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Tv Review : 'This War'--critical Look At Contras

March 18, 1986|LEE MARGULIES | Times Staff Writer

With the House scheduled to vote Thursday on President Reagan's controversial proposal to provide $100 million in U.S. aid to anti-Sandinista rebels, the producers of public television's "Frontline" series have juggled their schedule to present a documentary tonight about the contras.

Reagan will not be pleased.

While most of the program is rooted in the United States, where private citizens have taken it upon themselves to underwrite the contras , "Who's Running This War?" (airing at 8 p.m. on Channel 50, at 9 p.m. on Channel 28 and at 10 p.m. on Channel 15) casts a critical eye on the capability, the methodology and the ultimate goal of the forces fighting to oust Nicaragua's Marxist-led Sandinista government.

Reports of human rights abuses by the contras and predictions that they would set up another dictatorship if they took control of the country are juxtaposed with Reagan hailing the rebels as "freedom fighters" who are "the moral equal of our founding fathers."

The documentary was not produced with the current debate over funding of the contras in mind, and does not directly address the merits and pitfalls of Reagan's proposal. Instead it focuses on the campaign by retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John Singlaub and other Americans to raise money for the contras outside government channels, questioning whether such efforts are legal and whether they were orchestrated by the White House in a covert, unconstitutional foreign policy program.

Although not at the heart of this week's debate, these questions remain important because if Congress rejects Reagan's request for aid, the movement to solicit private donations to fight the spread of communism in Latin America doubtlessly will continue.

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