Welcome to "Rhetoric or Research: The CIA at UMass." "Rhetoric or Research" interprets student protests against CIA recruitment at UMass-Amherst during the 1980s. Discussing the CIA is often politically charged. As such, there is a large body of literature on CIA activities. This exhibit focuses on the UMass-Amherst campus and the discourse that students, faculty, administrators, and organizations engaged with to validate their perspectives and denigrate their opposition. Thematically organized into four parts - the CIA at UMass, Communism, Terrorism, and Discourse - this exhibit argues that campus discourse framed U.S. involvement in Central America on two axes: communist-free and terrorist-free.
This online exhibit is the result of the
Ethir Fellowship program
The "Experiential Training in Historic Information Resources (Ethir)
is an initiative of the Department of Special Collections and
University Archives in the UMass Amherst Libraries designed to provide
students with structured, hands-on experience using and interpreting
historical documentary resources." For more information about the
fellowship see the
Special Collection's Ethir homepage.
[x] and research based on collections at the University of Massachusetts. CIA on Trial Project Records, 1985-1989. Jonathan Evan Maslow Papers, ca.1978-2008. Timothy Allman Papers, 1976-1983 (MS 60). Activism of the 1980s Photograph Collection (PH 012). (Additional information) Don Ogden Collection (MS 440). Radical Student Union Records (RG45/80 R1). Student Protests and Demonstrations - See Concordance for the Archives, S - RG-45/101. Central America Solidarity Association - See Concordance for the Archives, C - RG-45/80/C5. Latin American Solidarity Committee, Western Massachusetts - See Concordance for the Archives, L - RG-45/80/L3. Republican Club, University of Massachusetts (1983-) - See Concordance for the Archives, R - RG-45/80/R4. The collections above are from the Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Additional background information is accessed, primarily through hyperlinks. [x] A special thanks to everyone in the Department of Special Collections and University Archives for all their technical and research support. To help you navigate the exhibit, I recommend you review some of the site's features.
played by Alec
Baldwin on NBC's 30 Rock,
aptly stated that "there is no wrong,
you just have to find a subordinate you can push the blame onto."
30 Rock. Episode no. 34,
first broadcast 24 April 2008 by NBC. Directed by Gail Mancuso
and written by Tina Fey and Andrew Guest.
The quote is roughly 11 minutes and 22 seconds into the episode.
For more information about 30 Rock see
[x] This gibe offers insight into the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) poor image. The CIA is often the whipping-boy for poorly executed or politically unpalatable foreign policy maneuvers, exhibited by phrases such as "the CIA-sponsored coup," "the failed CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion," “the CIA's Operation Phoenix," and "the CIA-funded Contras." Rarely is it "Nixon's objections to Allende," "JFK's botched invasion of Cuba," "LBJ's Phoenix Program," or "Reagan's Contras." The rhetorical distance between the President and the CIA creates space for critics to regard the CIA as a "renegade operation" "The CIA operates above the law, is unaccountable to the American people." - Timothy Harris [x] that is uncontrollably "creating its own foreign policy." "The CIA, though charged to gather intelligence, has become a propaganda and military force, unaccountable to the American people, with its own foreign policy objectives." - Faculty and Staff for Peace in Central America [x] This practice alleviates the executive branch of responsibility for CIA activity as the subordinate takes the blame. "'In other words, there was little recognition that the decisions being protested regarding the activities of our government in Central America can't be laid simply at the door of the CIA. That's too easy." - Chancellor Joseph D. Duffey "The CIA is not an organization unto itself; it is a tool of the highest members of our government, who are responsible for dictating out foreign policy. If as many people say, the CIA has gotten out of control, then call for our government leaders to restructure the agency." - Jeffry Bartash [x]
Particularly striking in the above photograph is the banner's outright defense of the CIA and its place in the U.S. Exemplifying a position held by many conservatives on campus during the 1980s, the banner claims the CIA is not an abnormality, a "necessary evil," or uncontrollable, it is "the American Way."
It is fair to assume that this speaker represents the converse position concerning
the CIA, noting her "Put the CIA on Trial"
The CIA on Trial Project
grew out of protests on
the UMass-Amherst campus. The
project raised funds
to support arrested protesters during their trial in Northampton
and to promote anti-CIA activities.
Several well-known figures were associated with the group including
and Len Weinglass.
[x] t-shirt, the megaphone, and the crowd of demonstrators. The CIA on Trial Project was the culmination of anti-CIA sentiments on the UMass-Amherst campus. Building upon the Winooski 44 The so-called Winooski 44 occupied Senator Robert Stafford office for three days hoping to change his vote on Contra funding. The group was arrested, entered a necessity defense plea during their trial, and was ultimately acquitted by a jury. Howard Zinn and John Stockwell participated in both the Winooski 44 trial in Vermont and the trial resulting from protests at UMass. Other witnesses in the Winooski trial included Philippe Bourgois, David Rosenberg, Ramsey Clark, and Richard Falk. For more information see Ben Bradley, ed. Por Amor al Pueblo: ¡Not Guilty! The Trial of the Winooski 44 (Montpelier, VT: Front Porch Publishing, 1986). [x] example, the objective of the CIA on Trial Project was to change CIA policy through judicial mandate, bringing the agency into line with the International Court of Justice ruling and interpretations of domestic law. Depending political position, people considered the CIA guilty of a number of domestic and international crimes. A booklet from the Radical Education Project in Madison, WI lists a number of the legal issues associated with CIA during the time.
