Letter from Members of the First Veterans Peace Action Team to U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, Harry Bergold

March 1, 1987

Harry Bergold
Ambassador to Nicaragua
United States Embassy
Managua, Nicaragua

Dear Ambassador Bergold,

We, the members of the first Veterans Peace Action Team, have completed the first phase of our mission in Nicaragua. We want to share with you what we have seen and heard in the war zones, where United States policy has produced a veritable reign of terror, and to inform you of our plan for an unarmed and undefended peace walk between Jinotega and Wiwili through the Pantasma Valley, beginning Monday, March 23.

Over a two-week period we visited asentamientos in the northern war zones of La Dalia, Jinotega, and Pantasma. We also visited medical clinics and hospitals in Matagalpa and Jinotega, as well as the Managua Rehabilitation Hospital and military hospital at Apanas. We spoke to a wide range of Nicaraguans about the effects of the war: hospital patients; the mothers, wives, and compañeros of soldiers; the victims of ambushes; and, most movingly, survivors of the tank mine explosion of October 19, 1986 which destroyed a truck enroute from Pantasma to Jinotega, killing 11 civilians and maiming 33 others.

Based upon our firsthand observations and eye-witness and victim accounts, we have arrived at a number of conclusions:

1. The military situation in Nicaragua reveals a clear case of aggression across recognized boundaries against a legitimate government. The war clearly reveals the Contra in the role of aggressor in violation of all principles of self-determination, and the Sandinista Popular Army in the role of self-defense, a right and duty embodied in international law and in the United States and Nicaraguan Constitutions.
2. The Contra war is not a war between armies. The Contra have systematically used the civilian population as targets, as well as health clinics, road-building equipment, telephone and power lines, agricultural co-operatives, schools, and other essentials of life for the civilian population.
3. The maiming and killing of children and civilians is United States policy, not an unintended or accidental consequence of United States policy.
4. The use of tank mines against civilians is the most outrageous and diabolical cruelty we have witnessed. Tank mines are placed on roads where there are no tanks and where it is known for a certainty that there is heavy, daily civilian use. We affirm the Americas Watch report of December 1986 which finds that "civilian deaths are directly foreseeable and avoidable, but the Contras take no precautions to avoid civilian casualties." Specific criminal responsibility rests upon the United States government for training, directing, and supplying the Contra in the use of tank mines against civilians under the Geneva Convention, the Nuremberg Principles, and the Land Mines Protocol.
5. Attacks upon health workers, doctors, health clinics and ambulances are at the core of an intentional, inhumane United States policy and a separate violation of law. Dr. John, Isherwood of our team was present at the treatment for shrapnel wounds of leg, scrotum and ankle of a baby carried by its mother for three-and-a-half hours to a clinic after the Contra attacked her cooperative and threw a grenade on the roof of her home where she was trying to protect her four children. He stated "What we have seen is mutilated babies, maimed children paraplegics, young and old, who have lost feet, arms, and legs. Health care facilities are over-loaded with frequent, severe mutilation injuries from mortars, grenades and mines; they are understaffed, with so many actively diverted to the direct defense of the civilians and development efforts; and drugs and the most basic essentials are in short supply or unavailable because of the United States embargo. Nonetheless, more doctors and nurses are now in practice than under the dictatorship, health care is free to all, and rural health care is, for the first time, a reality."
6. The United States boycott is killing civilians every day through denying children and civilians access to medical supplies, clean water, repairs to vehicles, safety and sanitation needs, and in some areas, food and livelihood. The term "economic boycott" does not accurately communicate the intention and the effect of United States policy, which is simply the strangulation and death of people.
7. The war is not a Contra war, but a United States war. The war would end the moment the United States stopped paying, training, directing, directly arming and supplying the Contra. Here the Contra are called the Guardia, a more truthful label for they are the forces of the former Somoza dictatorship.

We ask you, Ambassador Bergold, by what reasoning does a wealthy and powerful nation decide to harm those who are poor and hungry?

Would you not better fulfill the duties of your office by seeking to create friends rather than enemies with the Nicaraguan people? We have found here a people who are remarkably open and longing for peace and friendship. Their courage in over-throwing tyranny must inspire the admiration of every friend of justice and liberty.

On Monday March 23 we will begin a walk of conscience and personal responsibility from Jinotega to Wiwili through an area subject to Contra mortar attacks, ambushes, murders, minings and destruction. The team will walk as a group of U.S. veterans (including five combat veterans of WWII and Vietnam) to accept responsibility as U.S. citizens for the acts of aggression being carried out by intermediaries of the United States.

The Veterans Peace Action Team will attempt to walk to Wiiwili to share the fate of the Nicaraguan people who must use this road for their daily welfare.

If any member of our team receives injury or incurs death as a result of our witness of conscience, we wish to be clear that we do not hold the Nicaraguan government or people responsible. We will hold personally responsible you Ambassador Bergold and President Reagan, and every Senator and member of the House of Representatives who continues to support this grotesque intervention.

 

 

In peace,
Signed by
Members of the first Veterans Peace Action Team:
Richard Eugene Schoos
Peter T. Eaves
John Schuchardt
James R. Bush
Scott V. Rutherford
S. Brian Willson
Holley Rauen
John D. Isherwood
John Poole
Joseph C. Ashley
Judith Williams

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