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Untold secrets about Covert operations of IRAN-CONTRA

Monday, March 28, 2011

Untold secrets about Covert operations of IRAN-CONTRA

George Bush would have preferred that all of the policies and covert operations he initiated remain secret. When they didn't, he and his staff simply denied their existence, or their involvement in them. To set the historical record straight, it's important to look at George Bush's entire repertoire of official responses to all of the scandals which came under the umbrella of what became commonly known as the "Iran-Contra Affair."

Bush insisted that he was "out of the loop" on all matters relating to Iran-Contra. He came to understand the "hidden dimensions" of the scandal only in December 1986 after his National Security Advisor, Donald Gregg, briefed him. This was nearly a month after Attorney General Edwin Meese disclosed the diversion of arms sales profits to the Contras. "Not until that briefing," Bush says, "did I fully appreciate how the initiative was actually implemented."

What is Bush trying to tell us? That secret, covert operations are going on and the highest elected officials in the country are not informed of them? That's either a silent coup, or an extremely poor grasp on national affairs by the President and Vice President.
Logic would dictate that Bush would have had to know what was going on. He admitted he attended a meeting on August 6th, 1985, when former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane outlined the deal to trade U.S. arms for American hostages held by the Iranians.
On January 6th, 1986, President Reagan authorized the sale of TOW missiles to win the release of the American hostages. The next morning all of the President's advisors gathered in the Oval Office as Secretary of State George Shultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger expressed their opposition. Shultz told the Tower Commission that by the end of the meeting it was clear that the President and the Vice President disagreed with him (Schultz). A few weeks later, National Security Advisor John Poindexter sent a computer message to North which acknowledged high-level opposition to his policies, but concluded: "President and V.P. are solid in taking the position that we have to try."

What was Bush's response to this meeting? "I may have been out of the room at the time and didn't recall the two Secretaries' strenuous opposition." Bush claims that if he had heard them he would have "moved to reconsider the whole project."

By his own response, at the very least Bush knew there was a "project." He would like the American people to believe that while one of the most controversial issues of the Reagan White House's foreign policy agenda was being discussed and analyzed by the President's top advisors, George was out making a wee-wee.

Amiram Nir, Israel's advisor on terrorism to former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, met Bush in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on July 29th, 1986. According to notes taken by Craig Fuller, Bush's aide, Nir outlined for Bush efforts taken throughout the past year "to gain the release of the hostages, and that a decision still had to be made whether the arms desired by the Iranians would be delivered in separate shipments or for each hostage as they are released." "We are dealing with the most radical elements," Nir told Bush, according to the memorandum which was published in the Tower Commission Report, despite Reagan administration officials efforts to quash it.

President Bush said that "he couldn't remember much about the briefing, nor did he fully understand what Nir was saying at the time." (Was Nir speaking in Hebrew?) He said, "I didn't know what he was referring to when he was talking about radicals, nor did I ask."

Why then didn't the VP say to himself, "Hey, if these activities are being carried out by a foreign government and involve the sale of American-made weapons to secure the release of U.S. citizens, I need to know all the details," and then ask Nir for a full explanation of the events?" If he didn't like what he was hearing, why didn't he demand the entire operation be halted?
If Bush had no idea what Nir was talking about, why was he meeting him? What did his advisors who arranged the meeting with Nir brief Bush on, that was going to be discussed, if not arms for hostages?

In another comment Bush responded, "I listened to him [Nir] and there was not a big exchange in all of this. I did not know all the details. I didn't know what he was referring to when he was talking about "radicals." Asked why he didn't raise questions on the initiative, Bush responded by saying he felt "uncomfortable" at the meeting and thought it was a "listening session" (Washington Post, October 21st, 1988).

What does that mean? That Bush felt "uncomfortable" speaking to Nir about a secret effort to release U.S. hostages, or about selling American weapons to a country that supposedly America hates and considers a terrorist threat. What does he mean by a "listening session"? Listening to what? Nir's views on Third World economic development? When did Bush believe it was going to become a "doing session"?

