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Deterring Democracy


By Noam Chomsky

X. The Decline of the Democratic Ideal

1. The Winner: George Bush

2. United in Joy

3. The Case for the Doves

4. "Rallying to Chamorro"

5. Within Nicaragua

6. Looking Ahead

 

From Z Magazine, May 1990.

One fundamental goal of any well-crafted indoctrination program is to direct attention elsewhere, away from effective power, its roots, and the disguises it assumes. Thus to enter into debate over Vietnam, or the Middle East, or Central America, one is required to gain special knowledge of these areas, not of the United States. Rational standards are permitted for the study of Soviet intervention, which focusses on Moscow, not Kabul and Prague; for us, however, the problems lie elsewhere. Respectable commentators can even speak of "the tragic self-destruction of Central America," with the two superpowers playing a (symmetrical) background role (Theodore Sorenson). A similar comment about Eastern Europe would merely evoke ridicule. 1

The serviceability of the doctrine is apparent. Those who hope to understand world affairs will naturally resist it. The February 1990 elections in Nicaragua are a case in point. The forces at work within Nicaragua are surely worth understanding, 2 the reactions to the elections here no less so -- far more so, in fact, given the scale and character of U.S. power. These reactions provide quite illuminating insight into the topics addressed in these essays. They provide further and quite dramatic evidence that in the dominant political culture, the concept of democracy is disappearing even as an abstract ideal.

  1. The Winner: George Bush

As a point of departure, consider a few reactions beyond the borders. In Mexico City, the liberal La Jornada wrote:

After 10 years, Washington examines with satisfaction the balance of an investment made with fire and blood..., an undeclared war of aggression... The elections were certainly cleanly prepared and conducted, but a decade of horror was behind them.

While welcoming the electoral outcome, the right-wing daily El Universal acknowledged that

The defeated Sandinista Front does not have all of the responsibility for the disasters that have fallen upon Nicaraguans. Its lead role in the construction of Nicaragua in recent years cannot be denied, either. But the voters have made an objective use of the essential prerogative of democracy: to vote for who they believe can better their situation,

surely George Bush's candidate, in the light of unchanging U.S. policies that are as familiar to Latin Americans as the rising of the sun.

The familiar background was recalled in the commentary on the elections by León Garc¡a Soler, one of the leading political analysts of the daily Excelsior. Taking note of the fraudulent democracy of Mexico itself, he discussed the elections conducted under U.S. threat in Nicaragua in the context of "the expansionism that led [the U.S.] to embrace the continent from ocean to ocean; of the Manifest Destiny which led it to the imperial wars, to the protectorates and colonies, to the endless invasions of the nations of our America." "The Nicaraguan people voted for peace," he wrote, "with the clear threat by the interventionists that they would never recognize the legitimacy of the elections if the Sandinistas won," and would simply continue the terrorist war and economic strangulation if the electoral outcome were not satisfactory to Washington.

In the Mexican weekly Punto, liberation theologist Miguel Concha wrote that

the elections in Nicaragua were won in the first place by the inhuman and criminal Low Intensity War of the imperialist government. The objective and subjective elements behind the winning coalition [are...] without any doubt the policy of the U.S. administrations, call them Reagan or Bush,... based on unrestricted and evident contempt for all norms of international law, with military aggression and economic blockade as the most important spearheads during the last decade. This heavily influenced the choice of the majority of Nicaraguans..., people desperately looking for peace, [a vital question] for a people so severely beaten by this whip, for a people which for ten years have seen their children die, after a revolutionary triumph which was seen as the solution to its problems, for a people that has been confronted by a fratricidal war, arranged by the blind, stubborn will of the "enemies of humanity" who, insisting on their power, seek to be immortal.

"The UNO triumph was legal," he concluded, "but not just."

For the independent El Tiempo in Colombia, passionately opposed to "frightening communism" and the Sandinistas who represent it on the continent, "The U.S. and President Bush scored a clear victory." 3

In Guatemala, the independent Central America Report observed that the 1990 elections "were mandated in the Nicaraguan Constitution, adopted in January 1987, before the Arias Peace Plan" -- in fact, at a time when the U.S. was pulling out every stop to block the threat of peace. Though "the concessions granted by the Sandinistas were the result of the regional peace accords," the elections were not brought about by the diplomacy of the Central American presidents, still less by the "armed pressure of the contras" as Washington claims. Regarding the diplomatic process itself, the journal notes that Nicaragua alone lived up to the accords, which were defied by the United States and its proxy forces, and its three client states. "Reforms aimed at internal democratization" were blocked in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, where human rights abuses are on the rise and no progress has been made in realizing any aspect of the agreements. The journal continues:

The exemplary elections conducted by the Sandinistas appear to be the only relevant "success" of the diplomatic process begun in 1987. Given that the contras have remained in place despite repeated agreements to disband -- the last being the December 8, 1989 deadline of the August 1989 Tela Accords -- editorials question the Sandinista's political wisdom in holding up their side of the bargain.

With regard to the "exemplary elections," "Most analysts agree that the UNO victory marks the consummation of the US government's military, economic and political efforts to overthrow the Sandinistas." Under the heading The Winners, the journal added:

US President George Bush emerged as a clear victor in the Nicaraguan elections. The decade-long Reagan/Bush war against Nicaragua employed a myriad of methods -- both covert and open -- aimed at overthrowing the Sandinistas. Bush's continuation of the two-pronged Reagan policy of economic strangulation and military aggression finally reaped tangible results. Following the elections, Ortega said that the outcome was not in retrospect surprising since the voters went to the polls "with a pistol pointed at their heads"

-- a conclusion that the journal accepts without comment. "The consensus attributes the population's defection...to the critical economic crisis in Nicaragua," the report continues, citing an editorial in the Guatemala City press that "pointed out that more than ten years of economic and military aggressions waged by a government with unlimited resources created the setting for an election determined by economic exhaustion." "It was a vote in search of peace by a people that, inevitably, were fed up with violence," the Guatemala City editorial concluded: "It is a vote from a hungry people that, more than any idea, need to eat." 4

The analysis ends with this comment:

While many observers today are remarking that never before has a leftist revolutionary regime handed over power in elections, the opposite is also true. Never has a popular elected leftist government in Latin America been allowed to undertake its reforms without being cut short by a coup, an invasion or an assassination.

Or, we may add, subversion, terror, or economic strangulation. Readers in Guatemala, or elsewhere in Latin America, need no further reminders of these truisms. One will search far for any hint of such a thought, let alone a discussion of what it implies, in U.S. commentary. Even the fact that Nicaragua had a popular elected government is inexpressible in the U.S. propaganda system, with its standards of discipline that few respectable intellectuals would dare to flout.

In London, the editors of the Financial Times observe that "The war against the Contras has eroded the early achievements in health and education of the Sandinista revolution and brought the country close to bankruptcy." The victors, they add, are the contras -- which is to say, the White House, Congress, and the support team who set up, maintained, and justified what was conceded to be a "proxy army" by contra lobbyists, who hoped that Washington might somehow convert its proxies into a political force (Bruce Cameron and Penn Kemble). Managua correspondent Tim Coone concludes that "Nicaraguans appeared to believe that a UNO victory offered the best prospect of securing US funds to end the country's economic misery" -- correctly, of course. 5

The English language Costa Rican monthly Mesoamerica added this comment: "The Sandinistas fell for a scam perpetrated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and the other Central American Presidents," which "cost them the 25 Feb. elections." Nicaragua had agreed to loosen wartime constraints and advance the scheduled elections by a few months "in exchange for having the contras demobilized and the war brought to an end." The White House and Congress broke the deal at once, maintaining the contras as a military force in violation of the agreements and compelling them to be modified to focus on Nicaragua alone. With the deal effectively broken, the U.S. candidate could promise to end the war, while Ortega could not. Faced with this choice, "war weary Nicaraguans voted for peace." 6

Summarizing the basic thrust, the winner of the elections was George Bush and the Democrat-Republican coalition that waged ten years of economic and military aggression, leaving a hungry and distraught people who voted for relief from terror and misery. Democracy has been dealt a serious blow, with a "popular elected leftist government" replaced by one elected under duress, by violent foreign intervention that proved decisive.

