Book Review



Comandos: The CIA and Nicaragua's  Contra Rebels


Sam Dillon


Henry Holt and Company, New York,  NY



Reviewed By:

Frank Fogg

Review Date:

October, 2000


A little over ten years have passed  since the end of the Nicaraguan civil war between the Sandinista government and the contras. This book provides a glimpse of the participants from the inside  as told by Luis Frey (Jhonson), one of the contra commanders.

Most Americans will recognize our involvement in this war from such headlines as the Iran-Contra arms scandal and participants including Oliver North, but beyond this, may have little understanding of what it was all about. Sam Dillon takes us deep inside this dirty, forgotten war from its beginning, through its ten year span, and into the aftermath. He explains how we got involved and the extent of CIA involvement in the war.

In the beginning, the civil war began as a spontaneous peasant uprising. Promises made by the Sandinista government during their rise to power were largely unkept and many Nicaraguans found their lot in life even worse than before. Those few that chose to disagree with the new government were arrested, tortured, and in many cases simply disappeared. Others were relocated far from their homes onto government sponsored farms. The dissatisfied chose to leave their homes and families and travel north to Honduras to join former Somoza National Guardsmen organizing a resistance movement with the financial support of the CIA.

The United States poured more and more money into the campaign in an effort to halt a perceived Communist threat in Latin America, but much of this money ended up lining the pockets of a chosen few leaders living lavish lifestyles far from the battlefield. Finally, the political climate in Washington changed and the contras were abandoned and forgotten as other priorities were addressed.

There is an extensive amount of detail in this book about the extreme cruelty of this struggle. Torture and death were commonplace as both sides feared infiltration and fought to retain power. Jhonson was eventually tasked with the investigation of war crimes and found that prosecution of those responsible became impossible when the path led to those in the highest offices of the contras, directly to their leadership.

This book is now out of print and can  only be found at used and second hand book stores. It stands as a first-hand account of the failure of United States foreign policy in Latin America, and it is a must-read work for anybody wanting to understand what really happened  in this forgotten war.

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