Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Days of Deceit

November 19, 1987

The preemptive cries of partisanship and hysteria that the Republican minority has raised about the majority report of the congressional Iran--Contra investigating committees turn out, with the publication of that report, to be more than a little partisan and hysterical in their own right. The committees' conclusions, in which three Republican senators joined all of the participating Democrats, can be fairly seen to flow naturally and incontestably from the evidence the hearings produced. In the end the report adds little to what was already known. The tale does not, however, become any less sordid in the retelling.

The scandal broke little more than a year ago. What continues to boggle the mind, long after all the rationalizations have been heard and half-forgotten, is how supposedly experienced men at the pinnacle of government fell for the incredible idea that hitherto undetected Iranian "moderates" were panting after a deal to exchange American arms for American hostages. To believe such a thing was stupid on its face. To pursue this belief through labyrinthine dealings with a rogue's gallery of hustlers, cutouts and tricksters was irresponsible as well as illegal. The irresponsibility came in the betrayal of American principles and foreign policy interests that this scheme required, not least in rushing to pay ransom for hostages. The illegality came from lying to Congress, from misappropriating money that properly belonged to the Treasury,from diverting funds to the support of the Contras, from violating restrictions on the exports of arms.

It is not "hysteria" to conclude, as the report does, that fundamental processes of governance were disregarded. It is not "partisan" to recognize that the rule of law was subverted. Subordinates were permitted to seize control of policy and operate outside the boundaries of the law. The committees could find no direct evidence that President Reagan himself "was a knowing participant" in the efforts to deceive Congress and the American people. But that is hardly exculpating. Reagan was the one in charge. It was he who choose his minions, who delegated responsibility with such a free hand, who set the tone so eagerly responded to by a "cabal of the zealots." Ultimately and inescapably, the responsibility for what occurred rests with the President.

The greatest lesson to be learned from the Iran-Contra scandal, the reports concludes, is that policy must not be made in the shadows. For "policies that are secret become the private preserve of the few, mistakes are inevitably perpetuated and the public loses control over government. That is what happened in the Iran-Contra affair." Those are wise words, applicable to this and every other Administration. They deserve a prominent place on the office walls of the President, the national security adviser, and the director of Central Intelligence.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|