The long-delayed World Court verdict on the U.S. mining of Nicaragua's harbors is expected on June 27, one day after the House is scheduled to vote on aid to the Nicaraguan contras.
The Reagan administration, which declared that the court has no jurisdiction over this "political" matter, expects an adverse verdict. The State Department's anticipation is published in a glossy, high-style 78-page book with a silver cover. The author, John Norton Moore, a one-time department counselor, makes the official argument, which is that as an "aggressor nation" Nicaragua has no standing in international law.
If the House put off the vote until after the verdict, would that change the outcome?
Probably not. Consideration for world opinion is not a factor here. Neither, it should be added, is public sentiment, which is immovably against intervention, or, for that matter, common sense. Members are once again wrestling with Ronald Reagan's obsession to roll back communism.
Most Democrats oppose aid to the contras. Most Republicans favor it. And milling around in between are about 40 members, mostly Democrats, who hate to vote $100 million for people they know can't win but who don't dare vote for nothing because Reagan will say they are soft on Sandinistas. The spiritual leader of this bloc is Rep. Dave McCurdy, a handsome Oklahoma Democrat who wants again to give them a chance to say both yes and no.
To the timid, Nicaragua is strictly a domestic political problem. A no vote is an invitation to the right wing to make their lives miserable.
They tune out contra scandals, which are being investigated by three congressional panels. They don't want to hear that money they have already voted has ended up in strange places or unaccounted for. They ignore charges that the "freedom fighters" have been caught drug-running, arms-smuggling and committing atrocities against the peasants they are supposed to be assisting to "peace and democracy."
Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.) has presided over hearings at which impeccable General Accounting Office investigators have taken listeners on a paper trail of U.S. checks that were meant for contras and turned up in offshore banks and, in one case, in the pockets of Honduran army officers.
Says Rep. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), "What do you expect from Barnes?"
Since he got back from Central America last week, McCurdy has been engaged in shuttle diplomacy between the Democrats and Republicans, trying to get enough votes to pass his newest compromise. For a statesmanlike finish, he has added regional economic help for Nicaragua's neighbors. His military aid, about $60 million, can be released only by a second House vote, next February.
He is having trouble with both sides. Democrats who have flat-on-their-back farmers at home balk at welfare for farmers they don't know.
Republicans are hanging tough for $100 million in military aid to be given immediately.
In other words, the same cast is following the same script in the long-running farce.
Once again, the three contra "leaders," who can't control their savage commanders in the field, were flown in to lobby for their cause. They look like a trio of tired businessmen and seem far removed from mountain hideouts and guerrilla raids. Pale and a little puffy, they do not exude fiery martial resolve. They seem capable of leading no more than a charge to the water cooler.
They were trotted out to the White House briefing room. Their spokesman, Alfonso Robelo, a prosperous chemical engineer, gave out the words about the Soviet threat that he had probably just heard in the Oval Office. If we don't send arms, he warned dramatically, we may eventually have to send men.
That's the Pentagon line, desperately fashioned when it looked as if Nicaragua might sign the Contadora peace treaty.
Arturo Cruz, one-time banker, said that he and his fellows would open themselves for scrutiny on Barnes' charges of misappropriated funds. This puts him at odds with the State Department, which refuses to testify about the charges.
Adolfo Calero, once Coca-Cola's man in Managua, lectured on Nicaraguan fiscal practices, which include sending money to Bahamian banks.
Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.), adamant foe of contra aid, wants to get the vote over with before Reagan has a chance to "stir up patriotism" at the Statue of Liberty extravaganza on the Fourth of July.
You can see how little the World Court verdict, which presumably has a basis in reason and logic, has to do with the whole thing.