[x] For the speaker, the CIA is not the "American Way" but illegal, out of control, and a sponsoring terrorism. Thus, it should be banned from recruiting on campus.
The poster behind the peace-sign-painted student occupying
in protest against CIA recruitment on campus reads, "Covert Inhumane Atrocities."
While it is unknown which students in this image used civil disobedience
and were arrested, it is
certain that some did.
On November 24, 1986 fifty-one people were arrested in Munson Hall.
The occupation came after eleven people were arrested for occupying an
office in Whitmore Hall the previous week.
"CIA protesters arrested in Munson Hall," Pedro M. Pereira
"Police, protesters clash; Eleven students arrested," Craig Sandler
[x] Their actions increased tensions surrounding CIA recruitment on campus. No longer simply a rhetorical exercise to voice opposition, the acts of civil disobedience, the resulting arrests, and the subsequent necessity defense created a platform for the anti-CIA protesters to claim that CIA actions in Central America could escalate into "another Vietnam," The threat of another Vietnam-like quagmire loomed large in the discourse on campus and in the United States in general. From student quotes such as "Nicaragua is 'no threat to Texas' and the U.S. government is using the same logic as they did in Vietnam" to the Congressional Hearings, the collective memory of the U.S. experience in Vietnam remained a potent force. Radical Student Union Records (RG45/80 R1) - Subject Box El Salvador The Situation in El Salvador: Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Relations - United States Senate 97th Cong. 2 (March 18, 1981) (Charles H. Percy, Chairman). [x] justifying their occupation of university buildings.
In November 1980 more than 200 students gathered in front of the Student Union building to protest CIA recruitment on campus. The terms of debate, which still exist today, were already set. When asked about the demonstration, Judy Wiess commented, "if students really want jobs with the CIA they can get in touch with them, but murderers and torturers do not belong here." David St. Joan framed the rally as freedom issue, stating that "the entire views of the university are not being represented, the CIA has a right to be here, and we have a right to go to an interview on campus with them." Afro American Studies Professor John Bracey placed an intelligence and morality quotient on the issue saying, "it is insulting to UMass to think our students are so stupid and have no morality that this is the only kind of job they can get." All three quotes are from Debbie Wallace, "UMass students demonstrate against CIA" Daily Hampshire Gazette, November 21, 1980, 18. [x]
To the Left, the CIA was morally bankrupt and should be banned from recruiting on campus. To the Right, demonstrations against CIA recruitment infringed upon students' right to hear and the CIA's right to speak on campus. Both sides would ultimately place the issue into larger issues of morality, nationality, and intelligence. When the UMass-Amherst administration sought to stop protesters from disrupting CIA recruitment on campus, the individual photographed above thought the issue was being inverted, grabbed some poster board and a marker, and walked to Whitmore Hall.
"When an organization resorts to defacing property that does not belong to it, in an effort to promote an opinion, it is not only irresponsible, but insulting as well." The graffiti found on the Fine Arts Center had a mixed reception on campus. Yet, the graffiti was symbolic of student attempts to appropriate campus space, and the right to speak for all UMass students, as their own. When the CIA informational session on November 13, 1986 was canceled because demonstrating students prevented recruiters from entering the building, a plethora of opinions "Are we all passive, retarded receivers of information or are we intelligent, free choosing university students?" - Margaret Novotny, Sue Hassett, Brad Foster, and Eugene Lemone "No one has the right to recruit killers." - Marc Kenan "We're out here because we don't think brutal murderers should be on campus recruiting." - Barry Lefsky Mr. Lefsky would later become involved in the CIA on Trial Project, in keeping with his name. [x] "This kind of moral bullying that stops other people from learning about a career. It is a kind of arrogance." - Chancellor Joseph Duffey "As protesters sang "We Shall Overcome," the pro-CIA faction interjected, 'the Soviets.'" - Craig Sandler "The administration does not care about the CIA helping terrorists in Nicaragua." - Debi Cohen "We as human beings have the right to protest when our sisters and bothers in Central America are being destroyed by a federally funded terrorist organization, directed by the White House." - Mark Hubbard "Thanks a lot, you radicals." - Stuart Gottlieb "One protester for a knee injury, one officer for a bite injury, another officer for a shoulder injury." "Friday's demonstration did not clearly call for the action the administration took - arresting the protesters." - Collegian Board of Editors All quotes are from the Collegian, November 13-26, 1986. [x] were unleashed in the campus's newspapers. The Massachusetts Daily Collegian (Collegian) The Campus Chronicle The Minuteman [x]
The limitations of the Cold War framework are exemplified by the Cuban Revolution and its aftermath. Cold War interpretations often place Castro's economic reforms as the instigator that angered U.S. multinational companies, which turned to Washington D.C. for assistance. After much showmanship, including the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Soviets brought Cuba into its orbit. The U.S.S.R then used Cuba to install missiles aimed at the U.S., a situation which culminated in the Cuban Missile Crisis. This interpretation positions Cuba as a subordinate to both the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Simply, Cuba is largely reacting to, instead of not acting upon, the superpowers.
