Skip to comments.Reagan, Revisionism and Iran/Contra
Posted on 06/08/2004 7:00:53 PM PDT by cwb
I'm sick of the ignorance by a media that never understood the implications of the Cold War...and even the events and misrepresentations of Iran/Contra. Before one can understand what liberals like to call Reagan's great betrayal, one must have a partial understanding of foreign policy and precedent even before Reagan became president. Since the days of Harry Truman, every president usually had the full support of Congress when dealing with communist/Soviet aggression. The disgrace of Iran/Contra wasn't what Reagan did...but what an obstructionist (mostly democrat) congress did. From the very day Reagan set foot in office, the far left wing of the Democrat Party did all they could to prevent Reagan from carrying out long-term US policy...including policy that was supported even in the prior administration.
As Peter Schweizer noted in his book, (Reagan's War) this obstructionist attitude was present even during the campaign as documents revealed that Jimmy Carter turned to the Soviet Ambassador in DC for help in defeating Reagan for the presidency. The myopic view from the left at this time was that this wild cowboy from Hollywood would jeorpardize all the so-called advances that the Democrats had made with the Soviets...and that Reagan would only drive a deeper wedge between the two countries, with his hard-nosed approach. Of course, the Soviet's would only be too happy to oblige this request as they certainly didn't want anyone challenging their superiority around the planet.
Fortunately, Reagan had precendence in this matter, as not only was the Truman Doctrine applicable in his support, but also the Monroe Doctrine that specifically said: "The America continients, by free and independent conditions which they have assumed and mantain, are hencefourth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers." There is something deeply disturbing that before Reagan was elected, both, Presidents and Congress were sending Americans to fight (and die) on the other side of planet to defend liberty against communism; and yet, suddenly when this threat appears in our own hemisphere...in our own backyards, congress decides the battle isn't worthy.
Contrary to liberal belief, Soviet communism was very much a threat and was encroaching into the Western Hemisphere at an alarming rate. Liberal claims of a dying ideology are completely false when one realizes that between 1974-1979 the Soviets had went on to occupy 10 different countries. This also made their successful coup in Afghanistan a particularily important develpoment with the oil wealth of the Mid-East well within range. This was a peripheral reason why Iran/Iraq would become an important part of Reagan policy.
The same was true with Central America, were, with Cuba already in communist hands, regions such as Nicaragua and El Salvador also became much more important. This is what also made Grenada so important, because if the communst had gotten a foothold there, the landing strip and airport being developed would've provided the Soviets easier access to the Carribean...and thus Latin America. Reagans stand on this small island sent an immediate message to the Soviets that the Western Hemisphere was off limits.
The hypocrisy over the issues surrounding Iran/Contra is that both of these events were the result of failed policies in the Carter administration. Although the Contra conflict is associated with the Reagan years, the truth is it was Carter who suspended all economic and military support to this government on Feb. 19, 1979. While the Somozan government had badly mismanaged their affairs of state, many knew the alternative could be much worse. Despite these warnings...and even a full page ad in the NY Times by Congress, Carter was unrelenting and on July 9, 1979 Somoza fled the country.
While the FSLN and new GNR government claimed its desires to establish good realtions with the US, their actions raised some serious doubts...especially when weapons sent by Cuba to Nicaragua began making their way into El Salvado and other regions of Central America. This took Carter by surpise since he had already re-establisheed full diplomatic relations with this new government. As a result of this duplicity, it was the CARTER administration that decided to start hedging its bets as they also began funding some of the more democratic elements...later to be called the Contras. It was only in Jan. of 1981, just days before Reagan's Inauguration, that Carter suspended this support for both the GRN and the democratic forces. These activities were a far cry from the later-passed Boland Amendment that Congress enacted to prevent Reagan and the CIA from continuing these same policies.
