And here's a reality check, written by John Stockwell, a former US Marine and CIA agent- the kind of people you're inclined to trust, right?
Unable to prove any flow of arms whatsoever from Nicaragua into El Salvador, the Reagan team, followed
eventually by George Bush, developed the propaganda line that they were "returning Nicaragua to democracy." When it was pointed out that
Nicaragua had never had a democracy-certainly not under the brutal Somoza dictatorship-they began to speak of the "democratization of
Nicaragua," ignoring the fact that Nicaragua had held elections in 1984 that were demonstrably more democratic than the elections that we have in
our own Republic.
We will never know exactly what the Sandinistas would have done with Nicaragua if we had left them alone to tackle the country's staggering
problems (many of which were the legacy of the Somoza regime) according to their own interests and ideology and compulsions. Everything they did
after taking power in 1979 had been in the shadow of U.S. manipulations and covert military attacks on their country. We do know however that there
was no blood bath when they took over. They abolished the death sentence at exactly the same time the United States was reinstituting it. The
maximum penalty in their courts is 30 years in jail. They released thousands of the hated National Guardsmen that they had in their custody, saying
that they would not jail anyone just for having belonged to an organization; the Guardsmen would have to be convicted of individual crimes. This
contrasts dramatically with Cuba: when Castro triumphed in 1959, there were a number of executions, generally following trials and sentencing. Of
course, the Sandinistas' generosity cost them: many of the Guardsmen they released joined the contras in attacking the country.
The Sandinistas launched a literacy campaign to teach every Nicaraguan to read and write and they set out to build 2,500 clinics so Nicaraguans
would have access to some kind of medical treatment. These are things that Somoza, the dictator backed by the United States, had not gotten around
to doing, and in fact were openly scorned by the dictator and his family.
The first official action taken by the Sandinistas was to establish a ministry of the environment to tackle the damage done under Somoza, who had
permitted commercial interests to dump toxic wastes in and thereby "kill" the country's two huge, beautiful lakes. The Sandinistas then launched the
most ambitious land reform campaign in the history of Central America. They did this by maintaining a free-enterprise economy with less
governmental interference and corruption than Mexico, Peru, or Brazil. Private businessmen could obtain permits, rent an office, install a telephone,
and open a business. They could buy land and farm it. If you owned land and you were working it, you kept it. They expropriated the lands that
Somoza and his family, and the people who fled, had earned or stolen or taken, and they turned those lands back to the people in cooperatives and
different programs, feeling their way, making mistakes as they went, trying this solution and that one, but with the purpose of getting the land back to
the people so farmers would own the land, relate to the land, and profit from the land that they worked on in their own country.
In the first four years after the revolution, Nicaragua had the greatest rate of growth of any Latin American country.
The Sandinistas insisted that the church should be a church of the people, the church of the poor-not another tool of the oligarchy and the rich and the
wealthy. I visited Tomas gorge's office, the Minister of the Interior, and counted the 25 Catholic icon collector items that he had mounted on the wall.
During the Somoza years, Borge was imprisoned and tortured. His wife was imprisoned, raped, tortured, and killed. As Minister of the Interior, he
had the men responsible in his power but he did not take revenge on them.
In the 10-year continuous attack-"war" is what the World Court called it-that the United States waged on Nicaragua, Nicaragua did not commit one
act of war against the United States. But instead of joining them in building the healthiest, most dynamic, most enthusiastic country in Central
America, the U.S. spent over $1 billion to attack and destabilize the country. We set out systematically to create conditions where farmers could not
get their produce to market, where children could not go to school, where women were terrified of being attacked, inside their homes as well as
outside, where the hospitals were treating wounded people instead of sick people, where government administration ground to a halt, where the
trucks didn't run, the bridges were blown up, the salaries weren't paid, and the infrastructure broke down. Eventually, of course, international capital
was scared away and the country plunged into chaos and bankruptcy.
We created the contra program beginning in about 1981. Here we go again, said Newsweek in November 1982, we have done this before; it has been
a mistake before; once again we are supporting the wrong side. We had elected to support the only "truly evil, totally unacceptable faction in the
Nicaraguan equation"-the remnants of Somoza's hated Guardia Nacional (National Guard). Using Argentine trainers at first, and then eventually
CIA mercenaries, we armed and directed this small army from bases mostly in Honduras to attack inside Nicaragua and destabilize the country.
They systematically blew up granaries, sawmills, bridges, government offices, schools, health centers, mines. They mined roads, ambushed trucks,
and raided farms and villages. There is massive documentation of all this- because, as I said, the country was kept open for foreign witnesses to
record what was happening.
For the first few years, CBS, NBC, ABC, BBC, CBC all had crews in Managua, and when there would be atrocities they would rush to film them. We
also had what eventually totaled thousands of witnesses for peace from this country, Canada, Europe, and Australia, going down and visiting or even
living right in the Nicaraguan towns and villages with the people, and when there were atrocities they filmed and photographed and documented them.
