The sixty-four senators who voted to confirm Robert Gates as the fifteenth director of the CIA had to dismiss a lengthy catalog of mistakes and misjudgments attributed to him. Among them were his belief that the Soviet Union was behind the attempted assassination of the Pope; his exaggerated sense of Soviet ambitions in the third world; his excessive estimate of the strength of the Soviet economy; his failure to perceive the strength of the Soviet reformers; his conviction that Moscow had designs on Iran; his willingness to share intelligence with Iraq; his meddling in an intelligence estimate on Mexico; his faulty memory on the diversion of funds to the contras; his abrasive personality and autocratic style of management; his contribution to the growing sense of malaise and tension within the agency; and more generally, his part in politicizing and slanting the intelligence reports that were circulated to policy makers in Washington.

At first glance, it would seem hard to hold the Senate Intelligence Committee responsible for Gates’s confirmation. In contrast to the fractious, bumbling performance of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas, the hearings on Gates seemed a model of informed inquiry. The committee reviewed thousands of documents and interviewed hundreds of witnesses, including eighty intelligence analysts. Gates testified for four full days, responding to almost nine hundred oral questions and one hundred more in writing. The committee’s summary report on the nomination, a remarkably dense and detailed document, runs to 225 pages. Not since 1975, when the Church Committee investigated the CIA’s assassination plots, has the agency been so closely scrutinized, and never before has its day-to-day intelligence-gathering process been so thoroughly examined.

Often, though, the proceedings had an unreal air about them. For all the important revelations about distorted data and slanted intelligence, the panel left untouched many of the CIA’s most important activities. At times it seemed as if its members had an unwritten agreement to limit the scope of their inquiry, probing deep on some aspects of the CIA’s work while determinedly ignoring others—some of them certainly bearing on Gates’s fitness for the job.

This paradox was most apparent on the subject of Nicaragua. On the one hand, the senators were eager for information about the diversion of funds to the contras. Over and over again they pressed Gates on when he first learned of Oliver North’s resupply operation and on what action he took when he did. More than a third of the committee’s report is devoted to the matter, with lengthy sections on such matters as “Gates’ Knowledge of Private Benefactor Support Prior to Becoming DDCI in April, 1986,” “WhetherGates Was Privy to Information Known to Casey,” and “9 October Gates/Casey Lunch with North.” Warren Rudman summed up the committee’s mood when he observed that “the underlying question here, when all is said and done…is whether or not Bob Gates has told this committee the truth, whether his testimony about his state of recollection is accurate or whether he lied then and he lied now. And that’s really what this is all about.” In the end Gates was forced to admit he should have “asked more questions” about North’s activities in Central America.

As for the actual conduct of the war in Nicaragua, the senators could not have cared less. Barely a question was asked about the CIA’s largest field operation since the Vietnam War. Under William Casey, the agency was obsessed with this impoverished nation of three million people. Single-mindedly seeking to overthrow its government, the CIA mined harbors, built airstrips, set up extensive supply lines, formed elaborate intelligence networks, and sustained the largest peasant army the region has seen since the Mexican Revolution. Hundreds of agents, operatives, and contract employees streamed into Tegucigalpa, turning the sleepy Honduran capital into one of the CIA’s most active stations. The issue of how well those agents performed, though, hardly seemed of interest to the members of the intelligence panel.

Had they read Sam Dillon’s explosive new book, Comandos: The CIA and Nicaragua’s Contra Rebels, they surely could not have ignored the issue. A correspondent for The Miami Herald, Dillon spent years covering both sides of the Nicaraguan war. When a cease-fire was signed in 1988, most reporters in the region considered the story dead and moved on to more exciting places. Dillon was tempted to join them, but the contras continued to perplex him. As he writes in his preface,

Was the rebel force just the latest in a long string of CIA proxy armies, recruited this time to punish the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, for rebelling against Washington? Or was this an indigenous insurgency, rebels fighting for a just cause against a ruthless regime?

As Ronald Reagan’s presidency came to an end, Dillon took a leave from the Herald and began investigating. He sought out contra fighters at their base camps along the Nicaraguan-Honduran border and in the seedy apartment blocks ringing Miami, where they were settling as illegal immigrants. He traveled through the Nicaraguan countryside, visiting old battlefields and talking to the war’s victims. He looked up a number of the CIA officers who had run the war on the ground.


