tv Book Discussion CSPAN September 27, 2014 10:30am-12:03pm EDT
booktv will be live from austin, texas, for the 19th annual texas book festival. the festival from the state's capital city will showcase over 275 authors. let us know about book fairs and festivals in your area, and we'll add them to our list. e-mail us at booktv at c-span.org. >> malcolm byrne takes an updated look at the iran contra scandal using interviews with key participants. he argues the scandal was likely bigger than previously believed. this is about an hour and a half. ..
transparency in government that seeks to shine a light on what goes on behind the scenes inside of washington. he is also the co-author of becoming enemies, a book on american diplomacy during the iran-iraq war which i think is safe to say is the best book on american diplomacy during that war. he now has a new book, "iran-contra," which is based on an extraordinary amount of research and documents and diaries and interviews with individuals. it is literally a mountain of material and documents that i don't think anyone else has ever systematically and seriously looked at, unless you are a prosecutor. but in the end, as your book shows, they did not look as well as they should have. the picture that emerges out of
this book actually, it's right there on the cover. it changes, i think, our image of ronald reagan. i think it changes it in a somewhat disturbing way. i will quote from the conclusion too often the president and his aides took action first and worry whether it was proper later. i would add proper and legal. at the heart, of course, of the scandal, were to secret intelligence operations which is why the intelligence wants to focus on this. one in central america and one in iraq. these two operations were never lead properly notified through the congress of the united states and therefore by definition worry legal right from the start, particularly the operation in iran but also the operation in nicaragua.
the iran-contra scandal had immense consequences. i think that it is safe to say that the march of folly that led to the iraq war and is still leading to worse can be traced back in many ways to the iran-contra intelligence operation that led to the iran-contra scandal. worst, i think the most disturbing part of this book is the super said system failed us. we got a lot of hearings and articles in the press, but there was no real systematic effort to prevent future presidents and white house is from abusing power. last but not least, sadly all of this, haunting and timely reminders today because the
united states once again has hostages being held by extreme islamist organizations which have already demonstrated that they're prepared to carry out horrific acts of brutality. jimmy carter and ronald reagan were in many ways consumed by hostage issues. unfortunately barack obama looks like he has won today. i will ask you to turn off your cell phones. the format will be simple. i will interview now come for about 40 minutes or so about the book using the prerogative of the chair and then open it up to you to ask questions i was not smart enough to think of. let me start by asking you about our reagan and where you place him. >> first of all, thank you for
having me. it is an honor to be here at carnegie and broken. and so happy to be able to talk about this book. this picture is emblematic of how i think he comes out of this affair. where i see him fishing in his right up at the top. it is a complicated story. all of you will remember the hearings were in long, drawn-out process that got complicated because it affected events in two different countries, while three if you include israel. it involved a lot of policy issues and a lot of gray, doe, legal matters.
drag on for years and years. so keeping on top of the issues college is a challenge, and judging where reagan fits you have to sort of decide what exactly you were talking about. you know, what he knew, what he believed, what people colton, what things happened that were under his radar that the staff were doing. it is a multilayer kind of story, but to put it as briefly as i can to my see reagan as being the driving force behind the scandal, both elements of the scandal. on the the iran side he was they guided primarily by his concern for the hostages. he was widely acknowledged to have been emotional and moved by
his meetings with the hostage families in 1985 especially. and this really drove him. he wanted for personal reasons and political reasons, one of the great politicians of the 20th-century. intent on finding a solution to the crisis. he was less aware of what was happening on the part of his staff and aids from other agencies. in my view there is no doubt that he provided the guidance and created the atmosphere in which people like robert mcfarland, national security adviser followed by poindexter, north, and the others took their inspiration and took their instructions. you remember the famous phrase
back during the congressional hearings were mcfarlane said in 1984 president reagan took him aside and said it is up to you to keep them together body and soul in anticipation of stringent restrictions on government aid. the infamous boland amendment. and it was -- if you look back at the record as i saw it it was clear to everybody, including reagan, what was about to happen. this was seen as a virtual complete shutdown of official u.s. assistance. but reagan was not about to let them go. he was emotional about the freedom fighters and intent on finding ways to get around congressional prohibition. whether he understood everything that was to happen was legal or
illegal, we can get into the details, but the basic point is that he was at the top of the pyramid, and without him none of this would have happened. >> the heart of the iran affair was trading arms for hostages. america has had a long policy and today we hear that we're not going to negotiate with terrorists. how did we end up negotiating with terrorists and workers, giving them weapons? >> this is part of the complex story within a story. i just want to say that i was surprised. a few days ago i did what i often do, scandal website and look at the minutes gone these videos that they put together which are helpful to encapsulate a particular issue. there was one a few days ago on hostage matters.
