Robert Parry


History of Guatemala's Death Squads by Robert Parry

[2008] The Bushes And Hitler's Appeasement by Robert Parry

[2005] America's Debt to Gary Webb. Punished for reporting the truth while those who covered it up thrived By Robert Parry

[1993] Fooling America. A talk by Robert Parry

[1997] Media Mythology: Is the Press Liberal? By Robert Parry


[1999] Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & "Project Truth" by Robert Parry

But the press has gone from being when I got there '77 as a Watergate press corp, with its faults, with being maybe a little too overly zealous in pursuing some minor infraction, but still - it was there as the watchdog. What we have now, and its continuing into this new era, is the Reagan-Bush press corp. It's the press corp that they helped create - that they created partly by purging those, or encouraging the purging of those who were not going along, but it was ultimately the editors and the news executives that did the purging. It wasn't the White House or the State Department or the Embassy in El Salvador that drove Ray Bonner out of the New York Times; it was the New York Times executives who did it. And throughout that whole era it wasn't the State Department or the White House that ruined Paul Allen's career at NPR, it was NPR executives. And this was the case all the way around Washington. The people who succeeded and did well were those who didn't stand up, who didn't write the big stories, who looked the other way when history was happening in front of them, and went along either consciously or just by cowardice with the deception of the American people. [1993] Fooling America. A talk by Robert Parry

This administration had a thing about Central America. At the time there had been a number of atrocities that were occurring, and the four American churchwomen had been killed. And the explanations coming from this transition team were quite remarkable. If you remember, Jean Kirkpatrick suggested in one interview that these weren't really nuns, they were more political activists, which always struck me as an amazing suggestion that it's okay to kill political activists. Anyway, it seemed like a very important area to them, one that might end up driving much of what they did, at least in terms of foreign policy and national security issues.
    So I began working on it. And that experience, in a way, shaped what I did for the rest of my time at the AP. And it was also striking to me that that experience was beyond anything I could have imagine, as an American citizen, watching. It was a case of wide- spread killing - political killing - of dissidents, torture, in the case of women often rape was involved; and this government was not just supporting it, not just providing the weapons and the military support, but trying to excuse it, rationalize it and essentially hide it.  [1993] Fooling America. A talk by Robert Parry

But the reality became the greatest threat, even at that stage, to what the new administration wanted to accomplish, and what they wanted to accomplish was I think something they felt strongly about ideologically which was their view that the communists were on the march, that the Soviets were an expanding power, that you had to stop every left wing movement in its tracks and reverse it. And they were following of course the theory that Jean Kirkpatrick had devised that the totalitarian states never reverse and change into democratic states, only authoritarian ones do, which as we know now is perhaps one of the most inaccurate political theories. It's best if you're having a political theory, not to have it disproven so quickly, you know it might be best if you would, maybe fifty years from now you wouldn't really know as much. But Jean Kirkpatricks's was disproven very quickly but it was still the driving force behind the administration's approach to a number of these conflicts, and their justifications for going ahead and trying to conduct what became known later as the Reagan Doctrine which was to sponsor revolutionary operations or what am I saying, counterrevolutionary operations in many cases in various parts of the world and in the Third World in particular.

In ES of course, which was my first focus and the first focus of this policy, it was to protect a very brutal government which was at that time killing literally from a thousand to two thousand people a month. These were political murders; they were done in the most offensive fashion. I think any American, any average American, would have been shocked and would have opposed what his government was doing. So it became very important to keep that secret, or to minimize it, or rationalize it or somehow sanitize it.

So what we saw, even at that early stage, was the combat that was developing and the combat in terms of the domestic situation in Washington was how do you stop the press from telling that story. And much of what the Reagan administration developed were techniques to keep those kinds of stories out of the news media.


So the message was quite clearly made apparent to those of us working on this topic that when you tried to tell the American people what was happening, you put your career at risk, which may not seem like a lot to some people, but you know, reporters are like everybody else I guess - they have mortgages and families and so forth and they don't really want to lose their jobs - I mean it's not something they aspire to. And the idea of success is to keep one of these jobs and there are a lot of interesting perks that go with it, a certain amount of esteem, you know, as well as you get paid pretty well. Those jobs in Washington - you can often be making six figures at some of the major publications, so it's not something you readily or easily throw away, from that working level. [1993] Fooling America. A talk by Robert Parry


But what we began to see was something that was unusual I think even for Washington - certainly it was unusual in my experience - a very nasty, often ad hominem attack on the journalists who were not playing along. And the case of Bonner was important because he worked for the New York Times, and the New York Times was one of those bastions of American journalism - this was not some small paper, it was not some insignificant news figure. So there began an effort to discredit him and the Wall Street editorial page was brought into play, Accuracy In Media was brought into play, he was attacked routinely by the State Department and White House spokespeople, there were efforts to paint him as some kind of a communist sympathizer, the charge would go around that he was worth a full division for the FMLN - the Salvadoran guerrillas - he was treated as an enemy - someone who was anti-American, in effect. And sadly, it worked. I was in ES in October of '82, I was down there to interview Roberto Dobesan, who was head of the death squads, and I was with a conservative activist, and after that interview we had lunch with the head of the political-military affairs office at the Embassy and the officer was then head of the military group, and on the way back to the hotel, they were boasting about how they had "gotten" Ray Bonner. "We finally got that Son-of-a-Bitch," they said, and at that time his removal had not yet been announced, so it was very interesting to hear that they knew what was about to happen, and he was, in fact, removed by early 1983, and then he was sort of shunted aside at the New York Times and eventually left. [1993] Fooling America. A talk by Robert Parry

Now, the kind of effect that has is often subtle. In the case of NPR, one thing that happened was that the foreign editor, named Paul Allen, saw his next evaluation be marked down, and the use of this story was cited as one of the reasons for his being marked down and he felt that he had no choice but to leave NPR and he left journalism altogether. These were the kind of prices that people were starting to pay, all across Washington. The message was quite clear both in the region and in Washington that you were not going to do any career advancement if you insisted on pushing these stories. The White House is going to make it very, very painful for your editors by harassing them and yelling at them; having letters sent; going to your news executives - going way above even your bureau chiefs sometimes - to put the pressure on, to make sure if these stories were done they were done only in the most tepid ways. And there also was, in an underreported side of this, there were these independent organizations, who were acting as sort of the Wurlitzer organ effect for the White House attacks. Probably the most effective one from their side was Accuracy In Media, which we find out, from looking at their internal documents - the White House internal documents, was actually being funded out of the White House. There was - in one case we have because we have the records, the White House organized wealthy businessmen, particularly those from the news media, from the conservative news media, to come into the White House to the situation room where Charlie Wick, who was then head of USIA, pitched them to contribute a total of $200,000 to be used for public diplomacy and the money is then directed to Accuracy In Media and to Freedom House and a couple of other organizations which then support the White House in its positions, and make the argument that the White House is doing the right thing and that these reporters who are getting in the way must be Sandinista sympathizers or must not be very patriotic or whatever we were supposed to be at the time.
    So you had this effect of what seemed to be independent organizations raising their voice, but, the more we kept finding out, the more we found at that these weren't independent organizations at all. These were adjuncts of a White House/CIA program that had at its very heart the idea of how we reported the news in Washington and how the American people perceived what was going on in Central America. I'm not sure this has ever happened before - I can't think of it, but it was a remarkable change in the way that the government, as I guess Ross Perot might say, was coming "at" the people rather than, you know, being "of" the people. [1993] Fooling America. A talk by Robert Parry