On the campaign trail in July 1988, Bush said, "Nir presented him with only a tiny piece of a very complicated puzzle."
Does that mean Nir told gave him details of the arms for hostages deal but George couldn't complete the "puzzle"?
Bush is asking the American people to believe that the Vice President of the United States takes time out of a busy two-day state visit to meet with Israel's official counterterrorism expert, a subject which Bush heads a high-level inter-agency group on in the White House. But when they speak, he has no interest in what Nir is saying. He doesn't bother to ask Nir to clarify his words or thoughts, instead just sits and listens, but hasn't a clue to what Nir is talking about because Bush knows nothing of any efforts to free any hostages. Bush then stands up, shakes his head because he hasn't understood a word this person has told him, announces that he doesn't want to hear any more, and walks out of the room.

Oliver North
Bush's official response to what he knew of the secret effort to supply the Nicaraguan Contras is more complicated. Here, his National Security Advisor, Donald Gregg, saves his boss from having to answer any questions by insisting that Bush didn't know about any of these initiatives. He claims he didn't tell Bush about any of these activities because "he didn't think it was Vice Presidential" enough for Bush to know. Thus, Bush never knew.

Is such a contention believable? Is it possible that the Vice President's chief aide was fully informed of all activities to arm and train the Contras, but his boss, the Vice President, wasn't? Why would Gregg want to keep these important security matters secret from his boss? Deniability? Did Bush tell Gregg, "Since Congress won't let us support the Contras, you have to find a way to keep them supplied with weapons. Do whatever you have to do, just don't tell me about it so I will be able to claim I didn't know"?

If so, this means that at the very least Bush knew about the existence of these secret operations and is guilty of violating a congressional ban.

Efforts by the Vice President's Office to supply the Contras begins in the summer of 1982 when Bush and Casey met and came up with the Black Eagle Operation, a plan to ship weapons to the Contras through San Antonio, Texas, to Panama and then on to El Salvador (Rolling Stone, November 3rd, 1988). According to a retired army covert operative assigned to the operation, Bush agreed to use his office as a cover as Gregg coordinated financial and operational details. "Bush and Gregg were the asbestos wall," says the retired military man. "You had to burn through them to get to Casey" (Rolling Stone, November 3rd, 1988).

A memo dated March 17th, 1983, written by Gregg to then-National Security Advisor Bud McFarlane, described how former CIA operative Felix Rodriguez, who served under Donald Gregg in Vietnam, had devised a military plan called "Pink Team" to launch mobile air strikes with "minimum U.S. participation" against leftist rebels in Central America.

The plan was never implemented, but Rodriguez was soon after recruited full-time into the effort to resupply the Contras.
When asked, after he gave sworn testimony to Iran-Contra investigators, why he had failed to mention this secret memo, Gregg replied, "One, I didn't think of it. Two, it had nothing to do with the questions being asked of me." In those same hearings, he testified: "We [Bush and Gregg] never discussed the Contras.

We had no responsibility for it; we had no expertise in it." Also in 1983 the Vice President's Office dispatched Gustavo Villoldo, former CIA agent in Honduras and Bay of Pigs veteran, to work as a combat advisor and to establish an arms supply line to the Contras. According to former intelligence agents who claim they worked with the VP's office, Villoldo was one of several individuals recruited by Gregg to work outside normal CIA channels (The Progressive, May 1987).

In November 1983 the National Security Council (which Bush was a member of) needed to find more weapons for the Contras.
One of North's memos stated that Bush had been asked to "concur on these [weapons] increases in each previous case" (Rolling Stone, November 3rd, 1988).

In an eleven-point memo to his boss on September 18th, 1984, entitled "Funding for the Contras" and made available to Iran- Contra investigators, Gregg discussed military and political aspects of the Contra war. He told Bush, "In response to your question, Dewey Clarridge supplied the following information: A very tough estimate would be that they [the Contras] have received about $1.5 million [from private sources]. This is based on what we know of Contra purchases of gasoline, ammunition, etc." (The Progressive, March 1987).

For ten months in 1985 an operation known as the "Arms

Supermarket" supplied the Contras. It consisted of private arms merchants tied to the CIA, as well as the intelligence arms of the Honduras military, and was financed in part with money from the Medellm cocaine cartel (Rolling Stone, November 3rd, 1988).
In April 1988 the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Narcotics, Terrorism and International Operations, headed by Senator John Kerry, heard testimony from Richard Brenneke, who worked for the CIA on the project. Brenneke said Gregg was the Washington contact for the operation and that he (Brenneke) made numerous purchases of arms manufactured in the Eastern Bloc. Brenneke further claimed Noriega granted transit privileges for the flights and took his cut of the profits.

