U.S. Sponsorship of International Terrorism: President Reagan

U.S. Sponsorship of International Terrorism: An Overview Edward S. Herman

For the average citizen of the West, the idea of the United States as a sponsor of international terrorism let alone the dominant sponsor would appear utterly incomprehensible.

After all, one reads daily that the United States is leading the charge against something it calls “terrorism,” and it even regularly assails its allies for dragging their feet in responding to terrorism.

On the other hand, the U.S. government has organized a mercenary army to attack Nicaragua, and even provided it with a printed manual of recommended acts of sabotage and murder, which has been implemented by the proxy army at the cost of well over a thousand Nicaraguan civilian lives (Leonard, 1983).

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The U.S. government has also given unstinting support to the apartheid government of South Africa, which has directly invaded and organized its own mercenary armies to subvert a string of frontline states, again at the cost of many thousands of civilian lives.

The western media, however, never refer to the United States or South Africa as “terrorist states,” even though both of them have killed vastly greater numbers than Libya’s Quaddafi or Italy’s Red Brigades.

“Our mission,” the president added, “is to nourish and defend freedom and democracy, and to communicate these ideals everywhere we can. Support for freedom fighters is self-defense,” he concluded. The Reagan Doctrine underpinned covert U.S. military operations in such places as Afghanistan, Angola and Nicaragua.

“If I Don’t Like It, Call It Terrorism”

The Reagan administration in Washington has found it possible to arbitrarily designate any group or country which it opposes as “terrorist,” and this will be transmitted to the public by the mass media without serious criticism or laughter.

In his speech before the American Bar Association on July 8, 1985, President Reagan named five states as engaging in serious state terrorism: North Korea, Libya, Iran, Cuba, and Nicaragua.

The Soviet Union was presumably omitted because of the upcoming Summit meeting. The press (Weinraub, 1985: 1) reported that Syria had been spared as “a gesture of gratitude” to President Assad for his role in negotiating the release of 39 U.S. hostages in Lebanon!

The press failed to discuss the fact that South Africa and Guatemala (among others) were omitted, that Nicaragua does not murder its own citizens as South Africa and Guatemala have done on a large scale, and that Nicaragua has not invaded other countries or organized subversive forces to destabilize other countries, as South Africa has done in many places and as the United States does quite openly to Nicaragua itself.

The ludicrousness and hypocrisy of the United States calling Nicaragua a terrorist state was entirely unnoticed and without effect on the objective reporting by the U.S. press.

With a compliant mass media, especially in the United States but also among its clients, terror is what the powerful U.S. government declares to be terror.

As it is now using the concept with audacious and arbitrary abandon, it is employing the “If I don’t like it, call it terrorism” definition of terrorism.

By excluding governments, South Africa, Guatemala, and Israel are removed from the category of terrorist, while the African National Congress (ANC), rebel groups in Guatemala, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) are automatically eligible.

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This is grotesque in terms of both numbers of victims and forms of violence employed by state and non-state intimidators, but it is extremely convenient in terms of western priorities and interests.

The governments protected by this word usage are allies, clients, and self; the groups automatically made “terrorists” oppose these clients and western defense of the status quo.

The Reagan administration’s manipulation of the Libyan threat, from the mythical “hit squads” of 1981 to the deliberately provoked encounters off the Libyan coast and recent direct attacks, have been designed to shift attention from the assault on Central America, the Palestinians and assorted other Arabs groups, and the frontline states of South Africa, and to mobilize western populations for aggressive adventures abroad. The “theater of terror” is managed from Washington to serve its perceived interests.

 In Guatemala, the Philippines, Argentina, Brazil, pre-Sandinista Nicaragua, Chile, Indonesia, and Zaire (among others), the elites put in power and supported by the West have been not merely brutal terrorists, but rapacious as well.

At the time of the overthrow of the elected government of Brazil in 1964, for example, the United States was doing the following:

It had bribed hundreds of local politicians in a scandal so great that a Parliamentary Commission was forced to investigate the matter.