  2. United in Joy

Returning home, we find a different picture. The basic lessons were drawn by correspondent Hugh Sidey of Time magazine, a respected commentator on the presidency. Under the heading "Credit Where Credit Is Due," he calls for "a little fairness" to Ronald Reagan: "The end result of the Nicaraguan episode seems to be what the U.S. has vainly sought all over the globe in its support of freedom; few American lives were committed or lost, with a cost of only $300 million in U.S. aid to the contras," and a mere $1.3 million for the economic warfare. "Compare Viet Nam," Sidey continues: "58,000 Americans killed, $150 billion spent, the nation rent in bitterness, a bitter defeat." 7

In short, Reagan deserves credit for good management: his cohorts ran a cost-effective operation, expending only trivial sums to cause Nicaragua some $15 billion in damages and 30,000 killed outright, along with unknown numbers of others who died from disease and hunger. Note however that Sidey is a bit unfair to Reagan's predecessors, who did, after all, succeed in murdering millions in Indochina and leaving three countries in total ruin, not a small achievement despite the excessive cost to us.

Time proceeded to laud the methods that were used to bring about the latest of the "happy series of democratic surprises" as "democracy burst forth" in Nicaragua. The method was to "wreck the economy and prosecute a long and deadly proxy war until the exhausted natives overthrow the unwanted government themselves," with a cost to us that is "minimal," leaving the victim "with wrecked bridges, sabotaged power stations, and ruined farms," and thus providing the U.S. candidate with "a winning issue": ending the "impoverishment of the people of Nicaragua." The only issue dividing conservatives and liberals, Time correctly concludes, is "who should claim credit" for this triumph of democracy, in a free and fair election, without coercion.

Time might be assigned to the "conservative" end of the spectrum, so let us turn to the leading journal of mainstream liberalism, the New Republic. Its editorial is entitled "Who Won Nicaragua?" The answer is: "Why, the Nicaraguans, of course" -- not George Bush and U.S. aggression. "Those who supported aid to the contras..., as did this magazine, can find considerable vindication in the outcome," which "made nonsense of both the left-wing myth that anti-Yankeeism is the centerpiece of all Latin America's political identity and the right-wing myth that Leninists can never be induced to change." Adding what remains unsaid, the former "myth" succumbed to the successful use of terror and economic strangulation, and the latter is based on the loyal denial of familiar and well-attested facts about "the Sandinistas, who had won free and fair elections in 1984" (London Observer, March 4, 1990). "Gratifying as the election results are," the editorial continues, "democracy is not yet quite safe in Nicaragua," and "having served as an inspiration for the triumph of democracy in our time, the United States now has an opportunity to see to it that democracy prevails" -- "democracy," New Republic-style: the kind that "prevails" in the Central American domains where the U.S. has had ample opportunity to entrench it, to take the obvious example. 8

Perhaps it is unfair to illustrate the liberal alternative by editorials in a journal that gave "Reagan & Co. good marks" for their support for state terror in El Salvador as it peaked in 1981, and then, surveying the carnage three years later, advised Reagan and Co. that we must send military aid to "Latin-style fascists...regardless of how many are murdered," because "there are higher American priorities than Salvadoran human rights." In assessing U.S. political culture let us, then, put aside the more passionate advocates of state terror -- though not without noting that these values, familiar from the Nazi era, in no way diminish the reputation of the journal, or even merit a word of comment in left-liberal circles. Let us turn, rather to less bloodthirsty sectors of what is called the "establishment left" by editor Charles William Maynes of Foreign Policy. He is referring specifically to the New York Times, but doubtless would include also the Washington Post, the major TV news bureaus, the Boston Globe (which perhaps qualifies as "ultra-left"), and his own journal, the more liberal of the two major foreign affairs quarterlies. 9

To seek out the establishment left, we might begin with public debates. Public Broadcasting (PBS), generally regarded as dangerously left-wing, ran a debate between Elliott Abrams and Hendrick Hertzberg the day before the election, moderated by the pro-contra columnist Morton Kondracke. Representing the left (and indeed, at the far left of expressible opinion), Hertzberg said that he would support a continuation of the embargo against Nicaragua if the Sandinistas won the election and observer reports were less than totally favorable. He has never advocated that an embargo be imposed upon the U.S. client states nearby, where elections were held in an "atmosphere of terror and despair, of macabre rumor and grisly reality," in the words of the spokesman for the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group, Lord Chitnis, observing the 1984 election in El Salvador. He has also not suggested that the hideous atrocities of these U.S. clients merit such a response. We conclude, then, that by the standards of the establishment left, the crimes of the Sandinistas far exceed those of the death squad states. A comparison of these crimes tells us a great deal about the values upheld at the left extreme of the establishment spectrum. 10

Turning to the establishment left press, we begin with the New York Times, where Elaine Sciolino reviewed the U.S. reaction to the elections. The headline reads: "Americans United in Joy, But Divided Over Policy." The policy division turns out to be over who deserves credit for the joyous outcome, so we are left with "Americans United in Joy." 11

Such phrases as "United in Joy" are not entirely unknown. One might find them, perhaps, in the North Korean or Albanian press. Obviously the issue was contentious, certainly to Nicaraguans, to others in Latin America as well. But not to educated U.S. elites, who are quite eager to depict themselves as dedicated totalitarians.

The review of opinion opens by noting that "the left and the right and those in between [have] a fresh opportunity to debate one of the United States's most divisive foreign policy issues of the last decade." The left-right debate now reduces to who can justly claim credit. Sciolino begins with eleven paragraphs reviewing the position of the right, followed by five devoted to the left. In the former category, she cites Elliott Abrams, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Fred Iklé of the Pentagon, Oliver North, Robert Leiken of the Harvard University Center for International Affairs, and Ronald Reagan. They portray the outcome as "spectacular," "great, wonderful, stunning," a tribute to the contras who, "when history is written,...will be the folk heroes," a victory "for the cause of democracy" in a "free and fair election."

Sciolino then turns to the left: "On the other side, Lawrence A. Pezzullo, who was appointed Ambassador to Nicaragua by President Carter, called the election results `fantastic'." We will return to Pezzullo's left-wing credentials shortly. The second representative of "the other side" is Sol Linowitz, who, as Carter administration Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), sought in vain to mobilize Latin America in support of Carter's program of "Somocismo sin Somoza" ("Somozism without Somoza") after the murderous tyrant could no longer be maintained in power, and later urged pressures to make Nicaragua more democratic -- like El Salvador and Guatemala, both just fine and hence needing no such pressures. The final representative of the left is Francis McNeil, whose credentials as a leftist lie in the fact that he quit the State Department in 1987 when his pessimism about contra military prospects aroused the ire of Elliott Abrams. 12

The last paragraph of Sciolino's report observes that some "were not entirely comfortable with the results" of the election, citing Lawrence Birns of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, who "seemed to side with the Sandinistas," expressing his "inner rage that the corner bully won over the little guy."

Sciolino remarks incidentally that "Sandinista supporters expressed sadness, and said that the defeat was a product of Nicaragua's economic troubles -- a result of the American trade embargo and other outside pressures" -- thus lining up with much of Latin America. But recall that Americans were United in Joy. By simple logic, it follows that these miscreants are not Americans, or perhaps not people.