Bush responded to allegations that his office was involved in the operation by personally accusing Senator Kerry of allowing "slanderous" allegations to leak from his committee, and insisted that the newsmagazine Newsweek, which published details of the operation, was printing "garbage." Despite the fact that Brenneke was not charged with any crime, Bush said, "The guy whom they are quoting is the guy who is trying to save his own neck  (Washington Post, May 17th, 1988).

Another incident Bush denied involvement in was whether he had offered a quid pro quo to Honduran President Roberto Suazo C6rdova in return for his help in training the Contras. A memo written by John Poindexer on February 20th, 1985, reads: "We want the VP [Bush] to discuss these matters with Suazo" (Time, May 15th, 1989).

Bush paid a visit to Tegucigalpa on March 16th, 1985, and met with President Roberto Suazo Cordova, promising him that the U.S. would increase military and economic aid in return for his help in aiding the Contras. Bush assured the Honduran government that it could expect to be rewarded if it continued to harbor Contra camps on its territory and supply military goods to the rebels. This was at the point when C6rdova was threatening to close down the camps and stop all arms shipments.

That quid pro quo was approved the previous month at a meeting of the Special Interagency Crisis-Planning group Bush headed (Time, April 17,1989). While aid began almost immediately after Bush's visit, as did Honduran support for the Contras, Bush would still contend at a photo session after he had become President that "the word of the President of the United States, George Bush, is, There was no quid pro quo. No implication, no quid pro quo, direct or indirect, from me to the President of Honduras. There has been much needless, mindless speculation about my word of honor, and I've answered it now, definitely” (Time, May 15th, 1989). (No, George, you didn't answer it. You simply denied it.) But if it wasn't a quid pro quo and Bush didn't discuss Contra business with Suazo C6rdova, what was so important that the VP had to make a personal trip to Honduras? A tourist exchange?

Also in 1985 Gregg sent Felix Rodriguez to El Salvador to aid the Contra resupply effort. General Paul Gorman, then head of U.S. military forces in Central America, wrote a memo to the U.S. ambassador in El Salvador. In it he said: "Rodriquez is operating as a private citizen but his acquaintanceship to the VP is real enough, going back to the latter days of DCI [Director of Central Intelligence]" (The Progressive, March 1989).

While Gorman knew the purpose behind Rodriquez's presence in El Salvador, Gregg claimed he didn't, contesting that all he knew was that Rodriguez was sent to El Salvador "to deal with insurgency.” When asked why Rodriguez would tell his plans to Gorman but not to Gregg, Gregg replied, "Felix doesn't tell me everything he does. I just had never heard of it" (The Progressive, March 1987).

Gregg, however, does admit he met with Felix Rodriguez, but said they never discussed the Contras. He maintained that Rodriguez didn't mention his work with the Contras because he knew "that was not my interest." Gregg is saying Rodriguez may have been working on an operation to supply the Contras, but it wasn't on behalf of the Vice President's Office. That it must have been a private initiative by Rodriguez which was not sanctioned by the U.S. government; therefore it would not "be in Gregg's interest."

Bush's ties to Rodriguez and Latin American drug lords were confirmed by Ramon Milian Rodriguez, a financier for the Medellm drug cartel who is currently serving a 43-year prison sentence. Rodriguez testified before a Senate investigation into ties between the Contras and drug traffickers. He told the PBS documentary program Frontline: "Guns, Drugs, and the CIA" that he received a request for $10 million from Felix Rodriguez to finance Contra support: "The request for the contribution made a lot more sense because Felix was reporting to George Bush.
If Felix had come to me and said I'm reporting to anyone else, let's say, you know, Oliver North, I might have been more skeptical. I didn't know who Oliver North was and I didn't know his background. But if you have a CIA, or what you consider to be a CIA-man, coming to you saying, 'I want to fight this war, we're out of funds, can you help us out? I'm reporting directly to Bush on it,' I mean it's very real, very believable, here you have a CIA guy reporting to his old boss."

