Chapter 3: Low-Intensity Conflict: The Strategy

War Against the Poor: Low-Intensity Conflict and Christian Faith
by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer

Chapter 3: Low-Intensity Conflict: The Strategy

I think the U.S. government enjoys playing with the stomachs of humanity.

-- A Nicaraguan Mother

It takes relatively few people and little support to disrupt the internal peace and economic stability of a small country.

-- William Casey, CIA Director

Four health workers were taken from their homes by the contras, then killed and their bodies mutilated. Three were Castilblanco brothers who worked with CEPAD, a Protestant relief and development agency: Nestor, father of two and administrator of CEPAD’s local health program; Daniel; and Filemon. The fourth, Jesus Barrera, was a social worker with the Catholic church. Daniel’s body was found with one eye missing, and Jesus was castrated. Before leaving town the contras burned down Daniel’s house and stole the medicine from CEPAD’s clinic. Daniel’s wife had just given birth that day, and is left a widow with a newborn infant, whose home is destroyed.

-- Witness for Peace Report, 1986


Living standards in Central America declined dramatically throughout the 1980s. Ongoing structural inequalities, declining terms of trade, and U.S. sponsored militarization of the region took a brutal toll, particularly on the poor. Nicaragua was especially hard hit by declining prices for its exports and the U.S.-imposed low-intensity war. By 1988, Nicaragua’s economy was in shambles, with production down and inflation nearly uncontrollable. Rising food prices, crowded buses, and widespread shortages were evident throughout the country.

The stakes in Nicaragua are very high. It would be easy to conclude, as U.S. low-intensity-conflict planners would like, that the revolution has failed. The reality is more complex. Tiny Nicaragua’s independence from the U.S. empire and the empire’s response to that freedom placed Nicaragua on a bloodstained geopolitical stage. The seeds of hope that sprouted in Nicaragua spread light to impoverished people throughout the third world. The empire’s response cast an ominous shadow. "We must proclaim that there are no geostrategic interests of the U.S. in Central America," states the Jesuit director of Nicaragua’s Catholic University, "that can justify the financing of the death of the poor through the maintenance of . . . counterrevolutionary war."1

Brazilian Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga underscores the broader significance of events unfolding in Nicaragua when he writes that "the United States should understand that the cause of Nicaragua is the cause of all Latin America. . . . I believe that Nicaragua’s cause is also the cause of the whole church of Jesus."2

U.S. strategists hope to limit our vision of Nicaragua to obvious problems such as food shortages, rising prices, and crowded buses. They work to distort our view of the causes of these problems and they hope to obscure the direct relationship that exists between implementation of low-intensity-conflict strategy and widespread suffering in Nicaragua.

U.S. policymakers may or may not succeed in overthrowing the Nicaraguan revolution. However, even if successful they will never be able to claim ultimate victory in their war against the poor unless we fall into the trap of looking at history through the policymakers’ distorted lenses. " In this world of betrayal," Salvadoran poet Ramon del Campoamor writes, "there is nothing true or false. Everything depends on the color of the crystal through which one gazes."

Lessons From the Past: Basic Background

The Vietnam War was the most costly and deadly third-world intervention in U.S. history. U.S. bombers saturated Vietnam with more than 7 million tons of bombs, nearly three times the combined totals from the Korean and Second World wars. More than 6.5 million Vietnamese, approximately the combined populations of Minnesota and Iowa, were killed or injured during the years 1965 through 1974. Most of the victims were civilians.

The suffering caused by the U.S. intervention was not limited to the people of Indochina. The war tore apart the emotional and economic fabric of the United States. More than 3 million U.S. soldiers were deployed in Vietnam. U.S. casualties numbered more than 360,000, with approximately 50,000 deaths. Protests spread from college campuses and churches into the main streets of cities across the United States. The Vietnam War also accelerated the militarization of the U.S. economy. This trend continued throughout the post-Vietnam period to the point that "if the U.S. military industry were a national economy, it would be the 13th largest in the world."3 Military priorities have seriously distorted both the U.S. and the global economy.

Poor people in the United States suffered directly and indirectly as a result of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. They fought and died in disproportionate numbers in a racist war that defended elite class interests. Also, President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs that were to improve living standards for the poor were undermined by the escalating costs of the war against the poor in Southeast Asia.

Defeat in Vietnam presented the U.S. people and nation with an opportunity for repentance. Unfortunately, most churches and Christians in the United States abandoned their right to prophecy and responsible pastoral work in a post-Vietnam assessment. Their subservience to the dominant culture had sapped them of moral strength. Many had remained silent throughout the war. Other individuals and groups who had protested against U.S. policy saw Vietnam as an unusual mistake rather than as one of many foreign interventions in defense of empire. Many believed that a war that had been motivated by good intentions, such as the "defense of freedom," had gone awry.

Repentance was far from the minds of U.S. military planners and economic elites in the post-Vietnam period. They concerned themselves with developing more effective strategies of interventionism. They studied the revolutionary thoughts and experiences of Mao, Ho Chi Mihn, and Che Guevara; reopened the books on previous U.S. counterinsurgency programs; and painstakingly examined the political and military strategies that had failed in Vietnam. The result of their labors is low-intensity-conflict strategy.

Lesson One: Improve Military Capacity

The highest strategic priority for the United States in the post-Vietnam era was to improve its military capacity to intervene effectively in third-world settings. I described in chapter 1, above, how low-intensity-conflict planners view the third world as the critical locus of international conflict and the front line in the defense of U.S. privilege. The development or improvement of Special Operations Forces (SOF) was a critical component in low-intensity-conflict strategy to fight effectively "World War III" or, more accurately, to wage war against the poor throughout the third world.

Lesson Two: Cost Effectiveness and Hearts and Minds

The United States failed to win in Vietnam even though it made a huge investment in dollars and U.S. lives, and despite the fact that it unleashed unprecedented firepower. This led to the conclusion that U.S. interventions need to be less costly and that the objective of warfare is not simply to win territory but to control the hearts and minds of the people. "Low intensity conflict is an economical option which we must, as a result of Vietnam, recognize as a legitimate form of conflict at least for the next twenty years, stated a former U.S. Army officer and veteran of the war in Southeast Asia. "The last quarter of the twentieth century is going to call for measured national initiatives which combine economic, psychological, and military ingredients. We cannot afford," he continued, "a military which provides only a sledgehammer in situations which demand the surgeon’s scalpel."4

Vietnam demonstrated that the deployment of large numbers of U.S. troops and the use of unlimited firepower were expensive and not necessarily an effective means of waging war against the poor. In a similar way, military coups that changed power at the top were often incapable of controlling events and people at the base of society. Military aspects of warfare needed to be complemented by economic and psychological approaches that could influence and control hearts and minds. Properly implemented strategies of economic and psychological warfare could help drive a wedge between oppressed people and revolutionary or progressive social-change movements.