In summary, there are "two sides," the right and the left, which differed on the tactical question of how to eliminate the Sandinistas in favor of U.S. clients and are now "United in Joy." There is one person who seems to side with the Sandinistas, but couldn't really be that far out of step, we are to understand. And there are some non-Americans who share the exotic opinions of Latin Americans as to what happened and why. Having failed to obey state orders, these strange creatures are off the left-right spectrum entirely, and do not participate in the great debate over the sole issue still unresolved: Who deserves the credit for the happy outcome?

The Times conception of the spectrum of opinion is, then, very much like that of Time magazine and Foreign Policy editor Charles Maynes. Or former Undersecretary of State David Newsom, now director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, who urges "the ideological extremes of the nation's political spectrum" to abandon the fruitless debate over the credits for our victories. Or Jimmy Carter, who explained to the press that his observer commission was "carefully balanced -- half Democrat and half Republican," thus carefully balanced between two groups that satisfy the prior condition of objectivity: passionate opposition to the Sandinistas and support for Washington's candidates. 13

Throughout, we see with great clarity the image of a highly disciplined political culture, deeply imbued with totalitarian values.

  3. The Case for the Doves

In the new phase of the debate, the right attributes the defeat of the Sandinistas to the contras, while the establishment left claims that the contras impeded their effort to overthrow the Sandinistas by other means. But the doves have failed to present their case as strongly as they might. Let us therefore give them a little assistance, meanwhile recalling some crucial facts that are destined for oblivion because they are far too inconvenient to preserve.

We begin with Lawrence Pezzullo, the leading representative of the left in the Times survey of opinion. Pezzullo was appointed Ambassador in early 1979, at a time when Carter's support for the Somoza tyranny was becoming problematic. Of course no one contemplated any modification in the basic system of power, surely no significant role for the Sandinistas (FSLN). As we have seen, there was complete agreement that Somoza's National Guard must be kept intact, and it was not until June 29, shortly before the fall of the Somoza regime, that any participant in an NSC meeting "suggested the central U.S. objective was something other than preventing a Sandinista victory." By then it was finally realized that means must be sought "to moderate the FSLN," who could not be marginalized or excluded, as hoped. 14

As in U.S. political democracy generally, the Carter administration had its left-right spectrum, with National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brezinski on the right, warning of apocalyptic outcomes if the U.S. did not intervene, and on the left, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Viron Vaky, pursuing a more nuanced approach. Pezzullo's task was to implement the policy of the left, that is, to bar the FSLN from power through the "preservation of existing institutions, especially the National Guard" (Vaky, June 15, 1979). This plan was proposed to the OAS, but rejected by the Latin American governments, all ultra-left extremists, by U.S. standards. Pezzullo was then compelled to inform Somoza that his usefulness was at an end. On June 30, he noted in a cable to Washington that "with careful orchestration we have a better than even chance of preserving enough of the [National Guard] to maintain order and hold the FSLN in check after Somoza resigns," even though this plan would "smack somewhat of Somocismo sin Somoza," he added a few days later. For the "successor government," the Carter administration approached Archbishop Obando y Bravo (in contrast, our religious sensibilities are deeply offended by political engagement of priests committed to the preferential option for the poor) and the right-wing businessman Adolfo Calero (later civilian director of the main contra force); and for head of the National Guard, it considered Colonel Enrique Berm£dez, who later became contra commander. 15

At the time, the National Guard was carrying out murderous attacks against civilians, leaving tens of thousands killed. Pezzullo recommended that the bloodbath be continued: "I believe it ill-advised," he cabled Washington on July 6, "to go to Somoza and ask for a bombing halt." On July 13, Pezzullo informed Washington that the "survivability" of the Guard was doubtful unless Somoza left, as he did, four days later, fleeing to Miami with what remained of the national treasury. On July 19, the game was over -- that phase, at least. 16

As the FSLN entered Managua on July 19, the Carter administration "began setting the stage for a counterrevolution," Peter Kornbluh observes, mounting a clandestine operation to evacuate Guard commanders on U.S. planes disguised with Red Cross markings. This is a war crime punishable under the Geneva conventions, the London Economist observed years later, when the same device was used to supply contras within Nicaragua (pictures of CIA supply planes disguised with Red Cross markings appeared without comment in Newsweek, while the vigorous denunciation of this violation of international law by the Red Cross passed without notice generally). Within six months after the overthrow of Somoza, the Carter administration had initiated the CIA destabilization campaign, inherited and expanded by the Reaganites. The Carter doves did not give direct support to the National Guard forces that they helped reconstitute. Rather, training and direction were in the hands of neo-Nazi Argentine generals serving "as a proxy for the United States" (Rand Corporation terrorism expert Brian Jenkins). The U.S. took over directly with the Reagan presidency. 17

Pezzullo's next task was to "moderate the FSLN." The Carter doves proposed economic aid as "the main source of U.S. influence" (Pastor). The U.S. business community supported this plan, particularly U.S. banks, which, as noted in the Financial Times, were pressuring Carter to provide funds to Nicaragua so that their loans to Somoza would be repaid (courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer). The banks were particularly concerned that if Nicaragua, reduced to utter ruin and bankruptcy by Somoza, were to default on the debt he had accumulated, it would serve as a bad example for other U.S. clients. It was also recognized that aid directed to anti-Sandinista elements in the ruling coalition was the last remaining device to block the FSLN and its programs. 18

After Nicaragua reached a settlement with the banks, $75 million in aid was offered, about 60% for the private business sector, with $5 million a grant for private organizations and $70 million a loan (partly credits to buy U.S. goods, another taxpayer subsidy to corporations). One of the conditions was that no funds be used for projects with Cuban personnel, a way of ensuring that nothing would go to schools, the literacy campaign, health programs, or other reform measures for which Nicaragua was likely to turn to those with experience in such projects and willingness to serve. Nicaragua had no choice but to agree, since, as the Wall Street Journal noted, without this "signal of U.S. confidence in the stability of the country" there would be no bank loans, which were desperately needed. Nicaragua's request for U.S. military aid and training was rejected, and efforts to obtain such aid from the West were blocked by U.S. pressure, compelling reliance on East bloc aid as the external threat mounted. 19

As these events pass through the U.S. doctrinal system, they undergo a subtle alchemy and emerge in a different form: the Sandinistas

enjoyed American encouragement at first; having helped get rid of Somoza, the Carter administration also gave them $75 million in aid. But when the Sandinistas brought in Cuban and East German military advisers to help build their Army into the region's largest fighting force, conflict with Washington was sure to follow... (Newsweek).20

Nicaragua also attempted to maintain its trade links with the U.S. and the West, and succeeded in doing so through the mid-1980s despite U.S. efforts. But Washington naturally preferred that they rely on the East bloc, to ensure maximal inefficiency and to justify our defensive attack on these "Soviet clients." The U.S. also blocked aid from international development organizations, and, after failing to displace the FSLN, sought to destroy private business in Nicaragua to increase domestic discontent and undermine the mixed economy (a major and predicted effect of the Reagan embargo, and the reason why it was bitterly opposed by the Nicaraguan opposition that the U.S. claimed to support). 21