For two guys who rose to the highest levels of the political echelons in the United States, Gregg and Bush sure have bad memories. In Oliver North's notebooks there is an entry from September 10th, 1985, which discusses a meeting he had with Donald Gregg and the chief of the U.S. military advisory group in El Salvador, Colonel James Steele. The three discussed "logistic support" for the Contras. When asked about the meeting, Gregg simply said: "I don't think that meeting ever took place"  (Newsweek, May 23rd, 1986). A handwritten note from November 1985 from George Bush to Oliver North thanked North for his "dedication and tireless work with the hostage thing and with Central America." When asked later about the note, Bush said "he didn't recall why he sent it." (What other reason could Bush have had to send it other than to thank North for his efforts?

Does Bush not remember anything to do with "the hostage thing" or "Central America"? What would happen to a doctor who told the jury during a malpractice suit against him that "he forgot" to tell his patient there would be side effects to the drug he prescribed for him? Why can a doctor be sued for malpractice of his profession but a national leader can just say he forgot, and no further investigation is required?)

In a April 1986 meeting on supplying the Contras, Rodriguez complained to Gregg that North's men were skimming profit from the arms sales. When asked about this meeting, Gregg said he didn't tell Bush about Rodriguez's complaints because it wasn't "Vice-Presidental." Gregg's response indicates that he knew about the operation to arm the Contras, from at least April 1986 onwards. It could also be inferred that Bush knew, but that Gregg didn't want to inform him of Rodriguez's complaints.
Gregg's aide Colonel Samuel Watson wrote two memos before attending a May 1986 meeting with Bush and Gregg which briefed Bush on "the status of the war in El Salvador and resupply of the Contras." When asked how it was, when he had already denied knowing anything about supplying the Contras, that the meeting apparently discussed those very topics, Gregg admitted he was "baffled as to how that agenda item appears.... It was possible that it was a garbled reference to resupply of copters instead of resupply of Contras," he explained (UPI, May 13th, 1989).

When Colonel Watson was asked by Iran-Contra investigators of the role of the Vice President's Office in the Contra effort, he answered: "I've taken it as assumed that it was my duty that anything to do with Nicaragua or Central America that came through the Office of the Vice President was of interest to us because the Vice President is a principal of the National Security Council. Dealing with the Contras would be among my responsibilities." Contra leader Eden Pastora said in a sworn deposition in July 1987 that Bush was in the "Contra resupply chain of command" (The Nation, January 23rd, 1988).

In August 1986 Gregg had a meeting with Rodriguez at which he was told about a scheme to "swap weapons for dollars to get aid for the Contras." When asked about his own hand-written notes on the meeting, Gregg claimed he "didn't know what that line meant," and that "he didn't tell his boss about the meeting because it wasn't Vice-Presidential material." (Probably the most vital national security issue of the day, but Gregg didn't think it was important enough to disturb Bush over.)

At his confirmation hearing for ambassador to South Korea in 1989, Senator Alan Cranston, then chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, became fed up with Gregg's constant denials about the Contra resupply effort, and eventually shouted at him: "Your career training in establishing secrecy and deniability for covert operations and your decades-old friendship with Felix Rodriguez apparently led you to believe that you could serve the national interest by sponsoring a freelance operation out of the Vice President's Office" (New York Times, May 13th, 1989).

When Cranston remarked how it could be possible that Gregg didn't know that Rodriguez was involved with an operation to supply the Contras, Gregg replied that Oliver North and Rodriguez must have been "conspiring against him."
When North testified at his trial that it was Gregg who introduced him to Rodriguez, Gregg said North's statements were "just not true"  (Los Angeles Times, May 13th 1989).

Even after Eugene Hasenfus, who was flying arms to the Contras on one of Secord's C-123 planes, was shot down on October 5th, 1986, over southern Nicaragua, Gregg said he still didn't tell Bush about the operation. (Apparently, the Vice President didn't have a minute free on his busy calendar to deal with such mundane affairs.)

Asked about the reports of the downed plane's ties to the VP's office, that the first telephone call Hasenfus made was to the Vice President's staff, Bush said: "It's absolutely, totally untrue.
I can deny it unequivocally" (The Progressive, May 1987).

When Newsweek queried him on February 8th, 1988, about the incident, Bush replied: "I am told that Colonel Watson canvassed appropriate officials in the U.S. government and was informed that the missing airplane did not belong to the U.S. government, was not on a U.S. government operation and that the missing person was not a U.S. government employee.
Based on the definitive statements from responsible officials, Colonel Watson set aside the fragmentary information Mr. Rodriguez had given him and took the word of the U.S. officials that there was no U.S. government connection."

