THE IRAN-CONTRA HEARINGS : Excerpts: Risk Lives, Fortunes and Sacred Honor to Help Ragtag Army

May 15, 1987|From Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON Following are excerpts from testimony Thursday as Robert C. McFarlane, President Reagan's former national security adviser, appeared for the fourth day before the congressional committees investigating the Iran-contra affair:

Hamilton Summation

(House committee Chairman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) delivered a summation of his concerns about the Iran-contra operation at the conclusion of McFarlane's testimony.)

. . . Now, I've been impressed, as I've sat here for these hours, again and again, with the clear discrepancies between what you and others in the Administration told the Congress that the Administration was or was not doing, and what, in fact, was done. And so I ask myself, how can the Congress find out what is happening?

If the national security adviser of the President of the United States and other high officials do not provide complete and accurate answers to the Congress, what can we do? How must we frame our questions to get the facts? Must we put every executive branch official under oath who comes before us?

. . . Repeatedly during these hearings, you have volunteered to take the blame, the whole blame on yourself. I appreciate your willingness to shoulder great responsibility. I admire you for it. But I cannot accept that answer.

As the national security adviser, you are the spokesman for the President of the United States. . . . You spoke for the President. And the responsibility must rest with him, as well as with you. You cannot . . . absolve the President of responsibility.

Now, as long as I've been in the Congress, the President, every President, calls for bipartisanship in foreign policy, and we all want bipartisanship in foreign policy. But bipartisanship requires Congress' informed consent. It cannot merely be a call to support the President's policy.

. . . All of us, Mr. McFarlane, will remember your testimony with gratitude to you, and with appreciation. And I hope all of us will work a little harder in carrying out our efforts to achieve an honest and a complete dialogue between the Congress and the executive. Otherwise, as you have told this committee, we invite disaster.

Owen Testimony

(The testimony of Robert W. Owen began with a lengthy opening statement in which the self-described "private foot soldier" defended American support of the contras.)

. . . You say the American people have a right to know what happens. I agree with you, but they have a right to know, not only the what, but the why as well. Why did the Administration have to turn to our allies and people outside of government to carry out some aspects of a stated foreign policy? And why did private American citizens choose to risk their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to help a ragtag army, the majority of whom are poor campesinos ?

. . . Many of us got involved because we cared about those Nicaraguans, willingly fighting, bleeding and dying in the jungles so that some day they might be able to enjoy some of the freedoms we Americans take for granted every day. And, in truth, taking the long view, they, we, are fighting for our freedom, too. The totalitarian dictatorship in communist Nicaragua is a strategic threat to the rest of Central and Latin America and to the United States. . . .

After these hearings, the problem with how to deal with Nicaragua will still be there. The Sandinistas and their Soviet, Cuban, East German, North Korean and Vietnamese advisers . . . will be ensconced in Managua while controlling the reins of power in Nicaragua. . . .

As Churchill . . . said: "You cannot feed all around you to the crocodiles on the hopes they'll eat you last."

(Under questioning by House Deputy Chief Counsel W. Neil Eggleston, Owen described how he and his employer, the Gray & Co. public relations firm in Washington, put together proposals to aid the contras after the company was approached by the Nicaraguan FDN rebels in April, 1984.)

. . . This was at a time when no one quite knew where the money for the contras was going to come from. The first proposal was one on setting up proprietary companies which could be used to purchase goods overseas and provide assistance to the contras. Another one was using a nonprofit organization to provide assistance through raising funds here in the United States to buy humanitarian and non-lethal assistance.

(Eggleston asked Owen about the type of goods the proposal recommended purchasing.)

Answer: An army eats a lot more than it shoots, but also they need weapons and arms. . . .

Question: So it was part of the proposal that these companies be used to purchase weapons overseas?

A: Potentially, if necessary.

Q: And for those weapons then to be shipped to the contras down in Central America, is that correct?

A: That was the idea at the time.

Funding Needs

(Eggleston asked Owen about his conversations with contra leaders about their funding needs.)

A: Yes, they told me they'd need $1 million a month, and if they wanted to increase in size, they'd need about $1.5 million a month.

Q: And, by increasing size, do you mean just increase the number of men in the military?

A: Obviously, and also increase the number under arms.

(Eggleston asked Owen about memos he exchanged with (Lt. Col. Oliver L.) North.)

Q: . . . The third indented paragraph . . . talks about funding requirements, and it mentions firecracker costs, and it mentions a minimum of $1.5 million. That wasn't for a large July 4th celebration. Those were meant to be arms . . . is that correct?

A: Yes.

(Eggleston asked Owen about his meetings with North before subsequent visits to Central America.)

Q: And you met with him in his office?

A: Yes.

Q: And without giving us any specifics about what the operation was about, did he give you anything at that time to take with you down to Central America?

A: Yes, he provided some photographs and some maps.

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