• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

SPRING FUNDRAISER

Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Personal Revenge of Tomas Borge

I just read the news that on Monday, April 30, 2012, Tomas Borge had passed away at the age of 81 in Managua, Nicaragua.   Tomas Borge helped found the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in 1961, and, through years of arduous struggle, helped lead the rag-tag Sandinista guerillas to victory against the heavily-armed Somoza dictatorship – a dictatorship armed and supported until the bitter end by the United States which had installed it in the first place in the 1930’s.

In the 1980s, Tomas Borge was a household name, revered by those of us on the left who saw him as a conquering David against Goliath, and vilified by, well, Goliath, in the form of the U.S. and its then-President Ronald Reagan.   It was Reagan’s voice who was heard the loudest in this country on the subject of Borge and the Sandinistas.  Reagan demonized Borge as a Communist menace to justify the U.S.’s own acts of real menace – the mining of the Nicaraguan harbors (found to be illegal by the World Court) and the arming of the Nicaraguan counter-revolutionaries, known as the Contras, who were led by the brutal National Guardsmen of Somoza who were ousted by the Sandinistas.

As some will recall, Reagan continued to arm the Contras – who never controlled one inch of Nicaraguan territory, but who engaged in acts of terror against the Nicaraguan population such as destroying hospitals, schools and electric power plants – even when the U.S. Congress outlawed such support.  To do so, Reagan turned to a group of unsavory characters such as Oliver North who funded the Contras through the sale of cocaine as well as illegal arms sales to Iran.   This came to be known as the Iran-Contra Scandal.

One of the most chilling accounts of the Contras I ever heard came from former CIA agent John Stockwell, whose speech a friend and I listened to many times on a tape cassette during college.  Stockwell explained:

“I don’t mean to abuse you with verbal violence, but you have to understand what your government and its agents are doing. They [the Contras] go into villages, they haul out families. With the children forced to watch they castrate the father, they peel the skin off his face, they put a grenade in his mouth and pull the pin. With the children forced to watch they gang-rape the mother, and slash her breasts off. And sometimes for variety, they make the parents watch while they do these things to the children.”

In order to justify such crimes, Reagan claimed that the Sandinistas – who in fact were greatly improving the standard of living of the Nicaraguan people  — were enslaving the Nicaraguan people with their own brand of Marxism-Leninism.   Reagan singled out Borge above all other Sandinistas as the most pernicious and authoritarian figure.   And, if you read the obituaries of Borge, you will see the influence of this slander, with him described as “ruthless” and as the Sandinista “enforcer.”

In fact, Borge was a brave soul who took his Christian faith, and its demand for the forgiveness of one’s enemies, seriously — first and foremost by joining in the decision to abolish the death penalty after the triumph of the Sandinista revolution in 1979.   Of course, the U.S. would cynically exploit this act of forgiveness and kindness by organizing the National Guard, many of whom might have been put to death by a less benevolent revolution, into the Contras which would go on to terrorize Nicaragua for the next decade.

Borge had his own personal enemies among these National Guardsmen, a circumstance which truly put his ability to forgive to the test.   During his years of struggle against the U.S.-sponsored Somosa dictatorship, he was arrested and subject to unspeakable acts of torture by the National Guard.   This torture included the Guardsmen’s rape and murder of Borge’s wife before his very eyes.

The story I was told about this in 1987 when I was in Nicaragua was that Borge had vowed revenge against those who had tortured he and his wife.  And, when the Sandinistas took power in 1979, Borge exacted this revenge on one of his torturers who he learned was in prison.  Borge went to the prison, swung the door of the torturer’s jail cell open, and said “I have come to have my revenge against you as I vowed.   For your punishment, you will have to walk the streets of this country and see the children of this country who you tortured for so long learn to read and write.”

Borge himself tells this story a bit differently in the book, Christianity and Revolution: Tomas Borge’s Theology of Life.  In this book, Borge explains:  “After having been brutal tortured as a prisoner, after having a hood placed over my head for nine months, after having been handcuffed for seven months, I remember that when we captured these torturers I told them: ‘The hour of my revenge has come: we will not do you even the slightest harm. You did not believe us beforehand; now you will believe us.’ That is our philosophy, our way of being.”

Borge was true to his word, and the Sandinistas, who are now the elected leaders in Nicaragua, are, by all accounts, improving the living conditions for the Nicaraguan people and bringing peace and stability to a country surrounded by other nations (Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico) which are drenched in the violence of a U.S.-sponsored drug war.

