Magazine article The Nation

New North Wind?

Magazine article The Nation

New North Wind?

Article excerpt

During the legal maneuvers that preceded Oliver North's trial, the former Marine signaled that the Congressional Iran/contra committees may have missed a significant aspect of the scandal. North's hint came as the Justice Department scrambled to limit his ability to use classified information in his defense.

Part of what the Justice Department wants to cloak is not really secret. It is already known that North and his cohorts, while conducting their covert war in Central America, enlisted the aid of other countries. Although the identities of these nations were routinely reported by the media during the hearings, the White House insisted that they be referred to only by numbers.

North suggests he could do much more than correlate the names with the numbers. In a pretrial motion his lawyers asserted, "At the heart of his case are the quid pro quo and third country arrangements with which the Reagan Administration obtained military support" for the contras, Among the third country arrangements already revealed were El Salvador's providing a home base for North's contra resupply network and Saudi Arabia's pumping of millions of petrodollars to the "resistance." Much more intriguing is the claim about quid pro quos. This would entail real (and embarrassing) secrets and give the Justice Department good cause for becoming apoplectic about the trial. The existence of more extensive, officially sanctioned, symbiotic agreements would mean that the United States engaged in secret diplomacy, establishing foreign policy on the basis of favor trading.

North and his lawyers may, of course, be bluffing, but at least one moment during the hearings suggested they are not. Testimony in closed sessions with C.I.A. officials indicated that the agency had solicited aid for the contras from South Africa. …

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