The Politics of Lying: Implications for Democracy

By Lionel Cliffe; Maureen Ramsay et al. | Go to book overview

6
The Iran-Contra Affairs

Lionel Cliffe

These were no ordinary affairs. In retrospect, it will be seen that they threatened the constitutional foundations of the country. This is not a story and a warning for our days alone. If the story of the Iran-contra affairs is not fully known and understood, a similar usurpation of power by a small, strategically-placed group within the government may well recur before we are prepared to recognize what is happening. For this reason, I have felt that we cannot know too much about this case history of the thin line that separates the legitimate from the illegitimate exercise of power in our government. ( Draper, 1991: xi)

This quote insists on using 'Affairs' in the plural in contrast to more common usage that refers to an ' Iran-Contra Affair', arguing that there were two distinct operations: the sale of weaponry to Iran ('Irangate'), and the channeling of military support to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua (Contragate'). The two were connected: they were both conducted mainly by the ' National Security Council staff', an institution that was itself part of the deception; and cash from the one exercise was used to finance the other. They were both not only ill-advised and later subject to widespread criticism, but they were also arguably contrary to specific laws passed by Congress, and were later to be exposed together in three distinct official investigations: a presidential commission of inquiry (the Tower Report, 1987); Congressional Committee investigations ( Inouye and Hamilton, 1987); and an Independent Counsel appointed by the Attorney General, ( Walsh, 1994). But Draper insists that the two operations had different origins, justifications and outcomes, which need to be separately specified.

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