it advertised itself as showing some of the very rare instances where the u.s. has broken with its policy of not negotiating for hostages. nowhere in that did the phrase iran-contra come in to play, or ron reagan. not just because i have been buried in the subject for years, but the most egregious example and get it was not mentioned. a reflection of how far an hour recesses iran-contra has sunk. so how did we get involved? there were different aspects. though history is a simple thing there are many causes. so several things came into play . reagan's emotional attachment to this issue. but early on in the administration which may come as a surprise, the question had
come up about how to deal with iran, and i can get into that in more detail. mcfarlane did not come up with this idea by ourself. there were others before him and other parts of the government he felt this was released an idea worth considering, but nothing happened until he was approached by an israeli foreign minister official who was the director general of the foreign ministry. he approached mcfarlane in the late spring of 85 with a message from the prime master to the effect that the israelis were willing to help when the americans out an area where they knew they wanted assistance which was an understanding the new islamic republic of iran.
if the u.s. wanted israeli assistance and if so they have some ideas about how to go about . he got this idea from a couple of different coincidences. one was the appearance in israel of michael ladin who at the time was a consultant to the national security council on terrorism issues and the leftist socialist politics. he had been told by kraft things -- been told by an as the city does not name that the israelis had ideas. but with mcfarlane as approval he went to israel to get a sense of things. other ways to get behind the
veil, so speak. that was one part. the other, two of the more dark and gloomy figures of this affair appeared on scene through a couple of longtime friends. let's back up little bit. this saudi billionaire, a flamboyant figure. the scoundrel of the affair, an arms dealer, a shady middleman with ties to who knows too. a lot of people thought it was the israelis. they say no way. who knows. he clearly had ties with irani and people in the power
structure. so they come to the father of the israeli aircraft industry. an arms dealer but who had been someone stationed under the shaw and knew it well. so to that connection there is this idea, maybe we can make some money. in the throes of this war which started in september, 1980. if that were it not been going on there would not have needed weapons. well, through this coincidence of events, and external spark exists.
then at and discussed possibilities. during the course of conversations the subject comes out. maybe the best approach to showing your good will, if you had some so we all remember that the military was based on america's, and they still had a lot of missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, all kinds of high level equipment that he managed to get out of different u.s. presidents. so this is the spark that he needs because he has been after this has an idea for a long time now because he is personally interested. i believe he really did think there was a strategic opening its hand. he even wrote about the comparison between the possibility of opening up and
everybody suggesting that he thinks he is the henry kissinger i think he did think there was a possibility. the most important country in the persian gulf. so a lot of good reasons to try to see what was possible to achieve. so again, it comes down to reagan. reagan may have been told this is a strategic possibility. we should explore it. in fact cover he got support in that idea from none other than the secretary of state and the secretary of defense who years afterwards and to this day will deny that they thought that this was a kind of a good idea. in fairness, it was broached as a possible opening.
both of those two senior cabinet officers essentially said, and soaker by yes. go ahead and pursue this with certain caveats. so in the summer of '85 reagan is in the hospital at this point having surgery done. they discuss this idea of the course of a couple of weeks or so. it continues. is unclear what he thinks eventually comes back and says, okay, let's do it. then it is another story. >> i'm sure we will get there. there is one other figure here you have not mentioned, the director of central intelligence . >> she is always in the background. >> his own agency is saying, we
can't trust these people. the polygraph compete not that it is the perfect instrument, but in this case he is polygraph's repeatedly and each time it is a more catastrophic failure than the previous. and yet despite his own professionals advice he keeps pushing this as well. how do you explain his role in all of this given his unique relationship? he was the campaign manager. >> the critical figure. he held it reagan elected. there were old friends. he wanted to be secretary of state's but was not given that job. he took the cia directorship after he was promised it would be a cabinet level post and you would have influence in policy.
no exaggeration to say that when reagan came into office he hit the ground running. within a month to he had a draft presidential finding, the documents authorizing covert action. those in their way sort of form the groundwork for what was to come. if you remember what iranian policy was back then, and if you do will give you a gold star because the short answer is there was none. there were a lot of competing ideas. the administration, a little bit of a surprise to some people who remember how he swept into office the unifying force that
he seemed to be in terms of presenting a new ideology of approach, behind closed doors in the corridors of the white house and elsewhere from the testimony of people who experienced a, it was almost pandemonium in both of these areas in particular. there were basically three basic approaches. one was essentially to overthrow and one cia official who is spoken about this said that they probably have between 30 and 40 offers per year from various exile groups and so on saying, we can do this. taken with a particular idea that involve some relatives and
oldest of clandestine activities what other kinds of activities that they could do to create uncertainty and hopefully dislodge the ayatollah. from the get go he was pretty aggressive in terms of how he wanted to approach. very quickly, the other two in terms of the policy idea, the second approach was essentially to contain iran which gets you into a thorny issue, the u.s. role in supporting saddam hussein in the war. there's a whole book about that. a third approach was another kind of old school idea which was critical at the time. the entire soviet approach.
there were clusters of officials, including the white house he will leave that as rachael used a famously say that the soviet union is the source of all evil and it is tired to go to the source and eradicate and loans around the world. there were fears that the time that iran was centered in moscow's sites. they had just invaded afghanistan and it was firmly believed by a lot of people in washington and in europe as well that next on molest was iran. we now know that the invasion of afghanistan was a desperate gamble on the assumption that it was the united states who was about to go. so we can talk about perceptions and misperceptions.