So enormous was the devastation left as Somoza's final legacy that a World Bank Mission concluded in October 1981 that "per capita income levels of 1977 will not be attained, in the best of circumstances, until the late 1980s" and that "any untoward event could lead to a financial trauma." There were, of course, "untoward events," but such facts do not trouble the ideologues who deduce Sandinista responsibility for the subsequent debacle from the doctrinal necessity of this conclusion. A standard rhetorical trick, pioneered by the Kissinger Commission, is to demonstrate Sandinista economic mismanagement by comparing living standards of the eighties to 1977, thus attributing the effects of the U.S.-backed Somoza terror to the Marxist-Leninist totalitarians. 1977 is a particularly useful choice because it was a year of "exceptional affluence" (UNO economist Francisco Mayorga). 22

Despite the horrendous circumstances, Nicaragua's economic progress through the early 1980s was surprisingly good, with the highest growth rate in Central America by a large margin, an improvement in standard of living in contrast to a substantial fall for the rest of Central America and a somewhat lesser fall for Latin America as a whole, and significant redistribution of income and expansion of social services. In 1983, the Inter-American Development Bank reported that Nicaragua's "noteworthy progress in the social sector" was "laying a solid foundation for long-term socio-economic development." The World Bank and other international development organizations lauded the "remarkable" Nicaraguan record and outstanding success, in some respects "better than anywhere in the world" (World Bank). 23

But U.S. pressures succeeded in terminating these dangerous developments. By early 1987, business leader Enrique Bola¤os, well to the right of the UNO directorate, attributed the economic crisis in Nicaragua to the war (60%, presumably including the economic war), the international economic crisis (10%), the contraction of the Central American Common Market (10%), and decapitalization by the business sector and government errors (20%). The Financial Times estimates the costs of the contra war at $12 billion; Mayorga adds $3 billion as the costs of the embargo. Actual totals are uncertain, but plainly fall within the range of the "untoward events" which, the World Bank predicted, would lead to catastrophe. 24 The idea that the U.S. might pay reparations for what it has done can be relegated to the same category as the notion that it might observe international law generally. The press blandly reports that the Bush administration is "exerting sharp pressure" on the Chamorro government, informing it that "future United States aid to Nicaragua will depend on" Nicaragua's abandonment of "the judgment of as much as $17 billion that Nicaragua won against the United States at the International Court of Justice during the contra war." 25 The U.S. holds Nicaragua hostage while eloquent oratory flows in abudance about the sanctity of international law and the solemn duty of punishing those who violate it. There is no perceptible sense of incongruity.

In chapter 8, we reviewed the thoughts of the Carter doves (Pastor, Vaky, Vance). With a sufficiently powerful microscope one can distinguish this left-wing perspective from that of the right, for example, the Pentagon official who informed the press in 1988 that a small number of U.S.-backed terrorists could "keep some pressure on the Nicaraguan government, force them to use their economic resources for the military, and prevent them from solving their economic problems." Or the State Department insider who is reported to have observed in 1981 that Nicaragua must be reduced to "the Albania of Central America." Or the government official who informed the press in 1986 that the U.S. did not expect a contra victory, but was "content to see the contras debilitate the Sandinistas by forcing them to divert scarce resources toward the war and away from social programs"; the consequences could then be adduced as proof of "Sandinista mismanagement." Since this understanding is common to hawks and doves, it is not surprising that there was no reaction when it was reported in the Boston Globe, just as no reaction was to be expected to David MacMichael's World Court testimony on the goals of the contra program cited earlier, crucially, the effort to pressure Nicaragua to "clamp down on civil liberties" so as to demonstrate "its allegedly inherent totalitarian nature and thus increase domestic dissent within the country." We need not comment further on the enthusiasm with which the educated classes undertook the tasks assigned to them. 26

It thus made perfect sense for the U.S. command to direct its proxy forces to attack "soft targets" -- that is, undefended civilian targets -- as SOUTHCOM commander General John Galvin explained; to train the contra forces to attack schools and health centers so that "the Nicaraguan government cannot provide social services for the peasants, cannot develop its project," as contra leader Horacio Arce informed the press (in Mexico). 27

The Maynes-Sciolino left did not object to these policies in principle. They had no fundamental disagremeent with the conclusion of George Shultz's State Department that "Nicaragua is the cancer and [is] metastasizing" and that "the Sandinista cancer" must be removed, "by radical surgery if necessary." 28 Furthermore, the Carter doves effectively set these policies in motion. They can therefore claim to have succeeded in their aims, as the election showed. Their only fault was excessive pessimism over the prospects for terror and economic strangulation; in this respect, the judgment of the right was correct, and it is unreasonable for the left to deny that their right-wing opponents had a sounder appreciation of what violence can achieve. We should give "Credit Where Credit is Due," as Time admonished, recognizing that terror and economic warfare have again proven their salutary efficacy. Thus left and right have every reason to be United in Joy at the triumph of democracy, as they jointly conceive it: Free choice, with a pistol to your head.

  4. "Rallying to Chamorro"

The Kim Il Sung-style unanimity considered so natural and appropriate by the Times has, in fact, been characteristic of the "divisive foreign policy issue" that is said to have rent the United States in the past decade. As has been extensively documented, both reporting and permissible opinion in the media were virtually restricted to the question of the choice of means for returning Nicaragua to "the Central American mode." There was indeed a "division": Should this result be achieved by contra terror, or, if violence proved ineffective, by arrangements enforced by the death squad democracies that already observe the approved "regional standards," as advocated by Tom Wicker and other doves? This spectrum of thought was safeguarded at a level approaching 100% in the national press, a most impressive achievement. 29

Pre-election coverage maintained the same high standards of conformism. It was uniformly anti-Sandinista. The UNO coalition were the democrats, on the sole grounds that the coalition had been forged in Washington and included the major business interests, sufficient proof of democratic credentials by the conventions of U.S. political discourse. On similar assumptions, Bob Woodward describes the CIA operations launched by Carter as a "program to boost the democratic alternative to the Sandinistas"; no evidence of any concern for democracy is provided, or needed, on the conventional understanding of the concept of democracy.

Commentary and reporting on the Sandinistas was harsh and derisive. Some did break ranks. The Boston Globe ran an Op-Ed by Daniel Ortega a few days before the election, but the editors were careful to add an accompanying caricature of an ominous thug in a Soviet Field Marshal's uniform wearing designer glasses, just to ensure that readers would not be misled. 30 Media monitors have yet to come up with a single phrase suggesting that an FSLN victory might be the best thing for Nicaragua. Even journalists who privately felt that way did not say it, perhaps because they felt the idea would be unintelligible, on a par with "the U.S. is a leading terrorist state," or "Washington is blocking the peace process," or "maybe we should tell the truth about Cambodia and Timor," or other departures from dogma. Such statements lack cognitive meaning. They are imprecations, like shouting "Fuck You" in public; they can only elicit a stream of abuse, not a rational response. We see here the ultimate achievement of thought control, well beyond what Orwell imagined. Large parts of the language are simply determined to be devoid of meaning. It all makes good sense: In a Free Society, all must goose step on command, or keep silent. Anything else is just too dangerous.

On TV, Peter Jennings, also regarded as prone to left-wing deviation, opened the international news by announcing that Nicaragua is going to have its "first free election in a decade." 31 Three crucial doctrines are presupposed: first, the elections under Somoza were free; second, there was no free election in 1984; third, the 1990 election was free and uncoerced. A standard footnote is that Ortega was driven to accept the 1990 elections by U.S. pressure; here opinion divides, with the right and the left each claiming credit for the achievement.

We may disregard the first point, though not without noting that it has been a staple of the "establishment left," with its frequent reference to "restoring democracy" in Nicaragua. The second expresses a fundamental dogma, which brooks no deviation and is immune to fact; I need not review this matter, familiar outside of the reigning doctrinal system. The footnote ignores the unacceptable (hence unreportable) fact that the next election had been scheduled for 1990, and that the total effect of U.S. machinations was to advance it by a few months.

