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A Partisan Stance

August 24, 1986

For all they provide in the way of informative objectivity, the book reviews on Central America in your Aug. 3 issue might as well have been written by a Reagan State Department "information" officer. David F. Belnap's put-down of "The Central America Fact Book" by Tom Barry and Deb Preusch, and Anne Nelson's sneers at "The Sandinista Revolution" by Carlos Vilas, imply that both books should be lumped together as mere "propaganda" from an irresponsible left-wing minority.

Yet as one who has reviewed in print more than 50 recent books on the crisis in Central America, I can testify that well over 90% of all material in English--not to mention the overwhelming majority of the nations of the world, as recently demonstrated in the World Court and the United Nations--fully concur with these authors as to the ill-conceived and inhumane nature of U.S. policy in the region in recent years.

Yet this is a case where the truth, as well as basic humanitarian sympathy for needlessly suffering victims of oppression, justifies a highly partisan stance. Partisanship is wrong only if it conflicts with fact or decency.

Belnap tries to invoke great authority by citing Carlos Rangel's view that U.S. interests are not primarily responsible for Latin American suffering. He would have displayed his erudition more convincingly by citing such landmark studies as "Aid as Obstacle" by the San Francisco-based Institute for Food and Development Policy, which demonstrates the great degree to which this suffering comes from American imperialism, and even American "aid."

JOHN CHAPPELL JR.

San Luis Obispo

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