A Castro-positioned perspective offers a different story. After seizing power in 1959, Castro began to institutionalize his regime and expel his political opponents, who were largely tied to the previous, U.S.-supported government. In a series of steps, Castro both weakened his internal opponents and limited the external threat posed by U.S. multinationals. However, these actions provoked a backlash in the form of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Sensing his vulnerability, Castro negotiated with the Soviet Union to have defensive missiles installed in Cuba, resulting in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The crisis ended with a U.S. public declaration to not invade Cuba and allowed Cuba to secure favorable trade agreements with the Soviet Union.
The Cold War framework understates how Castro used existing geo-political structures to achieve his own goals. "Smaller" players extracted major concessions from the so-called superpowers for their own reasons. The Cold War is better understood as a series of negotiations between players with varying objectives.Teresa A. Meade, A History of Modern Latin America: 1800 to the Present (Malden, MA:Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 238-241. [x]
At times we lose sight of the rivalries within Central America. For example, until the very end of the Somoza regime, the Sandinistas did not hold territory in Nicaragua. They were largely based in the mountainous areas on both sides of the Nicaraguan-Honduran border and in Costa Rica. Costa Rican support to the Sandinistas became more open and apparent as Somoza's fall became imminent. Honduran support for the Sandinistas constituted looking the other way as the guerrillas operated in isolated areas of the country. Years later, a new scenario developed. Now Honduras openly supported Contra activities in exchange for U.S. aid, while Costa Rica largely ignored Contra activity within its territory. Simply, both before and after Somoza's fall there was non-governmental military activity occurring in both Costa Rica and Honduras against the recognized state of Nicaragua.
It's hard to see how local players within Costa Rica and Honduras benefited from aiding both the Sandinistas and the Contras unless the entire scenario is viewed regionally. Honduras and Costa Rica viewed Nicaragua's entanglement as beneficial, regardless of its ideological underpinnings. Nicaragua's weakness strengthened both Honduras and Costa Rica within the regional paradigm because all the Central American states export similar corps, compete for U.S. aid, and strive for to political and economic dominance of the isthmus. With these regional factions in mind we can better understand the range of motivations that impacted revolutionary Central America. [x]
Without understanding the iconography and cultural power of Sandino, it is impossible to understand Nicaragua. Any taxi ride in Managua makes this more than apparent; references to the General de Hombres Libres can be found on virtually every block. While Sandino is many things to many people, he is above all a dominant nationalist icon in Nicaragua. His battle to free Nicaragua from Yanqui imperialism and vendepatrias inspired revolutionaries throughout the Somoza era.
Sandino also highlights the power relations behind labels. During the Somoza era, Sandino was painted as nothing more than a bandit, a common thief with no political motivation. With the rise of the Sandinista's, Sandino became a hero and a defender of the homeland. For more information about Sandino see Michael J. Schroeder's bibliography.[x]
Both Judy Lieberman and Jonathan Maslow encountered the same phrase and historical thread, during their time in Nicaragua. Matthew Whiting, touching on the opposing historical strain, thought the Contras needed a better, more revolutionary, slogans to encapsulate their cause. Both sides wanted a freedom and peace, however, each side defined those terms differently. Peace for the Sandinistas meant the establishment of a revolutionary government, while peace for the Contras meant overthrowing them. Everyone wants peace, peace on their terms that is.[x]
The "Nicaragua Libre" shirt worn in what is presumably an occupied
office in Whitmore Hall draws on the same history as the Sandino
button. Even a Google search of "Nicaragua Libre" exposes this history - from
"Nicaragua Libre" is a loaded phrase with different meanings in different
times, contingent upon the locality and
context of enunciation.
Context of enunciation is a fancy way of contextualizing the place, time,
and context in which something is said. The meaning of words
change with time and position. For example, a Democrat
in the U.S. in 2008 supported
for President, while a Democrat in
1828 would have supported
John C. Calhoun
for Vice President.
As such, "Nicaragua Libre" is another
Nicaragua Libre is a wonderful example of why the context of
enunciation is important. When Anastasio Somoza Debayle spoke of a free Nicaragua he meant free from the
"Marxist" Sandinistas. When Sandino spoke of a free Nicaragua,
he meant a nation free from U.S. imperialism and vendepatrias
control. When the Sandinistas' cried "Nicaragua Libre," they wanted
freedom from the U.S.-backed Somoza dictatorship. The shirt worn
by the individual above presumably indicates a desire for Nicaraguan freedom
from foreign interference manifested in the Contra war.
