Of Contras and Freedom Fighters

The Times certainly has been among the leaders in analyzing our role in Central America, but Paul Dean's interview with self-styled adventurer Jack Wheeler does readers a disservice by linking Nicaragua with Afghanistan, Angola, Yemen and Cambodia.

By allowing Wheeler to in effect glorify the contras in Nicaragua--forces funded by the United States and largely directed by the CIA--Dean failed to help the public understand the true nature of the Sandinista government and the contras.

For one who has just returned from Managua, it was horrifying to read praise for the killers of up to 12,000 Nicaraguans during the past four years. Wheeler is right--there is no love for Soviet imperialism , and that goes for the Sandinistas too.

Most Nicaraguans, even conservatives at the censored paper La Prensa, say they are dedicated to the philosophy of sandinismo --the goals of the nationalist leader Augusto Cesar Sandino, who fought for his nation's sovereignty against U.S. Marines in the 1920s.

Because of U.S. military and economic pressures they buy arms from Russia and Cuba. They know President Reagan is determined to stop their drive for economic democracy and social justice. They are the model for Central America. They encourage the "liberation theology" that is sweeping the poorer regions. They have brought a Christian twist to Marxism--our government shudders that it might work.

The Nicaraguans want to be friends with the United States, even if we have exploited them for 100 years. But they want our relationship to be on equal terms. Their style of Marxism is not totalitarian communism, thus the contras should not be included with other "anti-communist guerrilla leaders."

Fidel Castro's public advice to the Sandinistas was to be themselves, to work with the Americans, to have a mixed economy with some free enterprise. There is nothing but friendship throughout that nation for American people. But there is great fear of the American government.

We learned at a hospital near the front that four Americans had been killed in action and were buried near there. A young soldier told us that Americans had been seen in combat. Who are these Americans who are supporting the former National Guard officers of the dictator Somoza? Jack Wheeler may be with the good guys in Afghanistan, but he travels in unholy company when he goes to Nicaragua.


Pacific Palisades

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