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Ted Cruz is Getting the Iran-Contra Band Back Together

March 18, 2016

Not to be outdone by Donald Trump's Muslim-bashing, on Tuesday Texas Senator Ted Cruz unveiled his foreign policy team. Topping his "unlikely team of foreign policy rivals" are Frank Gaffney and retired General Jerry Boykin, extremists who respectively questioned President Obama's birthplace and declared of his own Muslim enemies, "I knew my God was bigger than his." Given his repeated declarations that Ronald Reagan was "a man who knew how to deal with the Iranians," it's no surprise that Cruz will turn to national security wisdom to Reagan-era advisors Michael Ledeen and Elliott Abrams.
What is surprising is that reporting from the Washington Post, Bloomberg and most other media outlets completely omits the critical roles of Abrams and Ledeen in the fiasco that was the Iran-Contra Scandal, the national embarrassment in which President Reagan negotiated with terrorists.

, as you'll recall, almost laid waste to the Reagan presidency. Desperate to free U.S. hostages held by Iranian proxies in Lebanon, President Reagan provided weapons Tehran badly needed in its long war with Saddam Hussein (who, of course, was backed by the United States). In a clumsy and illegal attempt to skirt U.S. law, the proceeds of those sales were then funneled to the Contras fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. And as the media appear not to recall, it was Michael Ledeen who established Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar as the middleman to Tehran and Elliott Abrams who then lied to Congress about the Reagan administration's scheme to unlawfully aid the Contras.
As the New York Times recalled, Reagan's fiasco started with an emissary bearing gifts from the Gipper himself:

A retired Central Intelligence Agency official has confirmed to the Senate Intelligence Committee that on the secret mission to Teheran last May, Robert C. McFarlane and his party carried a Bible with a handwritten verse from President Reagan for Iranian leaders.
According to a person who has read the committee's draft report, the retired C.I.A. official, George W. Cave, an Iran expert who was part of the mission, said the group had 10 falsified passports, believed to be Irish, and a key-shaped cake to symbolize the anticipated ''opening'' to Iran.

As his diaries published in 2005 show, President Ronald Reagan was under no illusions about either the illegality of the scheme or that it constituted anything other than a swap of arms for hostages. On Thursday, December 5, 1985, Reagan wrote in his diary:

N.S.C. briefing--probably Bud's last. Subject was our undercover effort to free our 5 hostages held by terrorists in Lebanon. It is a complex undertaking with only a few of us in on it. I won't even write in the diary what we're up to.

Nevertheless, just two days later the Gipper wrote about that very topic. On Saturday, December 7, Reagan noted in his diary:

Day opened with "Rex" (our new dog) on our bed. I then had a meeting with Don R., Cap W. and Bud M., John P., Geo. Schultz and Mahan of C.I.A. This had to do with the complex plan which could return our 5 hostages & help some officials in Iran who want to turn that country from its present course & on to a better relationship with us. It calls for Israel selling some weapons to Iran. As they are delivered in installments by air our hostages will be released. The weapons will go to the moderate leaders in the army who are essential if there is to be a change to a more stable govt. We then sell Israel replacements for the delivered weapons. None of this is a gift--the Iranians pay cash for the weapons--so does Israel.
George S. Cap and Don are opposed--Cong. has imposed a law that we can't sell Iran weapons or sell any other country weapons for resale to Iran. Geo. also thinks this violates our policy of not paying off terrorists. I claim the weapons are for those who want to change the govt of Iran & no ransom is being pd. for the hostages. No direct sale would be made by us to Iran but we would be replacing the weapons sold by Israel.

In case there was any doubt that Ronald Reagan blessed the delivery of hundreds of advanced anti-tank weapons to Tehran, the President himself removed it with his January 17, 1986 diary entry, "I agreed to sell TOWs to Iran."
Of course, that's not what President Reagan told the nation. At least, not at first. As revelations about the weapons shipments to Tehran began to surface, on November 13 1986, Reagan took to the airwaves to address the American people--and lie to their faces:

The charge has been made that the United States has shipped weapons to Iran as ransom payment for the release of American hostages in Lebanon, that the United States undercut its allies and secretly violated American policy against trafficking with terrorists. Those charges are utterly false. The United States has not made concessions to those who hold our people captive in Lebanon. And we will not. The United States has not swapped boatloads or planeloads of American weapons for the return of American hostages. And we will not...
To summarize: Our government has a firm policy not to capitulate to terrorist demands. That no concessions policy remains in force, in spite of the wildly speculative and false stories about arms for hostages and alleged ransom payments. We did not -- repeat -- did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we.

But less than six months later, The Gipper was forced to rewrite his historical revisionism. As President Reagan told the American people in a nationally televised address on March 4, 1987:

"A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not. As the Tower board reported, what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages."

Of course, the pathetic saga didn't end there. Then Lt. Colonel and now Fox News commentator Oliver North saw his Iran-Contra conviction overturned by an appellate court, led by faithful Republican partisan and later Iraq WMD commissioner Laurence Silberman. And in December 1992, outgoing President George H.W. Bush offered Christmas pardons to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five other Iran-Contra scandal figures. Among them were John Poindexter and Elliott Abrams, men who eight years later reprised their roles in the administration of George W. Bush. As it turns out, Abrams--one of the people who brought you the Iraq War--also served as an adviser for Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign. In that capacity, he argued that Congress should give President Obama an authorization to use force against Iran for a preventive war to destroy Tehran's nuclear program. He, along with Ledeen, is now an adviser to Ted Cruz.
For his part, Cruz has repeatedly promised an unflinching line towards Iran, declaring " I will rip to shreds this Iranian nuclear deal on the very first day in office." His role model for U.S.-Iranian relations, as he announced two years ago, is The Gipper himself. Ted Cruz tweeted the New York Times front page of Reagan's swearing-in with the message:

"Now there is a man who knew how to deal with the Iranians."

Deal with the Iranians, that is, by negotiating with terrorists and sending them a cake, a Bible, and $500 million in U.S weapons.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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