[x] of the limits of the communist-free framework when positioned against nationalist rhetoric. While "Nicaragua Libre" is typically associated with Sandino and later the Sandinistas, the history of "Nicaragua Libre" places the debate concerning CIA recruitment outside conversations about communism. Its presence in Whitmore Hall in 1986 places U.S. involvement in Central America into the imperialist framework of the early 20th century, undercutting rhetorical accusations of the Sandinista-Soviet connection, "'There are many people in America today who do not want to believe there is a Soviet-Cuban connection'" in America. The connection is in Nicaragua." - Michael Ross [x] and provokes another interpretation.
To alter a debate, it is necessary to both change how you are perceived
perception of your adversary.
Concepts rarely, if ever, make sense without an opposite. Good,
however it is defined, must have the bad, its anti-thesis.
Therefore, if you want to change a definition, both the defintion and
its opposite must change.
[x] For example, to battle the international communist conspiracy label, To be identified as a communist within the confines of U.S.-Cold War rhetoric was to be part of a hostile other - i.e. not American. The U.S. was good and free, while communists were the opposite - evil and oppressed. Additionally, the communist label implied a connection, real or not, to the Soviet Union. For a group to be labeled communist meant not only losing U.S. support but also having U.S. support given to your adversary. This is why dictators such as Somoza, played with a deck of anti-Communist cards.
[x] it is expedient to position a cause into local, nationalist framework. It is then logical to reframe your opposition as imperialistic to bolster a nationalist argument - thus shifting the conversation out of the Cold War mentality. As bad as communists were, there remained an even more vehement label to hurl upon your opposition.
Terrorism is as complex a label as ever existed. The phrase originates from the French Revolution and Robespierre, yet there is no commonly agreed upon definition. Whether you pick up a book about terrorism published in 1987 or 2007, you are likely to find a debate about defining terrorism. Given the immediate negative connotation of terrorism, it's fairly understandable why the debate persists. The common adage that "one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter" helps explain issues around definition. Positioning and motivations underpin all definitions of terrorism. Within this context, it is especially interesting that, presumably, voters in the U.S. would label a part of their government sponsors of terrorism. If this is the case, is it possible to vote for terrorism? Paul Wilkinson and Alasdair M Strewart eds., Contemporary Research on Terrorism (Aberdeen, UK: The University Press of Aberdeen, 1987). Gérard Chaliand and Arnaud Blin eds., The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to Al Qaeda (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007). [x] Common concepts among many definitions are fear, "drastic" or "extreme" violence, politically motivated, and the connotation of illegitimacy. Terrorism can be state-sponsored, (although this is somewhat contentious) or conducted by non-state actors. Because terrorism remains indefinable, it best thought of as a method of political communication. R D Crelinsten suggests we discuss terrorism as a method of political communication. Within this framework a terrorist act is:(1) an expression of violence by a group that is unable to directly confront its opponent; (2) against the general public; (3) for the purpose of altering another group. This framework can be applied to states, non-state actors, groups, and individuals. Terrorisms ultimate goal is to use the general public to either stigmatize an opponent (i.e. they cannot protect you), or to extract concessions (if you do x, the terror will stop). Additionally, Crelinsten's ideas apply to the labeling of terrorists because it removes formal legitimacy from them. Thus, when a protester in the U.S. labels the CIA a terrorist-sponsor he or she is removing the CIA's legitimacy indirectly through the public sphere. Thus, Creslinsten sees a triangular relationship between the terroist and two distinct target groups." R D Crelinsten, "Terrorism as Political Communication: The Relationship between the Controller and the Controlled," in Contemporary Research on Terrorism, ed. Paul Wilkinson and Alasdair M Strewart (Aberdeen, UK: The University Press of Aberdeen, 1987) 7. [x]
Of interest in this photograph is not only the labeling of the CIA as a
state-sponsor of terrorism but also how this label changes the conversation
about U.S. involvement in Central America. U.S. support for the Contras
is framed as illegitimate, illegal, and imperialist. The antithesis
of being a terrorist is
the freedom fighter,
It is note worthy that the phrase "one man's terrorist
is another's freedom fighter" has as much to do with defining
freedom as with terrorism terrorism. However, Ariel Merari highlights the
false binary best, writing, "some insurgent groups are both
terrorists and freedom fighters, some are either one or the other,
and some are neither." Despite this sound reasoning, the rhetoric maintains
that the issue is positional within the poles of terrorism and
Ariel Merari, "Terrorism as a Strategy of Insurgency," in
The History of
Terrorism: From Antiquity to Al Qaeda, ed . Gérard Chaliand
and Arnaud Blin
(Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007).
which sets up the
The terrorist-free framework is very similar to the communist-free
dichotomy. Freedom remains the desirable good, while terrorism becomes
the unreasonable, illegitimate, opposite. However, it would be
an over simplification to equate the changing anti-thesis of freedom
as only a substitution. Freedom in the terrorist-free framework has a
different position than freedom in the communist-free context.
Who were the Contras?
Well, it's complicated. The Contras were several
groups opposed to the Sandinista regime.
