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Nicaragua-baiting.

Not the least of the many U.S. failures that are helping to deepen the Nicaraguan quagmire is the cowardice of Congress in the face of executive aggression. It is easy enough for Democrats to vote against appropriations for the contras when that matter arises: a Congress that eagerly votes for the degradation of the domestic welfare system is on solid ground when it refuses handouts to the government's overseas clientele. But at the moment of crisis, when the Administration is testing political reaction in preparation for new assaults on Nicaragua, the opposition is silent or, worse, complaisant.

As the first false reports of the arrival of Soviet MIGs at Corinto were leaked to the press on Election Day, Democrats who have staked out key roles in Central America policy rushed to support Republican hawks. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said the planes in Nicaraguan hands would be "unacceptable," which was a way of saying that the Air Force should feel free to bomb Corinto back to the Stone Age. Senator Christopher Dodd, who once sought to be a peacemaker in the region, wanted it known, as did Senator Jim Sasser, that he would not "rule out military action" to take out the phantom fighters. Even Senator-elect John Kerry, his victory over a right-wing Republican in Massachusetts won but not yet certified, barked his approval of force to neutralize the Soviet threat. Others, such as Representative Mike Barnes, remained ominously silent. As Ray Bonner, formerly The New York Times's hard-hitting man in El Salvador, put it last week at the Fund for New Priorities, "There are no profiles in courage in Congress" now hen they are so urgently needed.

The political failure is matched, for the most part, by the journalistic one. The networks, the newsmagazines, The Times and many other newspapers extend and elaborate on President Reagan's twisted truths and false claims. Unless you regularly read The Evening Bulletin of Providence, Rhode Island, you may not know, for instance, that U.S. Embassy officials in Managua bribed leading non-Sandinista opposition leaders to drop out of the recent election campaign. Every day the media carry stories about Nicaragua's economic troubles--the empty supermarkets, the shortages of medicine and spare parts, the thriving black market--but no detailed against that small, impoverished nation by the richest empire in the history of civilization. We can read front-page articles about the latest defense of democracy by the Catholic hierarchs in Managua, but what does anyone in El Norte know of the desperate attempts by the Nicaraguan people to defend their country and the future of their revolution against the C.I.A. and the 82nd Airborne Division?

And yet the defense of Nicaragua is of crucial importance, not only to the Nicaraguans but to everyone in Latin America struggling for a measure of political and economic independence. The imperfections of Sandinista democracy and the problems of the Nicaraguan economy are worthy of discussion but are peripheral. The United States is determined to destroy any radical,independent, socialist society in the hemisphere if it is militarily and politically possible to do so.

No excuse is too farfetched and no justification too lame to be marshaled in support of such policies. A year ago, U.N. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick claimed tha the Administration was waging "covert" war to force free elections in Nicaragua. Once the elections were scheduled, her employers tried to wreck the electoral process to justify a widening of the war. Thousands of contras, supported by a vast U.S. military command structure in Honduras, are devastating Nicaraguan villages, murdering and torturing their inhabitants and disrupting the national life. When the Nicaraguans seek arms from the only available source--the Soviet bloc--the Administration discovers a Red threat of aggression and prepares to move in for the kill.

In another sense, Nicaragua's defense effort is important to Americans who tried, and failed, to curtail President Reagan's power on November 6. Their fight is an extension of our politics, by other means. Reagan is a menace to peace in the hemisphere and in the world. If he can be stopped in Central America, he can be challenged everywhere.
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Title Annotation:Ronald Reagan's policy on Nicaragua
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:editorial
Date:Nov 24, 1984
Words:689
Previous Article:In dubious victory.
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