this notion was critical. it was certainly critical in case he's thinking and ability to park their records. >> we then have the extraordinary death of the national security adviser of the united states billing to iran. one of the big myths. >> that's right. it is extraordinary to conceive the notion of taking a cake with you. i cannot have recall another diplomatic mission with a cake. anyway, it turns out that they think they're going to meet. they don't. and it all comes out.
we now have the investigation. how would you characterize how the reagan administration approached the business of the investigation? i think particularly the important issue of how to deflect the president from being at the center of the sofa in. >> i hope i can go back and talk about some of those details. as for how they treated the investigation, that takes a potshot of the book and is a crucial part of leading me to the conclusion that i started out with about the role of the president and his top advisers and pretty much everyone else involved. there are virtually no heroes in this story. even somebody like george shultz , one of the few who repeatedly spoke out against
this in reagan's presence, and i have a couple of documents that i will refund. even he fell prey to the old washington scandal haven't of retreating into a shell and figuring out a way to minimize exposure in a way it did not do him justice. i will throw out the thought that this is another thing that l.a. at the feet of ronald reagan. in his unwillingness or inability, and is probably both, to consider the collateral damage of the decisions that he made, one of those bids of damage was the effect that this had on all of the advisers and everyone who worked for him he did, to their credit, repeatedly said this is a dumb idea and the
legal. you have got to stop it. this notion that he had no advice. ne'er-do-wells mike macfarlane and so on the record is in the handwriting of people like weinberger. but what happened to them, at some point, the national reaction of tightening offenses and circling the wagons, there was a sense that they not only had to protect the president put themselves people, whatever else you may think of them, jurors and all these other people
basically get the short end of the stick. why? because they were protecting the president's policies and the party and in themselves. but they were basically thrown under the bus as a result. now, i am really answer your question, but there was a process that took place. remember that this basically was exposed in three steps. first and early october, 1986. two years after the in poland amendment cutting off allegedly all military aid directly or indirectly. one of the aircraft that was organized, this little private air forces, one of the supply
aircraft crashed. shot down by a 19 year-old kid he said he was stunned that he actually hit it. one survivor. tractive in front of international tv. he bared his soul and said, i've been hired by the cia. it is an american operation. he wasn't technically, but it was enough to get the ball rolling. and that led to an immediate scramble by those involved. the state department, there were there. all of foam in the league got
together to try to minimize the effect. the record now shows despite testimony to the contrary that they all know about the connections to that resupply operation. they did their best to try to get the contras to take credit for it, to get the general to take some responsibility. he refused. a real up for, acquired up for, if you will, behind closed doors. the next is november 3rd. the lebanese news magazine console of the sorry that undoubtedly comes out of iranian domestic politics. somebody who thought that some of the leaders losing their
taste for the war, found out there were dealing with americans and decided to spill the beans. the story gets picked up and granted in a couple of places. in that it's picked up right away. of course that exposes the arms for hostages deal, which reagan denies the first. now, he will say it was to protect hostages' lives. i have no doubt there was a part of it. but what did not come out and sell long into the investigation was the fact that reagan's close of visors are terrified that this was going to lead to his impeachment because they knew that the first age of these shipments of which the public was only gradually learning, the first phase of the shipments were undoubtedly illegal. i hesitate because you can
quickly get into the gray area of the law, which i am happy to do if you what. i don't think you want to, but it gets into how -- >> one lawyer in the room. >> and i will probably learn something from him. but it was part of the motivating force that led the administration as a whole down this dark road to lying about what they did, covering up and doing all these things. it is a sad tale with several different chapters. >> for going to go back to the details. i am eager to get to the end story. so here you have ron reagan. well aware of what he is doing today.
and, arguably impeachable. one of the things that i found interesting in the book is that the opposition, the democrats, don't want to go there. so why is it that here is the democrats opportunity to bring down -- i cannot imagine that this would not be seized on in a nanosecond. and yet they decide. it shows how far we've come. what he had. the shenanigans there. then at least a milestone on the path toward a hyper partisanship and the dysfunction.
if you remember, reagan had many aspects. on the one side was his jovial image of the kind, you know, he wants to bring america together the remember, he was a highly polarizing figure, governor of california and as part of his campaign he wanted to draw a thick line between his thinking and those of the post vietnam post watergate liberal and not only did he disagree with on virtually everything but who were in a sense responsible for the surge of congressional power grab that took place in the 1970's and is difficult to understand. for all of the feeling that
congress and the executive branch or at war, he said we were at war with congress on contra policy. but for all of that i think what was left unnoticed was some sense of camaraderie is not really the right word, but of the need for collaboration among moderate democrats. there were more hard-line democrats who were out for blood and saw this as their chance to get the president. in addition to that there was the never ending sense of self protection on capitol hill as well. it was not just in the executive branch. the democratic leaders were held back on at least two.