The following groups were opposed to the Sandinista government:
Fuerza Democrática Nicaragüense
Fifteenth of September Legion: Legión Quince de Septiembre
Unión Democrática Nicaragüense
Originally Milicias Populares Anti-Somocistas but later changed to
Milicias Populares Anti-Sandinistas
Alianza Revolucionaria Democrática
Unidad Nicaragüense Opositora
Misurasata - a Miskito, Sumo, and Rama group that split in 1983
As the list indicates, there was a range of motivations for opposing
the Sandinista regime. Opposition generally fell into four categories:(1)
individuals associated with the Somoza regime, like ex-guardsmen;
(2) wealthy landowners fearful that the Sandinista's would
confiscate their land; (3) and groups previously operating without state
influence. Due to Nicaragua's history and geography, the state did
not always have a dominate place in every part of the country. Meaning,
groups unused to state interference were likely to be opposed to the
activist Sandinista government regardless of ideology. Lastly, people
hoping to obtain power through the downfall of the state;
the so-call "CIA mercenaries," although it can be hard to distinguish
who recruited who.
[x] Many contended that they were "created" by the CIA, but it is now commonly recognized that while the CIA was quick to support the Contras after Reagan's election, their first international backer was Argentina. Among many, see: Dieter Eich and Carlos Rincón, The Contras: Interviews with Anti-Sandinistas (San Francisco: Synthesis Publications, 1984), 46-47. R. Pardo-Maurer, The Contras, 1980-1989: A Special Kind of Politics (New York: Praeger, 1990), 3. [x] Further, some disillusioned Sandinistas became Contras. Eden Pastora was perhaps one of the best-known Sandinistas. Commonly called Comandante Cero, Pastora commanded the Sandinista forces when they held the Nicaraguan National Palace hostage. Pastora controlled the southern front during the ousting of Somoza and later fought there against the Sandinistas. Pastora's defection from the FSLN was a publicity boon for the Contras.
[x] Additionally, some switched sides Many individuals found themselves caught in a war whose ideological underpinnings meant little or nothing to them. In this predicament, some helped both sides, depending on the circumstances. For example, Julie Cupples writes that "Isabel Quezada and her husband were both supporters of the revolution, or so she thought." While Isabel Quezada worked for AMNLAE her husband switched sides because he had become a suspected Contra for purchasing land in the conflict area.
See: Julie Cupples, "Between Maternalism and Feminism: Women in Nicaragua's Counter-Revolutionary Forces." Bulletin of Latin American Research 25, no.1 (2006):91-92. [x] frequently and for a multitude of reasons. To further complicate matters, it must be noted that Nicaragua is not as homogeneous as one might expect. The Caribbean coast is drastically different from the "Hispanic" west. Therefore, when the Sandinistas took power there was a large population that not only did not identify with the revolution, but also barely identified as Nicaraguan. Nicaragua's Caribbean coast is largely isolated from Managua and the western part of the country. This geographic isolation allowed the British Empire to expand into the area, eventually recognizing the Miskito Kingdom as a protectorate. British influence made individuals there more likely to speak English than Spanish and to be Moravian instead of Catholic. This Anglo affiliation later translated into U.S. affiliation. Under President Zelaya, the region was integrated into greater Nicaragua as the department of Zelaya. However, the cultural separation remains an important fact today as well as during the Sandinista era, as the Región Autónoma del Atlántico Norte and the Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur.
Sometimes politics and fashion collide in interesting ways. One of the
"But let us be clear as to the American attitude toward the Government
of Nicaragua. We do not seek its overthrow. Our interest is to ensure
that it does not infect its neighbors through the export of subversion
and violence. Our purpose, in conformity with American and international
law, is to prevent the flow of arms to El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala,
and Costa Rica. We have attempted to have a dialog with the Government
of Nicaragua, but it persists in its efforts to spread violence."
- Ronald Reagan, Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress
on Central America - April 27, 1983.
for funding the Contras was to intercept arms moving from Nicaragua
to the FMLN in El Salvador. Looking closely, we can see the individual
holding the "Not a Penny" sign is wearing a button reading
Difficult to see, but nonetheless there, is a small
button on the
photographed individual above. The connections between the FSLN
in Nicaragua and FMLN in El Salvador were both real, and rhetorically
overblown. First, the namesakes of both movements, Farabundo Martí and
Augusto Sandino, knew and worked together. Second, during the early
years the Sandinista regime did support the FMLN with weaponry. Third, there
was a revolutionary sense of
"Si Nicaragua Venció, El Salvador Vencerá."
However, Martí and Sandino had different ideological visions
for their respective countries and Nicaragua's aid to the FMLN
was curtailed after 1983. This complex
relationship is hinted at by a protester at UMass holding an anti-Contra
sign while wearing a FMLN button.
