In an October 10 letter to the editor, John Peticolas takes offense to the fact that Ronald Reagan was never considered for the Nobel Peace Prize and uses Reagan’s omission as a candidate for the prize as an example of how the Nobel Committee uses their appointments as political statements. Although the reasons why Reagan should never be considered for a Nobel Peace Prize are numerous, I will restrict my comments to Reagan’s policies towards Central America.
During Reagan’s first term in office, U.S. military assistance to Honduras increased by almost 2000 percent from $4 million to $77.5 million, and in El Salvador military assistance surged from $6 million to $360 million (an increase of 6000 percent!). During this period, U.S. funded government soldiers and government backed militias (known as “death squads”) terrorized Central Americans. At the height of death squad activities, 500 El Salvadorans were killed every week.
The Reagan administration also rejected and even undermined regional peace accords in 1983 (the Contadora Plan) and again in 1987 (the Guatemala Plan). Throughout his two terms in office, Reagan wrongly argued that peaceful solutions would never bring an end to the region’s conflicts. For example, Reagan was convinced that Nicaragua’s Sandinista government would never approve of open elections. In addition, members of the Reagan administration were adamant that unless congress continues to fund the anti-Sandinista Contra rebels, the Sandinista government would never relinquish power in Nicaragua. They also argued that if the Sandinistas ever lost an election they would never step down from office. They were wrong. Congress eventually cut off funding and despite the doomsday scenarios, Nicaragua held open elections. The Sandinistas lost and Reagan was proven wrong again when the Sandinistas peacefully handed over power to the newly elected government. And if this isn’t enough, let me add that when congress cut off funding for the Contras, the Reagan administration continued to fund them by selling arms to the Iranians.
Former President Jimmy Carter, whose selection to the Nobel Peace Prize Mr. Peticolas called “political,” played an instrumental role in assisting with Nicaragua’s elections and their peaceful transition to democratic rule. Perhaps Mr. Peticolas’ comments would stand up to the facts in a strange Orwellian world where “war is peace,” or perhaps on Fox News. Fortunately, like the Nobel Committee, the rest of the world has different standards for what defines peace.