The 1980s


The items included here cover the covert war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Material dealing with the Iran-Contra uproar is treated separately. Why? Because that matter is best seen as a crisis of the Reagan administration, not specifically a crisis of the CIA. See "Iran-Contra" in the "Post-World War II 1980s Table of Contents."

Armstrong, Scott, et al. [National Security Archive]. The Chronology: The Documented Day-to-Day Account of the Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Contras. New York: Warner, 1987.

NameBase: "The Chronology draws on some government documents, but this is mostly a compilation of Iran-contra tidbits from the media, beginning in 1980 and getting progressively more detailed through 1986 -- a year that takes 400 pages of the book. It is valuable for researchers who need to understand how specific events may have fit into a larger pattern. There is a complete index and no conclusion."

Benda, Susan. "Violations of Law in the Covert War Against Nicaragua." First Principles 12, no. 2 (1987): 7-9. [Petersen]

Bouchey, L. Francis, ed. The Real Secret War: Sandinista Political Warfare and Its Effects on Congress. Washington, DC: Council for Inter-Americn Security and Inter-American Security Educational Institute, 1987.

The best that can be said for this book is that it is a rightist propaganda tract.

Brooklyn Law Review. Editors. "Beyond Institutional Competence: Congressional Efforts to Legislate United States Policy Towards Nicaragua -- the Boland Amendments." 54 (1988): 131 ff. [Petersen]

Bundy, McGeorge. "Covert Operations in Nicaragua: Will the Sandinistas Cry Uncle?" First Principles 10, no. 4 (1984): 10-12.

Petersen: "Report on Congressional testimony in opposition to support of the Contras by the Kennedy-Johnson National Security Adviser, 1961-1966."

Chamorro, Edgar. "Running the Nicaraguan War: An Inside View of CIA as Master of the Contras." First Principles 11, no. 1 (1985): 1-7, 13. [Petersen]

Clarridge, Duane R. ("Dewey"), with Digby Diehl. A Spy for All Seasons: My Life in the CIA. New York: Scribner's, 1997.

Clark comment: These are the memoirs of a long-time, senior CIA officer whose personal and sartorial eccentricities are known to all who came into contact with him. Clarridge's close association with running the Reagan administration's anti-Sandinista war, as well as with other major operations in his lengthy career, makes this book interesting reading. Click for reviews of Clarridge's memoirs.

Cockburn, Leslie. Out of Control: The Story of the Reagan Administration's Secret War in Nicaragua, the Illegal Arms Pipeline, and the Contra Drug Connection. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1987.

Cruz, Arturo, Jr. Memoirs of a Counterrevolutionary: Life with the Contras, the Sandinistas, and the CIA. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1989.

Surveillant 1.1 identifies Cruz as a "revolutionary and an important advisor in the Sandinista movement who later became a key player in the Contra resistance. [His] unique position gives him insights into America's role in Central America."

Dickey, Christopher. With the Contras: A Reporter in the Wilds of Nicaragua. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987.

Dillon, Sam. Commandos: The CIA and Nicaragua's Contra Rebels. New York: Henry Holt, 1991. 1992. [pb]

According to Surveillant 2.2, Dillon was "part of The Miami Herald's team of reporters who won the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Iran-contra scandal." For Radosh, WPNWE, 13-19 Jan. 1992, this is a "riveting and well-documented book" that exposes the corruption and human rights abuses on both sides in the Contra-Sandinista war. NameBase calls Dillon's book the "best treatment of the CIA in Honduras [?] that we've seen, but it could have been better. Unfortunately, either Dillon or the publisher's lawyers are squeamish about naming some names."

First Principles. Editors. "House Intelligence Committee Report on Covert Operations in Nicaragua." 8, no. 6 (1983): 1-10. [Petersen]

Garvin, Glenn. Everybody Had His Own Gringo: The CIA and the Contras. Washington, DC: Brassey's, 1992.

Polk, WPNWE, 25-31 May 1992, says that "Garvin has it just about right": that the fumbling by the Reagan administration of its support to the contras "was a continuation of how American policy toward Nicaragua has always been run."

Gutman, Roy. Banana Diplomacy: The Making of American Policy in Nicaragua, 1981-1987. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.

Kagan, Robert. A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990. New York: Free Press, 1996.

Hendrickson, FA 75.4 (Jul.-Aug. 1996), calls this book a "brilliant and encyclopedic history of the American intervention in Nicaragua." Kagan, a midlevel State Department official during the Reagan administration, approaches the subject "from the more detached and objective station of the historian, and his literary gifts make the work appealing despite its oppressive length."

Kinzer, Stephen. Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua. New York: Putnam, 1991.

Clark comment: Kinzer was Managua bureau chief of the New York Times from 1983 to 1988. Leiken, WPNWE, 1-7 Jul. 1991, finds that Kinzer's "reporting sometimes appeared an exercise in constituency balancing: a little criticism, a little praise and a glut of phrases such as 'there was wide difference of opinion of whether....' In the book the balancing act creates incoherence."

Kornbluh, Peter. Nicaragua: The Price of Intervention, Reagan's War against the Sandinistas. Washington, DC: Institute for Policy Studies, 1987.

Moore, Alan, and Bill Sienkewicz. Brought to Light. Forestville, CA: Eclipse, 1989.

Chambers rightly dismisses this book as "Christic Institute nonsense."

Moore, John Norton. The Secret War in Central America: The Sandinista Assault on World Order. Frederick, MD: University Press of America, 1987. [Chambers]

Shultz, Richard H., Jr. The Soviet Union and Revolutionary Warfare: Principles, Practices, and Regional Comparisons. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1988.

Valcourt, IJI&C 3.1, says that this book "breaks relatively new ground." The author seeks "to show ... that Soviet support of so-called 'wars of national liberation' is part of an evolving process." Shultz concludes that "the Soviet Union had no coherent plan to conquer the world, nor any significant revolutionary ideology to offer as unification to those waging guerrilla or political warfare." The book presents four cases: Vietnam, the PLO, Angola, and Central America, particularly Nicaragua. The author has undertaken a "comprehensive review of how Soviet newspapers and journals report and interpret that country's international involvements." The writing style is "dry and soporific."

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