Oct 1 1987

Nicaragua and the US Media

A History of Lies

Contra guerrillas

  How is the world ruled and led into war? Diplomats lie to journalists and believe those lies when they see them in print. –Austrian scholar Karl Kraus In March 1982, Congressman David Bonior (D.-Mich.) spoke fervently about Reagan’s Nicaragua policy on the House floor, warning of “a highly orchestrated propaganda effort by the administration, which unfortunately the media of this country to a very large degree is buying hook, line and sinker.” Referring to the legacy of US support for one Nicaraguan dictator after another, Bonior complained about “a notable lack of sense of history in this administration and […]

Oct 1 1987

Former Contra Leader Edgar Chamorro on the CIA and Media Manipulation

Edgar Chamorro reading the CIA assassination manual.

Edgar Chamorro was a Contra leader and press spokesperson from 1982 until 1984, when he resigned. The following year he testified against the United States in Nicaragua’s case before the World Court. FAIR interviewed him in early October as he prepared to visit Nicaragua. Chamorro is the author of Packaging the Contras (Institute for Media Analysis, 1987). FAIR: How closely did the CIA supervise your Contra activities? Chamorro: In 1982, the CIA invited me to become one of the Contra directors. At that time they needed people who could speak for the Contras while Congress was debating the Boland and […]

Oct 1 1987

Lie: Nicaraguan Government Leaders Are Involved in Drug Trafficking

Barry Seal

On July 17, 1984, the Washington Times broke a story alleging that leading Sandinista officials were involved in cocaine smuggling. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the major wire services and TV networks immediately gave the charges prominent coverage, invariably citing anonymous “senior administration officials.” These officials, according to Newsweek (10/12/87), were Office of Public Diplomacy propagandists. Over the years, the media have frequently repeated the same charges, sometimes with a new twist: A Nicaraguan defector told Ike Pappas on CBS Morning News (3/12/86) that Interior Minister Tomás Borge used narcotics profits to buy cars and women, while a […]

Oct 1 1987

What’s Not Fit to Remember About Major General Smedley Butler

Major Smedley Butler

A previous issue of Extra! (8-9/87) noted, “It’s taboo in the media to question the motives of American foreign policy.” Case in point: “Nicaragua Over the Years,” a column by New York Times editorial writer Karl Meyer (8/24/87). Meyer reminisced about Major General Smedley Butler, describing him as the US Marine hero who tried to bring “true democracy” to Nicaragua in 1912. Repeated US interventions in Nicaragua had been motivated by our desire to spread democracy, Meyer argued. He cited a communique from Washington that Butler carried with him to Nicaragua: “America’s purpose is to foster true constitutional government and […]

Oct 1 1987

Kinzer’s Confession

Stephen Kinzer

Seemingly surprised when told that many readers consider his reporting sympathetic to the Contras, New York Times Managua correspondent Stephen Kinzer told Esquire (11/86): In Washington, they talk about putting pressure on the Sandinistas, and it sounds so antiseptic. But the reality of that pressure is babies with their arms blown off, the maiming and destruction, the reality of war…. That woman’s misery [referring to a peasant whose family was kidnapped by Contras] is what your tax dollars are paying for. Everyone remembers what the National Guard was like, and nobody wants to go back to those days. It shows […]

Oct 1 1987

Managua–Terror Central?

“Reagan Reports New Latin Danger” was the headline of a front page New York Times article (1/25/85) in which the President defended his contra policy as “an act of self defense,” citing a Sandinista terrorist link. Juan Tamayo of the Miami Herald (3/3/85) further developed the theme of Nicaragua as a terrorist haven, while a USA Today (7/9/85) photo spread, with head shots of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, Castro, Qadaffi and the Ayatollah Khomeini, graphically promoted Reagan’s warning about “terrorist states” threatening the U.S. An October 1986 OPD report, “The Challenge to Democracy in Central America,” conveniently cited news articles […]

Oct 1 1987

Lie: The Sandinistas Won’t Submit to Free Elections

Although rigged elections during the Somoza era raised hardly an eyebrow in Washington, Nicaragua’s November 1984 election was pilloried by the White House and the mainstream media. Pre-election reporting was hostile, coverage of the actual balloting was hijacked by hysteria over phantom Soviet MIG jets in Nicaragua, and a few months later many journalists seemed to forget that elections had even taken place. A New York Times editorial (2/13/85) lambasted the Sandinistas, who garnered 67 percent of the vote, for refusing “to subject their power to the consent of the Nicaraguan people.” Yet according to the vast majority of independent […]