one was where reagan was a highly popular president. his ratings plummeted something like 21 points, the worst drop in presidential history, worse the nixon. he still -- as this was coming about he was a popular guy. they were afraid to confront him too much. they also were very afraid of being seen as communism. this was one of the most successful ploys of patrick buchanan and others in the ethnic -- reagan administration. and he himself when it came time for any kind of a big vote on the hill, there was always tie and rhetoric about do you stand with us, against this, useful idiots for the opposition or you going to stand up for american values and the freedom fighters?
and it had this effect. and it had its effect throughout the presidency but also in the investigative phase. you look at how both parties shows it was going to be part of the investigating team. on the democratic side it is mostly moderate. one or two people could be considered not so moderate compete and several of them voted for aid. on the republican side it was basically attack dogs. there were a few moderates. there were three republicans who basically sided with the majority. let's see. new hampshire, maine, and virginia. they were treated as traders by dick cheney, henry hyde, by bill mccollum, or and hatch.
the republicans clearly -- and he has a knowledge is, they saw their job best to defend president reagan and his policies. now, someone like me who was pretty young at the stage, watching these hearings avidly, i had to be schooled in the notion that a congressional investigation is about something other than trying to find out what actually happened. well, guess what, i happened to believe that the democrats by and large were trying to figure what happened. of course it is in their interest to discover things that don't make the opposition look good, but on the other hand i think maybe not in this stage but back then it was stunning to see how much of their precious air time was used up and undermining witnesses who were
against reagan and bucking a president and supporting his policies. absolutely no interest in finding out whether laws were broken that put them in the doghouse. when it came time to go back and look at it again, maybe even more so in the lead up to north's testimony on capitol hill, after two months of hearings the democrats actually did a decent job of constructing an image of how the administration had behaved. and the proof of that was in the statements that several members of congress made in the lead into his presentation to the media and at the hearings
themselves calling him irresponsible -- >> are broke. >> baroque, exactly. how did this guy get this job. in comes north, and in the course of less than a week he completely spins around. he wins over millions of fans among american viewers. fan clubs get started. hair cuts are being given. as chief counsel for the senate is distraught when he comes in to see during a break in the proceedings that members of the capitol bureau police force of their having their picture taken. it is just as shamble. these same congressman after word turnaround and it is like night and day. it is shameful.
so much of this affair is typical of what you see under ordinary circumstances. this is not an aberration. it is now a lot of people think that it is. these same institutions have been in place for all of these years. the same principles apply in how they conduct themselves. congress is a political animal. it is part of the danger, part of the warning. >> i am going to go to the audience after one more question i think what you just heard is one of the great things about read this book. it looks like it is not beach reading, but it actually is. it is that greater mystery and a puzzle. and he does a fantastic job of working you through this mystery you mentioned him. i want to come back to him.
dick cheney, kind of a small figure in all of this. we will draw some important lessons. you elaborate on his role and more importantly what he took as his take away from the iran-contra scandal. >> well, i have documents i can show, visual aids. when i was sure you're right now is on point. from the beginning of the administration, in fact, november 1980 just before the inauguration but after the election. a set of notes by james baker. played a big role of the white house and treasury secretary later. notes of his meeting they why? because he will be chief of staff.
so he says -- let's see, i cannot read his writing anymore. basically the point is the president's standing has been weakened in recent years. restore power and authority to executive branch. the strong leaders. that is a quota. and then in the margins there are stars. the central theme of the coming years in the presidency. we see that he carries these views into iran-contra. he is a member of the house republican investigating
committee. he feels a little bit insulted because the senator on the senate side has seen fit to name vice chairman of the committee. lee hamilton, by all accounts a moderate, refuses to name cheney is vice chair. it sets off a kind of a running conflict. throughout the hearings he makes the point repeatedly that the problem is not the president. congress oversteps its balance, tries to take over presidential power. it was unconscionable, unconstitutional, and it is the cause a lot of serious problems. he repeats this in the minority report. that report, he reminds people
in 2005, he has been in office for four years still trying to figure out where this guy comes from. and he points out to the press, if you want to know what i think and what the issues are about presidential power go back to this little known thing we put together back in the 80's. and it does. it is a powerful message. presidential power, abuses of power. it is abuses by congress command i think that explains a lot about the action that president bush took in 2000.