Most important, Dillon met with Luis Fley. A slightly built man with an easy manner and a quick intelligence, Fley, a farmer who worked for a government agency, was among the first to join the contras. Courageous and confident, he rose quickly in the rebel ranks, eventually commanding a battalion under the nom de guerre “Jhonson.” In 1988, amid growing concern over contra abuses, Fley was named the rebels’ chief legal prosecutor. In that position he accused a number of the rebels’ top commanders of military crimes. Dillon interviewed Fley on some forty occasions, recording one hundred hours of conversation, and gained access to his extensive files. Seeing in Fley a sort of “Everycontra,” Dillon decided to build his book around him. The result is both an engaging personal story and one of the most damning indictments ever written of the Central Intelligence Agency.


Luis Fley grew up a humble farm boy in the north-central province of Matagalpa. Affable and industrious, he went to work in the mid-1970s for the Nicaraguan Agrarian Institute, a Somoza-era agency that rented idle government lands at low prices to landless peasants. Fley traveled through the northern countryside, visiting farm sites and collecting rents. While doing so he had a run-in with the National Guard: an overweight sergeant smelling of rum pulled him over at a checkpoint and demanded a bribe. It was the first of many such encounters, and Fley grew increasingly disgusted with the Guard. In 1978, with the Sandinista revolt spreading and the Guard’s brutality increasing, Fley was arrested and briefly jailed. Not long after, he decided to throw in his lot with the Sandinistas, joining a band of guerrillas in the northern hills.

After the FSLN victory, Fley was rewarded with a job at Encafe, the government’s coffee-purchasing monopoly. Proud of the revolution, Fley joined the Sandinista militia and attended meetings of the Sandinista Defense Committees. Before long,though, he grew uneasy. Workers on government estates seemed to be doing little better than they had under Somoza. Peasants deemed insufficiently loyal to the regime had trouble getting credits; some had their farms confiscated. “By the spring of 1980,” Dillon writes, “many peasant farmers were so fed up with government policies, they were already looking back with nostalgia to a romanticized time before the revolution.”

Fley’s first overt protest came in March 1981, when he attended a rally for Alfonso Robelo, a leader of the budding opposition. The meeting was uneventful, but days later Sandinista police picked up Fley and threw him into the local jail—the same one he had visited under Somoza. He was quickly released, thanks to his three brothers—all members of the Sandinista army—but he lost his job and was branded a counterrevolutionary. When local officials attempted to take over his farm, Fley decided to leave for Costa Rica. He applied for exit papers but was refused. And so, in June 1981, Fley joined hundreds of other disgruntled farmers heading for Honduras.

As Dillon’s account makes clear, peasant opposition to the Sandinistas emerged well before any involvement by the CIA. It was the FSLN’s own heavy-handed policies, rather than any outside incitement, that gave rise to the contras. Those fleeing Nicaragua at this time tended to be small-business owners or poor dirt farmers, a good number of whom had fought against the National Guard. Fley was typical. “He wasn’t a thug or a thief,” Dillon writes. “He was neither a mercenary nor a murderer. Like the vast majority of the rural men who’d joined the contras, he was fighting for a simple vision of good government.” Unfortunately, Dillon adds, these peasants “would wield little influence” in the contra army taking shape. Instead, “power would be held by the ex-Guards.”

This was due largely to the CIA. In 1981 and 1982, about fifty fulltime American agents—paramilitary veterans, pilots, mechanics, and logisticians—quietly moved to Honduras. They rented a house in Comayaguela, Tegucigalpa’s twin city, and converted it into a CIA safe house. This became the nerve center for the Agency’s expanding war against the Sandinistas. The CIA employees oversaw construction of a base for the contras and built a thirty-mile road to supply it. They rented a string of warehouses to hold rebel supplies and a fleet of trucks to transport them. They assembled an air force, set up a radio network, established medical clinics—even hired Nicaraguan exiles to speak for the contras in Washington. In the process, Dillon writes, the CIA “utterly transformed every aspect of the rebel force…. If, when Jhonson first took up arms, the Nicaraguan rebellion had been an independent, if sputtering, peasant revolt, it now became a U.S.-sponsored covert action.”