At times historical research deconstructing debates and rhetoric loses sight of the urgency of the situation. Included here are a few examples of the scope of the violence in Nicaragua There are numerous accounts of the violence from Nicaragua during the Contra war. The examples below are from: Reed Brody, Contra Terror in Nicaragua: Report of a Fact-finding Mission: September 1984- January 1985 (Boston: South End Press, 1985), 22-23, 86, 119. Digna Barreda de Ubeda - "[F]ive of them raped me at about five in evening ... they had gang-raped me every day. When my vagina couldn't take it any more, the raped me through my rectum. I calculate that in five days they raped me 60 times." Doroteo Tinoco Valdivia - "When we returned ... we saw ... that they had cut his throat, then they cut open his stomach and left his intestines hanging out on the ground like a string." Mirna Cunningham - "During those hours we were raped for the first time. While they were raping us, they were chanting slogans like "Christ yesterday, Christ today, Christ tomorrow." And although we would cry or shout, they would hit us, and put a knife or gun to our hear. This went on for almost two hours" Maria Bustillo-Viuda de Blandon - "They were left all cut up. Their ears were pulled off, their throats cut, their noses and other parts were cut off." Inocente Peralta - "We found [Juan Perez] assassinated in the mountains. They had tied his hands behind his back. They hung him on a wire fence. They opened his throat and took out his tongue. Another bayonet had gone in through his stomach and came out his back. Finally they cut off his testicles. It was horrible to see." Lucilia Chavarria Lanza - "'Look bitch, this is thirst, this is the water we drink, the blood of these rabid dogs sons of bitches ...' Then he took the blood and smeared it on me [saying] 'auntie, how tasty, bitch.' He shoved it in my mouth and made me drink it. Then he bathed the head of a little boy I was leading with the blood." Digna Barreda de Ubeda - "They beat my husband brutally ... And then, the three who talked with my uncle raped me so brutally that I still have scars on my knees. They put me face down. They raped me through my rectum too. And all this in front of my husband." [x] and El Salvador. Again, a sampling of the available evidence from El Salvador. Mark Danner, The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable for the Cold War (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), 69-71, 73, 77, 79, 81. "The soldiers dragged the bodies and the heads of the decapitated victims to the convent of the church, where they were piled together." "We could hear the women being raped on the hills ... and then, you know, the soldiers would pass by, coming from here, and they'd talk about it. You know, they were talking and joking, saying how much they liked the twelve-year-olds." "'Don't cry, women. Here comes the Devil to take you.'" "I saw one of the soldiers take a kid he had been carrying - the kid was maybe three years old - throw him in the air, and stab him with a bayonet." "They slit some of the kids' throats, and many they hanged from the tree." "He'd pushed into the group of children, seized a little boy, thrown him in the air, and impaled him as he fell." "I saw them shoot an old woman, and they had to hold her up to shoot her." [x]
The war in El Salvador was brutal. However, the photographed sign is a bit misleading. First, U.S. aid to El Salvador was Congressionally approved and certified by the Reagan administration. The sign's author conflates openly covert CIA support to the Contras in Nicaragua with open U.S. military support for El Salvador's military. This leads to the question of whether the sign's author was misinformed or was using a rhetorical device to further a point. After all, the CIA's reputation on campus was already tarnished and presented an easy target. Further, the sign's author was politically engaged and likely familiar with how U.S. aid reached El Salvador. This might seem trivial at the UMass student protest level, but it is important to reflect upon when rhetoric becomes research.
As the CIA recruitment issue intensified, student groups organized
to make their opinions heard - especially after
Abbie Hoffman and Amy Carter
Amy and Abbie, as they came to be known, mobilized both groups on campus.
They lifted the Left's spirits and brought in new resources. On
the other hand, they were "outsiders" that gave the Right new
rhetorical ammo with which to fight.
"When Abbie Hoffman, Amy Carter, and protesters from other
colleges have to be imported for takeover attempts of
University buildings, it is time for students of all political
persuasions to join and voice out outrage." - Peter Dow
"Abbie Hoffman, the 1960s counterculture folk hero, will come
to the University Monday to join a student protest against the
administration's stance on CIA recruiting." - Craig Sandlet
An Evening with Abbie Hoffman
[x] came to campus and the national press began to take notice. Occupied buildings and student arrests gave rise to a level of 1960s nostalgia. Activism is Alive! "I think we've seen the rights students won in the sixties being consistently taken back. We're not going to put up with it any more." - John Fink Wake Up It's the 80s!
Both sides sought to position themselves within U.S. history and label
their opponents as un-American. Conservatives made liberals into
"I have a right to make my own career decisions without interference
from would-be book burners." - David Abram, student scheduled to
attend CIA informational session
Liberals turned conservatives into
ignorant right-wing terrorists.
"If you can believe in Santa Claus, elves and fairies, you
also can believe the CIA is a benevolent force in the world."
- Ed Robinson
"He said that he didn't know who I was except that I was
'a typical ignorant, closed minded reactionary.'" - Stuart
[x] The majority in the middle occasionally complained about both sides.
