Friday, January 13, 2006

October Surprise 

Stupid asks a not-so-stupid question:
Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to revisit the original October Surprise: the charge that Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign covertly worked with Iran to keep American hostages in captivity until after the 1980 elections. I'm embarrassed to admit this (especially to -this- readership), but I thought this had been debunked years ago. I couldn't have been more wrong. In 1992 there were Congressional investigations, but the focus was on whether President Bush (I) was involved in certain particulars. The broader conspiracy revolved around Reagan's campaign chairman and later CIA director William Casey (who died in 1987). Many of Casey's records mysteriously disappeared and his family refused to produce others, even under subpoena. The Senate's Special Counsel decried the lack of cooperation. Even so, the Senate found that Casey had at-best acted "at the outer limits of propriety." The House’s investigation was more extensive, but after the ranking Democrat (Lee Hamilton) pronounced Bush I innocent, the rest of the investigation quickly dropped off the radar.

Fast-forward to January 20, 2001: Dubya's inauguration day, and the effective date for the Presidential Records Act, a Watergate era reform which ordered the release a President's records 12 years after leaving office. Reagan’s papers were to be released, however White House counsel Alberto Gonzales ordered the papers withheld for "review." Ari Fleischer promised such reviews would not exceed 90 days, but Gonzales ultimately orders three reviews. On November 2, 2001, Dubya signs an executive order giving a sitting president the right to block releases under the Act (in 2005 he relied on the same executive order to withhold some of John Roberts papers).

Today the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis stares us in the face, thanks to the ascendancy of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Given the nuclear stakes involved and the circumstantial evidence surrounding Casey, don't we need to know whether Iran has a blackmail card against the current Administration? Admittedly, if they did you'd suspect they would have used it during the Iraq-Iran war. But up until now I've thought the Administration's drift/wimpiness on Iran (they can't really believe that an oil-rich nation can be sanctioned into compliance, can they?) was merely reflecting political realities. Am I cracking-up or is there reason to be more paranoid?

P.S. Hopefully I e-mailed everyone who wrote to suggest computer sources, but if not let me thank you here. A couple of places donate the kind of computers we're interested in to local charities and if what they told me is typical, the digital divide isn't shrinking as much as the free marketers would have us believe. Anyway, the contribution jar is still open (I've got a LOT of packing to do!) at IraqSchools@hotmail.com and I promise not to make fun of Carolina contributors after the Bears win this Sunday.

P.P.S. FYI, descriptions of some of the withheld Reagan docs:

"Talking Points on Iran/Contra Affairs";
a two-page memo for the President from the Attorney General, "Appeal of the Decision Denying the Enforcement of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987."
memos dated 22 November and 1 December 1988 for the President entitled, "Pardon for Oliver North, John Poindexter, and Joseph Fernandez";
memo: "Use of Military Aircraft by Mrs. Reagan."


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