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\(WEN MONDAYSAT\( ‘FtDAY 106 AND OPEN SI.NDAY 10-4 WATSON & COMPANY BOOKS Life Insurance and Annuities Sine Martin Elfant, CLU 4223 Richmond, Suite 213, Houston, TX 77027 declared a state of emergency. More disgruntled peasants joined the FDN, the contras’ army. By the summer of 1983, more than 8,000 rebels were fighting the government. One of the most effective and courageous contras, as Dickey tells it, was Pedro Pablo Ortiz Centeno, the exGuardsman of Somoza known as Suicida. It was Suicida, and his commanders “Krill” and “Cancer,” that took Dickey and James LeMoyne \(then of Newsweek, now of the New York into Nicaragua in the spring of 1983, before much information about the contras had made it into the American press. The guerrillas were charged with keeping these American journalists alive at all costs, and so they led a limping LeMoyne and an exhausted Dickey through Sandinista ambushes and, on the sixth day, back to safety in Honduras. Dickey credits the contra Krill with saving his life. But he also depicts a stunning brutality on the part of Krill and Suicida and their comrades. It was a comment by the disaffected contra leader Edgar Chamorro that “there are people who learn to kill and who love it” that prompted Dickey’s book, he has said. He has found his “men who love to kill” among the contras. He recounts the killing of a thirteen-year-old FDN deserter in a contra camp in Honduras at the hands of “El Muerto,” as told by another prisoner and confirmed by other sources. “When they were going to be executed,” said the prisoner, “the 13-year-old screamed to El Muerto, `Boss, I won’t do it again. Don’t kill me, boss.’ El Muerto shut him up and kicked him. And he cut his throat there.” According to Dickey, “He used one of the heavy combat knives the FDN troops usually carried.” Dickey tries to speculate how many of his own men the contra Krill had killed; ten, twenty, thirty there may have been as many as forty, Dickey says. Finally, Krill and Suicida and two others had to be taken out and shot, like rabid dogs, by their own army. How to explain such violent and venomous men? The answer has something to do with the power of hatred in blind service to ideology. As With the Contras suggests, the fierce war against “communism” is used as carte blanche for killing and chaos. Thus, Radio Noticias del Continente in Costa Rica, which was broadcasting condemnations of the Argentine generals who were training Nicaraguan anticommunists, was the “voice of communism” and had to be blown up. \(Though at this early stage, 1980, the contras thus, nuns and priests who were cooperating with the Sandinistas in helping peasants were “internationalists” and agents of communism. The contras could have taken their motto straight from the chief of the Honduran security forces, who once said, according to Dickey, “Everything you do to destroy a Marxist regime is moral.” COULD THIS ALSO be taken as the guiding philosophy of the Central Intelligence Agency? One need only remember the celebrated CIA project that produced the manual “Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare.” The manual created a storm when news got out that it recommended “neutralizing” Sandinista officials, but it was a storm that caught the CIA by surprise “flabbergasted” them, says Dickey. “After all, this is a war a paramilitary operation,” said one CIA agent. “Let’s face it,” said another, “our people are teaching people how to kill people, how to set up ambushes, how to set up a claymore so it can kill the most people.” The “civilized” brutality of the Americans in three-piece suits who served as architects of the war is part of this story, too. In Dickey’s words, they are “men who have known since they walked the snow-covered paths of their prep schools that they were meant to dominate the world around them.” And typically they had no previous experience in Latin America. Yet with arrogance and cunning they manipulated the faraway peasants and ex-guardsmen, to play out the fantasies of hardliners and ideologues in Washington. First, their mission was to “interdict” arms shipments from Nicaragua to El Salvador. Then to show the Sandinistas a “threat at their door” and to “make them change their ways,” as U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte put it. But from Dickey’s telling, it can only be seen as having made matters worse on all accounts. “Was it always so bad under the Sandinistas?” Dickey asked a farmer with many complaints against the government in 1983. “No, no,” he said. “A year and a half and everything was all right, no big problems. It was when the contras began that things started to go bad with us. It was about a year or a year and a half ago that we started to get massacred.” The farmer went on to upbraid the contras for their “ugly work” even as he sold them a steer. The preponderance of material in With the Contras suggests that American policy toward Nicaragua is ugly and immoral, so it is sure to be ignored or discounted by the Administration. But not everything in the book reflects well on the Sandinistas, either. The Sandinista junta director Tomas Borge is portrayed as a rigid ideologue capable of “eliminating” perceived enemies of the revolution. And Dickey gives credence to the charges that Nicaragua was all too willing, early on, to aid revolutionaries in El Salvador \(all the while it goes unmentioned that the United States, for its part, aids a repressive But the questions we are left with are questions about American policy. How deep will our involvement with this dirty war go? Where will it lead? Are we driving, again, down the road to direct intervention? With the Contras is a testament to many things government deception, hypocrisy, brutality but beyond this, it is difficult not to reel from the irony of this story. As Dickey portrays the contras stumbling through their misadventures, sometimes drunken, sometimes fighting over whores in Honduras, killing peasants, killing each other, one thinks of those pitiful misguided ladies in suburbs of St. Louis, lovingly preparing Christmas liberty kits of toiletries and sweets to send to President Reagan’s “freedom fighters.” In the war against communism, morality knows no bounds. THE TPYA.R OF3qF RVER 19