U.S. wastes on wars
MANAGUA, Nicaragua- If President Bush thinks he is rolling back the terrorist threat to civilization at the heart of its power by the extension of his War on Terrorism in the Iraqi theater, he needs to think again, because he is indeed snipping away at the fringes. The War on Terrorism isn't going to end until the United States agrees to reconcile its own terrorist tactics-past and present. Two years after Sept. 11, the United States finds itself searching under rock and foot for terrorists, and trying to smoke them out of whatever hole they might have crawled into. Maybe the search should be a little closer to our own backyard.
Throughout the 1980s Nicaragua, a poor, little, agrarian nation in Central America, learned full well what U.S. terrorism means in the third world. The World Court at The Hague ruled in 1986 that the United States owed Nicaragua $12.26 billion for damages caused by direct and indirect military action during the Contra War. U.S. actions included the funding and training of a guerrilla army that was taught to single out economic and civilian targets, including peasant farmer cooperatives.
Edgar Chamorro, a Contra army commander, testified before the World Court that his soldiers were instructed by the CIA to "kill, kidnap, rob, and torture."
"Many civilians were killed in cold blood. Many others were tortured, mutilated, raped, robbed, or otherwise abused," Chamorro said when listing the crimes.
Terrorism was not just restricted to Nicaraguans during the 1980s. One victim who perished under the Contras' bullets, Ben Linder, was a 27-year-old U.S. citizen who was trying to bring electricity to Nicaragua's most remote regions.
Forensic evidence later showed that Mr. Linder was shot execution style by the forces that were being paid for by his own government. Twenty-two years after the start of the Contra War, Nicaragua, a country that had been filled with hope after successfully disposing a U.S. puppet dictator, is a miserable little shell of a nation.
Where has U.S. involvement taken Nicaragua? Eighty-four percent of the country lives on less than two dollars per day. There are between 800,000 to 1 million children who are not enrolled in schools-roughly 20 percent of the population. Inside the capital city there are 18,000 people who "make a living" digging through a garbage dump. There are 9.9 hospital beds per 10,000 citizens. The country's only children's hospital has an annual budget of $800,000, but cares for more than 60,000 patients per year-an average of $13.33 spent per child.
When President Bush declared his War on Terrorism in 2001 he said, "We shall make no distinction between terrorists and countries that harbor terrorists."
The U.S. connection to the Contras is irrefutable, and harboring of terrorists and terrorist regimes was done in Nicaragua just like it was also done in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Chile, Argentina, and Paraguay.
If Bush wants to stop nations from exporting terror, then he must stop his own nation's exporting of terror, be it Central America, Africa, the Middle East, or Asia. The $87 billion that President Bush proposes to spend in Iraq to turn the tide of terrorism in the Iraqi and Afghan fronts might be better used instead of fortifying a fighting force to do what is necessary to peacefully rebuild the world.
The $87 billion that Bush proposes to spend in Iraq would be $29 billion more than the total foreign aid from the first world that is sent to developing nations. After spending eight months in Nicaragua, I have seen what the U.S. hand does in the name of freedom and liberation. Ronald Reagan's Contras in Nicaragua hid behind a thin veil called "freedom and democracy," in order to subvert communism. Bush's veil to subvert terrorism in Iraq doesn't appear to be much thicker.
The United States must lead by example if it wants to end terrorism. The clich? of "Violence begets more violence" rings true, and maybe if the United States began settling its old debts we'd find a world with fewer terrorists and less animosity directed toward the United States. Since the President seems unconcerned with spending deficits, I propose he add an extra $12.26 billion to the amount he is requesting for Iraq and use that money to pay back Nicaragua for the terrorism that was inflicted there during the 1980s. God knows it's needed in this, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
It would at the very least begin to roll back terrorism at the heart of its power, and not at the fringes.
John Sherry is a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar at the University of Central America in Managua, Nicaragua and a 2002 School of Communication alum.