Dickey, a North American newsman who lived with the contras in their mountain camps, gives a vivid, novel-like account of life with the remnants of the old Somoza Guardia--which, he reports, despite the best efforts of the CIA, has yet to become an effective army of resistance against the Marxist-oriented Sandinistas.
Early chapters chronicle the history of the overthrow of Somoza and the disintegration of the United States-trained and North American-educated officer corps of Nicaragua.
Dickey recreates the final days of Somoza, during which the West Point-trained Nicaraguan dictator carried on talks with United States Ambassador Lawrence Pezzulo in hopes that the United States would not abandon him. The author also provides insights into the formation of the contras and the metamorphosis of Eden Pastora (Comandante Zero) from the hero of the anti-Somoza revolution to the enemy of the Sandinistas; and he does not spare Tomas Borge, the Ortega brothers, and other Sandinista leaders severe criticism for their doctrinaire and often cold-blooded adherence to the tenets of Marxist revolutionary thought and violent response to opponents.
Dickey produces a cogent explanation of why what began as a covert operation to defeat the Sandinistas evolved into increasingly open involvement in attempts to overthrow Ortega and company. He shows that the policy statements went from calls for an interdiction of Sandinista weapons-aid to Salvadorian rebels, to calls for an end to Sandinista subversion of the democratic institutions of its neighbors, to an unstated but clearly implemented policy of attempting to overthrow the Ortega government.
This balanced, professional account is compulsory reading for those who would seek the information to put present United States policy in Central American into perspective.