>> questions. please identify yourself. question, not a lecture. >> that is my job. >> thank you very much i wanted to focus on the iran aspects. had done no. and i'm not sure. you have documents that show people arguing abuse selling arms to iran will somehow improve the government. at the same time these people are expected to get american hostages freed. and how ignorant where officials
at the time? >> very ignorant, as you know. the one expression of that, they acknowledged it. the attraction, people who thought about these issues, people at the cia. there were people who seriously wanted to see an improvement. as i mentioned earlier in the early part of the administration this idea have surfaced more than once. using weapons to do it. it came up in 1982. in 1983 and again. there was a wide recognition a reflection of that is the weight that was given to the document that was put together about the
internal power structures inside iran. now, i will say as somebody who has had something to do with iran, you look at that document, it is not that it is completely off the mark. there's actually some interesting stuff in there. where is right and where it is wrong may seem subtle to someone who does not know a lot about the subject, but those differences make a huge difference overall. so they understood their ignorance and saw this kind of analysis. this is fantastic. he is quoted as saying, this is the real deal. and given where they were, you have to say, it was kind of a breakthrough in that they found
somebody one of the guys said that abcafifteen questions he failed on 13, and one of them was his name. but the fact was why he was able to establish contact with no less than an assistant to the prime minister of iran at that time. we all know he came out as one of the moderate candid it's. back then he was one of the hard-liners and was interested in getting weapons for the war. now, right there you have the kind of disconnect. how is it that you do not know that even though they're telling you you will be dealing with
moderates and they will hope you would seek this regime, very soon after they get started they see who they're dealing with, people who are members of the revolutionary guard. and they are told repeatedly over the course of a year-and-a-half that the people they are meeting with include some of the hard-line faction. too simplistic to be helpful to millie. and yet they refuse to ceiling was in front of them there was a point after they finally got tired and after the failure of the mission to iran in may of '86 the americans decide to ditch the sky and find another channel.
and it leaves them to the nephew . he turns out to be the secret moderate, at least one who has demonstrated an interest in china have a better relationship with the united states. for what reason? am sure there were plenty. he had given signals as early as june of '85 and navy diver was executed. he personally interceded and held resolve that crisis. and that registered with people like george shultz and others. this was something that probably helps them think, well, maybe something like this could pair now. even when they got to his nephew
and they're reaching finally the centers of power, the commander of air defense forces, then met with him. the thought we have this breakthrough. we're getting to the right people. it does not take long before he tells of good news. this has reached a point where our side will form a commission. americans say, who is on the commission to metcalf of the innocent people they'd go with before. it is the same revolutionary guard deputy head of intelligence to is still around.
he was considered such a negative force that the name that they gave him was a monster . he is named to the commission that will deal with these situations. time and again there faced with the fact of who they're dealing with, but it does not stop them from this misguided venture. >> the hostages. >> right. they probably would said the proof was in the pudding. they did get three hostages out. was a long and arduous and frustrating effort. and we had some kind of contact with people who have influence. there was constant frustration
because there were always being told, you will get all the hostages out. promise. it never happened. and that is part of wine. enough of it to use there or willing to go along with that. >> to you think that the u.s. arms. >> it's a good question. >> this is a minuscule amount. pity easily fit into the cargo bay of a single aircraft. eggnogs is that he was tasked to
go find a plane big enough to make that real. so it really had no affect whatsoever. when you go back and talk to runyon's to and even some american officials who ignores their belief that it did have some effect. i've talked to several below who were in the war, at some of these battles. scholars who have studied this have done their own interviews. their belief is that it did have an effect. it helps against counterattacks, the operation. also, there was a few of this
one guy who was a high-level official. they were getting it from other countries as well. those kinds of weapons did have an effect on iraqi attacks or willingness or readiness to attack iranian cities. i don't know how you quite nail that down. those missiles that had the effect, something else? but there is evidence. of course, the iraqis believed the same thing. some of his officials, there were taken. some of those are now available and have been studied and
produced. nine men and been. to some degree they were shocked. inborn he claims that he knew these people were richer basin untrustworthy parian. >> we will take one from further back. and and and. >> -i was in the state department at the time this happened. can you set the scene? the history of the civil war. i want you to kind of set the scene of the kind of pressure this was putting on the white
house, the number of hostages, the number of deaths and executions of hostages. help us understand what was the driver for all of this. >> there were absolutely at the heart of this, as you know. there was great personal and political pressure. but i do not doubt for a second reagans' genuine desire to see them come home. russell pitbull italian butter nine. it is clear to everybody that counter-terrorism and prevention of hostage-taking was a huge focus for the reagan administration. they built up the infrastructure to an extraordinary degree and had a lot of successes. he will tell you of is that this blip there was a lot to be proud of in his work.
so hostages were central as one cfa guys said in addition to the personal side. reagan was acutely aware of the yellow ribbon phenomenon during the iran hostage saga in 1979 which produced tens of thousands of yellow ribbons all over the united states. no question that he was determined not to see that happen again. there was also a particular concern in a few personal licenses. the main one being the face of -- the fate of cia officer william buckley who was tragically reassigned to beirut very shortly after he left. in the this violated tradecraft by putting him in danger, relocating in their so soon
after he had departed. sure enough fairly early on when this all started. one hostage in 82 in another and 803. eighty-four is where this next phase starts. buckley was the guy that was of most concern to casey, mcfarland, and others. we know that he was tortured and died and purportedly produced from it a 400 page transcript of his, you know, agonized whatever discussions with these people a token. that created huge pressure for intelligence communities as well as the president. and, in fact, the hope was that buckley would be the first. that was what mcfarlane wanted. ..
