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14 October, 2004

Rock & Radiation, not Ronald Reagan,Brought down the Soviet Union

Rock & Radiation, not Ronald Reagan, Brought down the Soviet Union>by Harvey Wasserman>>
No greater nonsense will accompany Ronald Reagan to his grave than the idea that he brought down the Soviet Union and ended the Cold War.>>Among the many causes of Soviet collapse two words stand out, and they>aren't Ronald Reagan.>>They are rock and radiation.>>The GOP military's 1980s attempt to "spend the Soviets into oblivion">certainly feathered the nests of the defense contractors who contributed to Reagan's campaigns here, and who still fatten George W. Bush.>Lockheed-Martin, Halliburton and an unholy host of GOP insiders have scored billions in profits from Iran-Contra to Star Wars to Desert Storm to Iraq.>>But these were not the people who brought down the Kremlin. If anything,>they prolonged Soviet rule with the unifying threat of apocalyptic attack.>>No, it was rock & roll that wrecked the USSR. From the late 1960s on, the>steady beat of the Beatles and Motown, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix,>shattered Stalinism at its stodgy core.>>Precisely the things most hated by the Reagan's rightist culture warriors>here eroded and helped dissolve the old-time Soviet culture there. Beamed>in by radio, smuggled in on records and tapes, the "youth music" was>unstoppable.>>When Mikhail Gorbachev announced Perestroika, it was at least in partial>response to the irresistible subversion of the western counterculture. Rock>and roll was doing to the remnants of Stalin's Russia what it had already>done to Eisenhower's America.>>The final blow came not from Ronald Reagan's beloved nuclear weapons, but from the Soviets' own Three Mile Island.>>After Chernobyl Unit Four exploded on April 26, 1986, Swedish radiation>monitors detected huge clouds of radiation pouring out of the Ukraine.>Gorbachev lied about it. Critical days passed before his "open" regime>acknowledged the catastrophe.>>As apocalyptic radiation poured over their land and into their bodies,>millions of Soviet citizens were infuriated to learn from sources outside>their country how horrific the disaster really was---and that their lives>were in genuine danger. Cancer, birth defects, stillbirths and more soared>out of control. Gorbachev's credibility was forever shattered.>>Soon a staggering 800,000 draftees---"liquidators"--- were forced into>deadly manual clean-up. The horrific maelstrom of resulting disease fed a>fierce organization parallel to the US's Vietnam Vets Against the War that>remains an uncompromising political force throughout the former Soviet Union.>>With the fury aimed at Gorbachev came devastating economic fallout. Untold billions went to evacuate and quarantine the Chernobyl region. The costs are still escalating. The danger of a renewed melt-down still boils beneath the surface.>>The epidemic of radiation-related diseases has also taken a huge>psychological toll, with countless evacuees and victims---many of them>children---still in pitiable condition.>>Himself a pusher of atomic power since his "Death Valley Days" working for>General Electric, Reagan never mentioned the devastating impacts of>Chernobyl. He also never thanked the Beatles.>>But a cultural revolution and a nuclear malfunction cracked the Kremlin's>core. Reagan's beloved Cold War made his GOP buddies even richer. But it>was rock and radiation that finally did in the Soviets.>>'Harvey Wasserman's History of the United States' is available at>www.harveywasserman.com.