The Iran portion was also a little more complicated than just a weapons for hostage exchange. Again, as was the case in Nicaragua, the Carter administration hung a US ally out to dry. While Liberals charged the Shah with all kinds of brutallity, they failed to realize that this was an ally trying to hold his country together, not only from the fundmantalist threat, but from a Soviet insurgence that was now on one of their borders. Yes, the Shah sometimes resorted to repressive means...but that repression was aimed at those trying to destablilize his country.
While Iran ultimatley became an unfriendly government (thank you, Jimmy), the US never wanted to see a completely defeated Iran at this time. This would've left it open for Soviet insurgents, who we later discovered, were not only working with Saddam but also with the new Afghanistan-puppet government. The Soviets would become Saddam's biggest supplier for his war in Iran because their intentions were to completely destroy the government making it easier for their own insurgents. While the US wanted Iran bruised, we didn't want it broken to the point of collapse, leaving it open to Soviet occupation. If the USSR had gotten its hands on Iran and its oil wealth, the Cold War and the Mid-East would've been completely different, today.
This was already a major concern with the USSR's occupation of Afghanistan on one border of Iran and Saddam's ongoing war with Iran on the other border. The Soviet's presence in Afghanistan was so influential that it actually helped finance part of the very destabilization that led to the Iran Revolution. Cross-border insurgents, led by sympathetic Shi'ites and other Tudeh party members within Iran, iteself, were attempting to move Iran towards the USSR. These groups worked hand-in-hand with the fundamnetalist in their efforts to depose the Shah and move Iran away from its Western roots.
It should also (importantly) be noted that while Reagan initially supported Iraq in its war with Iran, this policy started under CARTER...just as the support for the Mujahedin did in Afghanistan. This entire policy was the brain child of Carter's NSA, Zbigniew Brzeznizki, who described this policy as an "Arch of Crisis." In fact, his aide, Gary Sick insists that Saddam was given the green light to go to war, by the US, who finally saw the fundamentalist in Iran as a great threat. The Carter administration was waging two covert wars in the Mid-East, both with their tacit approval of Saddam's attack on Iran...and with the US's new support for the Mujahedin in Afghanistan as they fought the Soviets. So, for those who blame Reagan for the rise of Islamism in Iran/Afghanistan and Saddam...think again. In fact, if you read Brzezinski's own interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, he actually takes credit for drawing the Soviets into a fight in Afghanistan when Carter signed a secret directive on July 3, 1979...6 months BEFORE the Soviet invasion (Dec. 24, 1979).
As much as I despise Carter, this was the right policy...which Reagan further implimented, corrected and finished. What was a surprise to all...and threatned this very complicated policy, was that Saddam was playing both sides as he was getting incredible material support from the Soviets. This support changed the entire picture in the Mid-East, as this new alliance didn't just threaten to bruise Iran (which we wanted), it threatened to crush Iran (which Saddam and the Soviets wanted). This was unacceptable as not only would Iran's oil wealth fuel the Soviet war (and economic) machine, the entire Mid-East would've been endangered. This is something to think about when you hear that weapons were sold to Iran, because it may have been more than just about hostages.
This narrow-minded view when it comes to Iran/Contra has to stop as it was far more complicated than what the media made it out to be. Lost in the equation is always the Carter administration's role in these policies. These events were fundamental to the defeat of the USSR, who had been making advances towards the Mid-East's wealth for decades. In fact, one of the very first confrontations in the Cold War occured shortly after WWII ended, when the Soviets refused to withdrawal their forces from positions in Iran. Heck, by 1972 the Soviets had over 15,000 troops in Egypt, training their forces in what was a mutual freindship pact. A closer look at these events shows that had the Soviets been successful in the Mid-East, they would've had enormous amounts of wealth at their disposal.
