E. Howard Negroponte,
INTERVIEWER: How did, do you remember when you learned about the arrival of Soviet military aid? And had that affected your thinking and tactics?
DUANE CLARRIDGE: Oh well that,. I mean Soviet military was, Soviets yes, I suppose the Soviets were paying for it, most of it came from Bulgaria, or at least the heavy duty stuff came from Bulgaria, and that had started oh before I even got into Latin America, there is some heavy artillery and tanks were beginning to be brought in. I mean these are by central a, by European warfare standards these tanks were primitive, T55s and that kind of thing, but nevertheless in the context of Central America there were enormous impact. The other thing was, and there was no question about this, in 1980 the Sandinistas sent x number of, of young men to Bulgaria for flight training, and it was very much anticipated that eventually Mig 21s were going to come and in fact you know Sandinistas said so. And the, and that again would have upset the balance and you know, you know the Sandinistas would say well we need this big army you know 75,000, 100,000 people, with these T55 tanks and these airplanes and so on and so forth, because we have to defend our country, against whom? Against the United States? Well first of all if the United States was gonna take them on it wouldn't last a day and a half. So it wasn't that, it was obviously for intimidation and aggression against their neighbors who had nothing in parallel. No way could they defend themselves against the US.
INTERVIEWER: The US was pretty committed under Reagan not to send American troops.
DUANE CLARRIDGE: Absolutely, I have heard him say it at least 3 times, in meetings of the what they call the NSPG in the National special climbing group, whatever it was called. In, in the situation of the little room where they, all this goes on, yeah at least 3 times. Absolutely, *** wasn't gonna send American troops. But the Sandinistas their point was that this was that this was what they were gonna defend against the US. You know some propaganda issue. But there was no way they could have defended against the US.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember how the decision and the planning was taken, when you evolved or it was evolved the mining of the harbor, was that a long drawn out thing.
DUANE CLARRIDGE: No, I mean I, I , I had, I remember very clearly in January of 94, I had tried to, just back a couple of months we had eschewed economic targets that was our going in. Guerilla warfare experts will tell ya don't hit the economic targets you make enemies of the people you need. I don't believe, that's not true, it maybe true in certain circumstances, but it is not an all encompassing rule, and everything needs to be looked at. And anyway by the early fall of 83, we had begun to go after the oil supply. The pipeline that was in the ocean, whether it was Soviet or Mexican ships would fill up, I, we were unsuccessful okay? So we decided tgo big time for the economics alright, at some point. In January Reagan and the whole all the member of tNSPG was a meeting in about the middle of January of 1984 put a lot of heat on me, to get on with this thing. Alright. So they authorized me to increase the number of troops I had, well thank you very much, but I didn't have any more money. So you know and besides more troops up in the mountains because they couldn't go down into the plains because they had been shot up by the tanks in artillery. Didn't help me. So I was sitting at home one night, frankly having a glass of gin, and I said you know the mines has gotta be the solution. I knew we had 'em, we'd made 'em outta sewer pipe and we had the good fusing system on them and we were ready. And you know they wouldn't really hurt anybody because they just weren't that big a mine, alright? Yeah, with luck, bad luck we might hurt somebody, but pretty hard you know? So and I knew their export season was coming up. The Sandinistas desperately needed to get the hard currency for their exports to pay off their bank loans, so this was a time to put the mines into Corinto, they only got one harbor that counts, and at the same time, make sure we notify Lloyds of London, the mines have gone in, so hopefully they put pressure on the shipping companies of the world to stay outta there. Well it worked.
INTERVIEWER: And how did you react to the opposition that had grown, not just in the media and in the liberal world press, but in your own congress when funding started to be affected, when amendments started to be passed.
