Forgetting Reagan’s Worst Scandal

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.

President Ronald Reagan, delivering his Inaugural Address on Jan. 20, 1981.

President Ronald Reagan, delivering his Inaugural Address on Jan. 20, 1981.

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.”

He tweeted back: “good point, we should we have couched that” I responded: “No corrections on cable. Cause, 24-hour news.”

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.”

Sam Husseini is communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy. Follow him on twitter: @samhusseini. [This story first appeared at Husseini’s blog.]

8 comments for “Forgetting Reagan’s Worst Scandal

  1. angryspittle
    June 26, 2015 at 22:06

    wouldn’t have been…….damnit.

  2. Angryspittle
    June 26, 2015 at 22:05

    The worst Reagan scandal was the October surprise. Without that one there would n to have been Iran Contra.

  3. June 26, 2015 at 21:09

    Yes, and we would really be stupid to not connect the dots to the overthrow of the gentle and finally healing democracy in Honduras under the Obama administration. Honduras was the US base for the contras, with a US written constitution that was forbidden to be changed, for eternity. The current US president called the interim dictator, “Democracy Healer.” From Obama to Reagan is not that far; the kidnapped president of Honduras was taken to a US airbase and flown out of the country.

    Reagan was a big guy, a fairly rough and tumble college football kinda guy who liked being popular. Reagan considered himself a team player; he was no match for the huge team that showed him the plays, that first day on the job, president of central north America … Mr. Nice Guy, with a goofy down home grin. People said he was stupid, yet he studied the role, won the debates, and became president.

    • Mark
      June 27, 2015 at 10:30

      Yes, he became a criminal president — one who wrapped his illegalities and anti-freedom, anti-democratic and anti-capitalistic — hypocritical — policies in the flag of false patriotism — which so many, no smarter and as stupid as Reagan, bought and still proudly carry today.

    • MrK
      June 27, 2015 at 12:03

      From Obama to Reagan is not that far; the kidnapped president of Honduras was taken to a US airbase and flown out of the country.

      And add to that President Clinton who kidnapped President Aristide of Haiti and flew him to the Central African Republic, because he was too populist and not neoliberal enough.

      So I have no illusions about the Clintons whatsoever.

  4. F. G. Sanford
    June 26, 2015 at 17:17

    Well, it’s the “Gipper” here, speaking to you from my cozy little grave. You know, I just had to laugh reading this. Speaking of small government, I guess nobody remembers when the Feds investigated me for conspiracy. That’s when I was a paid Hollywood informer for Hoover. My fiscal austerity program increased the national debt by 350%, but so far, nobody’s trickling down on my grave. Me and Bill Casey imported tons of cocaine, then, we gave minor drug offenders long prison terms – just to help out with unemployment. Paul Krugman blames the 2008 melt down on me, but we’ll talk about him later. That cocaine operation was done with the help of Klaus Barbie. Good old Klaus, I got hooked up with him through Helene Von Damm, who was Otto von Bolschwing’s protege. You may remember Otto: he was Adolf Eichmann’s boss, but somehow, he slipped past Nuremberg. Well, I made Helene my Personnel Manager, which made it a lot easier to get Nazis on my staff. Allen Dulles brought them into USA under the Crusade for Freedom (CFF) program, and I found them all good jobs. By the way, that’s how we got OUN-B Nazis into America to help swing the ‘ethnic vote’. And y’all thought the “Southern Strategy” was clever! Back on the 50’s I was spokesman for the CFF, and Casey headed up the International Rescue committee. That’s how we got Nazi big shot Laszlo Pasztor, and made him director of the Free Congress Foundation. I even made Ykaterina Chumachenko of the OUN-B my Deputy Director of Presidential Liaison. Yep, back in the day, Harry Truman slipped past Dewey because of the “Jewish vote”. We had to come up with the “Eastern European Ethnic Strategy” to counter that, and Ukrainian and Hungarian fascists helped a lot. You know, I have to laugh today when I see all these Jewish Neocons working so hard to help make my program work. And before I forget, when we were bringing all these Nazis in, George was there, and he helped. That darned leaker James Bamford let the cat out of the bag when he told about the secret office inside the NSA. They call it the “Jew Room”, where they keep an eye on folks like Krugman. But I bet you think I’m making this up. We count on that! Yesirree, if I wasn’t so senile, I could tell you lots of Nazi stories, but I have to be careful. It could tarnish my treacherous reputation. But don’t worry, America, my Nazi legacy is so embedded that you can go back to sleep. I know none of you will bother to follow up on any of this. You’re already too confused with Iran -Contra.

  5. June 26, 2015 at 14:45

    Iran-Contra was more than a scandal it was a high level conspiracy, which is another reason the media would like Americans to forget. As the-late Gore Vidal remarked in his 2002 essay, The Enemy Within, “…it is an article of faith [among the media] that there are no conspiracies in American life.”

  6. MrK
    June 26, 2015 at 14:07

    Gramam E. Fuller is “a former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA” and “a former senior political scientist at RAND”.

    Graham E. Fuller was the CIA analyst whose report was at the bases of the Iran-Contra events.

    Graham E. Fuller’s daughter Samantha Ankara Fuller was married to the Boston Bombers uncle Ruslan Tsarni/Tsarnaev.

    AL-Monitor belongs to Jamal Daniel, a protege of Neil Mallon Bush.

    (AL MONITOR) Former CIA officer: ‘Absurd’ to link uncle of Boston suspects, Agency
    Posted on April 27, 2013 by Laura Rozen

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