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McFarlane Had to 'Play God' for Hostage

May 12, 1987|From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — When Lebanese terrorists made it known after the initial Israeli arms sale to Iran in 1985 that they would release only one American hostage instead of all seven then in captivity, Robert C. McFarlane, President Reagan's national security adviser, faced a particularly difficult decision: Which one should be released?

Arthur L. Liman, counsel for the Senate committee investigating the Iran- contra affair, asked McFarlane if he had been "asked to play God and choose one hostage?"

"Yes," McFarlane responded. He said he chose William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut.

Liman pursued: "And it brought home to you . . . what it really meant to be negotiating for hostages?"

"Well," McFarlane replied, "it was very clear that this was not a--the kind of thing that was proper."

Despite McFarlane's decision, Buckley was not released, and it has been reported since that he was tortured and killed by his captors. Instead, the terrorists released the Rev. Benjamin Weir.

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