The most interesting point, however, is the third. Suppose that the USSR were to follow the U.S. model as the Baltic states declare independence, organizing a proxy army to attack them from foreign bases, training its terrorist forces to hit "soft targets" (health centers, schools, etc.) so that the governments cannot provide social services, reducing the economies to ruin through embargo and other sanctions, and so on, in the familiar routine. Suppose further that when elections come, the Kremlin informs the population, loud and clear, that they can vote for the CP or starve. Perhaps some unreconstructed Stalinist might call this a "free and fair election." Surely no one else would.

Or suppose that the Arab states were to reduce Israel to the level of Ethiopia, then issuing a credible threat that they would drive it the rest of the way unless it "cried uncle" and voted for their candidate. Someone who called this a "democratic election," "free and fair," would rightly be condemned as an outright Nazi.

The pertinence of the analogies is obvious. Simple logic suffices to show that anyone who called the 1990 Nicaraguan elections "free and fair," a welcome step towards democracy, was not merely a totalitarian, but of a rather special variety. Fact: That practice was virtually exceptionless. I have found exactly one mainstream journalist who was able to recognize -- or at least state -- the elementary truth. 32 Surely other examples must exist, but the conclusion, which we need not spell out, tells us a great deal about the reigning intellectual culture.

It was apparent from the outset that the U.S. would never tolerate free and fair elections. 33 The point was underscored by repeated White House statements that the terror and economic war would continue unless a "free choice" met the conditions of the Enforcer. It was made official in early November when the White House announced that the embargo would be lifted if the population followed U.S. orders. 34

To be sure, the kinds of "divisions" that the Times perceives were to be found on this matter as well. There were a few who simply denied that the military and economic wars had any notable impact; what could a mere $15 billion and 30,000 dead mean to a society as rich and flourishing as Nicaragua after Somoza? 35 Turning to those who tried to be serious, we find the usual two categories. The right didn't mention these crucial factors, and hailed the stunning triumph of democracy. The establishment left did mention them, and then hailed the stunning triumph of democracy. 36 Keeping to that sector of opinion, let us consider a few examples to illustrate the pattern.

Michael Kinsley, who represents the left on the New Republic editorial staff and in CNN television debate, presented his analysis of the election in the journal he edits (reprinted in the Washington Post). He recalled an earlier article of his, omitting its crucial content, to which we return. Kinsley then observes that "impoverishing the people of Nicaragua was precisely the point of the contra war and the parallel policy of economic embargo and veto of international development loans," and it is "Orwellian" to blame the Sandinistas "for wrecking the economy while devoting our best efforts to doing precisely that." "The economic disaster was probably the victorious opposition's best election issue," he continues, and "it was also Orwellian for the United States, having created the disaster, to be posturing as the exhorter and arbiter of free elections." 37

Kinsley then proceeds to posture, Orwellian-style, as the arbiter of free elections, hailing the "free election" and "triumph of democracy," which "turned out to be pleasanter than anyone would have dared to predict."

At the extreme of the establishment left, Anthony Lewis of the New York Times writes that "the Reagan policy did not work. It produced only misery, death and shame." Why it did not work, he does not explain; it appears to have worked very well. Lewis then proceeds to hail "the experiment in peace and democracy," which "did work." This triumph of democracy, he writes, gives "fresh testimony to the power of Jefferson's idea: government with the consent of the governed, as Vaclav Havel reminded us the other day. To say so seems romantic, but then we live in a romantic age." 38

We are "dizzy with success," as Stalin used to say, observing the triumph of our ideals in Central America and the Caribbean, the Philippines, the Israeli-occupied territories, and other regions where our influence reaches so that we can take credit for the conditions of life and the state of freedom.

The reference to Havel merits some reflection. Havel's address to Congress had a remarkable impact on the political and intellectual communities. "Consciousness precedes Being, and not the other way around, as the Marxists claim," Havel informed Congress to thunderous applause; in a Woody Allen rendition, he would have said "Being precedes Consciousness," eliciting exactly the same reaction. But what really enthralled elite opinion was his statement that the United States has "understood the responsibility that flowed" from its great power, that there have been "two enormous forces -- one, a defender of freedom, the other, a source of nightmares." We must put "morality ahead of politics," he went on. The backbone of our actions must be "responsibility -- responsibility to something higher than my family, my country, my company, my success"; responsibility to suffering people in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Timor, Indochina, Mozambique, the Gaza Strip, and others like them who can offer direct testimony on the great works of the "defender of freedom." 39

These thoughts struck the liberal community as a revelation from heaven. Lewis was not alone in being entranced. The Washington Post described them as "stunning evidence" that Havel's country is "a prime source" of "the European intellectual tradition," a "voice of conscience" that speaks "compellingly of the responsibilities that large and small powers owe each other." The Boston Globe hailed Havel for having "no use for clichés" as he gave us his "wise counsel" in a manner so "lucid and logical." Mary McGrory revelled in "his idealism, his irony, his humanity," as he "preached a difficult doctrine of individual responsibility" while Congress "obviously ached with respect" for his genius and integrity. Columnists Jack Germond and Jules Witcover asked why America lacks intellectuals so profound, who "elevate morality over self-interest" in this way. A front-page story in the Globe described how "American politicans and pundits are gushing over" Havel, and interviewed locals on why American intellectuals do not approach these lofty heights. 40

This reaction too provides a useful mirror for the elite culture. Putting aside the relation of Being to Consciousness, the thoughts that so entranced the intellectual community are, after all, not entirely unfamiliar. One finds them regularly in the pontifications of fundamentalist preachers, Fourth of July speeches, American Legion publications, and the journals and scholarly literature generally. Indeed, everywhere. Who can have been so remote from American life as not to have heard that we are "the defender of freedom" and that we magnificently satisfy the moral imperative to be responsible not just to ourselves, but to the Welfare of Mankind? There is only one rational interpretation: liberal intellectuals secretly cherish the pronouncements of Pat Robertson and the John Birch society, and can therefore gush in awe when these very same words are produced by Vaclav Havel.

Havel's "voice of conscience" has another familiar counterpart. In the Third World, one sometimes hears people say that the Soviet Union defends our freedom while the U.S. government is a nightmare. Journalist T.D. Allman, who wrote one of the few serious reports on El Salvador as the terror was peaking in 1980-1, described a visit to a Christian base community, subjected to the standard practices of the U.S.-backed security forces. An old man told him that he had heard of a country called Cuba across the seas that might have concern for their plight, and asked Allman to "tell us, please, sir, how we might contact these Cubans, to inform them of our need, so that they might help us." 41

Let us now try another thought experiment. Suppose that Allman's Salvadoran peasant or a Vietnamese villager had reached the Supreme Soviet to orate about moral responsibility and the confrontation between two powers, one a nightmare and the other a defender of freedom. There would doubtless have been a rousing ovation, while every party hack in Pravda would have gushed with enthusiasm. I do not, incidentally, mean to draw a comparison to what actually took place here. It is easy to understand that the world might look this way to someone whose experience is limited to U.S. bombs and U.S.-trained death squads on the one hand, and, on the other, Soviet tractors and anti-aircraft guns, and dreams of rescue by Cubans from unbearable torment. For victims of the West, the circumstances of existence make the conclusion plausible while barring knowledge of a broader reality. Havel and those who swoon over his familiar pieties can offer no such excuse.

We once again learn something about ourselves, if we choose.

