Gallery C

Guns And Drugs
Page 3
Page 2

Hiding Corruption In Broad Daylight

By James Donahue

It was back in 1987 that I was yanked off of my Sanilac County bureau beat to fill in for one of my newspaper’s copy editors who was recovering from a serious heart attack. It was there, during the stress of learning a new job and learning to work with the old MS-DOS operating system (a complex computer program that ran the entire building) that I first heard about the Iran-Contra Affair.

We couldn’t miss the story. The editorial room was a large enclosure at the heart of the second floor of our new block-long newspaper office. It was filled with reporters desks, editor’s desks, book shelves and storage cabinets, and a maze of computers, telephones and televisions. You can imagine the daily chaos that went on in that big room. And because the Iran-Contra Affair was considered “big news” at that time, every television set in the room was operating and all of them were tuned to CNN News.

While my desk was located right below one of those operating television sets, I have to admit that the significance of Iran-Contra totally escaped me. I think it escaped everybody else in the room, although nobody wanted to admit it. It was one of the most confusing political corruption stories ever broadcast. Looking back on it now, I think it was done on purpose. Somebody high up in the Reagan Administration did not want the American people to understand what was going on. 

It was strange political corruption so buried in its complexities that I am not sure the reporters at CNN or the National Press Corp really grasped the full implications. 

Because of its vast size, its rich oil reserves and its location bordering China on the East, Russia on the North, Turkey on the West, the Arabian Sea on the South, Iran has remained a key player in world politics. Iran’s former ruler, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, known to us as the Shaw of Iran, was considered an ally to the United States during his reign from 1941 to 1979.

When the Shaw was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomenini became supreme leader of Iran our relations with that country quickly soured. It was in 1979 that Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy and held 52 American workers hostage for 444 days. Khomrnini who was always pictured with a black turbin on his head and a scowl on his face, referred to the United States as “The Great Satan.” It didn't take Americans long to realize that the new leader of Iran was not our friend.

So when Iran got involved in a deadly war with Iraq nobody cared much although it was curious to me that we joined Russia, China, Egypt and several other nations in supporting Iraq in what turned out to be an eight-year war. Saddam Hussein rose to power in Iraq at that time and chemical weapons were used. Iranian casualties were estimated up to nearly a million people.

While that ugly war was raging, another Islamic rebel group known as  the Hezbollah reared its ugly head in Lebanon where the Marine barracks in Beirot was attacked and 21 hostages, mostly American and western European officials, were captured. The Hezbollah were believed to have been closely linked to Iran and Syria. (See how complex this puzzle was getting?)

Meanwhile in Central America, the Sandinista National Liberation Front of Nicaragua was raging a guerrilla war with a socialist rebel group based in Honduras known as the Contras. It was part of a socialist politicial movement then sweeping through the Latin-American states. The United States officially remained unsupportive of both the Contras and the Iranians, but secret wheeling and dealing was being conducted by the CIA and other government agencies for political reasons.

There was an agreement to secretly arm and train the Contras, who in turn supplied arms to Iran in a covert operation called "The Enterprise." Purpose of the arms sales to Iran was an odd attempt to negotiate with the enemy for the release of the hostages in Beirut.
At the same time the secret arms sales were going on, there also was a lot of secret narcotics sales happening throughout Latin America, The United States, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Several investigative journalists wrote stories about the involvement of the CIA in the cocaine trafficking in Central America during those years. One Contra leader said his group was being paid $50,000 by Colombian traffickers for a 100-kilo cocaine shipment and the money was supposed to support the Contra fighters.
You might imagine all of the double-talk and "I don't recall's" spewing from the lips of the people like Oliver North and John Poindexter during those weeks of televised hearings. The investigations never found their way to President Reagan's door and I always found that odd. Several arrests were made but all of the wrongdoers were later pardoned by Presidents Reagan or H. W. Bush.
Thus in the end, the hearings were a lot of noise about nothing.
If they were attentive, however, what the American people learned was that the CIA has been, and may still be deeply involved in drug trafficking in South America, Middle America and the Middle East, and nobody has ever revealed why, or where all of the money has gone.
The story might help explain the heavy drug cartel connections with Latin America, and reason US troops remain active in Afghanistan where most of the poppy plants that produce heroin in the world are grown, and why there appears to be so much corruption in high government places.