Cheney Learned Iran-Contra Lessons
Editor’s Note: The Iran-Contra Affair of the 1980s was the “missing link” connecting Watergate and the national security scandals of the 1970s to the restoration of the imperial presidency under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney this decade.
Other dangerous patterns also were established during Iran-Contra, including a bullying Republican Party aided by right-wing attack groups, a timid Democratic opposition, and a feckless Washington news media unwilling to do the hard work of accountability.
Interestingly, one key person who “got” this bigger picture was Cheney, who was White House chief of staff during the collapse of the imperial presidency in the 1970s; was a chief congressional defender of the Iran-Contra criminals; and then oversaw the restoration of the imperial presidency after 9/11.
From that experience, Cheney also gained an understanding of how important cover-ups could be in this process, as Jonathan Schwarz notes in this guest essay:
In a new article by Stephen "W.W. Beauchamp" Hayes, former Vice President Cheney gripes extensively about the Obama administration. It's exactly what you'd expect.
But what you might not expect is that Cheney (seemingly inadvertently) confirms that there was a massive cover-up of the Iran-Contra scandal by the Reagan administration:
"I went through the Iran-Contra hearings and watched the way administration officials ran for cover and left the little guys out to dry. And I was bound and determined that wasn't going to happen this time."
Considering that two national security advisers (Robert McFarlane and John Poindexter) and the Secretary of Defense (Caspar Weinberger) were some of the "little guys" who were prosecuted for Iran-Contra, it's obvious who Cheney is talking about as hanging them out to dry: President Reagan and Vice President Bush.
Here's how journalist Robert Parry describes the conclusions of Iran-Contra Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, as described in his memoir, Firewall:
According to Firewall, the cover-up conspiracy took formal shape at a meeting of Reagan and his top advisers in the Situation Room at the White House on Nov. 24, 1986.
The meeting's principal point of concern was how to handle the troublesome fact that Reagan had approved illegal arms sales to Iran in fall 1985, before any covert-action finding had been signed. The act was a clear felony -- a violation of the Arms Export Control Act -- and possibly an impeachable offense.
Though virtually everyone at the meeting knew that Reagan had approved those shipments through Israel, Attorney General Edwin Meese announced what would become the cover story.
According to Walsh's narrative, Meese "told the group that although [NSC adviser Robert] McFarlane had informed [Secretary of State George] Shultz of the planned shipment, McFarlane had not informed the president. ...
"[White House chief of staff Don] Regan, who had heard McFarlane inform the president and who had heard the president admit to Shultz that he knew of the shipment of Hawk [anti-aircraft] missiles, said nothing. Shultz and [Defense Secretary Caspar] Weinberger, who had protested the shipment before it took place, said nothing.
“[Vice President George] Bush, who had been told of the shipment in advance by McFarlane, said nothing. Casey, who [had] requested that the president sign the retroactive finding to authorize the CIA-facilitated delivery, said nothing.
“[NSC adviser John] Poindexter, who had torn up the finding, said nothing. Meese asked whether anyone knew anything else that hadn't been revealed. No one spoke."
When Shultz returned to the State Department, he dictated a note to his aide, Charles Hill, who wrote down that Reagan's men were "rearranging the record." They were trying to protect the President through a "carefully thought out strategy" that would "blame it on Bud" McFarlane.
It really is considerate of Cheney to tell the truth about this. Here's an interesting story from Parry's book Lost History about how he saw firsthand, as a reporter working on the Iran-Contra scandal, the kind of thing Cheney may be reacting to:
“How quickly the investigative space was closing down hit home to me on March 10, 1987. I had been asked to attend a dinner at the home of [Newsweek] bureau chief Evan Thomas in an exclusive neighborhood in northwest Washington.
“The guests that night were retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who was one of three members of the Tower Commission [set up by Reagan to investigate Iran-Contra], and Rep. Dick Cheney, R-Wyo., who was the ranking House Republican on the congressional Iran-Contra committee.
“At the table also were some of Newsweek's top executives and a few of us lowly correspondents. As the catered dinner progressed and a tuxedoed waiter kept the wine glasses full, the guests were politely questioned.
“Scowcroft, a studious-looking man, fidgeted as if he wanted to get something off his chest. "Maybe I shouldn't say this but," he began with a slight hesitation. He then continued, "If I were advising Admiral Poindexter and he had told the president about the diversion, I would advise him to say that he hadn't."
It's nice when people at the highest levels of government confirm what everyone already knew, even if it takes a few decades.
Jonathan Schwarz's Web site is tinyrevolution.com.
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