DUANE CLARRIDGE Yeah, well first of all, there is an argument, and this is, this is what the congressional people will say, is that they voted against money for the contras fiscal year 1985, which began in October 1984. They voted against it in the spring, I guess like may or June in 1984, because of the mining. Now that is specious, everybody knows it's specious. It wasn't the mining. They all knew about the mining. It was the fact that it got into the press and so much ... nonsense, but so much attention was given to it okay? But that wasn't why they voted against the, they were gonna vote against further money to the contras anyways, and you know you'd get honest people they wouldn't adapt. Now the minute it became clear and that was clear by June of 1984 that the Congress was not going to provide any funds for the contras in the 85 fiscal year, I was leaving, okay, but and I don't know anything special, okay? Oh yeah I learned things afterwards when I was indicted on the Iran contra thing, which had nothing to do with me, I was only a little part of the Iran thing but the contra thing I had nothing to do with, but I was shown documents where as early as March 1984, Casey and MacFarlane had begun to think about what they were going to do to keep the contras alive, and they knew damn well why they weren't gonna do that, because these contras were Ronald Reagan's people. And he felt very strongly about it. I mean there were other people other than I can tell you how he felt about that. He was not going to let these people down. They were his vandals as he used to describe them to me, but they were his freedom fighters and he felt that very personally. And the day he had you know sacrificed for him for this country, and unlike so many other times in my countries history, we have let other groups like this down, and we have an abysmal record, right up until last year for that matter, of letting these groups down, he wasn't gonna do it.
INTERVIEWER: In the middle of this you had a rather particular as you say interesting in inverted commas, problem, when the phone went and you mentioned an island called Grenada. Can you tell me that story, and how it was resolved in the meeting with Bush and the phone call to Reagan and the
DUANE CLARRIDGE Well before Bishop's murder, the Prime Minister of Grenada's murder, as I have mentioned before the United States was concerned about what was going on in Grenada, I mean this, this very lengthy runway could be for nothing other than for Soviet long range ASW I mean that's you know be able to fight submarines kind of aircraft. It had to be all that, alright. So there was concern but there wasn't, there wasn't there were some people who maybe would have liked to have done something about it, but there wasn't that much agitation within the administration. Jamaica had been a problem prior to Reagan's coming in when Manley was there. Seage got taken over, that situation seems to have been as far as Caribbean issues. And so no one was pushing the Grenada thing, but when Bishop was murdered, it provided and this may sound, and I don't mean to be crass, I must say it created an excuse to go deal with that problem, but in a certain way it did. I'm not saying by any means it was the total motivation, but it was a factor. It made it easier in Cuba. And so with his murder, but the really key factor and there is no question about it, there is no argument from anybody, was the concern of Reagan and his people for the medical students at that medical college down there. I mean that was a factor. I mean you gotta remember that Iran and Tehran, you know weighed heavily in that particular equation, or in their thinking and ...
INTERVIEWER: Tell me that story, tell me what happened?
DUANE CLARRIDGE Well we didn't have anybody down there, because, because it wasn't considered that big a deal, we didn't have a station there, we didn't even have an embassy there. It was all handled by our embassy in Barbados. So therefore we used to send somebody down there periodically and take a look the place and maybe talk to some people down there that were helping us out, so on and so forth. We didn't have anybody. So our intelligence weren't very good. So we put a , a lady out of Barbados, she went in with the State Department group as a, because she actually did do those functions too, and she became our eyes and ears there. Okay. Now as things moved along, the, there was a meeting, the President had decided to go off to play golf at Augusta with I think Schultz and MacFarlane and there was a body, organization, that when the vice president was in charge, in Washington it was called something else, SSG or SSB or something, and it was the equivalent of the NSPG. The NSPG, the president's in the chair, there's a vice president. So it had a meeting and it was like it was Wednesday or Thursday of the week before we went in. And the consensus at that meeting, and the military was there. Now it was largely, I must say, deputies, from the various aid agencies and departments who were present. Not all, but there were you know because people weren't around. Casey was in Norway, Schultz was down there I guess Ken Damn would have been there, it was a it was a full blown authorized kind of meeting and the decision was we would go in. And so you know George Bush gets on the phone, oh by the way this was the first time we were using the new room. You see before we always on these things, we met in this dinky little room in the west wing of the White House, called the situation room. Well this time we're meeting in the State of the Art multi media room that I think Ollie North had built for you know, actually it was quite a lovely room. I think it had been the Secretary of State's office back in you know 1870 or something. But anyways, so it was the first time we were using this and you know it got all the phones working and Bush calls and gets Reagan plus the secret service, gets Reagan on whatever tee he was on, or whatever, and, and talks to him on the phone. Now we can only hear one side of the conversation, and Reagan clearly got the decision that Bush transmitted to him, that we think we should go, and he obviously had a you know pow wow with MacFarlane and Schultz and came back and said "We go, okay we go." So
INTERVIEWER: The moment the problem arose until the moment the Americans went in and sorted out Grenada was actually quite a short period of time and you could go back to dealing with the Sandinista Affairs, but did you think that becausAmerica had effectively invaded albeit a small Caribbean island in the middle of a big operation in Central America where they were committednot to invade, harmed your cause in Honduras when you were trying to get the contras to sort out the Sandinistas. Because I can, world opinion, who for a long time had been clamoring that all these guys were doing was just making it possible for the American marines to go in and Reagan's people themselves saying we're not, we're going to avoid a Vietnam at all costs here, but then you go and invade Grenada. So it sort of harmed your position. Did you feel that at the time or?