Psychological operations, according to a field manual produced by the U.S. Army, involve the "planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of [U.S.] national objectives."5 A Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) manual produced for the U.S.-backed contras in Nicaragua states that once the mind of a person "has been reached, the ‘political animal’ has been defeated, without necessarily receiving bullets. . . . Our target, then, is the minds of the population, all the population: our troops, the enemy troops and the civilian population."6

Low-intensity conflict utilizes a variety of means in order to control hearts and minds and separate people from revolutionary movements. These Include cosmetic economic reforms, widespread bombing, "humanitarian assistance," and terrorism. The diversity of means employed by low-intensity-conflict strategists blurs classical distinctions between military and economic aid, humanitarian assistance, and military operations. All are part of the same unified war effort.

El Salvador offers clear examples of the diversity of options used by U.S. policymakers to influence hearts and minds. The United States designed and imposed El Salvador’s cosmetic land reform in an effort to draw support away from the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) which had broad-based support among campesinos. However, cosmetic reforms for counterrevolutionary purposes had little success in winning hearts and minds. The United States then directed the Salvadoran military to carry Out massive bombing campaigns against civilians in rural areas in an effort to displace them from their homelands, a policy similar to that employed in Vietnam. Bombing and forced displacement were followed by the delivery of "humanitarian assistance" in an effort to win support from the survivors. "Humanitarian assistance," according to a U.S. general, is "a fundamental Department of Defense mission in low intensity warfare." It is "an integral part of military operations" (italics added).7

There is a common saying in Central America that summarizes the fundamental contradiction in U.S. low-intensity-conflict strategy: "Everything has changed except the reality." Low-intensity conflict seeks to manage images, to control minds, and to give the appearance of reforms while leaving the structures of violence in place. It is these unjust structures (as Herbert Anaya explained in chap. 2) that victimize the poor and give rise to social rebellion. When psychological approaches and cosmetic reforms fail to pacify people and guarantee the privileges of the empire, then the appropriate measure of violence is applied through bombings or repression.

Lesson Three: Let Others Do the Dying

The challenge facing U.S. policymakers in the post-Vietnam period is to fight wars to defend perceived U.S. interests while limiting U.S. casualties. It is a conscious part of low-intensity-conflict strategy that other people do the dying in the U.S. war against the poor. Low-intensity-conflict planners cultivate and count on the conscious and unconscious racism of the U.S. people. They assume that as long as few U.S. boys return in body bags, the U.S. people will tolerate their government’s questionable, illegal, even ghastly policies in third-world countries where nonwhites do the dying.

Analogies are often made between present U.S. policies in Central America and past involvement in Vietnam. These analogies are generally useful, but the U.S. experience in Vietnam led low-intensity-conflict planners to see the deployment of a significant number of U.S. fighting forces as a policy of last resort. Special Operations Forces (SOF) have been created or improved in order to lead military strikes throughout the third world, and thousands of U.S. troops have trained for a massive invasion of Central America. However, the United States prefers to wage war through less visible, covert means (including participation of some of the SOF groups) and through the use of surrogate troops like the contras and the Salvadoran military. Covert activities and the use of proxy troops are financially and politically less costly. The U.S. government avoids -- for now -- the public outcry that would accompany hefty tax increases and the deployment and death of thousands of U.S. soldiers. Also, by training national guard and reserve forces, the United States has adequately prepared its troops for a possible future invasion while avoiding a controversial draft that would shatter the indifference of many college students and their families.

Low-intensity conflict can be described more accurately as low-visibility warfare. The U.S. global war against the poor is being fought in the midst of shadows cast by the legacy of the "Vietnam Syndrome." Low-intensity-conflict strategy is shaped as much by the need to manage U.S. public opinion as it is by the assessment of how to fight effectively within third-world settings. Michael Klare, in Christianity and Crisis, writes:

Low-intensity conflict [LIC], by definition, is that amount of murder, mutilation, torture, rape, and savagery that is sustainable without triggering widespread public disapproval at home. Or to put it another way, LIC is the ultimate in "yuppie" warfare -- it allows privileged Americans to go on buying condominiums, wearing chic designer clothes, eating expensive meals at posh restaurants, and generally living in style without risking their own lives, without facing conscription, without paying higher taxes, and, most important, without being overly distracted by grisly scenes on the television set. That, essentially, is the determining characteristic of low-intensity conflict in the American context today.8

Lesson Four: Manage Repression and Terror

A fourth lesson that has shaped low-intensity conflict in the post-Vietnam period is the importance of making effective use of repression and terror. Low-intensity conflict is described as a strategy to counter terrorism. However, terrorism and repression are key components in its strategy of warfare against the poor. The United States terrorized civilians as part of its war effort in Vietnam. The methods of spreading terror ranged from indiscriminate bombings to targeted campaigns such as the Phoenix program through which more than 30,000 civilians thought to be sympathetic to the enemy were assassinated.

Low-intensity-conflict planners promote the use of terrorism in defense of perceived U.S. interests. Their post-Vietnam assessment was that repression and terror were essential components of U.S. warfare strategy in the third world. However, they must be managed more effectively to achieve specific goals.

The management of repression and terrorism is clearly seen in the implementation of low-intensity-conflict strategy in Central America. In El Salvador repression and terror are central to U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in defense of an unpopular government at war against its own people. Widespread bombing of civilians in the countryside served the political and military objective of displacing people from areas where the FMLN enjoyed widespread support. Human rights were also managed to respond to changing political needs and circumstances.

Herbert Anaya earlier described how the United States manipulates human rights as part of a "counterrevolutionary strategy." "Repression grows," Anaya said, "in response to the strength of popular organizations." When the popular movements were building, they were met by a period of massive repression. "After destroying the popular movements they began talking about ‘respecting’ human rights. The psychological terror of the people was already well established," Anaya stated. "We therefore entered a period of selective repression." As the popular movements rebounded, the groundwork was laid "to justify a new wave of repression." It was once again time "to turn the screws."

U.S. low-intensity-conflict strategy in El Salvador utilized generalized terror against civilians in order to sow fear and shape the collective memory of the people. It was hoped that once terrorized the people could be intimidated into silence with lesser amounts of violence, that is, through selective terror. If over time selective terror proved an insufficient deterrent to "the crimes of the poor," then violence escalated accordingly.

