The Churches and the Emerging Contra War
During Ronald Reagan's first year in office his administration I placed the Nicaraguan Revolution near the top of its agenda as a foreign policy challenge. But how would the administration respond to that revolution? Would it follow its predecessor's read and try to achieve influence in Managua by offering aid conditioned on acceptable Sandinista behavior? This approach was rejected almost immediately through the suspension of Carter administration funds that had not yet been released. But the Reagan administration's alternative did not become clear for some time.
However, by the spring of 1982 U.S. journalists had begun to discern the shape of a policy. Articles appeared suggesting that some sort of covert actions, possibly aimed at destabilizing Nicaragua, had been approved by President Reagan. When pressed to clarify the matter, the administration refused. Typical is the comment reported in the New York Times on March 17: "The White House refused today to confirm or deny the Nicaraguan accusation of CIA involvement in guerrilla attacks. According to White House counselor, Edwin Meese III, 'the U.S. is not in the habit of engaging in sinister plots. Beyond that, however, it is our policy not to either confirm or deny such statements as that.'"1 It was, indeed, another six months before the extent of the administration's commitment to destabilizing Nicaragua through the training and support of counterrevolutionary guerrillas was fully reported in the U.S. media. 2 By then, the gathering Contra war had been under way for nearly a year and a half.
On March 9, 1981, Ronald Reagan signed a Presidential Finding that authorized the CIA to provide financial assistance to individuals and groups in Nicaragua who opposed the Sandinista government. In addition, the president agreed to expand the scope of U.S. intelli-