elsewhere at the laundry so i couldn't. >> we would help you other wise. >> there is one name that doesn't come up yet and i am interested to know, where is george h. w. bush in all this? what does that tell us about the pardons? >> excellent question. george h. w. bush and my reading of it was making sure he left no
footprints in the sand wherever he went. if i can find the document here, as you remember, he came under a lot of scrutiny while he was running for president to succeed reagan in 1988. and his whole story was i didn't know anything. i was out of the loop. i wasn't in the cockpit. it was a difficult line for him to tread because he was trying to show himself simultaneously as right there with the gipper and yet convenient the offstage when trouble hit. it turns out bush left a diary of sorts that was not known about until a late in the investigation, there is a whole other aspect of the saga.
said to say the reaction of several key officials, to heighten them and with hold them from the independent counsel who was treated as the devil incarnate. the question is whether it was resolved at the library of congress. it seems to me these guys knew what they were doing and they withheld this stuff deliberately in order to protect themselves. bush was no example and this was a page from -- it is called the bush diary. he started keeping it on november 4th, 1986, the day after the iran deal became known but he did it allegedly for his own purposes, to record his upcoming campaign and he would
dictate on to a tape and the secretary would transcribe it. the very second day of -- these all came through the independent counsel who recovered the notes and diaries of george shultz's tape, charlie hill, donald regan and one or two others all of whom claim they never kept notes, never had anything of the sort of. november 5th, this is bush's diary. on the news that the question of the hostages, there's some discussion of doug mcfarland having been held prisoner in iran for four days. i am one of the few people who know fully the details and there's a lot of misinformation out there. it is not a subject we can talk about. weinberger also has notes that shows that bush was very much involved and so does schulz's aid, charlie hill.
i would love to try to read some of this, but let's see. i think won't read it. there is a lot of fantastic material that is out there and in this case i am thinking of, there are conversations between shultz and bush where shultz is saying not just with schulz but shultz coming back from meetings to talk to charlie hill, oh my god, what is happening here? late november of '86 when the trouble hit the fan and schulz keeps going to meetings at the white house coming that going this is another watergate. these people on lying, they're falling into the same trap and the vice president is one of the. who does he think he is kidding? he was there, he was in the room. almost quote, to his credit he can trust bush and more as a friendly warning he said you got to watch when you are doing because you are treading a very
fine line and you know you approve these things so you got to be careful what you said and bush said i am a very careful, truer words were never spoken and schulz comes back and says you may think you are being right in what you are saying that you can't be technically right. you have to be right and be careful where this leads you. very strong stuff, no doubt whatsoever not only on the iran side but the contra side. one whole aspect of these scandals, the scandal of dealing with the contract -- iran-contra, oliver north was busy doing all kinds of illegal stuff, no question but higher ups including the vice president and others, in their attempts to get foreign governments to
donate money that congress refused to appropriate. there is a whole legal question about this, known as quid pro quo deal and the question that surrounded whether or not it is legal to do a quid pro quo deal with a foreign government. the short answer is no, it is not. you can have a conversation with a head of state as reagan did beforehand and if that conversation results in a foreign leader saying you know, i think we can have you out here and we would like to make a notation, that is okay but what clearly happened on a number of occasions was american officials going to these guys and bush is one of them going to talk to roberto in honduras and saying to them bluntly we need your help, we need you to keep going with contras, host among your
territory, help us get weapons shipments through, give us money, whatever the situation is and bushes on the record of having made that kind of approach and in each of these cases, the head of state or the official whoever it is, is also one paper saying what is in it for us? how are you going to help us? even king fahd is seen as kind of a nice gesture he gives. but i recently found a document, a meeting, set of minutes, national security planning group, more tightly held and the national security council and discussing the escalation of conflict in the persian gulf, in
may of 1985. earlier in 1984, february of 1985, the saudis and two stages tell mcfarland and reagan that they are going to give a lot of money to the contras, the first is $1 million a month. mcfarland reports to reagan and reagan says that is great, then reagan meets with king fahd who says i am going to double it to $2 million a month. shortly after that happened, by coincidence, there is a meeting of the imf pg and it starts with john poindexter saying we have got -- we have just gotten an urgent request from king fahd to help them out in these various ways in the persian gulf because shipping is being attacked and it is time to step up and do
something. that doesn't take a math genius to at 2 and 2 to together and see there is an expectation there and that was the case even more explicitly in these other instances including one case where bush admitted, went to honduras to try to cut the same deal with suarzo. >> if my memory is right you also described in the book a meeting at the king david hotel in jerusalem between the vice president and the israelis. you have alluded to this before but i want to zero in a little bit more. as i read the scandal it would never have happened. the idea of arms to hostages, arms to iran, arms in general for iraq whether for hostages or strategic reasons or whatever, would never have stood in washington without the israelis saying this is the right thing to do.
