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'If Ortega Is Another Castro'

November 29, 1985

The Ronnie Reagan award for the ingenuous statement of the month should be awarded to Ronnie Dugger for the last sentence of his article: "But if he (Ortega) is just another dictator, we had all better find this out before, once again, the American left betrays the cause of civil liberties abroad."

Of course, Ortega is not just another dictator. For the sake of argument, let's call him a Marxist dictator of a putative Communist state. If he were just another dictator the Reagan Administration would not be particularly concerned about civil liberties in Nicaragua. Dugger doesn't seem to be aware that the Reagan Administration has already concluded that Ortega is indeed another Castro and that Nicaragua is another Cuba in the making.

Since the Administration's conclusion is based on ideology (worldwide Communist conspiracy, domino theory, etc.), mere facts will have little impact. The Administration's problem is to convince the American public, which seems strangely reluctant to be convinced. In any event I am sure the American left would heartily concur with Dugger's suggestion that more groups of Americans go to Nicaragua to help find out, in effect, whether Ortega is another Castro.

Earlier in his article, Dugger writes: "People who support any revolution against tyranny without inquiring whether it will create a new tyranny ignore history." Apparently he blames the American left for supporting Lenin who begot Stalin. He clearly blames the American left for the Cuba of today. What a way to view history!

I wonder why Dugger doesn't mention the many instances where U.S. government intervention (hardly left-wing inspired) has resulted in the installation of repressive right-wing dictatorships--much more convincing examples of betrayal of the cause of civil liberties abroad. And I wonder if he's considered the betrayal of civil liberties possibilities in Nicaragua were the contras to overthrow the Sandinistas.

It's just possible that the American left (together with lots of middle-of-the-roaders) has the best prescription for keeping Ortega from becoming another Castro: Dump the contras and start helping Nicaragua develop into a healthy, democratic nation.

ROBERT HAYES

Altadena

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