U.S. EMBASSY DECLARES IN ADVANCE SANDINISTAS RESPONSIBLE FOR VETERAN CASUALTIES DURING PEACE WALK
On Monday, March 23, 1987, the members of the first Veterans Peace Action Team will initiate a 125-kilometer peace walk, a Veterans Walk for Life, from Jinotega to Wiwili. As a group of veterans, we will walk and sleep unarmed and undefended through an area subject to Contra mortar attacks, ambushes, murders, mining and destruction. In this walk of conscience we accept responsibility as U.S. citizens for the barbaric acts of aggression being carried out by the United States.
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. In fact, the Nicaraguan government did not encourage this walk and only reluctantly gave us clearance after we continually stressed its importance as an expression of the heavy responsibility we feel individually for the destruction of the United States in the world, most especially in Viet Nam, where several of us were directly involved, and now in Nicaragua.
On Thursday, March 19 at 3:00 p.m., the members of the Veterans Peace Action Team met with Alfred A. Laun III, U.S. Information Officer, at the U.S. Embassy in Managua. We reviewed our March 19th letter to Ambassador Bergold which reported conclusions of our 30-day visit to Nicaragua and her war zones. We also made sure he was aware of the peace walk, its implications, and its dangers.
We asked him this question: “What will be the response of the U.S. Embassy in the eventuality of our kidnapping, injury, or death?” Mr. Laun’s response was, “We will hold the Sandinista government responsible and attempt to medevac you as soon as possible to the best hospital. You deserve that as U.S. citizens.” In a discussion about the placement of land mines, he indicated tank mines on public roads would most likely have been placed there by the Sandinistas, not the Contras. [Incidentally, Mr. Laun informed us that he had been an operative in the Phoenix (assassination) program in Viet Nam.]
It is imperative that we make it clear that the members of the Veterans Peace Action Team, with nearly 1,000 collective days experience of dialogue, interaction, and observation of the Nicaraguan people and Sandinista government, find Mr. Laun’s conclusions absurd and preposterous. In fact, Mr. Laun’s response indicates that the U.S. policy is to place blame upon the Sandinista government in advance, no matter what the facts, in every situation available to the U.S. Mr. Laun indicated no willingness to protect us or other defenseless persons on this road from the forces the United States arms, pays, trains, and directs, nor to conduct an investigation into the facts if we are injured or killed.
Nicaragua is seeking peace and self-determination. Only the United States is engaged in aggression and overt war here. As U.S. citizens we will walk on a public Nicaraguan road made dangerous only by the U.S. financed and directed terrorism. Therefore, only the U.S. , not Nicaragua, is responsible in the eventuality of our injury, kidnapping, or death. We will walk for the truth. We will walk to share the fate of the Nicaraguan people who must walk and travel this road every day for their daily livelihood.