While the "closed" economic system of Communism is doomed to failure, the Soviets had "opened-up" their system through expansionism and allies who would've helped support the survival of the Soviet Union for some time to come. The Soviet system collapsed because they were forced at every turn to expend more resources and men because Reagan confronted them at every oppurtunity. Afghanistan literally became the Soviet's Vietnam, as they lost valuable soldiers and resources in that war. Reagan made them spend more because he built up our military, forcing them to compete if they wanted to remain relevant. If not for this intervention throughout the world, the Soviets would have spent much less and established new trading partners that would've helped the Soviet Union recover and further prosper. Sorry... the Soviet Union was still a threat and Reagan was directly responsible for its failure.
In truth, Iran-Contra was one of the most successful foreign policy iniatives post-WWII.
It helped bring democracy to Central America - without American soldiers dieing for it, and it also helped produce a much desired draw in the Iran-Iraq war.
Prior to 1991, the Leftist line was that Reagan shouldn't have provided any help to Iran, that we should have been helping Iraq more heavily.
Amusingly after 1991, the line suddenly because that Iran-Contra did nothing for the Iranians and we should have done more.
Your article is interesting, but what about sources? I recall reading this in some LaRouchian journal, so forgive my concern.
Certainly I can remember the Dems posturing and blocking any sensible action on Nicaragua. Certainly I can remember Ollie's email collection. I dimly recall the Carter administration as ineffective at just about everything...did they really encourage the Contras? Or was it the anti-Somoza Guerillas?
More certainly subsequent events bore out the reality - the Sandanistas had feet of dung...and the populace ditched them, given the chance.
Great article cwb! However, you calling the Liberal Congress "Obstructionists" is being too kind, imho.
Sorry...I don't follow LaRouche. And actually some of this stuff is common knowledge. I'll have to dig out the sources tomorrow, as everything is pretty much available through Google. However, a search of "Brzezinski and Afghanistan" will lead to a number of direct quotes from him...as well as "Gary sick and the Iran/Iraq war."
Heck, some of the info I got right from the History channel, as I transcribed from one of their programs. None of this is really a surprise when you consider some of the so-called shady accusations that eminated from places like Arkansas of all places:) I'll check back tomorrow.
When I hear about Iran-Contra as an illegal action I think that now in Central America there is free elections when at one time it was in danger of going communist.
Then I think how much better the World would of been if Truman had did the same type of action and prevented China from going Communist in 1949. No Communist China then no Korean or Vietnamese War.
So, are you accusing those people of being simpletons? I was referring to folks I've heard today who parrot whatever nonsense they hear on TV as if it were reality...
Here is some of the information that supports the contention that Carter, did in fact, support some of the resistance forces (anti-Sandinistas) in Nicaragua before withdrawing that support as he left office. While Ronald Reagan first used the term Contras (Counter-Revoultionary Armies) to describe these groups...make no mistake, that's who these "opponents/resistance forces" were, as they comprised everything from moderates to more extreme elements.
"Closer to home, Carter also made his mark in Central America. As journalist William Blum details, in 1978, the future Nobel Peace Prize winner attempted to create a "moderate" alternative to the Sandinistas through covert CIA support for "the press and labor unions in Nicaragua." After the Sandinistas took power, Blum explains, "Carter authorized the CIA to provide financial and other support to opponents." Also in that region, one of Carter's final acts as president was to order $10 million in military aid and advisors to El Salvador, perhaps "to promote economic and social development."
This was further corroborated from Oliver North on numerous occasions...including a broadcast on Hannity and Colmes from around Feb. 26, 2004, when he said:
"The fact is nobody in the government of the United States, [going all the way back to the earliest days of this under Jimmy Carter], ever had anything to do with running drugs to support the Nicaraguan resistance."
Now, before anybody starts thinking that Jimmy Carter did the right thing in any of these events...think again. These crises began because "Jimmy Carter" naively thought that nothing could be worse than these former governments. Carter believed, just as he did in Iran, that these opposition movements were really sincere in their desires for progressive change.
The Sandinistans made all kinds of promises of how things would be better...only to turn around and install a dictatorial government that was many times more repressive. While some of those in the Carter administration realized this failure, it is still unclear if Carter ever did...even though they made a course correction.
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