup." The Hussein regime and the Western intelligence communities begin a long, intimate relationship; the relationship between Baghdad, London, and Washington has long been known in British intelligence circles as "the love affair." (Decades History Timeline, FactMonster, MidEast Web, BBC, Mirror)
- October: President Carter, previously unwilling to admit the exiled Shah of Iran to the United States, relents after the severity of the Shah's ill health becomes known, and at the advice of Henry Kissinger. "He went around the room, and most of us said, 'Let him in.'" recalls Vice President Walter Mondale. "And he said, 'And if [the Iranians] take our employees in our embassy hostage, then what would be your advice?' And the room just fell dead. No one had an answer to that. Turns out, we never did." (PBS, Amy and David Goodman)
American hostages taken by Iranian extremists
- November 4: Iranian militants attack the US embassy and take over 90 American and Western hostages. 52 remain in captivity for 444 days. The hostages are held in an attempt to force the US to turn over the escaped Shah and his assets to Iran, and to apologize for "crimes against the Iranian people." The Iranians also fear that the US will attempt to reinstall the Shah in a replay of the US-orchestrated 1953 coup that overthrew the democratically elected Mossadeq administration and installed the Shah's tyrannical government. President Carter refuses to comply, and tries various economic and diplomatic methods to achieve their release. Carter's popularity drops every day that "America is held hostage;" the American media keeps relentless count of every day the hostages are in captivity. (Decades History Timeline, Amy and David Goodman)
- November 12: The US begins an embargo on Iranian oil in response to the attack on the embassy. (Decades History Timeline)
- November 15: Twelve people are injured aboard an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Washington, when a package mailed from Chicago explodes in the cargo hold. The third known bomb from the so-called "Unabomber," this bomb is much more sophisticated than the first two; still, no serious injuries are inflicted. (Unabomber Timeline)
- December: The Reagan camp's courtship of the Guatemalan dictatorship begins in earnest with a visit to Guatemala by a delegation from the American Security Council, a private ultra-right US military lobby. One of the consultants on Guatemalan affairs for the ASC film Attack on the Americas is John Trotter, the notorious manager of Guatemala City's Coca-Cola bottling plant franchise. Trotter has been implicated in the death squad murders of a number of workers and union leaders at the bottling plant and was removed from management by Coca-Cola headquarters after an international union and church-led boycott of Coke protesting the situation at the plant in Guatemala. Trotter is also a director of the Guatemala Freedom Foundation, a pro-Lucas (General Lucas Garcia, dictator of Guatemala) international lobby group founded by extremist Roberto Alejos. Alejos hosts the ASC delegation and helped set up an itinerary which included visits with President Lucas and the Guatemalan military high command, helicopter tours to inspect rural counter-insurgency activities, and a cocktail party with Guatemalan businessmen at Alejos's estate. The delegation is headed by two Reagan associates, retired General John Singlaub, who has served as ASC's Director of Education, and retired Lieutenant General Daniel Graham, the former Defense Intelligence Agency head, who maintains an office at ASC's Washington headquarters. As an advisor to Reagan, Graham will retain his position as co-chairperson for the Coalition for Peace Through Strength, a Washington lobby composed of retired military personnel, pushing for a larger defense budget.