It had numerous journalists on its payroll, subsidized newspapers and magazines, and for 90 days before the election even rented the editorial page of Rio de Janiero’s evening newspaper.

It funded Brazilian think tanks that poured forth a flood of books and pamphlets dispensing conservative ideology and disinformation.

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A U.S. corporation, Time, Inc., illegally controlled the largest Brazilian TV station, and dispensed strong pro-coup propaganda.

The U.S. government-funded American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) worked to depoliticize and weaken the union movement, and actively supported the 1964 coup;

 U.S. officials encouraged the military establishment to oust the legal government, and the United States even had ships offshore as moral support for the leaders of the coup.

The U.S. training and buildup of client police and armed forces has been historically unique in scope and scale.

Between 1950 and 1979, U.S. military aid programs transferred a huge $107.3 billion in arms and ammunition to various U.S. clients, in addition to some $121 billion in arms sales.

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Between 1973 and 1980, the United States sold $66.8 billion in arms to Third World countries, including vast quantities of firearms, chemical munitions, helicopters, and other police gear useful in CI and repression.

Since 1950 the United States has trained over 500,000 military personnel from 85 countries in the U.S. Army School of the Americas in Panama and in several hundred other military schools and bases within the United States and abroad.

Under police training programs that began in 1954 and terminated in 1975, over 7,500 police officers received regularly training in U.S. schools, and over a million regular policeman have been given training abroad.

Large quantities of arms and equipment were also transferred to foreign police departments. A large investment was made in improving police and military communications systems in client states, oriented to CI efficiency and control of protests and other disorders. Training was provided in the design and manufacturing homemade bombs and assassination devices.*

Other scoundrels:

In 1982, Richard Nixon described Ronald Reagan as the “most pro-Israel president since Truman.” A Boston Globe editorial in 1998 described Bill Clinton as “the most pro-Israel president since Harry Truman.” In 2009, Charles Krauthammer described George W. Bush as “the most pro-Israel president since Harry Truman.” And Vice President Joseph Biden declared in 2012 that “no president since Harry Truman has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama.”

The Nicaraguan Crisis – A US Regime Change Operation


Nicaragua is one of the safest in all of Latin America, and has been able to prevent the Central American drug cartels to establish a presence, which account for the lack of migration to the United States or other nations, as in the case of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Over the past four and a half months western corporate news reports about Nicaragua have painted a harrowing picture about the Central American country, historically known for a revolutionary legacy that has put the nation at odds with United States foreign policy and interests.

In this latest iteration of conflict between the two nations, the United States has made full use of its global propaganda machine and regime change apparatus not only to create chaos and instability in the country, but also to politically and diplomatically isolate it from the rest of the world; the aim? To overthrow the Sandinista government and install a neoliberal puppet government in its place.

GH Bush sits with dictator drug runner for US “Everything done by the Republic of Panama under my command was known,” Noriega said during his incarceration. “Panama was an open book.”

What we are hearing vs what is happening

Whether we are getting our news from western media organizations like The New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, the BBC, or any of the many US-financed opposition news outlets in Nicaragua, the narrative about the recent wave of violence and chaos that has engulfed country has remained uniformed.

This past April the Sandinista government approved a series of reforms to the country’s social security institute, which prompted students to go out into the streets to protest. The government then unleashed its police force against the students and other protesters, who were peaceful. From then on the government went on a killing rampage that resulted in the deaths of more than 400 peaceful protesters.

This narrative has not only been adopted and promoted by US-financed non-profits and opposition news media organizations in Nicaragua, but also by national and international human rights groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

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Usaid’s actions in Brazil: the assistance provided for the training and technical modernization of police forces which promised poorer countries better development alternatives than the revolutionary path.

On the political and diplomatic front, Inter American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR), the “human rights” arm of the Organization of American States (OAS), and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OUNHCHR), have also taken the opposition accounts and included them in their reports without verifying the facts or vetting the organizations that produced the narrative in the first place.

