Contra Cross: Insurgency and Tyranny in Central America, 1979-1989

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Naval Institute Press, 2006 - History - 168 pages
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Why does the United States have such difficulty dealing with insurgency? A look back at the Central American wars of the 1980s sheds light on the problem. Contra Cross presents one young American officer's journey through Central America's violent decade of revolution and counterrevolution. Bill Meara started out as a teacher at a Catholic school in Guatemala, but he went on to become one of fifty-five U.S. military advisers assisting the Salvadorans in their fight against communism. By the end of the decade, he was in the U.S. Foreign Service working as a liaison officer to the Nicaraguan contras. Meara was one of very few Americans to work on both sides of insurgency in the region: in El Salvador he supported efforts to defeat insurgents; with Nicaraguans he worked to keep an insurgency alive.


Contra Cross takes readers into the world of an American adviser struggling with cultural differences and human rights violations while trying to stay alive in murderous El Salvador. We join Meara on dangerous helicopter rides into contra base camps on the Honduran-Nicaraguan border, and learn what it's like to be in a U.S. embassy under attack. From Special Forces school at Ft. Bragg, to lunch with Communist defectors in El Salvador, to a contra POW camp deep in the jungle, we get a taste of life on the cutting edge of America's controversial Central America policy.


More than a collection of war stories, Contra Cross explores the difficult moral and ideological issues of the Central American wars. Meara's experiences with insurgency and counterinsurgency allow him to provide critically important insights on why the United States has such difficulty dealing with ragtag armies of third-world rebels.

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About the author (2006)

William R. Meara served on active duty in the U.S. Army from 1948 to 1988, attaining the rank of captain, and then joined the U.S. Foreign Service where he has served as a diplomat in Honduras, Spain, the Dominican Republic, the Azores, and the United Kingdom.

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