Iran-Contra's 'Lost Chapter'
By Robert Parry (A Special Report)
June 30, 2008
As historians ponder George W. Bush's disastrous presidency, they may wonder how Republicans perfected a propaganda system that could fool tens of millions of Americans, intimidate Democrats, and transform the vaunted Washington press corps from watchdogs to lapdogs.
To understand this extraordinary development, historians might want to look back at the 1980s and examine the Iran-Contra scandal's "lost chapter," a narrative describing how Ronald Reagan's administration brought CIA tactics to bear domestically to reshape the way Americans perceived the world.
That chapter – which we are publishing here for the first time – was "lost" because Republicans on the congressional Iran-Contra investigation waged a rear-guard fight that traded elimination of the chapter's key findings for the votes of three moderate GOP senators, giving the final report a patina of bipartisanship.
...the Reagan administration had built a domestic covert propaganda apparatus managed by a CIA propaganda and disinformation specialist working out of the National Security Council.
However, with the chapter's key findings deleted, the right-wing domestic propaganda operation not only survived the Iran-Contra fallout but thrived.
So did some of the administration's collaborators, such as South Korean theocrat Sun Myung Moon and Australian press mogul Rupert Murdoch, two far-right media barons who poured billions of dollars into pro-Republican news outlets that continue to influence Washington's political debates to this day.
...President Reagan's "National Security Decision Directive 77" in January 1983 as his administration sought to promote its foreign policy, especially its desire to oust Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government.
In a Jan. 13, 1983, memo, then-National Security Advisor William Clark foresaw the need for non-governmental money to advance this cause. "We will develop a scenario for obtaining private funding," Clark wrote.
As administration officials began reaching out to wealthy supporters, lines against domestic propaganda soon were crossed as the operation took aim at not only at foreign audiences but at U.S. public opinion, the press and congressional Democrats who opposed funding Nicaraguan rebels, known as contras.
...the CIA officer recruited for the NSC job had served as Director of the Covert Action Staff at the CIA from 1978 to 1982 and was a "specialist in propaganda and disinformation."
The chapter cited an Aug. 9, 1983, memo written by Raymond describing Casey's participation in a meeting with public relations specialists to brainstorm how "to sell a 'new product' – Central America – by generating interest across-the-spectrum."
In an Aug. 29, 1983, memo, Raymond recounted a call from Casey pushing his P.R. ideas. Alarmed at a CIA director participating so brazenly in domestic propaganda, Raymond wrote that "I philosophized a bit with Bill Casey (in an effort to get him out of the loop)" but with little success.
A Raymond-authored memo to Casey in August 1986 described the shift of S/LPD – then run by neoconservative theorist Bob Kagan who had replaced Reich – to the control of the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, which was headed by Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, another prominent neoconservative.
Another important figure in the pro-contra propaganda was NSC staffer Oliver North, who spent a great deal of his time on the Nicaraguan public diplomacy operation even though he is better known for arranging secret arms shipments to the contras and to Iran's radical Islamic government, leading to the Iran-Contra scandal.
Miller and Gomez facilitated transfers of money to Swiss and offshore banks at North's direction, as they "became the key link between the State Department and the Reagan White House with the private groups and individuals engaged in a myriad of endeavors aimed at influencing the Congress, the media and public opinion," the chapter said.
...Elliott Abrams. Though convicted of misleading Congress in the Iran-Contra Affair and later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush – Abrams is now deputy adviser to George W. Bush's NSC, where he directs U.S.-Middle East policy.
Bob Kagan remains another prominent neocon theorist in Washington, writing op-eds for the Washington Post. Oliver North was given a news show on Fox.
Otto Reich now is advising Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Latin American affairs. Lee Hamilton is a senior national security adviser to Democratic candidate Barack Obama.
Beyond these individuals, the manipulative techniques that were refined in the 1980s – especially the skill of exaggerating foreign threats – have proved durable, bringing large segments of the American population into line behind the Iraq War in 2002-03. ...
, by Robert Parry
, by Robert Parry