Thank you for your editorial (Jan. 15), "Contadora Can Work, if--." However, that "if" is a very big word, for as you state, "it won't happen until the dirty little war promoted by the Reagan Administration is brought to an end." You also make the point that there is a gross ignorance of history on the part of Elliot Abrams, assistant secretary of state for Latin America, and others in the Administration.
Wars are bred through fear and there is great fear in Nicaragua that the United States helping the contras at the Honduran border with a massive military buildup will invade their country. Why should they have such fear?
In 1954 the CIA engineered a coup to overthrow a democratically elected government in Guatemala, initiating a period of repression and violence that continued to 1986.
In Nicaragua, as far back as 1855, a William Walker from Tennessee led a small mercenary army imported by one group to defeat an opposing group. Afterward, Walker seized power for himself and then offended both sides by legalizing slavery and making English the official language. This gave gringo a very bad image.
In 1912 we sent U.S. Marines to occupy Nicaragua to put down a rebellion. We occupied this area until 1933 with the exception of a short period in the mid-1920s. Finally, the Nicaraguan government gave in to U.S. pressure to create a combined army and police force, which became the vehicle by which Anastasio Somoza Garcia was to form the family dictatorship that brutalized Nicaragua for more than four decades. The support for this regime came from the Nicaraguan National Guard and the United States.
One of the principles of the American Revolution was the building of a government on the consent of the governed. Yet we seem to forget that this principle should be respected for our neighbors. If they fail to choose the path we feel they should, we create our own brand of fear. We have a blind spot that sees communism as the enemy, when the real problem is poverty, confiscation of land and exploitation of the people.
Elliot Abrams, as a member of the State Department, should know better, but he exhibits a paranoid fear that Nicaragua will be a threat to us. This tiny poverty-stricken country is a danger to our country? This is paranoid fear--the stuff of which wars are made.
With the Sandinistas fearing that we intend to bring down their government, and our fearing that with Cuba's and Russia's assistance we are in danger from this small country, the only sane solution remains for the Administration to back away and call off its "dirty little war" and let the Contadora nations who are part of the area, who understand their problems better than we possibly could, try to untangle the whole mess before it is too late. Yes, "Contadora Can Work," but the "if" is monumental.