The other Times spokesman for the left, Tom Wicker, followed the same script. He concludes that the Sandinistas lost "because the Nicaraguan people were tired of war and sick of economic deprivation." But the elections were "free and fair," untainted by coercion. 42

Still at the dissident extreme, Latin America scholar William LeoGrande also hailed the promise of the "democratic elections in Nicaragua," while noting that "In the name of democracy, Washington put excruciating military and economic pressure on Nicaragua in order to force the Sandinistas out of power." Now, he continues, "the United States must show that its commitment to democracy in Central America extends to pressuring friendly conservative governments as well." Thus, having demonstrated its "commitment to democracy" by terror and economic warfare, the U.S. should "extend" this libertarian fervor to pressure on its friends. 43

Turning to the shining light of American liberalism, the lead editorial in the Boston Globe was headlined "Rallying to Chamorro." All those who truly "love Nicaraguans," editorial page editor Martin Nolan declared, "must now rally to Chamorro." Suppose that in 1964 someone had said that all Goldwater supporters "must now rally to Johnson." Such a person would have been regarded as a throwback to the days when the Gauleiters and Commissars recognized that everyone must rally behind the Leader. In Nicaragua, which has not yet risen to our heights, no one issued such a pronouncement. We learn more about the prevailing conception of democracy. 44

Nolan goes on to explain that "Ortega was not an adept politician. His beloved masses could not eat slogans and voted with their stomachs, not their hearts." If Ortega had been more adept, he could have provided them with food -- by following Nolan's advice and capitulating to the master. Now, in this "blessing of democracy," "at long last, Nicaragua itself has spoken" -- freely and without duress.

Times correspondent David Shipler contributed his thoughts under the headline "Nicaragua, Victory for U.S. Fair Play." Following the liberal model, Shipler observes that "it is true that partly because of the confrontation with the U.S., Nicaragua's economy suffered terribly, setting the stage for the widespread public discontent with the Sandinistas reflected in Sunday's balloting." Conclusion? "The Nicaraguan election has proved that open, honorable support for a democratic process is one of the most powerful foreign policy tools at Washington's disposal" -- to be sure, after imposing "terrible suffering" to ensure the proper outcome in a "Victory for U.S. Fair Play." Shipler adds that now Nicaragua "needs help in building democratic institutions" -- which he and his colleagues are qualified to offer, given their understanding of true democracy. 45

In Newsweek, Charles Lane recognized that U.S. efforts to "democratize Nicaragua" through the contra war and "devastating economic sanctions" carried "a terrible cost," including 30,000 dead and another half million "uprooted from their homes," "routine" resort to "kidnapping and assassination," and other unpleasantness. So severe were the effects that "by the end of 1988, it was pride alone that kept the Sandinistas from meeting Reagan's demand that they `cry uncle'!" But the population finally voted for "a chance to put behind them the misery brought on by 10 years of revolution and war." "In the end, it was the Nicaraguans who won Nicaragua." We must "celebrate the moment" while reflecting "on the peculiar mix of good intentions and national insecurities that led us to become so passionately involved in a place we so dimly understood." 46

Editorials in the national press hailed "the good news from Nicaragua," "a devastating rebuke to Sandinistas," which "will strengthen democracy elsewhere in Central America as well" (New York Times). The editors do recognize that one question is "debatable," namely, "whether U.S. pressure and the contra war hastened or delayed the wonderful breakthrough." But "No matter; democracy was the winner," in elections free and fair. The Washington Post editors hoped that these elections would launch "Nicaragua on a conclusive change from a totalitarian to a democratic state," but are not sure. "The Masses Speak in Nicaragua," a headline reads, employing a term that is taboo apart from such special occasions. The Christian Science Monitor exulted over "another stunning assertion of democracy." 47

For completeness, it is only fair to point out that at the outer limits of respectable dissidence some qualms were indeed expressed. In the New Yorker, often virtually alone in the mainstream in its departures from official theology, the editors observe that "As both Nicaragua and Panama have recently shown, it's one thing to drive a tyrant from power, another to take on the burden of bankrolling his country out of the resulting shambles." The cost to us of repairing the wreckage caused by Noriega and Ortega before we succeeded finally in driving the tyrants from power should, therefore, lead us to think twice about such meritorious exercises. 48

Perhaps that is enough. I have sampled only the less egregious cases, keeping to the left-liberal spectrum. It would be hard to find an exception to the pattern.

Several features of the election coverage are particularly striking. First, the extraordinary uniformity. Second, the hatred and contempt for democracy revealed with such stark clarity across the political spectrum. And third, the utter incapacity to perceive these simple facts. Exceptions are rare indeed.

  5. Within Nicaragua

I have kept to the circumstances and the U.S. reaction, saying nothing about why Nicaraguans voted as they did, an important question, but a different one. The Nicaraguan reaction also has something to tell us about U.S. political culture.

Within the United States, the standard reaction was joyous acclaim for the Nicaraguan "masses" who had triumphed over their oppressors in fair elections. In Nicaragua, the reaction seems to have been rather different. After informing us that the winners were "the Nicaraguans, of course," the New Republic turns to its Managua correspondent, Tom Gjelten, who writes: "UNO victory rallies were small, mostly private affairs, and there was no mass outpouring into the streets. Most people stayed home." Almost a month after the elections, AP reported that "UNO supporters still have not held a public celebration." Many other reports from around Nicaragua confirm the somber mood, which contrasts strikingly to the Unity in Joy here. The comparison may suggest something about who won and who lost, but the thought was not pursued -- in the U.S., that is; in Latin America, the meaning was taken to be clear enough. 49

Subsequently, there was a celebration of the victory, an inaugural ball for President Chamorro at a former country club. "Gentility is back in style," AP correspondent Doralisa Pilarte reported, describing the "dressed-to-kill crowd of upper-crust Nicaraguans" with their "straw hats, cocktail dresses and manicured nails," "fine gowns and designer shoes," "refined manners and a glittering atmosphere that left some people gaping," "something not seen in leftist Nicaragua for more than a decade." "It's like `The Great Gatsby'," a South American diplomat said the next morning. Pilarte, whose reporting has been extremely critical of the Sandinistas, comments on the change from the past decade: "Even in diplomatic circles, a relaxed, down-home attitude had been encouraged by the Sandinistas, themselves generally more at ease in nicely pressed combat uniforms and in working-class barrios than in glitzy halls." 50

I found nothing about this in the press, a noteworthy omission after years of Sandinista-bashing highlighted by much sarcasm about Ortega's designer glasses and other examples of Sandinista self-indulgence while the poor were suffering -- commentary that would have been fair enough, had it been something more than just another service to the state propaganda system.

Yet another Nicaraguan reaction is described by Times reporter Larry Rohter, in a typically bitter and scornful condemnation of the "internationalists," who carry out such despicable activities as fixing bicycles and distributing grain "to child care centers and maternity clinics," and who intend to continue "serving the vast majority of workers and peasants whose needs have not diminished," an activist in the Casa Benjamin Linder says. Rohter quotes Vice President-elect Virgilio Godoy, who says that the new government will keep a close eye on these intruders: "we are not going to permit any foreigner to interfere in our domestic political problems." 51

In a well-disciplined culture, no one laughs when such statements are reported. Under the totalitarian Sandinistas, foreigners were permitted to forge a political coalition based upon the terrorist force they created to attack the country; and they were allowed to pour millions of dollars into supporting it in the elections. Foreigners engaged in what the World Court condemned as "the unlawful use of force" against Nicaragua were allowed to fund a major newspaper that called for the overthrow of the government and openly identified with the terrorist forces pursuing these ends, proxies of the foreign power funding the journal. Under these totalitarians, such foreigners as Jeane Kirkpatrick and U.S. Congressmen were permitted to enter the country to present public speeches and news conferences calling for the overthrow of the government by violence and supporting the foreign-run terrorist forces. "Human Rights" investigators accompanied by contra lobbyists posing as "experts" were permitted free access, as were journalists who were scarcely more than agents of the foreign power attacking the country. Nothing remotely resembling this record can be found in Western democracies; in the United States, Israel, England, and other democracies, such freedoms would be inconceivable, even under far less threat, as the historical record demonstrates with utter clarity.