- The Missouri branch of the Coalition met with Guatemalan and Salvadoran business and political leaders in St. Louis last May. Among the Guatemalan visitors were Manuel Ayau and Roberto Alejos. Ayau is a member of his nation's most ultra-conservative party, the National Liberation Movement, which is directly linked to paramilitary death squads freely operating in the country. He is considered to be the ideologue of the more extremist sector of the business community, and is also on the board of GFF. Alejos and Ayau will become well-known figures in Reagan's Washington. With extensive help from their PR people, they will meet with Congressional staff and State Department officials in the hopes of enlisting support for their political positions. Last August, Singlaub told an interviewer that he was "terribly impressed" at how the Lucas regime is "desperately trying to promote human rights" and lamented the fact that "as the [Guatemalan] government loses support from the United States, it gives the impression to the people that there's something wrong with their government." As for Graham, he acknowledged during an interview last year that he told President Lucas Garcia that on his return to the United States, he would urge the Reagan campaign team to provide for the resumption of military training and aid to Guatemala as soon as a victorious Reagan would be installed in office. (Covert Action Quarterly)
Civil war in Afghanistan involves both the US and the USSR
- December 29: The Soviets invade Afghanistan in an attempt to prop up the pro-Soviet PDPA (People's Democratic Republic of Afghanistan) regime. The CIA supplies arms and funding to anyone who will oppose the Soviets and the PDPA, including fanatical Muslim groups that will later evolve into terrorist organizations opposed to US interests, such as al-Qaeda. While most believe that the invasion was unprovoked, the CIA actually began destabilizing the pro-Soviet Afghan government months beforehand. According to Carter's security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, the idea was not to overthrow the PDPA, but to lure the Soviets into a quagmire similar to the Vietnam War, a scenario later termed "the Afghan Trap." Over $40 billion is provided to the Afghan rebels, mostly from the US and Saudi Arabia, though the money was largely managed by ther ISI (Pakistan's intelligence agency). Ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern recalls that one of the harshest debates within the CIA was whether or not to supply the rebels with Stinger missiles: "The dangers of giving these uncontrollable folks Stinger missiles was emphasized, but the decision was to go ahead and give them those missiles anyway. In many respects, the folks that were used as our proxies in this war against the Soviets have come back to bite us, and to bite us very hard as we know from 9/11."
- Osama bin Laden will establish his reputation as a Muslim freedom fighter through his financial backing of the mujaheddin; bin Laden's connections to the CIA date back at least this far. McGovern says, "In addition, these bad guys were our good guys. Osama bin Laden and all those folks were people we armed and trained, and when you get that close –- and this is a systemic problem within the Agency -- when you get that close so that you're in bed with these guys, you can't step back and say, 'Whoa, wait a second. These guys could be a real danger in the future.' You can't make a calculated, dispassionate analysis of what might be in store for these guys. It was a poor situation politically, strategically, and as it turned out, analytically as well." Osama bin Laden, who becomes one of the premier paymasters for the Afghan mujahedeen, is a wealthy Saud whose father, a wealthy Yemeni businessman, moved his family to Saudi Arabia. Milton Bearden, the CIA station chief in Pakistan from 1986 - 1989, says Osama bin Laden and his family were crucial to the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan: "There were a lot of bin Ladens who came to do jihad, and they unburdened us a lot. These guys were bringing in up to $20 to $25 million a month from other Saudis and Gulf Arabs to underwrite the war. And that is a lot of money. It's an extra $200 to $300 million a year." After the war concludes, the Islamic freedom fighters will be discarded by their former US allies, and after the US sends 540,000 troops to Saudi Arabia in 1991, bin Laden and other Islamic militants turn their enmity against their former American allies. By sending troops into Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam's two most holy cities, Mecca and Medina, bin Laden and other Islamic militants see the US as "infidels" deserving of retribution. (ZNet, Truthout, Truthout, CCR, Amy and David Goodman)
- Late December: George W. Bush's Arbusto Oil receives $50,000 from James Bath, a close family friend who is also the sole US business representative for Salem bin Laden. It is suspected that the money came directly from the bin Laden family, but efforts to conceal this connection are successful, so no proof is forthcoming. After 9/11, the Bush administration harshly denied any connection to the bin Laden family. Bush first stated that he didn't know Bath at all, then backtracked and admitted that he knew Bath well and was aware of his ties to the bin Ladens. Bath also has deep ties to BCCI, the scandal-plagued Arabic bank with ties to terrorists, drug trafficking, and arms dealing. (In These Times, Project Censored, Killtown)