Rethinking Iran-Contra: A Much Darker Story?
But an accumulating body of evidence suggests that the traditional view of Iran-Contra was mistaken, that this conventional understanding of the
scandal was like starting a novel in the middle and assuming you’re reading the opening chapter.
Indeed, it now appears clear that the Iran-Contra Affair began five years earlier in 1980, with what has often been treated as a separate controversy,
called the October Surprise case, dealing with alleged contacts between Reagan’s presidential campaign and Iran.
In that sense, the Iran-Contra/October Surprise scandal represented the missing link in a larger American political narrative covering the sweep of
several decades, explaining how the United States shifted away from a nation grappling with epochal problems, from energy dependence and environmental
degradation to bloated military budgets and an obsession with empire.
For all his shortcomings and half-measures, President Carter had begun promoting solar and other alternative energies; he pushed conservation programs
and worked to reduce the federal deficit; and abroad, he advocated greater respect for human rights and pulled back from the imperial presidency.
More on point, he cashiered many of the freewheeling Cold Warriors of the CIA and demanded land-for-peace concessions from Israel.
The secret relationships, born of the 1980 hostage dealings, created the framework for the Reagan administration’s approval of Israel’s
clandestine arms shipments to Iran beginning immediately after Reagan took office in 1981, just as the American hostages were finally released. Those
initial Israeli arms sales gradually evolved into the Iran-Contra weapons transfers.
Thus, when the Iran-Contra scandal surfaced in fall 1986, the subsequent cover-up was not simply to protect Reagan from possible impeachment for
violating the Arms Export Control Act and the congressional ban on military aid to the Nicaraguan contras, but from exposure of the even darker,
earlier phase of the scandal, which would implicate Israel and the CIA.
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