The problems this caused began at the very top. To head the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN), as the rebel army was known, the CIA named Colonel Enrique Bermúdez. Bermúdez had spent many years in the National Guard, amassing a record entirely without distinction (“no guts, no charisma, no accomplishments,” according to Dillon). Even fellow ex-Guardsmen had little respect for him. The CIA, though, found him ideal. It was seeking not a warrior but “a recruiting officer, a paymaster, a supply sergeant, and a training camp administrator.” Bermúdez “spoke English, needed money, and didn’t mind following orders. Obedience was his strong suit.”

Bermúdez spent little time in the contra camps along the Honduran border, preferring his elegant house in an exclusive quarter of Tegucigalpa. He spent his nights drinking and playing the roulette tables at the casino in the plush Maya Hotel. He also developed a taste for teen-age girls, recruited for him by his men in Nicaragua. At the time, the CIA was channeling tens of thousands of dollars a month to Bermúdez to pay the salaries of field commanders and to feed their troops; most of it, though, was pocketed by his general staff. By mid-1983, hunger was prevalent throughout the rebel camps.

While Bermúdez drank and whored in Tegucigalpa, the officers commanding those camps were out of control. One, an ex-Guardsman who had taken the name Mike Lima, quickly developed a reputation for violence. “He’s a man with compulsions to kill and to rape,” a contra officer is quoted as saying. During an attack on the town of Pantasma, eighty miles north of Managua, Lima’s men went on a rampage, killing fifty people, some of them soldiers and policemen but others civilians, including seven teachers. The attack, branded a “massacre” bythe Sandinistas, attracted worldwide condemnation. The CIA didn’t care. In fact, it was jubilant. “Though Mike Lima’s image as one of Somoza’s discredited ex-Guards wasn’t the best—he wasn’t a romantic peasant insurgent,…” Dillon writes, “he was nevertheless bloodying the Sandinistas inside Nicaragua. That’s what counted to the CIA.”

The Agency was equally unconcerned about the disturbing developments inside the contra camps. Dillon shows that, while international attention was concentrated on abuses committed inside Nicaragua, far worse ones were taking place across the border. In 1983, he writes, as the war widened in Nicaragua, a “second front” opened in Honduras,

a largely silent, secret campaign of torture and murder. Hundreds died in and around the rebels’ border camps, along Honduran roadsides, and in the back streets of Tegucigalpa. It was a dirty war waged largely by the ex-National Guardsmen commanding the contra army.

Some of the victims of this dirty war were leftist labor and student leaders in Honduras. The Honduran Army, backed by the US, was systematically targeting these “subversives,” and FDN hit squads were contracted to liquidate them. Other murders, though, occurred on the “caprice” of ex-Guardsmen commanding the FDN camps. “In and around the base camps, there were murders of prisoners and recruits, murders of suspected spies and confirmed rivals, murders of rejected lovers and personal enemies,” Dillon reports. Virtually every FDN camp had “its team of assassins, its clandestine graveyard, its dark stories.”

The worst abuses occurred in a camp called La Lodosa (“The Mudhole”). Its commander, a bloodthirsty ex-Guardsman known as Mack, surrounded himself with colleagues from his Somoza days. Embittered by their earlier defeat at the hands of the Sandinistas, paranoid about infiltration, they embarked on a campaign of terror inside the camps. Dillon interviewed a doctor named Francisco Rugama who had visited La Lodosa:

Soon after Rugama’s arrival, Mack’s men dragged in three Nicaraguan prisoners, peasants they had seized during an incursion: a father in his forties, his son, and a nephew, both about twenty. Mack’s men suspected that they were Sandinista informers, so they lashed them to a tree—that’s how all prisoners were held—pending an “investigation.” In the meantime, one of Mack’s men beat them bloody. It wasn’t an interrogation, Rugama recalled later. Mack’s men just took advantage of the opportunity to torment the prisoners. Soon Mack learned from FDN collaborators that they were not informers; they were just peasants. But, in Mack’s mind, they were still a problem: Now they knew the location of his main base camp.

Mack hit on an easy solution: he had the peasants hanged. In all, Rugama learned of more than a dozen murders, some of them commandos punished for minor infractions. He reported the incidents to Enrique Bermúdez, but nothing happened. Soon after, Rugama left the FDN in disgust.

