Recommended reading: Mark Hemingway's entertaining account in the current Weekly Standard of his dinner three years ago with the now-disgraced, then-still-graced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. You should enjoy the article just because it's a funny story, but I liked it for an extra reason: It resolves one lingering mystery of the Great Contra Summit.
Everyone remembers the Nicaraguan contras, who resisted Sandinista tyranny (or at least killed a nun or two) back in the 1980s. But for American anti-Communists seeking a Che of their own, the Nicaraguans were just one of several purportedly freedom-loving armies battling Soviet proxies around the world. Devotees of the Reagan Doctrine endorsed such unlikely heroes as Angola's UNITA (a group fresh from an alliance with the Red Chinese, and guilty of deliberately shooting down a civilian airplane), Laotian and Cambodian nationalists (the Cambodians were effectively fronts for Pol Pot), and Afghanistan's mujahideen (who repaid their patrons' generosity on September 11, 2001). The hard-core ideologues loved Mozambique's RENAMO too, though its human rights record was so bad that even the Reagan administration, a proud sponsor of the other guerrillas, decided it should keep its distance. With Rite Aid's Lewis Lehrman paying their way, Abramoff and Jack Wheeler, the Edgar Snow of the right, organized a summit for the Angolans, Nicaraguans, Laotians, and Afghans, who got together in Jamba, Angola, and pledged their mutual support.
This attracted some coverage in the press (including Reason, which at the time took the Reagan Doctrine more seriously than it deserved), but the one publication that seemed really excited about the summit was The Guardian. Not the British Guardian—I don't know whether they covered it at all. I mean New York's now-defunct Marxist weekly, which greeted the alignment of so many counterrevolutionary villains with the excitement of a Freeper who's found a photo of Cindy Sheehan sharing freedom fries with Jane Fonda, Dan Rather, and Osama bin Laden.
I've always wondered if anything concrete came out of the contra convention. Thanks to Hemingway's article, I now know that it paved the way for the Abramoff-penned Dolph Lundgren vehicle Red Scorpion:
for Abramoff, the pivotal moment in Jamba came when he was approached by someone trying to secure funding for a documentary about [UNITA leader Jonas] Savimbi. Abramoff scoffed. Rambo: First Blood Part II had just been released in theaters three weeks earlier, becoming the first film to open on more than 2,000 screens. "Why would you want to make a documentary? Nobody watches documentaries," he told me. "I said to the guy, 'You should make an action film.'"
One thing led to another, and before you know it Jack was on location with Lundgren, M. Emmet Walsh, and a 95-year-old Bushman actor whose terms "included the condition that the producers find him a wife." That's the Reagan Doctrine: bringing love to Africa, one native thespian at a time.