Feb 25, 1982

Three Players on the Team | by Jerry Meldon | Published in Tufts Journal, February 25, 1982


This is about three of the individuals who make up the Reagan team. They are not stars. They are lesser players on a team regarded outside the Moral Majority and cold war/defense establishment as a band of incompetents and Robin Hoods in reverse. They fit in neither of the latter categories, but their presence on the team is ominous.

            The three are Thomas Enders, Marvin Liebman and Vernon Walters, and each is interesting in light of his past. The first, a U.S. ambassador to Phnom Penh, directed and kept Congress ignorant of the U.S. bombing of Cambodia. The second is a Madison Avenue publicist with ties to the extreme right, who ran afoul of the Justice Department while representing the interests of the Chilean oligarchy. The third is a retired CIA official linked to the 1964 coup that brought military dictatorship to Brazil.

            Thomas Enders is the one who has been in the headlines. The assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, Enders has been telling Congress and the nation of the Salvadoran junta’s progress on human rights – with a straight face. He also has disputed the figures of church and other relief groups on civilian casualties in massacres carried out by Salvadoran government troops.

            If it sounds like the “Big Lie” approach to propaganda, we should recall that Enders learned the art from the master, Henry Kissinger. While the number two and later number one man at the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh from 1970 to 1973, Enders, on order from the Nobel Bomber, directed the aerial bombing of Cambodia. He also kept it secret from reporters, from congressmen who visited Cambodia, and even from Secretary of State William Rogers. Maps Enders used for target selection were too old and lacked the detail to show whether civilians were likely to be hit. When they were, which was often, Enders distorted the number of casualties. And, according to Nation magazine, Enders described the rigged election of General Lon Nol as “a step forward for Cambodian democracy.”

            Marvin Liebman, a leading lobbyist for right wing causes, co-founded the Young Americans for Freedom. In 1975 he was hired by Nena Rossa of the Consejo Chileno-Norteamericano for $3,000 per month plus expenses to improve U.S.-Chilean relations.

            In December 1978 the justice department [sic] filed a civil fraud suit against Liebman and his brainchild, the American Chilean Council (ACC), for violation of the Foreign Agents Registration act. The justice department charged that the sole purpose of the ACC was to “disguise the business relationship that exists between the Chilean government of Gen. Augusto Pinochet and its American public relations representatives.” In documents obtained by the justice department, Liebman referred to the ACC as “a front” and to its members as “letterhead names.”

            Today Marvin Liebman is a consultant to the U.S. Department of Education. His appointment appears aimed at appeasing Reagan’s far right supporters who are disappointed with the administration’s pace in dismantling the welfare state. They’d like to see the education department dissolved.

            General Vernon Walters’ interesting career reached its peak when Richard Nixon named him Deputy Director of the CIA in the spring of 1972. That was just in time for Walters to play a role in the Watergate cover-up. Six weeks after his appointment, Walters visited FBI director L. Patrick Gray on behalf of the White House to tell Gray to limit the bureau’s investigation of the Watergate burglars lest it expose a CIA operation.

            Eight years earlier, Walters was the military attache at the U.S. embassy in Rio de Janeiro when the Goulart regime was overthrown by the Brazilian military. In his autobiography and elsewhere Walters has denied his or CIA involvement in the plot. However, government documents show that four days before the coup, Walters informed the state department: “It is now clear that General Castelo Branco finally accepted leadership of the forces determined to resist Goulart coup or Communist takeover … Mar. 13 meeting and tremendous response to Sao Paolo March for God and Freedom have instilled new vigor into plotters.” Our ambassador had promised the generals U.S. recognition if they held Sao Paolo for 48 hours.

            What is Walters up to now? He’s Ronald Reagan’s man for all dictators, representing the U.S. government on visits to our friends, the rulers of Argentina, Chile and Guatemala. He preceded Al Haig to Morocco, where last week the secretary of state renewed U.S. military cooperation with King Hassan. Little does it matter that political prisoners in Morocco are regularly left in total isolation, chained to the ground, suspended head down or beaten on the soles of their feet until they lose consciousness. Just what Walters discusses on his trips is not exactly clear, but for one 1981 deal alone he received $300,000 from a company specializing in the sale of advanced weaponry to foreign governments.

            Why be concerned about three players on the Reagan team? I am not sure of the answer. But is it not possible to learn something of the true intentions of the current administration by looking closely at whom it chooses to execute its policies?