this book is not about israeli foreign policy but how would you characterize the weight which israel had in moving the united states in this direction and particularly -- and in the history of israel, turned out to be disaster. >> not only in helping spark it as i said earlier but encouraging it as the process went on. it wasn't completely one side. there were clearly people on the american side who were uncomfortable about this and george bush was another one who were skittish about too much of an israeli role and one of schulz's criticisms which he
says in one of his angst ridden discussions with charlie hill is the problem is when we do this kind of thing, even if the president says it is minuscule and selling it opens the door for israel to do even more and there was a past history going back almost to immediately after the revolution of israel providing arms and spare parts to iran. often in spite of american disapproval. i talk about this to some extent as a lead up to it. a lot of pressure from israel, let us do it and even early on, some of his arguments that -- we can get you intelligence, we can get you in good with some of these moderates and we think this can work. having just a shred of legitimacy to this notion of
moderates is the israeli argument that one of their best sets of relationships with the old regime was with the military and they claimed we still have friends who are still in the military and we think they may be able to be helpful. that is a little strand that goes through. it is not just -- one of the interesting things to me is the personal side of it, it is not just the ability of one government to sort of home in on what they think is going to register with the other government which is the united states but also the interplay of personalities and it is striking how many of these people have twins, paris is sort of reagan's twin. i interviewed a bunch of people, and to a person's face said paris is this crazy out of the box guy who comes up with these
ideas, paris had a million ideas, 2% of which are really brilliant so he is willing to go out of the box and to this kind of stuff like casey also and doesn't care what the rest of his group things. he has got an arrangement, a power-sharing arrangement. they all get together, they don't necessarily like each other or what they're doing but they know their turn will come so they allow a certain things to go forward. on the operational level there is another separated at birth story which is counterterrorism adviser to paris who met an untimely death, still subject of much interest. he was no.'s twin, separated at birth, a maverick guy, had no experience in the field, made as
many lifelong friends as he did enemies, charming gregarious guy, hated by -- able to sort of cozy up to people like paris and others and be able to have a lot of influence and the two of them got together and worked on all kinds of secret operations that are all did to in north's notes that never saw the light of day but all kinds of wacky ideas about how to expand their operation beyond the iran side. >> more questions? >> since you spent so much time thinking about this, this is a really interesting talk, i would be interested to know your
opinion on how to move forward as a culture. not just america but the human population. this has been going on forever. way back into our history, everything has been distorted and mismanaged and taken advantage of. how do you come to any ideas about how we can move forward as a human culture to avoid these types of things because inevitably it is the average person whose money is being misspent and whose lives are being taken and local populations, it is a big question but do you have any thoughts about that? >> fortunately it is a history book, not a policy or psychology book but yes, you can't help but think about those things, not being an expert in any of those other areas all i can do is
throw out some general reactions which relate to this case and those are that you need to have people in office who take their responsibility seriously. has a population, you need to do more to hold them accountable. you need to be less enthralled of their arguments that we are facing some kind of crisis because there is always a crisis, 9/11 being an example. not that they aren't real but we have to be more aware of how often as you say these kinds of things happen, that it is up to us, up to the media, up to congress, up to the courts, of to the officials themselves to holds themselves and for us to hold them to a higher standard. one of my deep regrets about
this whole scandal is it cheapens that, it lessens that sense, letting these guys get away with it, and by giving them the ones who worked so hard to minimize the responsibility and justify the actions by giving them so much credence when the evidence seems so stock in the other direction and i am talking not just about oliver north who used traveler's checks when he shouldn't have and took an illegal gratuity and all kinds of liberties but also all the way up to reagan himself and the other guy. i believe that it could not have had any effect but to give the american people the sense that
doesn't need to be a high standard for these guys. they're just like you and me. this is why the north trial had to resolve as it did. the jury came out i can put myself in his shoes. he is a regular guy at work. we all cut corners, we all do certain things which we don't shred of evidence, we don't lie at every opportunity to our colleagues, to our superiors, to our counterparts, to the public, to congress. you should find that you are facing serious consequences for that kind of thing and i got the sense that the time and reading back into that that that sort of sense of ethical responsibility took a nosedive after is this episode. >> shane harris, foreign policy magazine. a couple years ago wrote a book
about john poindexter's a we have a chance to talk about a lot of this which was great. two questions, one contra and one iran. i am sure you will say something in the book, where do you come down on whether reagan knew about this diversion and authorized it? the key question that links iran and contra together and how do you think the obama administration which is grappling with the issue of negotiating for terrorists and there seemed to be a lot of gray areas whether ransoms being paid maybe not by the u.s. but others, what lessons do you think they should be drawing from how the reagan administration handled it and what pitfalls they hope to avoid? >> the diversion question was the watergate question of the iran-contra scandal. i have argued and others argued that that was a mistake. to consider is that the central question that was put out to be.
several of us including oliver north agree that it was basically a really clever idea to divert everybody down the wrong path. the diversion was a diversion. because in the course of his investigation -- it is too big a word for it. damage control operation from november 21st to 24th 1986, his aim was to find out what this diversion was all about. that is when they found this memo which i have a copy of here where north said we are going have this arms sales to iran. i will take $12 million and given to the contras -- contras. they go and ask him and his first question is was there a
cover on that? why? no reason. a cover memo would have said the president has seen or something like that. is an important question because it does identify and act that virtually everybody sees as blatantly illegal act. but it does deflect from the other key issues that were at plate then. the president could deny ever having known anything about the diversion, then it became safe to go in front of the public and say there was this diversion. what a terrible thing but don't worry, we are on top of this, we fired the guy who did it, his boss has resigned, we are going to look into this some more.