The U.S. strategy of managing terror in El Salvador can be illustrated by use of an analogy. Imagine a situation in which mass murderers kill thirty people in your politically active neighborhood for eight consecutive weeks. Among the dead are both neighborhood activists and others less active but possibly sympathetic to the ideas of such activists. Human rights groups within and outside your neighborhood protest against the violence. After eight weeks of generalized terror, daily funerals, and blood in the streets there is a significant reduction in the overt use of violence. "Only" five people are killed weekly during weeks nine and ten. All of the victims were apparently targeted for assassination because they were members of neighborhood organizations or members of local human rights groups that had demanded that the perpetrators of the violence be brought to justice.

The U.S. government cites reduced numbers of death-squad victims as "proof" of its commitment to human rights in El Salvador and the success of that commitment. The following three questions, based on the analogy above, illustrates the difference between respect for human rights and the management of terror.

1. Would a reduced body count make you and your family feel safe in your neighborhood if not one of the mass murderers had been arrested, tried before a court of law, or jailed?

2. Would a reduction in assassinations from thirty to five each week encourage you to be involved politically if you knew that while the body-count figures were down activists were being targeted for assassination and harassment?

3. What would be your response if several of your neighbors took advantage of the "safer conditions in the neighborhood" and spoke out freely, only to be killed (so that in subsequent weeks the numbers of dead averaged fifteen)?

U.S-sponsored and -managed terrorism is not limited to counterinsurgency projects directed against the poor who are working to change U.S. backed governments. The United States also managed the repression and terror utilized by the contras in Nicaragua as part of a proinsurgency campaign against a popularly elected government. Edgar Chamorro, a former high-level leader in the U.S. war against Nicaragua, left the U.S-backed contras because he could no longer stomach the atrocities committed against civilians. Chamorro testified before the International Court of Justice (World Court) during Nicaragua’s case against the United States. He indicated that terrorism was the policy of the U.S. government and not simply the actions of an uncontrollable surrogate force:

A major part of my job as communications officer was to work to improve the image of the F.D.N. [the Nicaraguan Democratic Force, which is the largest contra group] forces. This was challenging, because it was standard F.D.N. practice to kill prisoners and suspected Sandinista collaborators. In talking with officers in the F.D.N. camps along the Honduran border, I frequently heard offhand remarks like, "Oh, I cut his throat." The C.I.A. did not discourage such tactics. To the contrary, the Agency severely criticized me when I admitted to the press that the F.D.N. had regularly kidnapped and executed agrarian reform workers and civilians. We were told that the only way to defeat the Sandinistas was to . . . kill, kidnap, rob and torture.9

If the United States is ever brought before a Nuremberg-type tribunal to assess its crimes against the poor of Central America, neither Christians living in the United States nor the nation’s leaders will be able to use the argument that "we didn’t know" about U.S-sponsored terrorism. Witness for Peace and other religious groups, former CIA officials, and human rights organizations such as Americas Watch and Amnesty International have all documented and condemned U.S. support for the contras and other "friendly" governments that terrorize civilians. In what is perhaps the best human rights report on Nicaragua the London-based Catholic Institute for International Relations states that "the greatest violator of human rights in Nicaragua is neither the Sandinistas nor the contras but the U.S. government. In order to . . . re-establish unchallenged U.S. control over a region which it regards as its backyard," the report continues, "the U.S. has sacrificed . . . Nicaraguan lives . . . and caused untold suffering.

Witness for Peace has documented hundreds of cases similar to the following:

Natividad Miranda Sosa was kidnapped and held for nine months along with her four daughters, ages 20, 15, 13 and 11. Her oldest daughter, Aureliana, was delivered to the contra leader known as "El Gato." The rest of the women were held captive by the contra leader called "El Gavilan." They were given little to eat or drink, were constantly guarded, and raped again and again.

The 11 year old daughter, Mirian, clung to her mother until one day the contras split them up by telling Natividad she had to cook for them. Eleven year old Mirian was raped, and passed from one contra to the next. The following night they did not touch Mirian, but for Natividad the second night was the worst. "I didn’t think I would live," she related.11

"Encouraging techniques of raping women and executing men and children," former CIA official John Stockwell states, "is a coordinated policy of the destabilization program" (italics added)12

One other example from on-the-scene reports by Witness for Peace illustrates the human costs of U.S. support for terrorism as part of its low-intensity-conflict strategy against the poor of Nicaragua:

On a Sunday afternoon 20 men were kidnapped by the contras from the countryside surrounding Achuapa. The bodies of 13 were found in a ditch a week later. The campesinos who found the decomposing bodies, covered with rocks and logs, located them by their smell. All the remains showed signs of torture: cut out tongues, stab wounds, empty eye sockets, severed fingers and toes, castration. Most of the dead had been so badly tortured they were difficult to identify.13

The overall objective of U.S-sponsored terrorism in Nicaragua was to erode popular support from a revolution whose commitment to improving the living standards of the poor was unacceptable to the empire. Generalized terror against civilians in Nicaragua, as in El Salvador, was part of a campaign to create a climate of fear and terror. The United States also encouraged the use of more selective terror in which government leaders, teachers, health workers, land-reform promoters, and others associated with the development of social programs of the government were targeted for assassination.

The CIA manual Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare, which encouraged the contras to assassinate "government officials and sympathizers," may have been produced in order to encourage the contras to shift from the phase of warfare conducted through generalized terror into a new phase of targeted terror against civilians who were committed to the revolutionary process. "I found many of the tactics advocated in the manual to be offensive," Edgar Chamorro stated before the World Court. "I complained to the C.I.A. station chief . . . and no action was ever taken in response to my complaints." "In fact", Chamorro continued, "the practices advocated in the manual were employed by the F.D.N. troops. Many civilians were killed in cold blood. Many others were tortured, mutilated, raped, robbed or otherwise abused."14

Targeted repression and terror are vital components of the U.S. war against the poor. Their goal in Nicaragua was to discourage people from promoting or participating in literacy campaigns, health programs, vaccinations, forestry projects, and land reforms. The U.S-backed contras were instructed to kill people who worked to improve the living standards of the poor in an effort to undermine the most positive gains of the Nicaraguan revolution.

Lesson Five: Redefine Victory

The central role of terrorism in low-intensity-conflict strategy against the Nicaraguan people is related to a fifth lesson learned from the U.S. war in Vietnam. The U.S. failure in Vietnam led low-intensity-conflict planners to redefine victory and defeat. The United States had "lost" the war but not entirely. Vietnam was outside U.S. control and this was an element of defeat. However, although the Vietnamese people’s victory over the United States might fuel other third-world people’s political struggles, the war had effectively destroyed Vietnam’s economy so that it might never recover. The outcome in Vietnam, therefore, could be considered a victory for the United States because Vietnam could be pointed to as another example "of the failures of socialism."