Left-leaning activists maintained a steady drum beat labeling the CIA as terrorists. Stop the CIA, Stop the Terror Keep Your Bloody Hands Off Nicaragua! What's the Fuss? "CIA has perpetrated all three crimes: overt and covert acts of aggression against other nations: support of terrorism" --"Stop the CIA!" - organized by faculty and staff for peace in Central America "I mean, this thing with the CIA. Here we have one of the filthiest bunch of assassins, terrorists, thieves, liars, freaks, and generally dangerous people, who, through college recruitment, are becoming a little too intelligent for their own good." - James Martin "We in the Five College community must realize that social awareness has but yet another worthy face to it besides causes [such] as fighting against racism, sexism, and homophobia: the face of politics and combating state sponsored terrorism and the exploitation of Third-World people for profit." - Ed Cook "We as human beings have the right to protest when our sisters and bothers in Central America are being destroyed by a federally funded terrorist organization." - Mark Hubbard "We are deeply involved with the terrorist contra forces in Nicaragua, and faced with the possibility of our own troops being sent." - Deirdre Tenney "If you oppose the inhumane actions of the Contra terrorists operating out of Honduras." - UMass groups opposing the Contras "The Contras continue to destroy health clinics, schools, day-care centers, and farms, and to terrorize the Nicaraguan people." - UMass groups opposing the Contras "These Contras are the terrorists we are funding for democracy." - Claudia Coolidge "The target this time: the Central Intelligence Agency, the outlaw para-military, terrorist arm of the United States government." "Spring Offensive," Progressive Student News vol. 4. no. 1 Jan-Feb. 1987. [x] Moving the conversation into the burgeoning terrorist-free analysis allowed the Left to incorporate anti-imperialistic rhetoric from Central America and use the CIA to avoid directly attacking the popular Ronald Reagan. However, unlike the Right, the Left remained unsure about what the issue really was. "Recruitment" and "University complicity is the issue." - Faculty and Staff for Peace in Central America "Legitimacy is the issue; not recruitment." - Timothy Harris "It isn't a free speech issue, the CIA itself doesn't believe in free speech." - Ed Robinson [x]
The Right was uniformly clear that CIA recruitment on campus
was a freedom issue.
"It comes down to one simple thought: the question is not whether
you support the CIA policies; the question is whether you support
your fellow students' right to interview with whom they choose."
- Bob Griffin
Simply, the CIA had the right to speak on campus and students had
the right to listen to them. Further, the Right maintained that the
Sandinistas were totalitarian and that contrary reports were
akin to the glowing reports of
Soviet Union from the 1930s.
"U.S. citizens who have traveled to Nicaragua will give testimony
to the benevolence of the Sandinista regime, just as many
U.S. citizens traveled to the Soviet Union in the thirties
proclaiming that system's virtues only to later discover that
Stalin had murdered some twenty to thirty thousand of his own
people." - Stephan C. Erickson
The so-called "terrorist Contras" were
"Long live the Nicaraguan freedom fighters. Let me quote an
American hero Oliver North. The Nicaraguan freedom fighters are
real living people" - Brian Darling
Not only did the Left remain politically suspect to the Right, but their
Sometimes simple gestures speak cultural volumes. When Radical
Student Union leader Marc Kenen was speaking at the podium,
threw a bar of soap" towards him. The act framed Kenen as
just another "dirty" leftist protester.
[x] was suspect as well.
Representatives of the state do not always respond kindly to protesters
occupying offices and obstructing traffic.
The protesters and police acted out a few interesting scences on
campus. The first office takeover at
occurred after the initial blocking of CIA recruitment.
The next occupation at Munson Hall
brought out the dogs and buses a week later. Although some
surprisingly the incisors were human and not canine.
[x] Additionally, many students did not side with the protesters' main concern, According to the Collegian, "of the 12 people surveyed, 11 said the CIA should be allowed to recruit on campus because students are capable of making their own decisions." Later more in-depth polling found that "70 percent of the students felt that the CIA should be allowed to recruit on campus."
[x] CIA recruitment on campus. Others wondered why there was such a fuss about this particular issue. "I don't mind people protesting, but I feel there are more important issues than whether the CIA comes here. I didn't see anything like this when Yancey Robinson was beaten up in Southwest, this is such a trivial issue." - Art Nelson [x]
Protesters' actions lead to the arrest of fifty-one individuals for trespassing.
The upcoming trial gave both sides much to talk about as
demonstrations and educational forums continued
In early December, 400 students
from both sides of the CIA issue, peacefully demonstrated on campus.
Continuing the battle to control campus space, roughly 30 conservative
students sang patriotic songs as they occupied the RSU office. The
vocal conservatives also "drowned out" speeches with chants of "USA, USA."