In plain English, Bush is saying that the entire effort to resupply the Contras was a totally private affair, with no connection or knowledge whatsoever by the White House.

When press reports of telephone records from Rodriguez's safe in San Salvador showed a number of calls to the White House and Gregg's home, on December 15th, 1986, Bush's office acknowledged that Gregg and Rodriquez had discussed Contra aid, and that Colonel Watson had been called by Rodriguez and told the Hasenfus flight was missing— a full day before the downing was announced by the Nicaraguan government" (The Progressive, May 1987). A statement released by the Vice President's Office said that "Gregg and his staff maintained periodic communications with Felix Rodriguez, but were never involved in directing, coordinating, or approving military aid to the Contras in Nicaragua" (The Progressive, May 1987).

The Vice President insisted that these contacts concerned El Salvador, not the Contras.

When interviewed on the CBS news program 60 Minutes in March 1987, the Vice President replied that these state-ments had "stood the test of time." Asked about media reports of his involvement to supply the Contras, Bush countered: "There is this insidious suggestion that I was conducting an operation. It's untrue, unfair, and totally wrong. I met with Max Gomez  [Rodriguez's alias] three times and never discussed Nicaragua with him.... There was no linkage to any operation, yet it keeps coming up. There are all kinds of weirdos coming out of the woodwork on this thing." Bush was asked whether or not Donald Gregg "lied" when he denied discussing the Contras with Rodriguez. Bush said no, and that Gregg merely "forgot" "He's not a liar. If I thought he was a liar, he wouldn't be working for me," the then-Vice President added.
When asked if "in retrospect, do you wish Mr. Gregg had told you about it [North's role in the resupply effort] in August 1986," Bush remarked: "Yes, particularly knowing what I know now."

Which means Gregg must be a liar because he didn't tell the Vice President everything in August 1986, or in April 1986 when Rodriguez complained to him about the profits being skimmed.
Yet Bush wasn't at all angry at his chief aide for hiding important information from him, and instead of punishing him, appointed him ambassador to South Korea.

In his autobiography, Looking Forward (1987), Bush denies knowing about North's "secret operations" before November 1986.

In a 1988 interview with Newsweek, when Bush was asked, "When did you first learn of North's role in the Contra operation?" he answered, "What I know of Mr. North's role in the Contra-resupply effort has come from the information made public during the investigations."

Bush is asking us to believe that he chaired the Task Force on Combating Terrorism which served as a springboard for North's activities, and the Committee on Crisis Pre-Planning and the National Security Planning Group, but knew nothing of North's activities. He is asking us to believe that Oliver North ran the entire resupply operation on his own, without the knowledge of any of his superiors, as a rogue operation, and then when brought to trial tried to drag these other men's names and reputations through the mud.
That he only learned of Oliver North's role in the entire Contra-resupply effort from information made public during the investigations. In other words, the Vice President of the United States had no more knowledge or intelligence about Oliver North's secret agendas and covert operations than any average American receiving his news from ABC and Time magazine and NBC?

In what must be the ultimate in hypocrisy, during the election campaign of 1988 Bush said that the whole issue of Iran-Contra was "old news." "You get sick and tired of saying, I've told the truth."'

What became of the Contra connection after Iran-Contra became public? One covert operation which the Bush White House was likely behind is the secret effort to fund the 1990 campaign of Violeta Chamorro and the National Opposition Union (UNO), the main opposition to the Sandinista candidate, President Daniel Ortega. In the eight months before the February 25th, 1990, vote, the CIA managed a covert operation which sent more than $600,000 to more than a 100 Miami-based Contra leaders so they could return to Nicaragua (Newsweek, October 21st, 1991).
Although Congress approved $9 million to be spent on the Nicaraguan election, it banned covert CIA financial support for the UNO.

When asked about the payments, Administration officials claimed the payments were simply expenses for helping 100 or so Contra leaders return home. However, one White House official acknowledged, "We were spending this money for them to go back and work in the Chamorro campaign. They knew what they were supposed to do" (Newsweek, October 21st, 1991).

The payments may have been a continuation of the money supplied to Contra leaders throughout the 1980s as part of the White House's plan to destabilize Nicaragua. To do this, the CIA created a Nicaraguan Exile Relocation Program (NERP), which dispensed the money between July 1989 and February 1990.


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