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'Missing the Point' on Hostages, Iran and Reagan

December 21, 1986

Your editorial, "Missing the Point" (Dec. 9) unfortunately misses the point.

Concentrating on the question of the "mistakes" of "paying ransom for hostages held by terrorists" (i.e. trading arms to Iran in payment for the release of American hostages in Lebanon), your editorial writer, like most everyone else, is missing the forest because of the trees. The belief that the Lebanese hostage-takers would release their captives on the say-so of the Ayatollah Khomeini, presupposes them to be completely fanatical devotees of Khomeini who would do anything that he says, even to abandoning their own comrades imprisoned in Kuwait. (And bargaining for their release was the purpose for the seizure of hostages.) As difficult as this is to accept, it is completely beyond the bounds of all credulity to believe that these same fanatics would as slavishly follow orders from some faceless, "moderate" Iranis, with whom we were supposed to have negotiated the deal.

Of course, hostages have been released and if you are willing to accept any and all forms of a priori reasoning as proof of anything, one could make a case for a connection between this and shipping arms to Iran. However, there is no reason to assume that this kind of rationalization proves that one event was the direct result of the other. The man who actually negotiated the hostage release, Terry Waite, emissary of the Archbishop of Canterbury, isn't talking, and more importantly neither are the kidnapers. Remember too that the Ayatollah has vehemently denied that Iran had any part in the hostage release.

In actual fact, we should recall that when the first glimmerings of this story broke Ronald Reagan also vehemently denied that we had ever traded any arms in exchange for hostages. Not surprisingly, his denials became less vehement when it occurred to the Administration image makers that this might possibly be the one way they could explain away these apparently criminal acts.

Incidentally, does anyone remember, or care, that Reagan's original explanation for the arms shipments was his desire to, "Reestablish normal relations with the government of Iran."

Why isn't anyone asking what this is supposed to mean? Normal relations with Iran? Are we getting ready to reopen our embassy in Tehran? Are we now prepared to forgive the barbarous acts that were perpetrated on our military and civilian personnel, the massive hostage outrages of a few years ago? What kind of normal relations could we possibly have with them?

Why then are we shipping arms to Iran? That is the real question.


Beverly Hills

The Times is receiving about 50 Reagan-Iran-contra letters a day; the sentiment is 10 to 1 against Reagan.

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