Some deaths in war are unmistakably heroic, sacrifices for the greater good. Some are merely sacrifices, and whatever good comes from them happens years later, when the events surrounding them have been all but forgotten. Such was the case with the death of Ben Linder, a young American engineer who, fired by ideals of social justice, volunteered to aid the Sandinista revolution that overthrew the corrupt dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua in 1979.
Ben Linder arrived in Nicaragua four years later, where he worked to build a hydroelectric dam that would bring electrical power to the remote northern highlands. As journalist Joan Kruckewitt observes in The Death of Ben Linder, "Nicaragua was to leftists throughout the world in the 1980s what Spain was to progressive Americans in the 1930s," a place where a popular revolution might for once bring peace and even happiness to the downtrodden. Officials in the administration of President Ronald Reagan viewed the matter quite differently, however; Reagan once remarked, seriously, that Nicaraguan tanks were only three days'' drive from the American border--yet another Communist threat that lay too close to be countenanced.
Linder was murdered by counterrevolutionaries--the Contras--in 1987, almost certainly with the foreknowledge and perhaps even tacit approval of American intelligence officials. Kruckewitt draws on recently declassified CIA documents and her own field reporting to discover why Linder--and why Sandinista Nicaragua--should have been perceived as being such a threat. She paints a sympathetic portrait of young Linder, too, who, even though idealistic, seems not to have been naive; he recognized that he was in danger, but he pressed on, anyway, to do his part for the revolution, helping build a dam that now provides electricity to former Sandinistas and Contras alike. --Gregory McNamee
A small hydroelectric dam under construction in a remote village became Linder''s main project. The prototype hydro-turbine design meant the country could ultimately become more energy self- sufficient. The Contras, however, had other ideas about Linder and his dam. In 1987, they ambushed and killed him. Journalist Joan Kruckewitt has spent years gaining access to classified CIA documents, tracing sources, and traveling around Nicaragua to conduct interviews. This book provides the definitive account of Linder''s life and murder and highlights the human cost of America''s policies toward Nicaragua.
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