Throughout late 1982 and early 1983, Jhonson, by now a platoon leader, began hearing about the murders. In one case, a commando told him about a cousin who, accused of being an infiltrator, was in danger of being killed. Jhonson brought the case to the attention of a CIA instructor known as “Colonel Bill Clark.” Expressing shock, Bill grabbed a pad and pencil and urged Jhonson to tell him all the details. Jhonson did. Again, nothing happened. Jhonson later learned that the man had been killed.

This incident, Dillon notes,

was certainly not the first time the Americans running the contra army heard about murders by the FDN’s ex-Guardsmen. The reports were flowing into the CIA stations in Nicaragua and Honduras not only from commandos like Jhonson, pleading for help on behalf of friends, but from the network of salaried spies whom [the CIA] had recruited throughout rebel ranks, as well as through extensive contacts with the Honduran Army’s intelligence apparatus.

Word of the killings eventually reached Washington, and some members of Congress began asking questions. Dewey Clarridge, the CIA’s chief of operations for Latin America, responded during a classified briefing in late 1983:

Of course there were murders, Clarridge told the congressmen. Yes FDN fighters had killed civilians. Yes, FDN fighters had murdered Sandinista officials. Yes, FDN fighters had killed leaders of cooperatives, judges, nurses, doctors, Clarridge told them.

“This is a war, a paramilitary operation,” Clarridge said.

The murders continued.

In April 1984, Congress, angered by the CIA’s mining of Nicaragua’s harbors, banned further aid to the contras. Oliver North quickly filled the gap, setting up the secret supply network that, during the next two and a half years, would keep the rebels alive. InWashington, the change would bring about a major constitutional confrontation; in the field, it made little difference. In fact, the brutality in the camps intensified. Backed by North at every turn, Bermúdez ran the FDN through a small clique of ex-Guardsmen, Mack and Mike Lima among them.

In one of many lurid incidents reported in Comandos, Mack became enraged one morning when eight soldiers failed to report for calisthenics. They were found sick in their plastic shelters. Amid kicks and blows, the men were herded to the training ground, where other recruits were sweating through push-ups.

Mack ordered four of the latecomers to climb a tall spruce tree overlooking a ravine—and a fifth to cut it down. Crashing down into the precipice, three of the commandos died. Another was critically injured.

“This is an example to the rest of you,” Mack told the other recruits. “You’ve got to learn what it means to be soldiers.”

With concern over such events mounting in Washington, the Reagan administration responded in the way it knew best—by ordering cosmetic changes. The FDN was dissolved and replaced by the United Nicaraguan Opposition (UNO). As before, US officials—in this case, Oliver North—selected its leaders. Among them was Arturo Cruz, a well-known reformer. His presence helped reassure wavering members of Congress. The Boland Amendments were repealed and $100 million in contra aid approved. In the fall of 1986, the CIA quickly resumed control of the rebel army and undertook a thorough overhaul. Newly trained and extravagantly supplied, the contras penetrated deep into Nicaragua, engaging its army and inflicting heavy damage on its economy. On the basis of his own interviews with Nicaraguans, Dillon writes that the contras also won wide support among the Nicaraguan peasants, who were bearing the brunt of Sandinista repression.

Inside the contra camps, however, the violence continued. “Bermúdez’s ex-Guardsmen were brutalizing young fighters—especially young women—with the same ferocity as ever,” Dillon reports. What’s more, he writes, US officials “were working in closer coordination than ever with the ugliest aspect of rebel operations.” Both Mack and Mike Lima, he notes, were in direct touch with the CIA. While there is no evidence that the Americans actually participated in any torture, Dillon writes, the CIA, when faced with evidence of rebel excesses, simply looked the other way.

The abuses were at their worst during the fall of 1988. Though a ceasefire had been signed, Mack and Mike Lima launched a major anti-spy campaign, “a series of frantic sweeps involving the detention and torture of hundreds of young rebel fighters.” Contra jails, centers of torture and rape, became “virtual concentration camps.” In a camp called Quilalí, one of Mack’s men ran a counterintelligence unit that was little more than a death squad. Suspects were detained in an earthen pit about ten feet square and seven feet deep. Interrogators followed standard contra counterintelligence procedures: prisoners were “tied, beaten, kicked, hung, hooded, and sometimes slashed.” Hondurans living near the camp began complaining of the nighttime screams coming from it.

Jhonson had by this time been appointed chief rebel prosecutor. The job had been created by officials at the State Department concerned about the contras’ human rights record—and the CIA’s indifference toward it. Showing great courage, Jhonson convened a tribunal to investigate the events at Quilalí. For the first time, top contra officers were forced to account for their crimes. Dillon devotes two full chapters to the Quilali tribunal, using it to show how pervasive was the brutality in the camps—and how difficult it was to stop it. Both Mack and Mike Lima were found guilty, but, to Jhonson’s bitter disappointment, Bermúdez refused to discharge them.

Jhonson had by now had enough. With the Nicaraguan election campaign in full swing, Jhonson—now Luis Fley once again—decided to return to Managua and work for Violeta Chamorro. After her victory, he helped the Organization of American States distribute rice and beans to returning contras. Later, after Enrique Bermúdez was assassinated in Managua, President Chamorro appointed him to a commission monitoring the investigation. The book ends with Fley in his modest wood-frame house on the outskirts of Managua—“one of the few contra leaders,” Dillon writes, “who hadn’t sold out.”


Each chapter of Comandos consists of separate sections headed by dates arranged in no particular order. As a result, there is no real narrative flow. Details are piled on without end, causing the pace frequently to slacken. Yet the book’s very density—its relentless piling up of facts—attests to Dillon’s skill and conscientiousness asa reporter. His book is superbly documented, with innumerable personal interviews backed up by reams of files and reports. The result is a work that has great authority, and justifies the outrage it causes. On finishing it, one can only wish that the Gates hearings could be reopened.

Though Gates is not mentioned in Dillon’s book, he clearly knew about the events it chronicles. During the time he was the CIA’s deputy director for intelligence between 1982 and 1986, his staff “produced a voluminous amount of analysis on developments in Central America,” according to the recent report of the Senate Intelligence Committee. In April 1986, when he became deputy director for the agency as a whole, Gates took over supervision of the Directorate of Operations, which, according to the report, “managed CIA’s operational activities in Central America, including relationships with the Nicaraguan opposition.” And, according to testimony at the hearings, Gates was intimately involved in allocating the $100 million in contra aid voted by Congress. In short, little took place among the rebels without Gates’s knowing about it. When did he first learn about contra abuses, and what did he do about them? We’ll never know.

At least, perhaps, Comandos will serve as a corrective to Oliver North’s new book, Under Fire (written with William Novak), which has been received like holy writ.* Time featured the book on its cover, and Ted Koppel spent two programs of Nightline tossing North softball questions while seated with him in front of a fireplace. The book, however, is a model of deception, full of self-serving mis-representations, distortions, and humbug—especially on the subject of the contras. To cite a small example, North writes in praise of Adolfo Calero, a top contra leader. He was, North writes, a “silver-haired bear” who had a “special rapport” with Americans. Graduating from Notre Dame, North writes, Calero returned to Nicaragua, “committed to both free enterprise and American-style democracy.” When Saudi money began pouring in to the contras, “Calero used it to buy weapons and supplies for the resistance,” developing in the process a “deepening level of confidence and contact” with North. Dillon takes another view:

Moderate congressmen had grown suspicious of the FDN leaders themselves, especially Calero, who was receiving $1 million a month from the Saudi government. Calero was wearing expensive suits, jetting from speech to speech, hobnobbing with America’s wealthiest conservatives. Law-makers could see what this “rebel leader” really was—a glad-handing businessman.

North is at his self-dramatizing best when describing the contra camps:

I visited the camps on several occasions to learn for myself what was going on there, and what the people needed. Looking back, it was probably these visits that motivated me to put so much energy into supporting the resistance. You couldn’t help but be moved by the plight of these people, who had left their homes, their modest farms, and the land they were born on to make the long trek north to Honduras.

The torture, rape, and murders carried out in those camps are nowhere mentioned in Under Fire. Nor are the twisted contra commanders who are mentioned in Dillon’s book—with one exception, which comes during an extended lament over the Reagan administration’s failure to sell the contras to the American people:

The public relations effort on behalf of the resistance could have been far more successful if the contras had produced a charismatic leader (ideally, with a beard or a mustache) who could have effectively symbolized their struggle as an anti-Communist Ho Chi Minh, or Fidel, or Che. The resistance offered up several candidates who were brave fighters and fine leaders, but none of them could command a large following. One possibility was Mike Lima. He was a fierce combat leader who had been wounded half a dozen times. Mike was young and handsome, and with the help of a friendly reporter in Honduras, we were able to set up a press conference for him.

The first question was harmless enough: “When did you join the resistance?”

“Well,” said Mike, “when I was at the National Guard academy…”

CUT! Mike Lima had been fighting the Sandinistas for five years, but that was the end of his brief media career.

This passage, about a leader described in Dillon’s book as having “compulsions to kill and rape,” perfectly captures the spirit of Under Fire—its flip cynicism, its lack of veracity, its indifference to the crimes committed in the name of freedom.

North, of course, was fully aware of those crimes. This isclear from Comandos and the curious tale it tells of Frank Wohl, a right-wing psychology major at Northwestern University. Intoxicated with the contra cause, the twenty-one-year-old Wohl flew to Honduras and made his way to the contra camps, including La Lodosa. There he befriended Mack, who allowed him to accompany a rebel column on a combat mission inside Nicaragua. In one village, the contras decided to execute an old man denounced by fellow villagers as a Sandinista spy. Remarkably, the soldiers let Wohl photograph the event. As they tied up the man, slashed his throat with a knife, and plunged it into his neck and heart, Wohl snapped a full roll.

Back at Northwestern, Wohl showed the photos only to a friend until a CIA recruiter appeared on campus. Eager to impress the agent with his experiences in Central America, Wohl pulled out the stills. The agent was visibly taken aback, and a short while later Wohl received an icy rejection letter. Deciding he should at least make some money from his experience, Wohl offered the photos to several magazines. Newsweek eventually bought them for $15,000. When four of the photos were published, an uproar followed. The contras and their American handlers immediately counter-attacked, with Oliver North in the lead. As Dillon writes, “In his briefings for conservative fund-raisers at the Old Executive Office Building, North called Wohl ‘the purported student that took the pictures,’ portraying him as a Sandinista sympathizer, insinuating that he had faked his photos.”

Privately, the FDN conducted an investigation into the photos. It did so, Dillon writes,

because the Americans, from Oliver North down to the Agency’s men in Honduras, were furious. Angry CIA agents met with Bermúdez, demanding an investigation and an explanation. Their anger was not over the killing…but over the photos. Who had authorized the photographer to visit Las Vegas [in Honduras]? Hadn’t anybody checked his credentials?

Bermúdez eventually learned that Mack’s men had been responsible for the killing. He never announced the results of his investigation, however, and made sure Mack’s name never surfaced publicly.

In Under Fire, North takes great pride in his work on behalf of the contras. While acknowledging his “conflicting feelings” about the Iranian arms initiative, he says that the contra supply operation “presented no great moral quandary.” His efforts, he writes, “were vindicated when a coalition of anti-Sandinista groups, led by Violeta Chamorro, scored a decisive electoral victory over Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas.”

The sense that things worked out for the best in Nicaragua might explain why the Senate Intelligence Committee failed to question Robert Gates about the contras. Aside from their sheer exhaustion over the issue, most of the senators probably viewed the CIA’s policy as a success. Why, then, bother to rehash it?

Perhaps Sam Dillon should have the last word here. In Comandos, he is no less sympathetic than North to the cause of the peasants who joined the contras, and he is extremely critical of the Sandinistas. He is, however, much less confident about the war’s outcome. Despite more than 30,000 deaths, he writes, “many of the contras’ longtime political goals were unachieved.” The Sandinistas remained in control of Nicaragua’s security forces and court system, its trade unions and peasant organizations. For most contras, life after wartime was “bleak.” In exchange for turning in their guns, they received only a change of clothing, a few farm tools, a $50 start-up grant, and a few months’ rations of rice and beans. Economically, the war left Nicaragua virtually bankrupt, with runaway inflation, soaring unemployment, and few prospects for growth.

“After a decade of fighting,” Dillon concludes, “Nicaragua suffered from all the maladies that had plagued it a decade earlier: elite rule, police corruption and abuse, land hunger, illiteracy, contagion. In the US view, the war that made Washington feel good had come to a storybook conclusion. But in Nicaragua, it was proving harder to move on; the contra war would remain the nation’s frame of reference for years to come.”

This Issue

December 19, 1991