Attack on the Americas!

by Ruth McDonough Fitzpatrick

from Jump Cut, no. 26, December 1981, p. 24
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1981, 2005

We are grateful to NACLA and Ruth McDonough Fitzpatrick for their permission to reprint a shortened version of this article which, originally appeared in NACLA's Report on the Americas (Mar-Ap, 1981).

The American Security Council (ASC), not to be confused with the National Security Council, recently released ATTACK ON THE AMERICAS!, a made-for-television film decrying the "red menace" next door. The film is part of a $5,000,000 television campaign called Project Survival, whose stated intention is to "waken and activate all Americans for a change in U.S. defense policy." ATTACK ON THE AMERICAS!, previewed in December at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, will be offered by the ASC to all commercial stations in the country. As the film's sponsor, the Coalition for Peace Through Strength, an ASC spin-off, states: "The objective is at least five showings in each of the more than 200 television market areas."

Lest this goal not be taken seriously, Project Survival's first film, THE SALT SYNDROME, has been televised over 2,000 times by local stations nationwide. This film was so inaccurate and biased that the Pentagon itself was led to officially refute its content. WAR WITHOUT WINNERS, the impressive anti-nuclear-war film by the Center for Defense Information, was prompted by the extensive airing of THE SALT SYNDROME.


The original working title of ATTACK ON THE AMERICAS! was CARIBBEAN PEARL HARBOR. According to the ASC, the film

"reports on the Brezhnev-Castro drive to turn the Caribbean into a Soviet lake by a combination of Communist-sponsored revolution and U.S. government opposition to anti-communist leadership in the area."

The film argues for U.S. support to unpopular military dictatorships in El Salvador, Guatemala, and elsewhere in the Americas. It claims, despite widespread findings to the contrary by international organizations, church groups, and the U.S. government, that these governments have not violated human rights. The film concludes with a plea for increased military strength in order to protect the United States' geopolitical and economic interests in Central America and the Caribbean.

Biased and distorted, ATTACK ON THE AMERICAS! is such a poorly done film that even a member of Congress who agreed with its message noted, "It is not as well done as THE SALT SYNDROME," Already shown at least thirty times on public television, the film has been temporarily withdrawn for revisions, but a massive campaign of cross-country television showings is planned for April.

Could another reason for the film's withdrawal be that copies are busy being shown to incoming Reagan administration personnel and new members of Congress?


ATTACK ON THE AMERICAS! was produced by the American Security Council Foundation for the Coalition of Peace Through Strength, a bipartisan alliance of 177 national organizations, 230 members of Congress, and other pro-defense leaders across the country. According to many, the American Security Council is the military-industrial complex, which President Eisenhower explicitly warned against in his farewell address.

Leadership of the ASC and its incestuously close relatives, the Center for Strategic and International Studies of Georgetown University and the Coalition for Peace Through Strength include numerous retired high-ranking military men (including a number of former chiefs of staff), prime defense contractors, and hard-line anticommunist politicians, as well as a number of former CIA and other intelligence personnel — in short all the "good old boys" cold warriors.

General Electric, among other corporations, is a member of the ASC. Remember Ronald Reagan selling GE products years ago on your television screen? Today we have a president, a secretary of state, and an ambassador to the United Nations "brought to you by ASC." In fact, Ronald Reagan, Alexander Haig, and Jeane Kirkpatrick are all featured prominently in ATTACK ON THE AMERICAS!

Running its National Security Academy in Washington, D.C., and courses for credit through Georgetown University's School for Summer and Continuing Education, the ASC's central headquarters are on an old rolling estate in Boston, Virginia. Here the ASC plays computerized war games, holds national security seminars and meetings on grounds complete with a small landing field, and runs a large printing plant and mass-mailing facility, a private library, and ultramodern computerized offices. Having attempted to obtain Senator McCarthy's old lists among others, the ASC is also reputed to have the largest list of "subversives" in the country.

Lest the ASC lose members to a nuclear war, it provides a study on "how to maximize your chances for surviving nuclear war using tools and equipment to be found around the average home" called Nuclear War Survival Skills.


Measures to counter ATTACK ON THE AMERICAS! were small initially but are growing, bubbling up here and there. In January, the Center for New Creation, a small justice and peace center "for northern Virginia and beyond," invited a group of human rights activists from the religious, political, educational, and grass-roots sectors in Washington, D.C., to view the film. Appalled by what they saw, those gathered formed the ad hoc Coalition for Human Rights in Central America. As Marie Grasso, a founder of the coalition, stated,

"We viewed ATTACK ON THE AMERICAS! and found it biased in the extreme. Many members of this coalition have had personal experiences in the Caribbean, particularly in Central America; and their regular communication with the struggling poor in Latin America paints an entirely different picture."

Composed of over twenty-five individuals and Washington-based organizations, the ad hoc coalition asked the Center for New Creation to develop an information packet to critique the film, provide background information on the ASC, and supply information on the Fairness Doctrine plus a list of alternative films and other resources to counter the film's perversions. A letter signed by the participating individuals and groups was also sent to those television stations who have shown or intend to show ATTACK ON THE AMERICAS! demanding that, under the Fairness Doctrine, they air an alternative viewpoint. The Fairness Doctrine, an FCC provision, requires stations to air opposing views on public issues.

The Center for New Creation's information packet includes a critique of the film prepared by Phillip Wheaton, director of EPICA. As Wheaton points out:

"The film has a double message or argument … [first] a rhetorical, redbaiting warning against the steadily growing and intentional strategy of the Soviet Union to take over the Caribbean basin and to march inexorably northward through Central America, country by country, until they are at our border. Thus the Americas are 'under siege' and through Cuban intervention, the Soviets intend to 'slash' the Americas in half. The second message is an attack on the Carter administration's human rights philosophy as naive."

"The primary distortion," Wheaton observes, is that "there is neither recognition nor analysis" of the social inequities which are the cause of the social upheavals in Central America and the Caribbean, nor that these inequities are due to the oppressive and exploitive role of the ruling classes in specific countries.

One glaring example of the type of distortions that run throughout the film is a scene in which the voiceover decries the sufferings of the people caused by communist guerrilla terrorists while showing the well-known news footage of the government massacre of mourners at the funeral of Archbishop Romero killed a year ago this March 24th in El Salvador.

Although the ASC film deals with other Central American and Caribbean countries, the Coalition for Human Rights in Central America considers Glen Silber's EL SALVADOR: ANOTHER VIETNAM? to be an excellent partial response to ATTACK ON THE AMERICAS! All twenty-six Public Broadcasting System (PBS) stations around the country have the Silber film, and the coalition urges people to call their local PBS station to express interest in broadcasting (or re-broadcasting) EL SALVADOR: ANOTHER VIETNAM?

With John A. Bushnell, acting deputy assistant of state for inter-American affairs, complaining that reporters are overplaying their accounts of El Salvador developments, the White House opposing Bushnell's view, President Reagan denying comparisons between El Salvador and Vietnam, and with the U.S. sending advisers to El Salvador, it appears that ATTACK ON THE AMERICAS! is indeed helping to make truth the first casualty of war.


Requests for the information packet plus endorsements of the coalition's letter should be sent to the Center for New Creation, P.O. Box 1061, Vienna, VA 22180. Prepayment of $7.00 includes postage. Additional signees to the coalition letter are encouraged and desired. A copy of the letter is included in the packet.

For information on EL SALVADOR: ANOTHER VIETNAM? contact Catalyst Media, P.O. Box 640, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013.