Stopping Reagan From Being Reagan


HERE AT HOME, President Reagan is working overtime to whip up the moral equivalent of war against Nicaragua In so doing the President has demonstrated, well, the wartime equivalent of morals And it looks as if some administration officials are tired of playing along with him.

Apparently, Reagan is fixed on Nicaragua Faced with a House of Representatives adamantly opposed to the contra guerilla he has been willing to willing to sacrifice more political capital on this issue than on any other in his four-year reign.

Some Washington mystics have attributed this uncharacteristic intransigence on the Nicaraguan problem to the extra voices Reagan heeds when the issue is Central America. Two months back in The New Republic, a white House aide told Carl Bernstein that the President has a stable of wily Svengalis--"His reservoir of right-wing friends and contacts from the old days"--urging him rightward into Nicaragua. "He can be his own worst enemy, particularly when he gets some hare-brained ideas from reading right-wing garbage," the aide told Berstein. "A lot of times that's when the trouble starts."

Perhaps this analysis of White House maneuvering explains an extraordinary series of disclosures scored recently by The Wall Street Journal and especial by Joel Brinkley of The New York Times. Secret and important intelligence reports trickle out with suspicious regularity Unnamed sources contradict even discredit, the Administration line. Are White House aides, along with career CIA and State Department officials worried about their own futures trying to sidestep the political morass of Central America by preventing Reagan from being Reagan in Nicaragua?.

First, one month ago in two articles the Journal, Administration and CIA officials described in unusual detail the of the four-year-old contra program. Among the most important disclosures: American CIA agents have been directly involved, flying and firing from helicopters, in attacks on Nicaragua. And CIA optimism about the contras' prospects laded quick Internal 1982 memos predicted the fall of Managua by Christmas 1983.


By early 1983 though, another classified document painted a considerably bleaker picture. Leaving Pollyanna-ish to Reagan, the document conceded that the document their current levels, were Cub Scouts the jungles of Nicaragua. They couldn't hold major population centers, much less challenge the Sandinista regime

Also in early March, humanitarian organizations issued two human rights reports criticizing the contras committing atrocities against villages in Nicaragua and for executing captured Nicaragua, soldiers (the reports also Slapped the hands of the Sandinistas, by he way, although they said Sandinista human rights violations had decreased in recent years)

THE REPORTS, however, met with the White House. In fact, Times man Brinkley extracted some quotes from a senior Administration official" that must have made every news scribe in Washington simply sick with envy.

"What we see is that the Sandinista legitimate are usually legitimate battle victims," the official told Brinkley. The contras have a tendency to kidnap young girls."

Have a tendency to kidnap young girls? This is not the sort of thing one says in the middle of one's boss's campaign to give $14 million to the contras, only a week after said boss has called the contras "our brothers" and "the moral equal of our Founding Fathers." But it's not the impolitic thing to say if one is using the time-honored leak method to away the course of the boss's policy.

Brinkley produced an even more astounding article just 10 days ago in the Times, detailing consistent Administration exaggerations of both Soviet influence and Nicaraguan ambitions.

Some of Brinkley's disclosures: President Reagan often argues that Nicaragua's army is much larger than others in Central America. In truth, Defense Department figures show that the Salvadoran and Guatemalan armies are comparable in size, and that "when all the other Central American armies are combined, they are far larger than Nicaragua's."

President Reagan and others in the Administration, most notably Secretary of State George P. Schultz in a recent shift of rhetoric, frequently claim that Nicaragua intends to invade its neighbors. Reagan has claimed that Sandinista officials have said Nicaragua wants a "revolution without frontiers." In fact, State Department officials admitted that they could not find any such statement. And a Defense Department official said that given Nicaragua's lack of modern weaponry and the tortuous terrain separating Nicaragua from its neighbors. "We don't expect an attack because we don't think they would be that stupid."

Brinkley unearthed one hilarious Administration distortion; to bolster the argument that Nicaragua is a Soviet puppet, Vice-President Bush has noted that the Nicaraguans print a stamp, which honors Karl Marx. Brinkley discovered that the stamp is part of a series depicting world leaders. The Nicaraguans print is honor of Pope John Paul II and George Washington.

Nicarguans also print stamps in honor of Pope John Paul II and George Washington.

LEAKS LIKE this don't just happen. I Leakers always want something in the bargain and what they want in this bargain is some influence in the direction of American policy of Nicaragua.

President Reagan's call last Thursday for negotiated settlement and funds for "humanitarian" rather-than military and to the contras is an unwieldy and disingenuous proposal. But seen in the context of an apparent struggle to control Nicaragua policy, it is a moderation of his previous position. The leakers may be winning, and let's hope they keep on winning. The truth about four years of U.S. entanglement in Central America is on their side, not on President Reagan's.