The mainstream U.S. media shies from direct criticism of conservative icon Ronald Reagan, so the history of the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages deal often gets forgotten even amid discussions about the U.S. policy against negotiating with terrorists, as Sam Husseini notes.
By Sam Husseini
Much of the media has been abuzz with President Barack Obama’s announcement that, as NBC put it: “the government will no longer threaten to criminally prosecute families of American hostages who pay ransom to get loved ones back from such groups as ISIS…”
The NBC report — and virtually every other report on this subject I’ve seen — have made no mention of when the U.S. government did pay for hostages in the Iran-Contra Affair. That’s when the Reagan administration sold arms to Iran in exchange for hostages and illegally used the funds for the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
An extreme example of media mis-reporting was Jake Tapper who claimed on Nov. 18, 2014: “It’s a policy the U.S. government has never wavered on. America does not negotiate with terrorists. You have heard them say that, but now the Obama administration is ordering a full review of how it does deal with hostage situations in light of recent criticism from families of Americans brutally murdered by ISIS terrorists.”
So, I tweeted to Tapper: “never wavered on negotiating for hostages? I guess Iran-Contra didn’t happen.”
And indeed, no correction on was forthcoming. Because it’s not like CNN has a lot of time to fill to educate, especially younger viewers about what happened in Iran-Contra.
Particularly insidious is Tapper’s notion that he should have “couched that” differently. Firstly, it avoids acknowledging that what he said was false: “It’s a policy the U.S. government has never wavered on.” That’s just a brazen lie.
But in a subtle way, his response is even worse. Tapper is would seem, is tacitly blaming himself for not finessing the lie better. Perhaps he thinks it would be better had he said: “Administration after administration has declared they don’t negotiate with terrorists, but now, that policy is being reconsidered…”
This would fulfill the goal of creating a false impression while not being so oafish as to outright lie. And in some way, that’s what most of the media did on this story (and countless others) — create the impression that the U.S. has never traded for hostages without outright lying about it.
All this helps put Iran-Contra, one of the few instances when the machinations of policy were exposed to public scrutiny to at least some degree, further into the memory hole. Indeed, what’s called the Iran-Contra Affair helped bring some light on several insidious policies, including plans to outright suspend the U.S. Constitution.
Another deceitful aspect of this story is it further solidifies the “definition” of terrorist that’s commonly employed by major media being whoever the U.S. government says is a terrorist. These hypocrisies certainly include as FAIR and others have noted not calling Dylann Storm Roof a terrorist. But outside even that discussion is if the violence of the U.S. government and its allies shouldn’t be called terrorism.
Much is also lost by not understanding the dynamics around the Iran-Contra Affair — which involved the U.S. arming both Iran and Iraq while those two countries fought a bloody war. Dahlia Wasfi in her recent piece “Battling ISIS: Iran-Iraq war redux” points out that the U.S. government is in effect doing the same thing in the Mideast now — arming warring sides.
She writes: “Just as with Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, the people in the battlefields of Syria and Iraq pay the highest price. And just as was the case in the 1980s, the devastation of these countries serves U.S. and Israeli hegemony.”