The IMF, the US, and the Nicaraguan right

The opposition’s account, however, does not stand to scrutiny. For starters, it was the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and a powerful private business group (COSEP), who supported the original reforms to the social security institute, which included cutting out 53,000 retirees, doubling the number of contributions necessary to qualify for retirement, and changing the retirement age from 60 to 65.

“In addition to sales of military hardware and substantial U.S. military and economic aid to Israel, we discussed the possibility of applying Israel’s experience and talent in the areas of … police and security training in third world areas, particularly Central America, under contracts from the Agency for International Development.” -Robert McFarlane, Ronald Reagan’s third National Security Advisor

The government responded with a counter offer that didn’t cut anyone out, or changed the number of contributions or age of retirement, but increased contributions by employees and employers, and removed a salary cap to ensure Nicaragua’s highest paid people who have to pay in accordance with their income.

The counter reforms incurred the wrath of Nicaragua’s wealthiest business people, who were in turn the ones who called the initial protests, at first attended only by university students trained by organizations financed and directed United States regime change agencies, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

For 30 years, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has been sub-contracting the legal part of illegal CIA operations. Without rousing suspicions, it has put in place the biggest network of corruption in the world, bribing trade unions and management syndicates , political parties both on both the Right and Left so that they defend the interests of the United States instead of their members.

The vast majority of political entities behind the opposition, starting with the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), the oligarchic political parties, media outlets, Catholic schools and churches, non-profit organizations,  university students, and people from different sectors, have received financing from the USAID, NED, and other US agencies.

Many of the leaders, according to WikiLeaks’s embassy cables, have been meeting with US officials at the US Embassy in Managua, some since the 90s, and a couple of them since the late 70s, when the US began trying to figure out who would replace Nicaragua’s embattled US-supported dictator as “their new man.”

Human Rights for Regime Change

The human rights organizations are all politicized against the Sandinista government. One of them, the ANPDH (Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights), was founded and financed by the Reagan Administration in the 80s for the sole purpose of white-washing the atrocities of the Contras, the mercenary army trained and financed by the US with money from drugs and weapons sales to Iran.

The other organizations, national and international, also receive most, if not all, of their funding from the United States and Europe.

They too have played a destabilizing role in Nicaragua by republishing accounts of government killings and atrocities without verifying the sources or conducting any kind of fact checking. One could look into the death reports, accusations of corruption and repression, the portrayal of the opposition as peaceful; none of the accusations publicized by these national and international groups, and easily see that none would match even the most relaxed standards of journalistic or fact checking standards. However, they are supported and promoted by the most powerful country on earth, against a small developing nation, so they get away with it.

In all truth, the opposition has been made up of a mixture of US trained operatives embedded within private university programs, non-profit organizations, media outlets, churches, and political organizations, that have unleashed a wave of political assassinations,  destruction of government institutions, undermining of the economy, and a number of other tactics and strategies implemented through social media platforms and international news and human rights organizations, all in order to bring about the demise of the Sandinista government.

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Why Nicaragua?

Because Nicaragua has been a thorn on the side of the United States since its very independence, or soon thereafter. Starting with interests around a possible US canal through Nicaragua in the 1850s, and continuing with military invasions and occupations in the 20s and 30s, the 40 plus decades of the Somoza family dictatorship, the Contra war, and this latest attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government, the United States has been trying to impose its will upon Nicaragua, and has always faced fierce resistance.  In 2013 Nicaragua signed a concession law giving a Chinese company the rights to build and manage an interoceanic canal, which might require the Chinese to sell US debt in order to start construction.


This time around Nicaragua, one of the least developed nations in the American Hemisphere, has managed to build a strong economy, much to the benefit of its poorest citizens, largely outside of neoliberal standards.

Prior to the beginning of the protests in April, Nicaragua boasted one of the fasted growing economies in Latin America, with a steady 5% annual growth for the past few years. The country cut poverty by two thirds in record time since the Sandinistas returned to power in 2006. Nicaraguan citizens produce approximately 90 percent of the food eaten in the country.