But now, at last, totalitarianism is yielding to freedom, so Nicaragua will no longer tolerate "interference" from foreigners who have the wrong ideas about how to contribute to reform and development, foreigners who are not working for the violent overthrow of the government but rather are supporting the only mass-based political force in the country. We learn more about what is meant by "freedom" and "democracy" in the reigning political culture.

A word might be added about the disgust aroused by the internationalists, which the Times correspondent can barely suppress. This has been a standard feature of media commentary for years; it has been quite remarkable to see what revulsion and ridicule these volunteers inspire. But for completeness, we should add that the reaction is not completely uniform. One radical exception is a column by Washington Post correspondent David Broder, who writes with immense admiration of a project in Mobile Alabama, "nurtured by love and incredible dedication," which is sending "volunteer English teachers" abroad. "The remarkable thing," Broder continues, "is that all this is being done with volunteered funds and energy. Each teacher pays his or her own travel expenses (at discounted rates, negotiated by a Mobile travel agency) and carries his own instructional materials." 52

The volunteers who inspire his awe, however, are not Ben Linders heading for remote villages in Nicaragua, or young people volunteering to work in schools and universities there (without "discounted rates"). Rather, volunteer English teachers going off to suffer in the miserable conditions of Prague. The distinction will be obvious to any fair-minded observer.

  6. Looking Ahead

Let us depart now from the factual record and turn to a few speculations.

A fundamental goal of U.S. policy towards Latin America (and elsewhere), long-standing and well-documented, is to take control of the police and military so as to assure that the population will not act upon unacceptable ideas. One goal, then, will be eventually to restore something like the Somozist National Guard, following the prescriptions of the Carter doves.

A secondary goal is to destroy any independent press. Sometimes this requires murderous violence, as in El Salvador and Guatemala. The broad elite approval of the practice is evident from the reaction when it is carried out; typically, silence, coupled with praise for the advances towards democracy. Sometimes market forces suffice, as in Costa Rica, where the Spanish language press is a monopoly of the ultra-right.

More generally, there are two legitimate forces in Latin America: First and foremost, the United States; secondarily, the local oligarchy, military, and business groups that associate themselves with the interests of U.S. economic and political elites. If these forces hold power without challenge, all is well. The playing field is level, and if formal elections are held, it will be called "democracy." If there is any challenge from the general population, a firm response is necessary. The establishment, left and right, will tolerate some range of opinion over appropriate levels of savagery, repression, and general misery.

In Nicaragua, it will not be so simple to attain the traditional objectives. Any resistance to them will be condemned as "Sandinista totalitarianism." One can write the editorials in advance.

Perhaps the political coalition constructed by Washington will be unable to meet the demands imposed upon it by the master. If so, new managers will be needed. One option is a turn to the right, a virtual reflex. Vice-president Virgilio Godoy may qualify as an adequate hard-line autocrat, and ex-contras should be available to use the terrorist skills imparted to them by their trainers from the U.S. and its mercenary states. Or others may be found to do the job, as circumstances allow. Another option is to follow a different and also well-travelled road. There is one mass-based political organization in Nicaragua. It may disintegrate under repression, or social and economic deterioriation, or simply the inevitable pressures under monopoly of resources by the right-wing and its imperial associate. Or it may regain the vitality it has at least partially lost. If it remains, and if it can be brought to heel, perhaps its leadership can be assigned the task of social management under U.S. command. The point was made obliquely by the Wall Street Journal, in its triumphal editorial on the elections. "In time," the editors wrote, "Daniel Ortega may discover the moderating influences of democratic elections, as did Jamaica's Michael Manley, himself formerly a committed Marxist." 53

Translating from Newspeak, the U.S. may have to fall back on the Jamacian model, first working to undermine and destroy a popular movement, then lavishly supporting the preferred capitalist alternative that proved to be a miserable failure, then turning to the populist Manley to manage the resulting disaster -- but for us.54

The point is widely understood, though generally left tacit in polite commentary. As if by instinct, when the election returns were announced Ortega was instantaneously tranformed from a villain to a statesman, with real promise. He can be kept in the wings, to be called upon if needed to follow our directions, if only he can learn his manners.

The policy is routine. Once the rabble have been tamed, once the dream of a better future is abandoned and "the masses" understand that their only hope is to shine shoes for Whitey, then it makes good sense to allow a "democratic process" that may even bring former enemies to power. They can then administer the ruins, for us. A side benefit is that populist forces are thereby discredited. Thus the U.S. was quite willing to permit Manley to take over after the dismal failure of the Reaganite free market experiment, and would have observed with equanimity (indeed, much pride in our tolerance of diversity) if Juan Bosch had won the 1990 elections in the Dominican Republic. There is no longer any need to send the Marines to bar him from office as in 1965, when the population arose, defeating the army and restoring the populist constitutional regime that had been overthrown by a U.S.-backed coup. After years of death squads, starvation, mass flight of desperate boat people, and takeover of the rest of the economy by U.S. corporations, we need not be troubled by democratic forms. On the same reasoning, it is sometimes a good idea to encourage Black mayors -- if possible, civil rights leaders -- to preside over the decline of what is left of the inner cities of the domestic Third World. Once demoralization is thorough and complete, they can run the wreckage and control the population. Perhaps Ortega and the Sandinistas, having come to their senses after a dose of reality administered by the guardian of order, will be prepared to take on this task if the chosen U.S. proxies fail.

Years ago, a Jesuit priest working in Nicaragua, who had been active in Chile prior to the Pinochet coup, commented that "In Chile, the Americans made a mistake," killing the revolution there "too abruptly" and thus failing to "kill the dream." "In Nicaragua they're trying to kill the dream," he suggested. 55 That is surely a more rational policy, because if the dream is not killed, trouble might erupt again. But once the hope of a more free and just society is lost, and the proper habits are "ingrained" (as in Manley's Jamaica, according to the World Bank official whose satisfied evaluation was quoted earlier), then things should settle down to the traditional endurance of suffering and privation, without disturbing noises from the servants' quarters.

If all works well, Maynes's establishment left will once again be able to celebrate what he calls the U.S. campaign "to spread the cause of democracy." It is true, he observes, that sometimes things don't quite work out. Thus "specialists may point out that the cause of democracy suffered some long-run setbacks in such places as Guatemala and Iran because of earlier CIA `successes' in overthrowing governments there." But ordinary folk should not be troubled by the human consequences of these setbacks. More successful is the case of Grenada, where the cause of democracy triumphed at not too great a cost to us, Maynes observes, "and the island has not been heard from since." There has been no need to report the recent meaningless elections, the social dissolution and decay, the state of siege instituted by the official democrats, the decline of conditions of life, and other standard concomitants of "the defense of freedom." Perhaps, with luck, Nicaragua will prove to be a success of which we can be equally proud. Panama is already well along the familiar road.

With proper management, then, we should be able to leave the Sandinistas, at least in anything like their earlier incarnation, down somewhere in "the ash heap of history" where they belong, and "return Central America to the obscurity it so richly deserves" in accord with the prescriptions of the establishment left (Alan Tonelson, Maynes's predecessor at Foreign Policy).56

Outside of the official left-right spectrum, the non-people have other values and commitments, and a quite different understanding of responsibility to something other than themselves and of the cause of democracy and freedom. They should also understand that solidarity work is now becoming even more critically important than before. Every effort will be made to de-educate the general population so that they sink to the intellectual and moral level of the cultural and social managers. Those who do not succumb have a historic mission, and should not forget that.

