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'Overriding Democracy'

May 17, 1987

I hope that in civics classes across this area teachers will make The Times editorial (May 10), "Overriding Democracy," required reading for classroom discussion. The writing is a handsome example of restraint amid revulsion, clarity cutting through dissemblance.

Somehow, watching and listening to retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard Secord respond to questioning at the Iran- contra hearings, it was not the Watergate hearing I remembered. It was the Joseph McCarthy hearings in 1954. Super patriots have some traits in common. They know better what is right for us. They interpret the law to suit their own ends. And those who disagree with them are sidestepped or stepped upon. The law becomes subservient to the cause.

Secord's testimony was a sham, a shame, based upon his theory that he and his conspirators could do as they wished with and to foreign governments, let alone the United States. And why? Congress didn't really include them when it enacted amendments.

And why not? Wasn't Secord sought out by U.S. government officials working in and under the White House? Wasn't he reporting to U.S. government officers? There is no fine line of distinction to belabor. Every act was designed and acted out in secrecy--not to hide it from the enemy--to hide it from our elected representatives, from us. Or, were we the enemy?

Does it matter what President Reagan knew? If he knew, would we want another Richard Nixon-like exit? If he didn't know, was he merely oblivious to the obvious? Or, was he considered, like us, unworthy of trust and respect in participation in such a major policy-making-breaking endeavor?

Thomas Jefferson in his first inaugural address said, "Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." The Secords of the world don't understand that.


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