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The Importance of the Iran-Contra Scandal, 25 Years Later

November 29, 2011

The "diversion" was the diversion.

It has been 25 years since President Ronald Reagan stepped up to the microphone in the White House press room and made the announcement that launched one of the greatest scandals in modern American politics.

Reagan announced that his administration had sent “small amounts of defense weapons and spare parts to Iran” not to trade arms for hostages, but to improve relations and support moderate mullahs. There was “one aspect” of the operation that, the President said, he had been “unaware of.” His attorney general, Edwin Meese, then stepped forward to describe how “private benefactors” had transferred profits from those sales to counterrevolutionary forces, the contras, fighting to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.  No U.S. officials were involved, according to Meese, in this “diversion” of funds that linked two seemingly separate covert operations.

The focus on the diversion, as Oliver North, the NSC staffer who supervised the two operations wrote in his memoir, Under Fire, was itself a diversion. “This particular detail was so dramatic, so sexy, that it might actually—well divert public attention from other, even more important aspects of the story,” North noted, “such as what the President and his top advisors had known about and approved.”

The list of the “other… more important ” aspects of the sordid story that became known as “Iran-contra” scandal is a long one but worth recalling 25 years later. The Reagan administration had been negotiating with terrorists (despite Reagan’s repeated public position that he would “never” do so). There were illegal arms transfers to Iran, flagrant lying to Congress, soliciting third country funding to circumvent the Congressional ban on financing the contra war in Nicaragua, White House bribes to various generals in Honduras, illegal propaganda and psychological operations directed by the CIA against the U.S. press and public, collaboration with drug kingpins such as Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega, and violating the checks and balances of the constitution.

“If ever the constitutional democracy of the United States is overthrow,” the leading political analyst of the scandal, Theodore Draper wrote at the time, “we now have a better idea of how this is likely to be done.”

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  1. exDoD permalink
    December 2, 2011 11:20 pm

    The Reagan Administration was one of the most corrupt in modern times. Reagan had more of his appointees go to jail than any other. Iran Contra should have led to the impeachment at the least of VP Bush. That would have changed the history of the US. There was a reason his son has sealed those records in the National Archives. We don’t know the truth on this and a lot of other crimes by Bush fils.

  2. Scuba Steve permalink
    January 24, 2013 1:48 pm

    “Arrow Flight 1285”. Will someone please tell me why.?!!!!!

    • John Campian permalink
      February 17, 2014 2:28 am

      You and me and hundreds if not thousands of other people would like to know what was on that flight. I was deployed to Egypt with the 101st in 1985. It was the second flight coming home that was carrying 248 troops and a flight crew of 8 that crashed on take off in Gander Newfoundland. What has been suggested from investigations was there was a period of no security or guards when the plane was being loaded. I flew on that same plane on the way to Egypt in 1985 six months prior to the crash. We had a delay in Germany when we refueled because of the smell of an electrical fire or something. I remember everyone was freaked out about what a cheap bucket of bolts and faulty wires we were flying in. The cheapest charter the government could afford. Who even has ever heard of Arrow Air anyways? We were on a peace keeping tour and to lose 248 of your brothers to plane crash was more shocking than words can explain.

      We may never know the full truth of what had happened Dec. 12 1985. There is a lot to research on the Gander Crash Conspiracy but it only leads to more questions. Those brave soldiers paid the ultimate price for freedom. God bless them & RIP brothers.

  3. naya permalink
    May 23, 2016 10:44 am

    Wtf was the concepts


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