It was a war that killed tens of thousands of innocent people. And it was funded by the U.S. government.
Throughout the 1980’s Reagan Administration waged a decade-long terrorist war against Nicaraguan, arming, trainingand directing an illegal army known as the Contras, who were responsible for some of the worst atrocities of theperiod.
When Congress voted to end U.S. support for the Contras in 1984, the Reagan Administration simply shredded theConstitution and funded them in secret, in part by selling illegal arms to Iran and funneling the profits back toNicaragua. The resulting Iran-Contra Scandal, as it came to be known, led to criminal indictments against many ofReagan’s officials, almost all of whom were pardoned by former President George Bush.
It’s an interesting history lesson, but why talk about this today? Well, sometimes history does repeat itself.
In a political comeback that would have made Richard Nixon blush, some of the key players from the Iran ContraScandal are back for more, angling for high level positions in the Administration of George II. There’s ElliotAbrams, convicted of perjury; Otto Reich, who ran an illegal propaganda operation directed at the US public; and JohnNegroponte, who worked for the Contras and covered up atrocities by Honduran death squads.
To round out this bizarre sequel, the U.S. Government is once again harassing Nicaragua as it prepares for apresidential election this fall, an election which former Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega is expected to win. Whatdoes the return of these officials, who supported some of the worst human rights abuses of the 1980’s, mean for U.S.policy in Latin America and for the priorities of the Bush Administration?
- Peter Kornbluh, Senior Analyst at the National Security Archive and author of ??The Iran-Contra Scandal:A Declassified History.
- George Vickers, Assistant Director, Washington Office on Latin America and co-Author of ??PatchworkDemocracy, Nicaraguan Politics Ten Years After the Fall, by Hemisphere Initiatives.