Low-intensity-conflict planners define victory in terms of a sliding scale of acceptable outcomes. In Nicaragua, for example, there were at least three potential end-results whereby U.S. policymakers could claim victory. The first and most desirable goal was to overthrow the Nicaraguan revolution and replace it with a government subservient to U.S. interests. A replacement government would preferably have a human face and be less dictatorial than the former U.S-backed dictatorship. However, brutality would be tolerated or encouraged if it became necessary during the course of undoing authentic reforms.

A second acceptable end-result of low-intensity-conflict strategy in Nicaragua was to make people suffer. Few U.S. policymakers believed the contras were "freedom fighters" who would overthrow an unpopular Nicaraguan government. For example, the former U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, Anthony Quainton, openly acknowledged in meetings I attended with U.S. delegations, that the Nicaraguan revolution had widespread popular support and he rightly predicted that in fair elections the Sandinistas would win a sizable victory.

An honest assessment of the successes and deficiencies of the Nicaraguan revolution would need to consider that the purpose of proinsurgency is to shift the priorities of governments disliked by the United States from revolutionary development into warfare. Since achieving independence from the U.S-backed dictatorship in 1979, Nicaragua has had only three years of relative peace. During those three years substantial progress was made in improving living standards. In the years that followed, despite an escalating U.S. war of aggression, Nicaragua expanded and institutionalized land and other structural economic reforms, drafted and ratified a constitution, and held internationally praised elections.

The contras within this framework of unacceptable structural reforms and improvements in living standards were not expected to win a traditional military victory. Their task was to help undermine a popular revolution. "It takes relatively few people and little support to disrupt the internal peace and economic stability of a small country," according to the late CIA director, William Casey. The U.S. war might not overthrow the Sandinistas, but "it will harass the government" and "waste it."15 On another occasion Casey told the National Security Council: "We have our orders. I want the economic infrastructure hit, particularly the ports. [If the contras] can’t get the job done, we’ll use our own people and the Pentagon detachment. We have to get some high-visibility successes."16 Within months the United States did use its "own people," known as Unilaterally Controlled Latino Assets, to blow up an oil pipeline at Puerto Sandino and oil storage tanks at the Nicaraguan port of Corinto. "Although the F.D.N. had nothing whatsoever to do with this operation," a former contra leader reported, "we were instructed by the CIA to publicly take responsibility in order to cover the CIA’s involvement." 17

The U.S. contra war was meant to inflict suffering and to terrorize the civilian population. The United States sought to destroy Nicaragua’s economy through U.S. and contra attacks against production sites and human services and by forcing the Nicaraguan government to shift scarce resources away from development and into defense. If the people in El Salvador ever succeed in ousting the U.S-backed government, improving living standards might still be impossible. The United States has the capacity to disrupt economic life in El Salvador through restrictions of aid and control of access to markets. The United States could also fund a contra-like force that would prevent authentic development.

Suffering defined as victory helps explain the central role assigned to terrorism within the low-intensity-conflict project against Nicaragua. The Executive Summary Report of a U.S. Medical Task Force investigation of contra attacks against civilians, from January 1988, states:

It is abhorrent that a primary goal of the contra army is the systematic destruction of the Nicaraguan rural health care system. Contra attacks are not mere accidents of war, but are part of a strategy which focuses on disrupting development work, rather than on achieving military victories. Attacks on health care are only one facet of contra strategy. Not only clinics, but schools, farms, and water projects are all targets of contra aggression. Fear of the contras is woven into the very matrix of the everyday lives of rural Nicaraguans. In the words of the November 5, 1987 report released by the respected human rights organization Americas Watch, contra violations of the laws of war are "so prevalent that these may be said to be their principal means of waging war."18

A third and perhaps the most ironic acceptable outcome of U.S. policy would have been a successful effort to force Nicaragua into a dependency relationship on the socialist block countries. The U.S. economic embargo against Nicaragua as well as aggressive lobbying of U.S. allies to reduce political and economic support have been regular features of U.S. policy. It may seem absurd that right-wing ideologues would work to push a nation into the clutches of the "evil empire" they despise. However, the fruit of such a distorted policy would be to confirm the worldview described in chapter 2 above, in which nonalignment is a contradiction in terms and third-world countries must choose either to accept U.S. domination or to face a U.S-supported war.

Nicaragua, nonaligned and successfully improving the living standards of the poor within the framework of a mixed economy and political pluralism, posed a far greater threat to U.S. interests than a Soviet puppet state ever could. Pushing Nicaragua into a dependent relationship with the Soviet Union would not only have destroyed Nicaragua’s indigenous model; it would have helped to justify an outright U.S. invasion of Nicaragua as well as greater interventionism throughout the third world.

Lesson Six: Deceive Your Own People

A sixth lesson learned by low-intensity-conflict planners is that the U.S. people must be targeted as part of the war to control hearts and minds. U.S. low-intensity-conflict planners fear the basic decency of the U.S. people. They engage in terrorism in defense of empire, but they know that to acknowledge openly abhorrent means and goals could undermine the national myths that hold the nation together.

I described earlier how low-intensity conflict is designed to make U.S. warfare less costly and less visible. Beyond this issue of "yuppie" warfare is the central role assigned to disinformation within the framework of low-intensity conflict.

Low-intensity-conflict supporters and planners believe that U.S. citizens cannot be trusted to defend the empire. "U.S. national security interests" are increasingly being defined and defended by "Oliver North-type crusaders" who operate outside the parameters of the U.S. Constitution. The weapons they use in their global war against the poor include deception and disinformation, which are targeted at the U.S. people. "Our most pressing problem is not in the Third World," a supporter of low-intensity conflict from the Rand Corporation states, "but here at home in the struggle for the minds of the people . . . . That is the most important thing there is. If we lose our own citizens, we will not have much going for us."19

In order not to "lose our own citizens" the U.S. government is actively engaged in campaigns of disinformation and deception. Some of these campaigns will be described more fully in the next chapter. However, several examples related to U.S. rhetoric about Nicaragua can illustrate how disinformation is used in an effort to shape public opinion in favor of the U.S. war against the poor.

