The “lost chapter” of the official investigation into the Iran-Contra scandal was published two weeks ago and is compulsory reading for anyone trying to see through Republican Presidential candidate John McCain’s spin about Iran in the US election.
For example, did you know that Otto Reich — head of the Office of Public Diplomacy under Reagan — is advising Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Latin American affairs.
Robert Parry, an investigative journalist who revealed much of the original scandal, published the chapter on Consortiumnews at the end of June.
In essence what happened during the Iran-Contra dealings was that the US covertly sold battlefield missiles and other weapons to Iran $US48 million, despite Iran being classified by the US as a sponsor of international terrorism. Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council directed the operation which was thus officially at arms-length from the direct responsibility of President Ronald Reagan.
The black op was intended to secure the release of US hostages held by Iran-sponsored Shi’ite terrorists in Lebanon and then, bizarrely, to sequester the profits into the military war waged against the Nicaraguan government by the Contras, but also a public relations war against the US people.
According to Parry, the report was buried at the time by Republican members of the congressional Iran-Contra investigation. Parry has timed the release perfectly.
A quick look at the 98 pages is enough to agree with Parry’s analysis. This chapter is focused on the domestic propaganda campaign; how the US administration used — and outsourced — CIA covert operations methods developed to bring down foreign governments against the US media, politicians and the public.
The neo-cons were quite happy to push the US administration to the limits of legality — creating gothically complex networks of official committees, avoiding Congressional scrutiny, etc, but knew that the most extreme information warfare against their own citizens could only be conducted by private organisations. Karl R. “Spitz” Channell raised money for propaganda, sequestering money in overseas accounts on North’s instruction. His key National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty raised $10,000,000 for the Contras, with $2,000,000 used purely on domestic misinformation.
Even after the “s-xing up” scandals of the Iraq war, this report makes chilling reading. For example, we read that at one time there were up to five intelligence experts seconded to the propaganda unit from the US Army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The report reveals a nice “culture wars” approach to communications framing. For example, notes from a meeting with PR consultants detail the messaging used against Democrat Congressman Mike Barnes, who was also a candidate for the US Senate in party primaries at the time. (His crime was to have oppose military assistance to the Contras in 1986.)
The messages used for fundraising to hit at Barnes included:
Watergate babies, want to get at the President [Ronald Reagan] through Ollie [Oliver North]
Special PAC [Political Action Committee] to do only one thing: Only to rid Congress of Congressmen that are trying to undermine President in his anti-terrorist policies.
But the punchline is that those associated with this scandalous episode in American public life, even some convicted for their behaviour, are not just advising McCain, but are in the current White House administration, as the world drifts towards war with Iran. Elliott Abrams, convicted of misleading Congress (but later pardoned), is Deputy adviser to George W Bush’s NSC.
He directs US policy on, you guessed it — the Middle East.
Dan Cass is a former Greenpeace spinner and writer.