DUANE CLARRIDGE: No I don't think that and again you know I had a lot of things going on and so, I may not be the best judge of this, so I don't think I saw that kind of impact. The Sandinistas certainly used it in their propaganda. I think the Sandinistas were also very frightened, that indeed this might be the harbinger of the US marines coming down. But there was no way, no way in the slightest part. And it wasn't Vietnam, it had nothing to do with Vietnam, I mean we had the battle plan all set for the US military to go in there. You know the military had plans for everything, well except for Grenada. But I mean they planned for it really ahead of time. And they had the battle plan for Nicaragua, I mean it was a 48 hour event, I mean it was just, or even that. So we
INTERVIEWER: You mentioned in your book that because it was the just about the first military action since the end of Vietnam for America, there was quite a queue or quite a line as you would say over here for the military to get involved. It had to be the airforce, the navy, the army, the marines.
DUANE CLARRIDGE: But only at the end, you see they didn't wanna go. See after that decision on the golf course, nothing happened. I couldn't figure it out. I mean we're this decision was, don't hold me to it, because you can get the exactly the right dates out of my book if nothing else. Like it was Thursday maybe, everybody left the meeting, I thought we were all going to battle stations. We went to battle stations, because Director of Operations Clandestine Service, always marches for the president, nobody else does. And the Pentagon certainly wasn't going in on this one. I mean say, I mean "this is not what we wanna do". And so we went to battle stations, we moved the silent helicopters into Barbados, that arrived there like Saturday night, and Adams that marvelous Prime Minister down there that came out to see him on the tarmac in the middle of the, I mean one o'clock in the morning. The first evidence he had that he thought the American were serious only he didn't know and we didn't know that our military wasn't serious. They weren't doing a thing. And I don't know what in hell they expected, but they got this event happened it was the Beirut marine barracks bond. So Reagan comes back from Augusta provided the opportunity for the military and again I don't know whether it was Weinberger or Vessey or both, but it was probably everybody's .. to force Reagan to have another meeting on the subject of going into Grenada. Which was held, and you know they're all there, and as I said in my book, I was told I was not because I was there initially and then we had the first report come in from the female officer who was on the island, who brought, had conclusive information that the students wanted off the island and they were scared. And that was slipped to the president at the meeting and when he saw that and it had been disseminated to everybody but they hadn't all seen it yet. He passed it around the room and then Weinberger asked to clear the room, which meant get rid of the it's all of those principles plus one. So in that's a very dangerous configuration, it's just principles, because you know that's when you do dumb things. So anyways so the room was cleared and I, so I only know it by second hand that the question was raised to the President, I mean Mr. President in view of your upcoming election, re-election campaign which was 1984, do you think you really wanna do this. And you know I think he was just stunned by this, because his answer sort of was "my re-election and national security interests are very divisible, we go." With that all hell broke loose and then all of the various services and parts of the services going back to your question, said "My god we've gotta get into this thing, because if we don't participate, what might happen to our budgets." And there it went.