LT: The same people who wrote the plan for invading Iraq right before Bush took office,right?
RDO: I thought “All of these people were involved in Nicaragua.” I remember Larry Sabato, he is a political science professor who is always on FOX. Someone asked him what he thought of John Negroponte being appointed to the Bush Administration with his baggage in the Iran-Contra scandal. He said “You could ask every US citizen and you might find two or three who would remember that word, that time.”
LT: He’s right, in a way.
RDO: He’s right. I said “I have to do something. Even if it goes nowhere. I have to do this. I was an eyewitness." As soon as I finished Outlaw Woman, I started on this book, and South End Press picked it up. It is really scary because all of these people are criminals, indicted co-conspirators. Eliot Abrams is in charge of the Middle East for the National Security Council, as he was in charge of Latin America for Reagan. Negroponte easily became US Ambassador for the UN in 2001, there wasn’t even a problem getting him through. Of course, he got shooed through right after 9/11. Then he was co-counsel just as he had been in Honduras, running the Contra War, he was put over there in Iraq. Now he’s the national intelligence chief in charge of the "war on terror."
This goes back even further because some of them had also been involved in running the Vietnam War under Nixon!
LT: Like who?
RDO: Like Negroponte, he was a political officer in Saigon. Colin Powell, who was brought in to apologize for the Mai Lai massacre and tell people lies about it to make it look better in 1969. He was brought in again in 1986 as Reagan’s National Security Advisor, cleaning up after Iran-Contra. He was basically playing clean-up man and playing the same role in the Bush Administration, going to the UN and lying about Weapons of Mass Destruction. In his autobiography, he brags about his role in Nicaragua, like its one of the biggest moments in his life. Then there’s these think-tank people. Richard Perle was an important person in the Reagan Administration, behind the Nicaraguan policy, then here’s the father and son team Richard and Daniel Pikes. They were always being brought in to defend Reagan’s Nicaragua policy. It is really all of them over 45 years old, they really got their start there under Nixon. Richard Cheney was in Congress and he carried the Contra funding, he was the point man for that.
LT: As you wrote in the book, the Sandinista Revolution also did something previously thought impossible: it all of a sudden turned the Reagan Administration into advocates for Indigenous people! Can you talk about the Sandinista’s troubles with the Miskito Indians.
RDO: Early on the Sandinistas were pro-Indigenous. Carlos Fonseca had written a very beautiful letter, to the American Indian Movement during the Wounded Knee siege in 1973, saying “your struggle is our struggle.” Immediately the U.S. started working through the US missionaries in Nicaragua to undermine the relationship between the Miskito Indians and the Sandinistas. The British first brought Moravian missionaries in 1854, and then when the Marines occupied in 1892 they kicked out the German missionaries and brought in the US Moravian mission from Bethelem, Pennsylvania. The Miskitos wanted to be part of the United States, they were totally controlled by the US missionaries. For me, having grown up a Southern Baptist, I totally could relate. They acted exactly as I had when I was young, a devout Christian, patriotic to the US. They were being lied to, and about half of them figured that out and joined the Sandinistas.
That’s really the story behind it, how the CIA organized to recruit Miskitos. The border between Honduras and Nicaragua cuts right through their heartland. That border used to be farther north, but in 1960, Honduras went to the world court and prevailed to have the border brought south, cutting Miskito territory, half in Nicaragua, half in Honduras. All colonial borders are unstable borders, like the Rio Grande in 1848 becoming the US-Mexico border when the US invaded Mexico City. On these borders, mostly Indigenous People live. Mohawks in Canada and the US. Yaquis and Apaches in Mexico and the US, and so on.
You had people who related to each other on each side of the border. Then it became sealed, during the Contra war. Anytime anyone would cross over to Honduras, they couldn’t come back, and they would wind up in refugee camps with pressure to join the anti-Sandinista insurgents. The Miskitos had been used to trading and bartering with each other across the border, and they could use either Honduran currency or Nicaraguan currency, it really didn’t matter. But then everything was frozen. The CIA was able to manipulate that and say that Miskito Indians were fleeing Nicaragua in terror.
LT: Was there any truth at all to the allegations of Sandinista atrocities against the Miskitos?
RDO: No, except that war took place there on the border. It was one of the three war zones in the plan to overthrow the Sandinistas. The US lie that was most publicized here was that 200,000 Miskitos had been killed. There were only 150,000 Miskitos! They could say anything they wanted. That’s the logic of the big lie. Then people ask how many people did they kill? 5000? In my book that’s genocide. I never understood what the Big Lie was about until then. The human logic doesn’t say well there might have been no civilians killed outside of war casualties.
In November 1981, the first CIA plan was approved and funded secretly. Shortly thereafter, Nicaragua’s only airliner was bombed, and I was waiting to board that plane in Mexico City. They called that Operation Red Christmas, Navidad Roja. By that time, they had quite a few Miskitos in training camps in Honduras, and they were training about ten of them to be Contra commanders. So they made their first attacks in these villages, in these seventy or so villages along the Rio Coco (Wanki in the Miskito language), the river that marks the border between Honduras and Nicaragua in the northeast of Nicaragua. The Sandinistas made the decision to create a free-fire zone and evacuate the Miskito villages. They knew that whatever civilian deaths occurred, they would be blamed for it. They built these makeshift camps about forty miles south of the border. Most went, but some went over to Honduras. They were told by the Contra radio, and the US missionaries that the Cubans were establishing these camps, and the Cubans were going to take their land along the river border, lock up the Indians in concentration camps, and that they would be tortured. If you don’t know what to believe, why take a chance on being in a Cuban prison? About half of the Miskito population in those villages crossed the border into Honduras. The evacuation of the villages was presented here as the Sandinistas taking their land and that they would never allow the Miskitos to return. You couldn’t really prove otherwise until two or three years later when they did go back to rebuild their villages that had been completely flattened by war.
LT: But they were allowed to return and rebuild?
RDO: I was with them when they did. Then, a reconciliation
process took place. It was difficult because the Sandinistas didn’t understand
some basic things about the Miskitos. Up to a point, the Sandinistas
thought of themselves as indigenous to Nicaragua. Son after they took
power, the Sandinistas really enraged the Miskitos. One of the greatest
projects, outside of the Literacy campaigns was the handing out of land
titles, the titles to the land abandoned by the Somacistas who fled after
the revolution. The state took it and gave the land titles to the people
who had worked that land. It was just overwhelmingly popular in western
Nicaragua. But they went out to the Miskito land and tried to hand out
titles, the Indians said “Why are you giving us our land!?”