Recent developments in the guerrilla war in Nicaragua underscore the fallacious reasoning behind the "humanitarian" aid that the Reagan Administration is sending to anti-government rebels there, the so-called contras. The developments also illustrate the danger of sending the rebels any more aid.
When Administration officials asked Congress earlier this year for $27 million to help the contras, they said that the money would be used to purchase non-lethal items like food, medicine and clothing. But last week Times correspondent Doyle McManus reported that the Administration had broadened the definition of humanitarian aid to include transportation equipment, like trucks and helicopters, that carry not just food but also guns and ammunition. Congress was being naive if it expected anything different. The Administration is so determined to wage its covert war against the Sandinistas that it will exploit any opening given.
Battlefield reports from Nicaragua indicate that the contras are using the renewed U.S. aid to escalate their war against the Managua government. But the Sandinistas and their Cuban allies are responding with an escalation of their own. That is why no one should take any encouragement from an incident last week in which the contras downed a Soviet helicopter with a hand-carried missile. While the downing proves that the contras have new firepower and know how to use it, the introduction of light anti-aircraft missiles into Central America could come back to haunt the United States. So could the fact that the downed helicopter was piloted by Cubans, who are now apparently playing a more active role in advising the Sandinista army.