what he was worried about at that point before he found the diversion memo was the realization that reagan had authorized three set -- shipments to terrorists in iran without any of the legal groundwork that was necessary to do that without a finding, reporting to congress or any of that stuff and he says himself that is a violation. he tells schulz that is the violation. he says i don't think -- will spin the same conversation tells him no. i just talked to the president and he said oh yes, i knew that. it is the blatant cover-up by meese when they have a couple other meetings with high-level people and they basically spins the story, here's what happened, the president didn't know. nobody says anything and shultz comes back going oh my god, they are building a wall around the
president but at the meeting no one says the thing. they all -- okay. as far as whether reagan did in fact know, this was the big question and h huge disagreement among all concerned, among investigators, anybody you talk to. half of them can't believe reagan didn't know about it because this was one of his most important subjects for him, policy topics. his aides as bruce no, to go out and get some answers to the hostages. every meeting that you had as i understand it ended with what do we tell the president about where the hostages art? is it conceivable that reagan would just stop asking questions about how we are keeping these
guys together body and soul, the other half says poindexter has taken -- he was such an arrogant guy he saw it fully within his responsibility to decide what the president knew and didn't know and that is what he said during the hearings. sat there looking like the gray ghost, the bucks stops here with me. i interviewed him too and found him completely fascinating and its maybe he is telling the truth and to this day he says i never told the president because i knew he needed deniability but on the other hand he says i told him everything else that happened and he knew all about what oliver north was doing, he knew about this because we talked about at all the time. we talked about how the nsa staff should be conducting covert operations, we did all that stuff but he is willing to say that because that makes it
an impeachable offense. if he knew about that staff, his own staff was in direct violation of the boland amendment, it is the law of the land and clear enough, imagine obama in the same situation if you are asking comparisons with obama. how long one obama last of that information came out at least before calls for impeachment came out? if poindexter is willing to admit to all fat, 0 what is in it for him to say i kept that a secret, if that is not true? to my mind poindexter is a much more loyal servant than north is. no. used those hearings to spill his guts because he had a smart lawyer, going on trial soon, we are getting you immunity for anything you say so whatever you got to say, say it. poindexter didn't take that you. he was found guilty on all his
charges, north didn't. they were vacated because of the immunized testimony problem but poindexter was in a position to do what north did and he didn't. he took all the heat for that so that gives him some credibility. i can't say i know for sure but it is a fact. >> unfortunately we have reached the witching hour. you had a second question if you want to make a comment about hostage lessons. >> maybe i can deflect it and talk about u.s./iran relations, there are people who know more about this than i do. my sense over the years is that the u.s. has slowly slowly been learning lessons. the reagan period offered several, there are people you can talk to. it is not 100% clear what they want from us but there is enough
evidence from people like george cave, the retiree from the cia who was part of this mission that fully believe the iranians wanted more than weapons, they wanted to talk longer term. that is an interesting question. of course the scandal from this putt all thoughts of contact of that sort into the deep freeze for a while. that is one of the bad outcomes of the operation. each president seemed to have to discover something for himself. soak clinton for instance decided okay, we got a new guy, a moderate thought to be in office, let's make an approach to him but do it directly, not through intermediaries to can't be trusted with what reagan did so they wrote a letter 1999 that helped to convey to the iranians but it blows up in their face.
this is not the guy you should be addressing it to, it is the supreme leader you should be addressing it to. obama seems to have figured that out, what kind of effect that has had is hard to say but there are these pieces of evidence that the u.s. is gradually picking up from each of their predecessors. hostages, i pity the people whose profession it is to work this stuff out. in the course of digging through all of this weird operations that these guys did there's a lot of material out there about what else was happening and the incredible lengths to witch people went in creating these organizations, hostage location task force, by huge amount of effort went into figuring out how to get these guys out and
whether or not rescue operation and so on and all it came down to was not having enough intelligence, where are these people. noaa never seemed able to work that out. i think now as isis is showing, everything evolves and back then even though reagan at one point was terrified hostages were going to be executed as carter was afraid his hostages would be executed in fact there is a great memo from one of these meetings, showing a decisive side to that a lot of people might be surprised about, approved undertaking military strikes and other acts like that against not just hezbollah but in my reading of against iranian targets as well if anything happens to those hostages the meeting ends with poindexter's saying we are agreed to if this
happens we will conduct this strike and reagan snapping his fingers goes like that. poindexter, the crazy poindexter says don't you think we should have one more meeting to confirm this and reagan goes no, only if it doesn't delay the strike and of course this blackout tax on all sides. the lesson is you got to be supercareful because if you don't get it right, then isis is showing the stakes are as high as all these folks fear. >> this last hour-and-a-half has given you just a sample. it is a great book. i urge you to get it. we have copies on sale here and i thank you for coming today.
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