 


1 Sorenson, Op-Ed, NYT, Nov. 13, 1987.

2 For illuminating discussion, see the articles by Carlos Vilas and George Vickers in NACLA Report on the Americas, June 1990.

3 Jornada, Universal, Tiempo, cited in World Press Review, April 1990. Soler, Excelsior, March 4; Concha, Punto, Feb. 27, in Latin America News Update, May, April 1990.  

4 Central America Report, March 9, 2, 1990.

5 Financial Times, Feb. 27, 1990. After noting that the contra war brought the country close to bankruptcy, with $12 billion in damages in addition to the vast costs of the economic sanctions, they attribute primary responsibility to Sandinista "economic mismanagement" and their "totalitarian system." I leave the logic to others to decipher. Cameron and Kemble, From a Proxy Force to a National Liberation Movement, ms, Feb. 1986, circulated privately in the White House.

6 Tony Avirgan, Mesoamerica, March 1990.  

7 Time, March 12, 1990. AP, May 1, 1990, reporting the President's accounting to Congress on "what it cost to wage economic war."

8 TNR, March 19, 1990.

9 Maynes, Foreign Policy, Spring 1990. TNR, editorials, May 2, 1981; April 2, 1984. For further details, see Turning the Tide, 117, 167f.

10 Hertzberg, cited in Extra! (FAIR), March/April 1990. Lord Chitnis, "Observing El Salvador: the 1984 elections," Third World Quarterly, October 1984.

11 Sciolino, NYT, Feb. 27, 1990.  

12 On Linowitz, see below and Culture of Terrorism, 119. McNeil, War and Peace in Central America (Scribner's, 1988), 33.

13 Newsom, Christian Science Monitor, March 22; Mike Christensen, NYT news service, Feb. 7, 1990.  

14 Robert Pastor, Condemned to Repetition, 107, 157; see chapter 8 on his account from the inside.

15 Ibid., 161; Peter Kornbluh, Nicaragua (Center for Policy Studies, Washington, 1987), 15f. For general discussion, see Holly Sklar, Washington's War on Nicaragua (South End, 1988). Brzezinski, Vaky, and Vance, see chapter 8, section 4.

16 Kornbluh, op. cit.

17 Ibid., 19; see Culture of Terrorism, 86; Bob Woodward, Veil (Simon & Schuster, 1987), 113; Jenkins, New Modes of Conflict (Rand Corporation, June 1983).

18 Pastor, op. cit., 157, 208-9; Susanne Jonas, in Stanford Central America Action Network, Revolution in Central America (Westview, 1983), 90f.

19 Ibid.; Theodore Schwab and Harold Sims, in Thomas Walker, ed., Nicaragua: the First Five Years (Westview, 1988), 461.

20 Charles Lane, another spokesman for the establishment left, Newsweek, March 12, 1990.  

21 Walker, Nicaragua, 67f.; Michael Conroy, in Walker, ed., op. cit.; La Prensa (Managua), April 20, 1988, and Stephen Kinzer, "Anti-Sandinistas Say U.S. Should End Embargo," NYT, Jan. 12, 1989.

22 Conroy, op. cit.; Mayorga, chapter 7, p. 232.

23 Ibid., 232-3, 223, 239; Diana Melrose, Nicaragua: the Threat of a Good Example? (Oxfam, 1985); Sylvia Maxfield & Richard Stahler-Sholk, in Walker, ed., op. cit.; Kornbluh, op. cit., 105f.

24 Culture of Terrorism, 52; Andrew Marshall, Financial Times, Feb. 27; Christopher Marquis, Miami Herald, Feb. 21, 1990.

25 Mark Uhlig, "U.S. Urges Nicaragua to Forgive Legal Claim," NYT, Sept. 30, 1990.

26 Chapter 8, p. 296; State Department official cited by Thomas Walker in Coleman and Herring, Central American Crisis. Government official cited by Julia Preston, BG, Feb. 9, 1986. MacMichael, see p. 297, above.

27 Necessary Illusions, 204f., 71-2; Culture of Terrorism, 43, 219-22; chapter 2, p. 79f.

28 Bill Gertz, Washington Times, Dec. 5, 1988, citing a leaked classified State Department report.  

29 See Necessary Illusions, particularly 61-6; Manufacturing Consent.

30 BG, Feb. 22, 1990.

31 ABC World News Tonight, Feb. 20, 1990.  

32 Randolph Ryan, BG, Feb. 28. Also, outside the mainstream, Alexander Cockburn, Wall Street Journal, March 1. See also New Yorker, "Talk of the Town," March 12, 1990.

33 See my articles in Z magazine, December 1989, January 1990; chapters 9, 5 here.

34 See chapter 9, p. 299.

35 See, e.g., Robert Leiken, BG, March 4, 1990, reprinted from the Los Angeles Times. On Leiken's intriguing method of merging his Maoist convictions with Reaganism, and the appreciative reception for this useful amalgam, see Culture of Terrorism, 213, 205-6.

36 We note, however, that the distinction is not crystal clear. Thus Time magazine, as we have seen, did take ample note of the murder and destruction that had paved the way to the great triumph of democracy, though presumably it should be listed on the conservative side. The spectrum of articulate opinion is so narrow that the alleged distinctions are often hard to follow.

37 Kinsley, NR, March 19; WP, March 1, 1990. On his earlier article, see chapter 12, p. 377.

38 Lewis, NYT, March 2, 1990.  

39 See Excerpts, NYT, Feb. 22; WP weekly, March 5, 1990.

40 Editorial, WP, Feb. 26; BG, Feb. 23, Feb. 26, Feb. 24, March 1, 1990.

41 Harper's, March 1981.

42 Wicker, NYT, March 1, 1990.

43 Leogrande, NYT, March 17, 1990.  

44 Nolan, BG, Feb. 27, 1990. Nolan identified himself to the Nation as the author of these fine words.

45 Shipler, Op-Ed, NYT, March 1, 1990.

46 Lane, op. cit.,, possibly also the author of the unsigned New Republic editorial cited in note 8, to judge by the similarity of wording.

47 NYT, Feb. 27; WP-Manchester Guardian Weekly, March 11, WP weekly, March 5; CSM, Feb. 28, 1990.

48 "Talk of the Town," New Yorker, Aug. 27, 1990.  

49 Gjelten, New Republic, March 19 (written weeks earlier; I am concerned only with the facts he describes, not his personal interpretation of them).

50 Pilarte, AP, June 8, 1990.

51 Rohter, NYT, March 13, 1990.

52 Broder, WP-BG, Aug. 6, 1990.  

53 WSJ, March 1, 1990.

54 On the Jamaican model, see chapter 7, pp. 234f.  

55 See Turning the Tide, 145f.

56 See chapter 8, section 5


Table of Contents ] Introduction ] I. Cold War: Fact and Fancy ] II. The Home Front ] III. The Global System ] IV. Problems of Population Control ] V. The Post-Cold War Era ] VI. Nefarious Aggression ] VII. The Victors ] VIII. The Agenda of the Doves: 1988 ] IX. The Mortal Sin of Self-Defense ] [ X. The Decline of the Democratic Ideal ] XI. Democracy in the Industrial Societies ] XII. Force and Opinion ] Afterword ]


 ] Deterring Democracy ] Necessary Illusions ] The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many ] Keeping the Rabble in Line ] Rethinking Camelot ] Powers and Prospects ] Year 501 ] Secrets, Lies and Democracy ] What Uncle Sam Really Wants ] Interviews, Debates and Talks ] About Noam Chomsky ]


 
 
 

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