The United States has consistently accused the Sandinistas of persecuting religion and of other serious violations of human rights. "The Nicaraguan people," according to President Reagan, "are trapped in a totalitarian dungeon."20 "Some would like to ignore," he said on another occasion, "the incontrovertible evidence of the communist religious persecution -- of Catholics, Jews and Fundamentalists; of their campaign of virtual genocide against the Miskito Indians."21

Former FDN leader Edgar Chamorro describes CIA manipulation of religion to serve political purposes oth in and outside Nicaragua:

[T]he CIA pulled a lot of "pranks" with the religious question. They paid for a book, Christians under Fire, written by Humberto Belli, which summarized the supposed persecution of the church in Nicaragua but had nothing to do with what was really going on inside the country. This was all part of our plan to use and take advantage of the power of the church and the beliefs of the people. We also sought to mobilize the people against the Nicaraguan government through their religious beliefs.22

Father Cesar Jerez, rector of the Catholic University in Nicaragua, read a letter, signed by hundreds of Nicaraguan religious leaders, at a press conference to condemn President Reagan’s manipulation of religion:

We condemn in the most forceful terms your bold proclamation of yourself as defender of faith and religion of our people. You, Mr. President, through your "brothers," the heralds of terror and death, are the one who is persecuting Christians in Nicaragua and ordering that they be kidnapped and killed.23

The respected human rights group Americas Watch has on numerous occasions condemned U.S. government efforts to distort the human rights record of both the Nicaraguan government and the U.S-backed contras. Americas Watch has been critical of various aspects of the Nicaraguan government’s human rights record. However, its reports confirm that, contrary to official rhetoric, Nicaragua’s human rights record is far better than that of many of its neighbors. An Americas Watch Report entitled "Human Rights in Nicaragua: Reagan, Rhetoric and Reality" states:

The Reagan Administration, since its inception, has characterized Nicaragua’s revolutionary Government as a menace to the Americas and to the Nicaraguan people. Many of its arguments to this effect are derived from human rights "data," which the Administration has used in turn to justify its support for the contra rebels . . . . [W]e find the Administration’s approach to Nicaragua deceptive and harmful. . . . Allegations of human rights abuse have become a major focus of the Administration’s campaign to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. Such a concerted campaign to use human rights in justifying military action is without precedent in U.S. -- Latin American relations, and its effect is an unprecedented debasement of the human rights cause.24

The architect of disinformation in Nazi Germany was Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister for propaganda and national enlightenment. Goebbels managed the lies that strengthened Hitler’s programs. "The important thing is to repeat [lies]. . . ." Goebbels said. "A lie, when it is repeatedly said, is transformed into the truth."25 The Americas Watch Report describes how lies have been repeated through U.S. government information channels in an effort to discredit Nicaragua:

. . . The misuse of human rights data has become pervasive in officials’ statements to the press, in White House handouts on Nicaragua, in the annual Country Report on Nicaraguan human rights prepared by the State Department, and . . . in the President’s own remarks.

. . . In Nicaragua there is no systematic practice of forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings or torture -- as has been the case with the "friendly" armed forces of El Salvador Nor has the Government practiced elimination of cultural or ethnic groups, as the Administration frequently claims; indeed in this respect, as in most others, Nicaragua’s record is by no means so bad as that of Guatemala, whose government the Administration consistently defends. Moreover, some notable reductions in abuses have occurred in Nicaragua since 1982, despite the pressure caused by escalating external attacks.26

In addition to distorted images concerning the Sandinistas, low-intensity-conflict planners have repeatedly lied to cover up atrocities committed by the contras. The contra tactic of terrorizing civilians is an instrumental feature of warfare that defines suffering as victory. The evidence is compelling that U.S. officials consciously chose terrorists and terrorist tactics to carry out a war of aggression against Nicaragua:

• A secret U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report labeled the first contra organization "a terrorist group.

• The chief of intelligence for the FDN was known to have helped plan the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador in 1980.

• The contras were aided by U.S. government officials as they engaged in drug trafficking.

• In 1981 the CIA director, William Casey, arranged for Argentinean generals, experienced from a war of terror against their own people, to train the contras.

• Former contra and ex-CIA officials have publicly testified that U.S. officials encourage the use of terrorism to advance foreign-policy interests.

• The CIA manual produced for the Nicaraguan contras included instructions on "Implicit and Explicit Terror."

• Finally, according to former contra leader Edgar Chamorro, CIA trainers not only provided the contras with an instruction manual on how to utilize terrorist tactics against civilians, they also gave contra troops large knives. "A commando knife [was given], and our people, everybody wanted to have a knife like that, to kill people, to cut their throats."27

The United States uses public disinformation campaigns to cover up official involvement or complicity with terrorism because there is a conflict between the sensibilities of the U.S. people and utilizing terror as a basic feature of the low-intensity-conflict strategy of psychological warfare. "[T]he exposure of persistent human rights violations by the contras has led the Administration not to pressure contra leaders to enforce international codes of conduct," the Americas Watch Report cited earlier states, "but to drown U.S. public opinion with praise for the ‘freedom fighters,’ and to attempt to discredit all reports of their violations as inspired by communist or Sandinista propaganda."28

While living in Nicaragua I had the opportunity to meet with two former CIA officials, John Stockwell and David MacMichael. Each of them shared experiences that shed light on how disinformation is central to U.S. policy. In the 1970s Stockwell had managed the CIA’s program to destabilize the government in Angola. MacMichael had been hired by the agency to monitor the flow of arms, which the Reagan administration said were moving with regularity and in substantial numbers between Nicaragua and El Salvador.

The arms-flow issue was extremely important because it was a major pretext used to justify U.S. support for the contras. MacMichael was granted top security clearance and he reviewed all the evidence. His contract with the CIA was not renewed when he reported that the massive arms flow from Nicaragua to the FMLN in El Salvador was an invention of the Reagan administration.

Stockwell described how in Angola he and other CIA officials regularly produced articles for overseas wire services that severely distorted reality but served to promote illegal U.S. policy goals. He also indicated that there are "many" U.S. journalists writing for major U.S. newspapers who are employees of the Central Intelligence Agency. Disinformation, according to Stockwell, is more important than ever because the United States is now implementing low-intensity-conflict strategy on a global basis and is actively working to destabilize one-third of the world’s underdeveloped countries.

Stockwell and MacMichael had experienced the CIA from different places. Stockwell worked as a high-level agent deeply involved in covert activities that he now believes had been both illegal and immoral. MacMichael worked as a high-level CIA analyst managing information used to justify such activities. Both came to the same conclusion based on their insider’s view of the Central Intelligence Agency: the fundamental purpose of the CIA is not information gathering, as most citizens believe; it is to carry out disinformation campaigns in service to illegal presidential objectives.

U.S.-Style Totalitarianism

Low-intensity conflict integrates economic, psychological, diplomatic, and military aspects of warfare into a comprehensive strategy to protect "U.S. valuables" against the needs and demands of the poor. It is a totalitarianlike system designed to control the hearts and minds, the economic life, and the political destiny of people. It uses terror and repression to intimidate or punish, cosmetic reforms to pacify or disguise real intent, and disinformation to cover its bloody tracks. It defines the poor as enemy, consciously employs other peoples to die while defending "U.S. interests," and makes use of flexible military tactics.