Lastly, Nicaragua is one of the safest in all of Latin America, and has been able to prevent the Central American drug cartels to establish a presence, which account for the lack of migration to the United States or other nations, as in the case of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Such level of success happening outside the austerity-and-privatization neoliberal economic model favored by the most powerful countries of the world does not sit well with the United States. The present aggression against Nicaragua merely seeks to turn Nicaragua’s economy into a cheap market so transnational corporations can easily ransack its natural resources and exploit its citizens.

The Way Forward

Therefore, it is of the utmost importance for conscious Americans, especially within the veteran community, to stand up against US interference in Nicaragua’s affairs. Such solidarity should include an effort to become informed about and vehemently oppose new forms of intervention into the affairs of other sovereign nations, even when such interventions are endorsed by reputable media and human rights groups that lend a veil of acceptance of the false narratives, when in reality they are doing the bidding of their funders, much to the detriment of those who depend on them to tell the truth. It falls upon us to find that truth, to expose it, and to defend it at all cost.

Neocon regime change in full swing in Nicaragua

Daniel Ortega was the leader of Nicaragua’s left-wing Sandinista revolution, he was credited with first bringing down a dictator, and then the US-sponsored rebels, who tried to block his move into legitimate power. From 1982 to 1988, the FDN – run by both American and Nicaraguan CIA agents – waged a losing war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, the Cuban-supported socialists who’d overthrown U.S.-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979.

“US policy is the same as it ever was,” he said. “They want governments that are entirely submissive to their decisions. They’ve always rejected the possibility that we’d return to power. Colin Powell came down here to tell Nicaraguans not to vote for us, so before every election, some big shot from the US would come down and say not to vote for us. When we did win in 2006, we knew the US would do everything it could to degrade and wear down our government.” Ortega explained that Barack Obama imposed the first sanctions on his government, accusing him of ceding to pressure from the Miami lobby of right-wing Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan exiles.  

Image result for us backed dictator in Nicaragua

Several U.S. senators, including Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, have called for fresh sanctions to be imposed against the Nicaraguan government.

The United States is calling for increased pressure and sanctions on Nicaragua, revoking the visas of several officials, as Nicaraguan Vice-President Rosario Murillo reiterates the government’s commitment to peace.

“The U.S. Department of State revoked the visas of more individuals responsible for abuses against human rights and/or for undermining democracy in Nicaragua,” a statement said, without specifying which officials were sanctioned.

Several U.S. senators, including Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, have urged U.S. President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on the Nicaraguan government for ‘corruption and human rights violation.’ Rubio has close ties with opposition forces in Nicaragua, having earlier this month met with student leaders involved in the protests.

Meanwhile, Nicaragua’s Vice President Rosario Murillo reiterated on Friday the government’s commitment to dialogue and peace, and asked that international entities condemn the violence of opposition groups that has virtually halted the country in recent months.

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“The commitment of all of us is to move forward, always with the people, constructing victories for the common good and for peace in Nicaragua,” Murillo said.

Violent protests by armed groups have shut down transportation and economic activity in many parts of the country for the past two months, causing numerous deaths, injuries and damage to public and private property.

In 1935, General Smedley Butler, who led the Marines into Nicaragua, said: “[I was] a high class muscle man for big business, for Wall Street and for the banks. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism – I helped purify Nicaragua for [an] international banking house.” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it another way. “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

In response to increased pressure by the United States and Nicaragua’s right wing, Venezuela told the United Nations Human Rights Council that a campaign to stage a coup was being waged in Nicaragua.


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“We reject that the topic of human rights is being used to attack Nicaragua. We call on the people and governments of the world to reject the violence and terrorism in Nicaragua and to support the inclusive dialogue promoted by the Sandinista government,” Venezuelan Ambassador to the United Nations Jorge Valero said.

Valero confirmed the “absolute solidarity of the government of President Nicolas Maduro and the Venezuelan people with the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and its heroic people.”