A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs

A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs

A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs

A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs

Excerpt

The Iran-contra affairs were covert operations managed by a member of the National Security Council staff. Each of these terms--Iran-contra affairs, covert operations, the National Security Council and its so-called staff--needs some explanation, because they are not what they may seem.

Owing to common usage, we have been saddled with at least two misnomers. There was not one Iran-contra affair, as if the Iran and contra operations were two parts of one whole. They were not. They were, in fact, quite different operations and dealt with very different problems and countries. That both were managed by the same few officials and sometimes intersected at particular points did not make them one and the same affair. Moreover, putting the Iran affair first reverses the order of precedence in the chain of events. The affair of the contras--otherwise known as "Freedom Fighters," actually the armed opposition to the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua--came first and had its own independent origin. The term "contras" originated with the Sandinistas, who denounced their enemies as " contrarrevolucionarios ," and the shorter form was generally adopted.

The other misnomer, the "National Security Council staff," takes us into the institutional context of both affairs. Before we get to the Iran- contra stories themselves, it is well to see how this NSC staff, as it is called, fitted into the structure of the American government and thereby enabled the two affairs to take the course they did.

Institutionally, the beginning goes back to the National Security Act of July 26, 1947, during the Truman administration. This legislation gave birth to both the National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The NSC was set up with four statutory members--the president, vice president, secretary of state, and secretary of defense--and two advisory members, the director of the CIA and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Presidents could also add temporary . . .

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