The diversity of weapons within the low-intensity-conflict arsenal is what makes the U.S. war against the poor so insidious and destructive. The United States cannot control all events. It can, however, block meaningful social change and punish "enemies" by integrating economic, psychological, diplomatic, and military aspects of warfare into a comprehensive strategy that includes suffering in its definition of victory. Each of these aspects of warfare, which have been used in the U.S. war against the people of Nicaragua, are described briefly below.

Economic Warfare

Economic warfare against the people of Nicaragua has taken a variety of forms.

• A U.S. aid package to Nicaragua approved by the U.S. Congress in 1980, a year after the ouster of the U.S.-backed dictatorship, targeted the most reactionary business organization for substantial aid. The hope was to strengthen conservative groups in Nicaragua who would work to block any major restructuring of the society on behalf of the poor. The aid package specifically prevented U.S. money from being used for education or health programs in which Cubans might be involved.

• As the revolution began to deepen reforms, the United States cut off previously approved aid. It also transferred Nicaragua’s sugar quota to other "friendly" Central American countries so that Nicaragua was no longer able to sell a specified volume of sugar in the U.S. market at above world-market prices.

• In the first few years following the successful ouster of the dictatorship, Nicaragua’s primary source of development capital was from multilateral lending institutions such as the World Bank. The United States has voting power in the World Bank proportional to its donations to the bank and was successful in its lobbying effort to cut off loans to Nicaragua. John Booth, in a book on the Nicaraguan revolution, provides this summary of Nicaragua’s relationship to the U.S.-dominated World Bank:

The advent of the Reagan administration . . . led to a suspension of U.S. assistance to Nicaragua and to concerted U.S. pressure on multilateral lenders to curtail loans. . . . Multilateral assistance to Nicaragua in 1979-1980 had made up 48 percent of the country’s new aid commitments, but under U.S. pressure multinational lenders cut back sharply so that for 1981-1983 they provided just below 15 percent of Nicaragua’s aid. As an example of the new, hard-nosed policy of the multinational lenders, the World Bank’s case stands out: It had lent the Somoza regime $56 million during the final stages of the 1979 war yet forced the Sandinista government to repay a total of $29 million between 1980 and 1982.

Booth goes on to describe how U.S. economic and military harassment put financial pressures on Nicaragua, curtailed development, and opened up the possibility of greater dependence on the socialist bloc:

. . . Nicaragua’s early progress in curbing imports, raising grain production, and other reform and austerity measures were undermined badly by new needs for foreign borrowing imposed by the burgeoning defense burden.... Foreign borrowing continued at a high rate, and as the United States succeeded in shutting down its own and multilateral credits, Nicaragua turned to new lenders in the socialist bloc and to European and Latin Americans for more aid than they had given in the past. Although the United States had failed to isolate Nicaragua from Western assistance, the war and the credit crunch had both damaged Nicaragua’s financial independence and converted the country into an important new client for socialist lenders.29

• On May 1, 1985, President Reagan declared an embargo as part of the U.S. economic war to impose suffering on the Nicaraguan people. By law an economic embargo can be issued only by presidential decree if the national security of the United States is imminently threatened. Therefore, "in response to the emergency situation created by the Nicaraguan Government’s aggressive activities in Central America," President Reagan said:

I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, find that the policies and actions of the Government of Nicaragua constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.

Unknown to most U.S. citizens, we have been living under a state of national emergency in order to justify an embargo against a nation of 3 million people, three-fourths of whom are women or children under the age of fifteen.

• The United States has restricted shipments of humanitarian aid to Nicaragua from organizations such as Oxfam America.

• The United States has used debt as a weapon against its allies in Central America in order to force them to cooperate with U.S. efforts to destroy Nicaragua. The ability to exploit indebtedness is a powerful weapon in the U.S. economic-warfare arsenal. Honduras is commonly referred to in Central America as "the U.S.S. Honduras." It was transformed into a virtual military base for the United States and a staging area for the U.S. backed contras. Honduran subservience to U.S. interests is captured in a one-line joke, which states that "Honduras is a country which needs to nationalize its own government." Dependency, which accompanies indebtedness, becomes an embarrassing affront to national sovereignty and occasionally gives rise to anti-U.S. protests. A massive debt leaves Honduras few political alternatives to U.S. domination.

El Salvador and Costa Rica share a similar fate. Neither could function without daily infusions of U.S. aid. The president of Costa Rica in 1987 launched the "Arias Peace Plan" in an effort to find a peaceful resolution to the problems in Central America. The Nobel Peace Prize committee expressed its approval of Arias’s peacemaking efforts by granting him its highest honor. At the same time, the United States expressed its disapproval through economic pressure. U.S. journalists Martha Honey and Tony Avirgan, stationed in Costa Rica, reported:

Since Arias first proposed his Central American Peace Plan in February, the Reagan administration has used a number of political and economic tactics to express its displeasure. . . . These tactics include the nondisbursement for the last six months of U.S. economic assistance to Costa Rica, the failure to appoint a new U.S. ambassador, a campaign to force the resignation of a liberal Arias advisor, maneuvers to block international bank loans to Costa Rica and restrictions on Costa Rican exports to the U.S.30

• Finally, as previously discussed, "military pressure" from the contras was the principal means by which the United States waged economic war against the people of Nicaragua. The contras destroyed the economic infrastructure of the country and assassinated social-development workers. The U.S.-sponsored contra war also forced the Nicaraguan government to shift resources from development into defense.

Psychological Warfare

U.S. psychological-warfare operations in Central America included elements such as the following:

• The United States sponsors radio stations that beam anti-Sandinista, pro-contra propaganda into Nicaragua. U.S. propaganda reaches all parts of Nicaragua from stations in Costa Rica, Honduras, and El Salvador. A typical message I heard while listening to radio broadcasts in northern Nicaragua accused the Sandinistas of "burning churches, kidnapping Nicaraguan children and sending them to Cuba, stealing land from campesinos, creating internal food shortages by sending Nicaragua’s food to the Soviet Union, and killing old people in order to make soap."

