from the book

The CIAs Greatest Hits

by Mark Zepezauer


FDR once remarked of Nicaragua's dictator, "Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch." So when a later Somoza (the son of our son of a bitch) was overthrown in 1979, we spared no effort until Nicaragua was ours again.

When President Carter saw that the younger Somoza's days were numbered, he tried to ease him out of power, unaware that retired CIA agents were providing him with further weaponry. Carter's plan was to keep Somoza's private army, the National Guard, in power, while Somoza escaped to enjoy his $900 million fortune.

Most Nicaraguans, having suffered 46 years of the Guard's unrelenting brutality, were not thrilled with that plan. When Somoza fell, so did his hated National Guard.

Many of the Guard were evacuated on US planes. We reassembled them, armed and supplied them, had them trained by Argentinean death squads and sent them back to harass the new regime. Because the Guard was so despised in Nicaragua, they were given a new name-the contras (an abbreviation of the Spanish word for counter-revolutionaries).

The resulting bloodshed was perhaps the least covert of all CIA covert operations. President Reagan was perfectly candid about the goals-the second-poorest nation in the hemisphere was to be "pressured" until "they say 'uncle'."

The methods became part of the public record too-though not intentionally-when the CIA's Freedom Fighters Manual was leaked to the press. It gave detailed instructions on assassination, sabotage, kidnapping, blackmail and the slaughter of civilians.

The US lavished military and financial aid on the contras, whom they used to terrorize rural Nicaragua. Since many peasants were delighted that the new government was providing them with teachers and doctors (for the first time ever), the contras particularly targeted those professionals.

The CIA mined harbors and blew up fuel tanks, then told the contras to claim credit. The agency flew supplies to the contras, attempted to assassinate the Nicaraguan leadership and pumped millions of dollars into opposition politicians. And, as in Chile, they made the economy "scream".

Finally, in 1989, after ten years of warfare- both economic and military-the Nicaraguans gave up and voted for the US-backed slate of candidates. If any of them wondered what would happen should they fail to do so, they only needed to look south to Panama, which had just been invaded by the US the month before.

CIAs Greatest Hits

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