U.S. Special Forces crawl through the dense jungles of the Panama Canal Zone in simulated warfare. Forty-five ships, three times the usual Navy contingent, crowd the Caribbean's waters. Three Marine battalions are called out of reserve and posted at Guantanamo, the U.S. naval base inside Cuba. And military bases in Miami and Puerto Rico are readied to support quick interventions.' Part of a futuristic nightmare? Or the rhetoric of the Reagan Administration put into practice? The logic of that rhetoric contains a built-in es- calation clause. If El Salvador is only one battle in a larger war against Soviet designs, then the "El Salvador Solution" must now be applied to Guatemala as well, where public protest is now going underground and merging with a grow- ing guerrilla army. Resumption of U.S. mili- tary aid to Guatemala is already in the works. If Somoza was first on the Soviet "hit list," and if Nicaragua now serves as a "foothold" to spread revolutionary fires, then the U.S. defeat there must not be treated as irreversible. As Sec- retary Haig stated before a Congressional sub- committee, "We are clearly going to have to do something in the very near future." 2 And if Cuba is the most dangerous source of unrest in the region, then Cuba must be dealt with as well. Deputy Secretary of State William Clark, stated recently, "We intend to go to the source with whatever means may become rea- sonably necessary" to stop the arms flow from Cuba. 3 Drawing the line in El Salvador is no longer enough. All of the above flows from a refusal to ac- knowledge the legitimacy, and the autonomy, of movements that have galvanized hundreds of thousands of people to fight for a better life. "In order to maintain their Manichean vision," Tom Farer writes of those now in charge of U. S. policy, "they must practice a heroic indifference Militia women, Nicaragua, 1981. to detail. The revolutionary who haunts thei, hysterical prose never acquires a face. Neocon- servatives ask no questions about the particulars of time, place and program, about why a man or woman has assumed the awful peril of rebellion; they never ask because for their crabbed pur- poses, they have all the necessary answers. Hav- ing taken up arms-some of them Cuban or Russian or otherwise tainted-against an anti- communist government, the revolutionary is either a totalitarian communist or a foolish tool, not to mention a 'terrorist.' "4 To save Central America from the Soviets, the Reagan Administration is prepared to aid any "lesser evil"-be it a government that in- flicts unlimited terror on its own people, in the case of El Salvador or Guatemala; be it a band of bitter assassins, such as the ex-Somoza Guards- men now training in Honduras, Guatemala, Florida and California; be it a paranoid Army in Honduras, intent on replacing Somoza's Nica- ragua as the new regional gendarme. This is the imperial ideology of noblesse oblige and national security that led us into Vietnam. It hides the real quest for raw materials, invest- ment outlets, military bases and strategic canals. And it threatens to provoke a regional war that could dwarf Vietnam as an American trauma. May/June 1981 21NACLA Report This article focuses on this wider war, by look- ing first at Honduras, previously known only as a vast fiefdom of United Fruit. But today, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador form part of an "Iron Triangle," committed to holding the line against communist subversion by coordinating their own military and paramil- itary forces.5 Officers of the three armies meet regularly at Ocotepeque, where the borders come together. But Honduras is the key part- ner-the only one not fully absorbed by the fight against revolutionary forces within its own bor- ders. Honduras is still comparatively tranquil; its Army can look outward.* Not content with joining forces to counter fu- ture revolutions, Central America is now abuzz with plans to subvert an existing one. Nicaragua, as it approaches the second anniversary of its suc- cessful insurrection, is now the target of efforts to turn back the clock and play on the vulnerabilities of a country still ravaged by the effects of civil war, and still experimenting with new political forms. And finally, the country that is already talked about as the next El Salvador by reactionaries and revolutionaries alike. In Guatemala, an Indian population of four million is now emerging from centuries of resignation and isolation from other exploited sectors. Their incorporation into the revolutionary struggle will pose a powerful chal- lenge to U.S. policy toward the region. The Administration's new talk of a mini-Mar- shall Plan for Central America and the Caribbean is intended to shed a benevolent light on U.S. ef- forts to imprison people within its own sphere of in- fluence, and within the same social structures that engendered revolution in the first place. Surely Reagan's aides will come up with a catchier name than the Alliance for Progress. But the basic strategy-counterinsurgency with a sugar coating -remains the same. *Space doesn't permit us to examine the internal dyna- mics of Honduras, which will be the subject of a future Report. 1. See Wall Street Journal, February 25, 1981, on U.S. Navy build-up; The Nation, March 14, 1981 on Marines in Cuba; and Third World, No. 7 (March 14, 1981) on general U.S. military build-up toward the region. 2. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings, March 26, 1981. 3. Washington Post, February 22, 1981. 4. Tom J. Farer, "Reagan's Latin America," New York Review of Books, March 19, 1981. 5. For a detailed analysis of this notion, see Philip E. Wheaton, "The Iron Triangle: The Honduran Connec- tion;" copies available from EPICA, Washington, D.C.
Tags: Central America, red scare, Ronald Reagan, military aid, Counterinsurgency