• The United States manages the news in other Central American countries in order to portray Nicaragua as a threat to its neighbors. Nicaragua was portrayed to its neighbors as a dangerous enemy in order to take attention away from internal injustices that could fuel social tensions within other Central American countries. A Honduran priest who visited Nicaragua said that if campesinos in Honduras knew about Nicaragua’s land reform, there would be a revolution in Honduras. Edgar Chamorro, recruited by the CIA to manage communications for the contras, testified before the World Court:

The C.I.A. station in Tegucigalpa, which at the time included about 20 agents working directly with the F.D.N., gave me money, in cash, to hire several writers, reporters, and technicians to prepare a monthly bulletin . . . , to run a clandestine radio station, and to write press releases. . . . I was also given money by the C.I.A. to bribe Honduran journalists and broadcasters to write and speak favorably about the F.D.N. and to attack the Government of Nicaragua and call for its overthrow. Approximately 15 Honduran journalists and broadcasters were on the C.I.A.’s payroll, and our influence was thereby extended to every major Honduran newspaper and radio and television station. I learned from my C.I.A. colleagues that the same tactic was employed in Costa Rica in an effort to turn the newspapers and radio and television stations of that country against the Nicaraguan Government.31

• The use of deception and disinformation as discussed earlier is a central feature in low-intensity conflict’s psychological-war techniques. The war of images includes circulation of lies through the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department, and presidential and cabinet-officer speeches. The degree to which the U.S. press has become complicit in this deadly war of images is revealed by how frequently articles or news reports in the mainstream television and print media describe Nicaragua by using adjectives such as "Marxist," "Cuban-backed," "Marxist-Leninist," "leftist," "Soviet-backed," and "totalitarian." "Inflammatory terms, loosely used," an Americas Watch Report states, "are of particular concern. . . . Such epithets seek to prejudice public debate through distortion."32

The U.S. strategy of keeping its war against the poor invisible to the U.S. people is an important aspect in the psychological war. Low-intensity conflict’s use of surrogate troops, for example, is designed to keep us from having to confront the psychological trauma of the pain and death we sponsor. In a similar way, U.S. national guard and reserve forces participate in "civic-action" projects in Central America designed to promote positive psychological images of U.S. involvement in the region. U.S. forces, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, pull teeth and build roads during training exercises that equip repressive indigenous troops while providing U.S. soldiers with experience that would be vital during a future U.S. invasion of Central America.

• The United States has conducted ongoing military maneuvers and training exercises in Central America as part of its psychological war of intimidation against the Nicaraguan people. "Military deception is an aspect of strategy and tactics that is often used but seldom acknowledged . . . ," the U.S. Army field manual, Psychological Operations, Techniques and Procedures, states. "Deception is the deliberate misrepresentation of reality done to gain a competitive advantage."33

On July 19, 1983 on the fourth anniversary of the Nicaraguan revolution, the Pentagon sent nineteen warships with 16,000 U.S. marines to Nicaragua’s coasts. On another occasion the United States surrounded the tiny country of Nicaragua with (a) twenty-five warships off both coasts, carrying nearly 25,000 soldiers and 150 fighter bombers, and (b) an additional 20,000 U.S., Honduran, and contra troops that were moved to Nicaragua’s northern border. "The firepower on the three armadas exceeded any maritime deployment during the entire course of the Vietnam war."34 Anyone who has visited Nicaragua has witnessed the emotional toll that U.S. psychological-warfare operations, including ongoing training exercises and threats of invasion, have had on the Nicaraguan people.

• The most widely used psychological tool in the low-intensity-conflict arsenal is terrorism. In the case of Nicaragua, U.S.-managed terrorism was meant to punish a nation that had freed itself from the empire and had begun improving the living standards of its people.

U.S. low-intensity-conflict strategy utilized generalized and targeted terrorism in Nicaragua in service to a broader geopolitical, psychological objective. Terrorism was part of the U.S. war against hope. The U.S. war to destroy revolutionary gains in education and health care and to reduce living standards in Nicaragua was part of a broader psychological war to discourage other third-world peoples from challenging U.S. power. Nicaragua was, and as of this writing continues to be, a ray of hope for oppressed people in Central America and throughout the world. The U.S. low-intensity-conflict strategy of terror, death, and destruction is meant to demonstrate to third-world peoples the high costs of embarking upon a road to self-determination.

Diplomatic Warfare

U.S. diplomatic-warfare efforts have included the following elements:

• The United States actively worked to discredit Nicaragua’s elections. Leaders from various opposition political parties told me that the U.S. embassy offered them bribes in an effort to get them to withdraw from Nicaragua’s electoral process in 1984. While pointing out some deficiencies in Nicaragua’s electoral process, Americas Watch reported that "the Sandinista Party achieved a popular mandate, while the opposition parties that chose to participate secured some 30 percent of the seats in the Constituent Assembly."35

Auturo Cruz, a candidate whose absence from the elections was most often cited by U.S. officials as evidence of "sham" elections, has admitted to accepting CIA money in order not to run. Just prior to Nicaragua’s elections and before Cruz’s relationship with the CIA became public, the highly respected Western European leader, Willy Brandt, stated:

One must not make the mistake of thinking that Cruz’s group is the only opposition group that exists in Nicaragua. . . . It is astonishing that [U.S. Secretary of State] Shultz is calling the Nicaraguan elections a sham because a sector of the opposition decided not to run of its own accord.36

U.S. diplomatic and psychological warfare techniques converged during efforts to discredit Nicaragua’s elections. In an effort to take U.S. and world attention away from the positive assessments of Nicaragua’s electoral process, the U.S. manufactured a "MIG" crisis. Nicaragua, according to disinformation sources from the United States, was about to receive advanced fighter jets from the Soviet Union. The U.S. media focused attention on the crisis for days. Democrats and Republicans in Congress tripped over themselves as they competed to see who could better justify direct U.S. military action when the MIG jets arrived. The United States canceled leave for army troops at Fort Bragg and mobilized thousands of others for land, sea, and air maneuvers off the coast of Nicaragua. As it turned out, the ship’s cargo did not contain MIG jets but it did include donations of toys for the upcoming Christmas.

• The United States as part of its diplomatic war effort also worked to narrow Nicaragua’s options in terms of aid, trade, and military assistance. The United States succeeded in cutting off multilateral aid, aggressively lobbied allies to reduce economic assistance, and slapped a trade embargo on Nicaragua. It also refused Nicaragua’s early request for help in developing its armed forces and punished France for agreeing to a military assistance program. This left Nicaragua with few options for military supplies apart from reliance upon the Soviet Union, a dependency that deepened as the U.S. war against Nicaragua escalated.

• The United States actively worked to undermine regional peace initiatives. Economic and diplomatic pressures were used to confront the "menace of peace." The Arias Peace Plan and the Contadora Peace Process were considered dangerous for several reasons. First, the involvement of Latin America nations in regional peace efforts was seen as a dangerous precedent that ultimately threatened the Monroe Doctrine. In the eyes of low-intensity-conflict planners, regional initiatives were signs of a deeper and potentially far more dangerous rebellion challenging Latin America’s "backyard status" within the U.S. empire. The Arias and Contadora peace initiatives would have curtailed U.S. "rights" to use military force in the region. Equally important, a peacemaking role for Latin American nations encouraged regional discussions of pressing economic problems, including alternatives to paying Latin America’s crippling debt. Undermining regional peace plans, therefore, was part of a broader power struggle in which the United States sought to reassert its authority over Latin America.

