Bernardo Ruiz / Salt Lake Tribune – 2007-05-08 07:38:02
Iran-Contra Anniversary Shows Key Players Still in Game
Bernardo Ruiz / Salt Lake Tribune
(May 7, 2007) — Twenty years ago on May 5, Congress opened hearings on the Iran-Contra affair. Now, two decades later, many of those involved in the scandal are key players in the Bush administration and its debacle in Iraq.
The Iran-Contra affair revealed that several top-ranking members of the Reagan administration helped illegally sell arms to Iran and used the proceeds to fund a right-wing guerrilla group known as the Contras in Nicaragua.
The sale of weapons to Iran and the funding of the Contras attempted to circumvent not only stated administration policy but also congressional legislation.
Oliver North, now a Fox News political commentator, was the most visible figure in the scandal, but as many declassified documents make clear, North and others were not running a rogue operation. Rather, they were implementing policy made at the highest levels.
During his tenure as US ambassador to Honduras in the early 1980s, John Negroponte was put in charge of “carrying out the covert strategy of the Reagan administration to crush the Sandinista government in Nicaragua,” The New York Times reported. A 1997 CIA inspector general’s report concluded that Negroponte covered up reports on human rights abuses committed by the U.S.-backed Honduran military that was linked to “death-squad activities.” He was appointed ambassador to Iraq in 2004. Today, he is the U.S. State Department’s deputy secretary of state.
During Iran-Contra, Elliott Abrams pleaded guilty on two counts of unlawfully withholding information, but was later pardoned by the outgoing President George H.W. Bush. At the start of this president’s second term, Abrams was promoted to the role of deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy – a role that is responsible for advancing democracy abroad.
Under Reagan, Otto Reich headed the Office of Public Diplomacy. “The purpose of his office was none other than to get the American people to side with war over peace, using propaganda methods determined to be ‘improper,”‘ wrote Nobel Peace Prize winner and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez. A U.S. government investigation concluded that Reich’s office engaged in “prohibited acts of domestic propaganda,” according to The New York Times. Despite this history, Reich was appointed assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere in January 2002. He is now running his own Washington consulting firm.
And Donald Rumsfeld’s replacement, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, served as deputy CIA director while the illegal Iran-Contra operations were taking place. “I was trying to learn the ropes while all this was going on,” Gates wrote in his memoirs. But Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a private group that has collected hundreds of thousands of pages of documents on the scandal, calls Gates “the ultimate hear-no-evil, see-no-evil high official during Iran-Contra.”
Ultimately, prosecutors charged 14 individuals with crimes and landed 11 convictions. Two were later overturned on appeal, and the first President Bush pardoned several more as he left office.
With Negroponte, Abrams, Reich and Gates in positions of authority today, the current President Bush is not only whitewashing history, he is also entrusting power to those who have already demonstrated their inability to handle it.
Bernardo Ruiz is a New York-based documentary filmmaker; he wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. ===== In accordance with Title U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.