Obama’s POW release: OMG. How about Reagan and Iran-contra?
Several in the GOP are pitching a hissy fit over the release of an American POW over the weekend. Maybe they should remember the highly illegal actions taken by the Reagan administration in the 1980s during the Iran-Contra affair.
Two days ago, President Obama announced that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held by the Taliban in Afghanistan and possibly in Pakistan for five years, was being released in exchange for the release of five prisoners from the prison in Guantanamo Bay to Qatar.
Sen. James Inhofe (R, Stone Age), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R, Hypocrisy), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, issued a joint statement railing that Obama had “broken the law” because he hadn’t notified Congress 30 days in advance and hadn’t explained how the threat by the five prisoners had been mitigated.
(You know, if you in Congress had agreed to CLOSE Gitmo, like Obama has tried to do ever since he was elected president, that wouldn’t have been a problem. And does anyone really think that Republicans in Congress would have kept their mouths shut about this? It’s been reported that Bergdahl’s health issues made the exchange of immediate importance. Besides, the Obama administration DID tell Congress that officials have been working on this. But we digress.)
Back to Saint Ronnie. Let’s remember the huge and much more illegal scandal that occurred during the Reagan presidency, when, working in secret, officials in the Reagan administration agreed to sell arms to Iran — a country that held Americans in captivity for 444 days — and divert some of the proceeds to fund a clandestine war in Nicaragua. Reagan was determined to undermine the democratic election in Nicaragua that had elected Daniel Ortega as president. Reagan did everything he could to fight the Sandanista government, including supplying weapons and financial support to the opposition, the right-wing Iran contras.
Congress had passed two laws limiting Reagan’s power in Nicaragua. Instead of following the laws, Reagan and his staff searched for ways to get around them.
Iran and Iraq were at war throughout the 1980s. Iran wanted to buy U.S.-made missiles, but there was a U.S. embargo on selling any arms to Iran. Meanwhile, seven Americans were being held hostage by a pro-Iranian group in Lebanon. So the Reagan administration arranged a deal to sell arms to Iran in exchange for the release of the Americans. All this was done in secret, because it was against the law. (Only three were released, and they were replaced by three more Americans soon afterward. Secretary of State George Schultz referred to this as a “hostage bazaar.”)
A Lebanese newspaper exposed the whole affair in November 1985, after the U.S. had delivered 1,500 missiles to Iran. At first, Reagan went on TV and vehemently denied the whole thing. A week later, he said the weapons sale was not tied to the hostage release.
While investigating these issues, Attorney General Ed Meese discovered that the U.S. government could account for only $12 million of the $30 million that Iran had paid for the missiles. It turned out that Lt. Col. Oliver North, from his post on the National Security Council, was sending the extra funds to pay for activities of the contras, with the full knowledge of the White House.
The congressional and independent investigations and trials took years, with much chest-thumping testimony from North, a decorated Marine with a chest full of ribbons. His secretary, Fawn Hall, who had done her best to cover her boss’s tracks by shredding as many documents as possible until the shredder broke down from overuse, actually uttered these words to Congress: “Sometimes you have to go above the law.”
Fourteen people were charged with operational or cover-up crimes. North was convicted, but his conviction was overturned on a technicality. (Of course, today he’s on — where else — Fox News.) President George W. Bush pardoned six people involved in the scandal, including National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, already convicted, and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who hadn’t faced trial yet.
Reagan and Bush continued to claim that they had NO IDEA about the entire scheme, which is beyond implausible. The Reagan-appointed Tower Commission determined that Reagan’s “disengagement” from running the White House meant that he had nothing to do with Iran-contra. Might “disengagement” mean that Reagan was already suffering from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease when he was president? Televised interviews with Reagan late in his presidency include a lot of shots of Reagan saying, “I don’t remember.”
Even worse than the initial statements about Bergdahl’s release are the ridiculous statements being made by the likes of half-term, half-brained Alaska Gov. $arah Palin, who says that he has “un-American” beliefs. Some soldiers who served with him are calling him a deserter, a charge being repeated on — again, where else — the Fake News Channel. McKeon promises hearings — HEARINGS! — on the whole matter. Because in addition to all of their vacation time, lawmakers don’t have anything else to do.
So don’t get your knickers in a twist, Sen. Inhofe. Stop getting your undies in a bunch, Rep. McKeon. Just be glad that Bergdahl will soon be back with his family in Idaho.