Second, both the Arias and the Contadora peace initiatives were resisted because they acknowledged the legitimacy of the Nicaraguan government while delegitimizing U.S. policies. Peace was a terrifying prospect for low-intensity-conflict planners who understood that their mission was to overthrow, punish, or destroy the Nicaraguan revolution. Their crusade against social improvements and hope as part of a global offensive against the poor was incompatible with regional peace.

• The United States engaged in international slander campaigns against the Nicaraguan government similar to those used to deceive its own people. It also managed terrorism in El Salvador in which high body counts were discouraged in favor of selective applications of terror. This was part of its diplomatic initiative to quiet critics in and outside the United States.

• Finally, the most sophisticated weapon in the U.S. diplomatic arsenal was the use of elections for undemocratic purposes. Low-intensity conflict uses elections to create an image of democracy while continuing to assign real power to U.S. officials and military and economic elites. (The dangers of seriously distorting democracy at home and abroad will be discussed in more detail in chap. 4, below.)

Low-Intensity Conflict and Its Military Aspects

Among the military aspects of low-intensity conflict are the following.

• The United States has expanded and improved Special Operations Forces to intervene more effectively in third-world settings.

• Low-intensity conflict relies heavily on U.S. training, supply, and management of surrogate forces such as the Nicaraguan contras and the military forces of "friendly" countries.

• Military activities against Nicaragua have included covert operations carried out through groups such as the National Security Council, the CIA, and other "secret teams" of mercenaries, arms merchants, and drug-runners.

• U.S. military maneuvers and training exercises prepare U.S. troops for possible future invasions while serving as present instruments of psychological warfare.

• U.S. planes have regularly violated international law by entering Nicaragua’s air space to provide the contras with logistical support in their war against the Nicaraguan people.

• Finally, the United States has relied upon third-country suppliers such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea to provide valuable military support for the contras during periods when the U.S. Congress restricted open U.S. aid.


The United States is a conservative superpower facing many challenges in a world of rapid economic and social change. Low-intensity conflict, for now and for the foreseeable future, is assigned the task of defending and expanding U.S. power and privilege throughout the third world. Low-intensity-conflict strategy is part of a U.S. global war against the poor designed to manage social change in ways that protect perceived U.S. interests while maintaining, at least for its own people, the image of democratic ideals.

I am often asked questions about differences between Democrats and Republicans with regard to U.S. policy in Central America. Low-intensity conflict is a bipartisan effort to defend U.S. privileges. While Democrats and Republicans have tactical differences over how best to intervene in defense of U.S. interests they share fundamental values and concerns. In recent years, Democrats more than Republicans have seemed troubled by overt use of terrorism. Some may be reluctant to embrace terrorism because it offends their moral sensibilities. Others doubt its expendiency.

It is likely that low-intensity-conflict planners, in the post-Reagan phase of their global war against the poor, will continue creatively to mix military, economic, psychological and diplomatic aspects of warfare in response to specific needs. In El Salvador we are likely to witness an escalation of overt violence. In Nicaragua the U.S.-sponsored war and natural disaster (Hurricane Joan devastated the country in October, 1988) have combined to undermine the gains of the Nicaraguan revolution. This could lead the United States to place less emphasis on military pressure through the contras and greater emphasis on economic and diplomatic pressures. U.S. policy makers may conclude that suffering in Nicaragua is now sufficient to dim the light of the Nicaraguan revolution in the eyes of poor people throughout the world. This could encourage a policy that would involve some form of public accommodation with the Sandinistas coupled with non-military forms of harassment.

Questions about differences between Republicans and Democrats ignore more fundamental issues. A more urgent question is this: Will U.S. citizens recognize in time to save themselves and others that low-intensity-conflict strategy is far more compatible with fascism than democracy?


1. Father Cesar Jerez, S.J., "What We Have Seen and Heard in Nicaragua," Witness for Peace On-the-Scene Reports, 1987, p. 4.

2. Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga, Prophets in Combat (Oak Park, Ill.: Meyer Stone Books, 1986), pp. xii-xiii.

3. "No Business Like War Business," The Defense Monitor 16, no. 3:1.

4. William I. Robinson and Kent Norsworthy, David and Goliath: The U.S. War against Nicaragua (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1987), p. 26.

5. U.S. Army, U.S. Psychological Operations Field Manual, 33-I (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, August 1979), p. H-3.

6. The CIA’s Nicaragua Manual, Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare (New York: Random House, 1985), p. 33.

7. Robinson and Norsworthy, David and Goliath, p. 177.

8. Klare, "Low-intensity Conflict: The War of the ‘haves’ against the ‘have-nots,’ " Christianity and Crisis, February 1, 1988.

9. "Affidavit of Edgar Chamorro," Case concerning Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), International Court of Justice, September 5, 1985, pp. 20-21.

10. Catholic Institute for International Relations, Nicaragua: The Right to Survive (Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.: North River Press, 1987).

11. "What We Have Seen and Heard in Nicaragua," Witness for Peace on-the-Scene Reports, 1986, p. 7.

12. Robinson and Norsworthy, David and Goliath, pp. 56-57.

13. Witness for Peace on-the-Scene Reports, p. 5.

14. "Affidavit of Edgar Chamorro," p. 21.

15. Bob Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), pp. 195, 173.

16. Robinson and Norsworthy, David and Goliath, pp. 71-72.

17. "Affidavit of Edgar Chamorro," p. 17.

18. "Contra Forces Target Civilian Medical Work in Northern Nicaragua," Executive Summary Report, U.S. Medical Task Force Investigation, January 1988.

19. Robinson and Norsworthy, David and Goliath, p. 36.

20. "Human Rights in Nicaragua: Reagan, Rhetoric and Reality," Americas Watch Report, July 1985, p. 1.

21. Ibid.

22. Robinson and Norsworthy, David and Goliath, p. 210.

23. Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, The Politics of Compassion (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1987), p. 119.

24. Ibid., pp. 1-2.

25. Robinson and Norsworthy, David and Goliath, p. 55.

26. Americas Watch Report, July 1985, pp. 3.

27. Leslie Cockburn, Out of Control (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1987).

28. Americas Watch Report, July 1985, p. 73.

29. John A. Booth, The End and the Beginning: The Nicaraguan Revolution (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1985), pp. 253-54.

30. "Peace Efforts Cost Costa Rica dearly," San Francisco Bay Guardian, August 26, 1987.

31. "Affidavit of Edgar Chamorro," p. 11.

32. Americas Watch Report, July 1985, pp. 4-5.

33. U.S. Army, Psychological Operations Techniques and Procedures, Field Manual 33-5 (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1966).

34. Robinson and Norsworthy, David and Goliath, pp. 63, 77.

35. Americas Watch Report, July 1985, p. 3.

36. Ibid., p. 233.