The Christmas Eve Surprise
On this Christmas Eve 2007 with a Bush entering his last year in the White House, my thoughts turn to the doings of another Bush fifteen years ago this very day, as he prepared to leave the White House:
President Bush granted pardons to former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five other individuals for their conduct related to the Iran-Contra affair.
Bush said Weinberger — who had been scheduled to go on trial in Washington January 5 on charges related to Iran-Contra — was a "true American patriot," who had served with "distinction" in a series of public positions since the late 1960s.
"I am pardoning him not just out of compassion or to spare a 75-year-old patriot the torment of lengthy and costly legal proceedings, but to make it possible for him to receive the honor he deserves for his extraordinary service to our country," Bush said in a proclamation granting executive clemency.
The president also pardoned five other persons who already had pleaded guilty or had been indicted or convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages investigation. They were Elliott Abrams, a former assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs; former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane; and Duane Clarridge, Alan Fiers, and Clair George, all former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The Iran-Contra affair involved the secret sale of weapons to Iran (and crack cocaine in places like Los Angeles) in exchange for the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by pro-Iranian terrorists; the money from these sales was used to provide clandestine support for violent anti-communist coup plotters in Nicaragua known as the "Contras" at a time when it was illegal as hell due to the Boland Amendment (and the World Court agreed).
Iran-Contra was rather the opposite of the later "Clinton scandals" in that the public took it far more seriously than did Big Media — which tended to minimize it and its associated crimes in large part because the editorial boards of the New York Times and other Big Media outfits agreed with Reagan’s stance on the Contras. Reagan’s approval ratings tanked in its wake, and while they eventually recovered, the recovery didn’t particularly benefit George H. W. Bush in his 1988 presidential campaign, as if anything he was more strongly linked to Iran-Contra than was Reagan himself, whose reputation as a vacuous (and probably senile) manager served to give him an unearned aura of innocence. If not for the supremely sucky campaign run by Mike Dukakis (whose campaign manager, FOX Democrat Susan Estrich, managed to take a 17-point lead and turn it into an eight-point loss three months later), the fallout from Iran-Contra would have kept the Republicans out of the White House and likely prevented their 1994 takeover of Congress — which in turn would have among other things prevented the existence of Republican-coddling FOX News. But I digress.
The crowning irony here was that Ronald Reagan, under whose watch this all started, professed to oppose negotiating with hostage-takers and vehemently denied ever doing so — until he could no longer deny it and be taken seriously.
Of course, as with everything else, the Great Prevaricator was not being straight with us: There is abundant evidence to show that, just as Candidate Nixon sent Anna Chan Chennault to sabotage the 1968 Paris peace talks and prolong the Vietnam War just so the Democrats would lose that year, Candidate Reagan’s people worked with the Iranians to artificially prolong the captivity of the American hostages taken during the fall of the Shah just so he’d beat Jimmy Carter in 1980. (Oh, and by the way: While one of the Iran-Contra hostages, the Reverend Benjamin Weir, did get freed, three more people — Joseph Ciccipio, Frank Reed, and Edward Tracy — would later be taken in his place. Meanwhile, places in America like south central LA had mounds of crack dumped on them courtesy of the CIA’s Contra-aiding operatives — as the agency finally admitted in March of 1998 and again in May of 1999.)
The Reaganistas did everything they could to conceal this operation from us — and ironically, the cover-up efforts are what nearly brought them down. When that failed, it was up to Reagan’s successor, George Herbert Walker Bush — the father of the current White House occupant — to keep the persons indicted from seeing any actual punishment. Like the efforts of his son fifteen years later in protecting Scooter Libby, this was done not out of the goodness of his heart, but because of the very real danger that the indictees would implicate him in order to save their own skins. They were, as Iran-Contra prosecutor Lawrence Walsh would later say, the "firewall" between the Reagan-Bush team and punishment.
You will have noticed, in perusing this post, the prevalence of links from The Consortium news site. This is because Robert Parry, the editor of the site, was the guy who first broke the Iran-Contra story to American audiences when he worked for the AP and Newsweek. This didn’t get him a Pulitzer Prize, but it did get him all but ostracized by the corporate big-money press — you know, the people that hand out Pulitzers to people like Jeff Gerth and Judy Miller?
Right now, Parry’s trying to raise $50,000, the bare-bones minimum he needs so his site doesn’t go dark. It’d be nice if some of you could throw a few shekels (or euros, or even dollars) his way. Throw enough money at him — say, $100 — and he’ll send you an autographed copy of one of his books, a cheap deal at the price. Even if he’d done nothing else in his lifetime, he’d deserve it. (Thanks in advance if you do. And no, he has no idea who I am, much less that I’m doing this for him.)
May you all have a joyous festive season — and may it not be marred by any Christmas Eve Surprises like the one sprung on us in 1992!