There was also direct U.S. military involvement in mining harbors, overflying the country, and blowing up installations in the ports. There were
assassinations of hundreds of religious leaders, teachers, health workers, elected officials, and government administrators by U.S.-backed contrast
CBS, NBC, and others have footage of all of this; Americas Watch and Witness for Peace have documented it. There was the admission by President
Ronald Reagan in his national television debate with Walter Mondale in 1984 that the famous "assassination manual," used to train the contras, was
the work of the CIA Station Chief in Tegucigalpa. On national television, Reagan acknowledged the CIA's involvement with the contras and in the
plotting of assassinations.
After that faux pas, the media asked for clarification from the White House on the President's policies. Did President Reagan in fact approve of
assassinations, which had been declared at least officially taboo by President Gerald Ford in 1974? In an exercise of doublespeak, the White House
said that the word "assassination" only applied to world leaders and chiefs of state. Murdering regional officials was not assassination. The policy,
they said was unchanged.
Terror has been a part of this program, terror as raw as anything that happens in the Middle East or elsewhere. The contras habitually went into
villages and hauled families out of their homes. They forced children to watch while they castrated and killed their fathers, while they raped their
mothers and slashed off their breasts, or they forced parents to watch while they mutilated the children.
The New York Times has cited 45,000 as the number of people killed and wounded in this destabilization. This is nobody's propaganda. It was all
documented and condemned by the World Court, by the Presbyterian Church, by the Methodist Church, by broad segments of the Catholic Church,
and by thousands of witnesses who went down from other countries to see for themselves.
Throughout, President Reagan remained unapologetic for this grotesque activity and President Bush continued the same policies. Reagan took pride
in saying, "I am a contra. " He took pride in saying that these people were the moral equivalent of his founding fathers. And of course George Bush
has never missed a chance to identify himself with the contras.
Destabilization has required a relentless propaganda program to discredit the Sandinistas and label them as totalitarian dictators. At first, we were
told that they were flying arms into El Salvador. Then, when the Sandinistas put together a military machine to defend their country from the U.S.
attack, we were told that they were building a war machine that "threatened the stability of all of Central America. " It was never mentioned that the
Nicaraguans did not have strategic weapons and did not have tanks or an air force that could attack other countries, although El Salvador, Honduras,
Guatemala, and Panama had been given jet fighter-bombers by the United States.
We charged them with censorship after they closed down the La Prensa newspaper. In time it came out that La Prensa had been financed by the
National Endowment for Democracy and the CIA. This newspaper was owned by the Chamorro family, which means that Violeta Chamorro,
victorious in the 1990 elections and supported by George Bush, was a funded collaborator of the CIA during the period when the CIA was directing
the brutalization of her country.
Obviously, the United States would never put up with activity like that of La Prensa inside its own borders, especially during a war. In fact, there are
laws carefully governing our press on the sensitive issues of capitalism. It is very much against the law, for example, for journalists deliberately to
print stories that would cause fluctuations on Wall Street, or even to use "insider" information they obtain in their journalistic research to profit from
the exchange. Editors of the Wall StreetJournal have been disciplined for this infraction during the same years that the United States was funding
and directing La Prensa to create panics inside Nicaragua and castigating the Sandinistas for "censorship."
In 1984, we launched a vigorous campaign to discredit the Nicaraguan elections, elections that were supervised and witnessed by the United Nations
and other groups who said that they were as fair as any elections they had seen in Central America in many years. These elections were quite an
embarrassment to Ronald Reagan, who was then the champion of the contra program, and I am sure to George Bush today, because they were quite
a bit more democratic than the elections that we held in this country during the same year, or in 1988. They had seven parties with candidates running
for election; the United States had two. They turned out 75.4 percent of the vote; we turned out 53 percent. They voted directly; we voted for electors
who selected our leaders. They passed a law that every legitimate party would have an equal subsidy of funds to spend for campaign purposes; in this
country if you can raise more money you can buy more television time and you have a much better chance of the winning the election.
Another element of the propaganda program was the claim that they were smuggling drugs to finance their revolution. The CIA staged scenes with
the pilot Barry Seales, plea-bargaining a deal with him to land a plane in Panama, to kick some bales of marijuana out on the runway that could be
photographed by satellite so President Reagan could put pictures on television saying that it proved the Sandinistas were smuggling drugs. The
record, however, proves that the contrasand their CIA managers were smuggling drugs. There was a massive flow of drugs through the CIA/contra
aircraft into the United States, where they had clearances to land at Air Force and National Guard bases without being inspected by customs. Senator
Kerry's investigation revealed this and there are dozens of cases where people in the contra program, including Adolfo Calero's brother-in-law, were
caught smuggling cocaine into this country, using informal "national security" passes or telephone numbers from the White House to get themselves
cleared when FBI or Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officers caught them. This is nothing new. DEA records have been made public revealing that
the CIA intervened on behalf of drug dealers at least two dozen times during the 1970s.
The United States also claimed the Sandinistas were responsible for terrorism in Central America, but this case, too, falls flat. The Sandinistas were
not involved in terrorist acts- any crimes committed by their soldiers were punished with trials and severe sentences-but the United States has been
and still are, slaughtering people in countries like El Salvador and Guatemala. Using the magic of words, U.S. spokespersons like UN Ambassador
Jeane Kirkpatrick found a way out. It wasn't "terrorism" if the people responsible for the violence were wearing uniforms provided by U.S. aid.