Running parallel to the protests were guest speakers and educational
forums. While campus conservatives hosted Contra speakers as early
as 1984, a number of liberal-sponsored speakers
arrived on campus as the trial in Northampton neared. Many of these
speakers, including John Stockwell
and Edgar Chamorro,
were sponsored by the Put the CIA on Trial Project and also testified
in the trial. Other campus speakers from Nicaragua during the
1980s were Ernesto Cardenal and
[x] on campus. However, the talk alienated some as positions became more rhetorical and less researched. "Both radical groups have unfortunately turned the CIA issue into a joke" - Pedro M. Pereira "One young female radical came up to me and said, 'we hate all injustice.' She told me she was a freshman, and was willing to get arrested due to the CIA's "illegal activities against legitimate governments of Central America." I asked how she felt about the FMLN, and what they're out to do. She said, innocently, 'who?'" - Stuart Gottlieb "Two opposing ideological groups who, it appears, are out just to state their respective cases which are so one-sided that I feel they can't possibly be properly researched." - Stuart Gottleib [x]
Attempting to obtain court transcripts, I called the Northampton Court office. A kind individual answered my inquiry about the CIA trial from 1987 by informing me that "we wouldn't have jurisdiction over a federal agency" and "the trial you're talking was a trespassing case" and that all they have is a court docket.
A five-minute phone conversation fourteen years after the fact reflected the politics and strategy of the trial. On one hand, the case was about condemning the CIA through the necessity of defense Anti-CIA activists claimed that a not-guilty verdict with the necessity of defense was a guilty verdict against the CIA because CIA actions in Central America were deemed threatening enough to the activists' welfare to justify trespassing. "CIA guilty as charged." - Majority opinion of the Collegian board of editors [x] with national ramifications. On the other side it was a trespassing case with at best local ramifications. Labeling the case "CIA on Trial" overtly positioned the conversation on one side, a conversation the court clerk quickly reoriented by reminding me of jurisdictional authority. However, the phrase "CIA on Trial" remained powerful enough for two strangers to communicate about the case years later.
trial's not-guilty verdict
"CIA trial opens final day testimony" - Don Lipper
"Jury Finds 15 Protesters Not Guilty In CIA Trial" - DF
"Munson 15 trial verdict: not guilty on all charges" - Don Lipper
"CIA guilty as charged"
[x] energized anti-CIA activists. As the sign indicates, the local struggle planned to join national activists in Washington D.C. On campus, CIA recruitment was shelved for the upcoming academic year and activists continued to locate CIA recruitment activities in Western Massachusetts and protest, notably in Springfield.
In the realm of foreign politics, success for anti-CIA activists was harder to realize. While the Contras were active in Nicaragua throughout the later half of the 1980s, they remained politically divided and unable to permanently secure any territory in Nicaragua. In 1990 the Sandinistas were defeated at the polls and the conservative Violeta Chamorro took office. Decisive in the election was the Sandinista-imposed-draft and the perception that the war would end if the Sandinistas lost the election - which it did. In the larger lens of U.S. military activity in Central America, openly covert became overt during Operation Just Cause and the invasion of Panama in 1989.
If outright victory for anti-CIA activists remained elusive, conservatives did not fair any better. Seeing the CIA in a positive light remains impossible for a notable proportion of the U.S. populous. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas remain a potent political force, as do the FMLN in El Salvador. Further, most historical interpretations of revolutionary Central America strongly lean towards the anti-CIA activists' positions at the time.
However, by 1994 Right-leaning administrations were in office in Nicaragua and El Salvador. More importantly, neoliberalism was economically fashionable and reshaping the region. Just as in Central America, neither the Right nor the Left could achieve a lasting victory.
Does freedom reign? Depends on who is asking and where they are located. Debate over CIA recruitment at UMass during the 1980s touched upon values like freedom of expression and the preservation of individual rights. However, the debate also evokes structural issues concerning foreign policy. Free individuals labeled sections of their government terrorist. Of course many disagreed, and even more decided not to engage, but the discourse hints at the opposite within. Virtually everyone inside the U.S. labeled the Central American republics as a form of non-free, either because of U.S. involvement or due to oppressive regimes. Regardless of whether they were terrorists or communists, they were not from the U.S. and not free.
Among the definitions for freedom in the Oxford English Dictionary are the following:
Freedom is largely defined negatively; it is a state of
not being constrained, dominated, hindered, or encumbered. Without
the negatives, freedom loses much of its definition. Similar to
terrorism, everybody or nobody could be free. For freedom to exist,
someone or something has to be non-free; a definitional process
that has become a generational exercise in the U.S.
From: "freedom, n.". OED Online. June 2011. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com.silk.library.umass.edu/view/Entry/74395?rskey=OcwlNh&result=1&isAdvanced=false (accessed August 16, 2011)
Given the title and context of the photograph, it is doubtful that the individual above is signing a contract. More likely, he is registering to receive more information about military service. I chose to end with this photograph because I've been knowingly withholding two interesting facts. First, the CIA recruited at UMass-Amherst because of student interest. "According to Clark Edwards, associate director of University Placement Service, UMass 'does not choose organizations to come to UMass for recruitment unless surveys through advertisement response and student resumes show that a market for a company's visit exists among UMass students.'" - Bob Burgess [x] Second, the protests seem to have increased career interest "Protest against the CIA recruitment on campus have actually increased student interest in working for the agency according to officials on campus and at agency headquarters." - Nancy Klingener [x] in the CIA.