Tomas Borge went on to write the following poem with Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy about his act of personal forgiveness against his torturers.  I will leave you with this poem:

My Personal Revenge

My personal revenge will be the right
of your children to school and to flowers;
My personal revenge will be to offer you
this florid song without fears;
My personal revenge will be to show you
the good there is in the eyes of my people,
always unyielding in combat
and most steadfast and generous in victory.
My personal revenge will be to say to you
good morning, without beggars in the streets,
when instead of jailing you I intend
you shake the sorrow from your eyes;
when you, practitioner of torture,
can no longer so much as lift your gaze,
my personal revenge will be to offer you
these hands you once maltreated
without being able to make them forsake tenderness.
And it was the people who hated you most
when the song was language of violence;
But the people today beneath its skin
of red and black [the colors of the Sandinista flag] has its heart uplifted.

Daniel Kovalik is a labor and human rights lawyer living in Pittsburgh.   His red and black FSLN scarf remains carefully draped on a mantle in his office.

More articles by:

Daniel Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

June 03, 2020
Elliot Sperber
The Birds of Brooklyn
June 02, 2020
Zoltan Grossman
Deploying Federal Troops in a War at Home Would Make a Bad Situation Worse
Nicholas Buccola
Amy Cooper is Christian Cooper’s Lost, Younger Sister 
Manuel García, Jr.
Global Warming is Nuclear War
Patrick Cockburn
An Unavoidable Recognition of Failure: Trump’s Withdrawal From Afghanistan
John Feffer
Is It Time to Boycott the USA?
Kathy Kelly
Beating Swords to Plowshares
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Urban Riots Revisited
Sam Pizzigati
“Failed State” Status Here We Come
Ron Jacobs
In Defense of Antifa
Cesar Chelala
Bolsonaro and Trump: Separated at Birth
George Wuerthner
The BLM’s License to Destroy Sagebrush Ecosystems
Danny Antonelli
The Absurdity of Hope
Binoy Kampmark
Sinister Flatulence: Trump Versus Twitter
John Stanton
How Much Violence and Destruction is Enough for Depraved American Leaders and Their Subjects?
Richard C. Gross
The Enemy Within
Thomas Knapp
Trump’s “Free Speech:” Doctrine: Never, Ever, Ever Mention He’s a Liar
John W. Whitehead
This Is Not a Revolution. It’s a Blueprint for Locking Down the Nation
June 01, 2020
Joshua Frank
It’s a Class War Now Too
Richard D. Wolff
Why the Neoliberal Agenda is a Failure at Fighting Coronavirus
Henry Giroux
Racial Domestic Terrorism and the Legacy of State Violence
Ron Jacobs
The Second Longest War in the United States
Kanishka Chowdhury
The Return of the “Outside Agitator”
Lee Hall
“You Loot; We Shoot”
Dave Lindorff
Eruptions of Rage
Jake Johnston
An Impending Crisis: COVID-19 in Haiti, Ongoing Instability, and the Dangers of Continued U.S. Deportations
Nick Pemberton
What is Capitalism?
Linda G. Ford
“Do Not Resuscitate”: My Experience with Hospice, Inc.
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Who Are the Secret Puppet-Masters Behind Trump’s War on Iran?
Manuel García, Jr.
A Simple Model for Global Warming
Howard Lisnoff
Is the Pandemic Creating a Resurgence of Unionism? 
Frances Madeson
Federal Prisons Should Not be Death Chambers
Hayley Brown – Dean Baker
The Impact of Upward Redistribution on Social Security Solvency
Raúl Carrillo
We Need a Public Option for Banking
Kathy Kelly
Our Disaster: Why the United States Bears Responsibility for Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis
Sonali Kolhatkar
An Open Letter to Joe Biden on Race
Scott Owen
On Sheep, Shepherds, Wolves and Other Political Creatures
John Kendall Hawkins
All Night Jazz All The Time
Weekend Edition
May 29, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Tim Wise
Protest, Uprisings, and Race War
Nick Pemberton
White Supremacy is the Virus; Police are the Vector
T.J. Coles
What’s NATO Up to These Days? Provoking Russia, Draining Healthcare Budgets and Protecting Its Own from COVID
Benjamin Dangl
Bibles at the Barricades: How the Right Seized Power in Bolivia
Kevin Alexander Gray - Jeffrey St. Clair - JoAnn Wypijewski
There is No Peace: an Incitement to Justice
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Few Good Sadists
Jeff Mackler
The Plague of Racist Cop Murders: Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and the COVID-19 Pandemic
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail