Iran-Contra and the Israeli Lobby

excerpted from the book

Covert Action

the Roots of Terrorism

edited by Ellen Ray and William H. Schaap

Ocean Press, 2003, paper

Iran - Contra and the Israel Lobby
Introduction by Ellen Ray and William H. Schaap

God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America's Middle Eastern policy and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) Anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy and d) a terrorist.

John LeCarre, London Times, January 15, 2003

Today, the U.S. Government and its goose-stepping corporate media tightly control the most powerful propaganda apparatus the world has ever seen.

The campaign for world economic and political domination gathered momentum during the final years of the Cold War, including the decade-long Iran-lraq War of the 1980s (in which the United States sold arms to both sides) and the "clandestine" wars against Nicaragua's Sandinista Government and the revolutionary movements in El Salvador, Guatemala Angola, South Africa and elsewhere. What became known as the IranContra scandal-clandestine U.S. arms sales to Iran, facilitated by Israeli intelligence guidance, with the huge profits used to fund the terrorist war of the contras against the revolutionary government of Nicaragua-was a major part of these operations. Both ends of the operation were ostensibly prohibited by U.S. Iaw and the secret sales to Iraq were not even part of the publicly known equation.

The psychological operations, or "psyops" apparatus, institutionalized today, which have virtually eliminated public media debate while severely damaging civil and constitutional rights, began in earnest during the Reagan and Bush I administrations. And the forces shaping administration policies and consequently government propaganda, include familiar faces from those years: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, Eliot Abrams and Michael Ledeen, among many others.

During the Reagan years, the State Department ran an Office of Public Diplomacy, which was little more than a separate disinformation office. And it was riddled with Iran-Contra figures like Lt. Col. Oliver North and Adm. John Poindexter. With the "war on terrorism" as its justification, the current Bush Administration tried to establish a formal international disinformation agency, a shadowy Pentagon operation called the Office of Strategic Influence, directed to "conduct covert operations aimed at influencing public opinion and policymakers in friendly and neutral nations." Even the mainstream press found the open espousal of disinformation too much and Congress refused to fund the program. Of course, the secret operations continue, as they always have. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was unusually frank and openly cynical about it. After announcing that the exposure of their plans had forced the Pentagon to shut down this operation, he defiantly told reporters, "fine I'll give you the corpse..., you can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have."

More successfully, the Pentagon established the Total Information Awareness Program, to collect and collate all available electronic information on U.S. citizens, compiling credit-card, travel, medical, school, banking and other data. Brought in to head this agency was Adm. John Poindexter, despite his conviction in Iran-Contra on five felony counts of Iying to Congress (later overturned because he was deemed to have been granted immunity). This, too, was a bit much for the Congress and Poindexter's appointment was rejected.

The compelling international issues today, those which will shape the future, are most importantly the Middle and Far East-Israel, Iraq, China, North Korea. Preeminent is Israel, for it is the Israel lobby (sometimes called the Israel firsters), broadly defined, which is setting the entire, immediate, agenda. Traditional lobbying of Congress is still dominated by the American-lsrael Political Action Committee, but its power base today is the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, chaired by Richard Perle, a Reagan Defense Department veteran. Perle was a co-founder of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), which maintains that there is no difference between Israel's national security interests and America's. It calls for "regime change" not just in Iraq, but in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority. "Total war," JINSA co-founder and pundit Michael Ledeen (another Iran-Contra figure) calls it. Two other JINSA board members are on the policy board, Adm. David Jeremiah and former CIA Director James Woolsey.

Before 1980, the Israel lobby functioned mostly on the fringe, through independently funded, extremely conservative organizations like the Committee on the Present Danger, JINSA, the Center for Security Policy, the Project for a New Century and the American-lsrael Political Action Committee. Some were based at mainstream academic institutions. Some were closely tied to religious organizations, ironically both Zionist and fundamentalist Christian.

They asserted that the defense of Israel and the consequent and necessary control of the Middle East rests solely on the virtually unquestioning support of Israel's every policy-including the settlements in the occupied territories, collective punishment, preemptive strikes and the ultimate "transfer" of all Palestinians out of what once was Palestine- and that such support should be the fundamental pillars of U.S. foreign policy. Their justifications were as diverse as their constituents, but all saw Israel as the proxy guarantor of U.S. domination over the Middle East and its oil and water resources, perfectly designed to keep Arab nationalist aspirations at bay and in disarray. Christian fundamentalists viewed Israel as the key battleground for the Second Coming, Armageddon, the Day of Judgment.

The Israel lobby flourished during Ronald Reagan's presidency, but was somewhat less influential during the first Bush Administration, which tried to put the brakes on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. George W. Bush, on the contrary, is toeing the Sharon-Likud line, another "man of peace."

One of the most powerful pro-lsrael flacks is Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Wolfowitz has been in the Pentagon and the State Department since the early 1970s, except for the Clinton years. He was ambassador to Indonesia during some of the worst years of the Suharto dictatorship and worked hard during the 2000 presidential campaign to keep the Reagan-Bush support for Suharto out of the debate. It was Wolfowitz who authored the 1992 "Defense Policy Guidance," which has been reborn as Bush II's "National Security Strategy." Though not formally afffiliated with the Israel lobby organizations, Wolfowitz is known not only as a super-hawk, but also as a profound supporter of right-wing Israeli positions. In a speech to the Pro-lsrael rally in Washington in April 2002, he concluded, "May God bless America, may God bless Israel."

Also part of this group is Douglas Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Feith is on JlNSA's board of advisers and is the most vocal proponent of another fundamental tenet of the Israel lobby (and others), that any and all arms limitation treaties are anathema. Feith was in charge of oversight of the short-lived Office of Strategic Influence.

Another key figure is John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. He is truly the fox in charge of the chicken coop; he was instrumental in Washington's decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. He led the U.S. attack on the International Criminal Court. Bolton was vice-president of the American Enterprise Institute and on the boards of the avowedly racist Manhattan Institute and the New American Century. He is a long-time advocate of diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, scoffing at the notion China would respond with force. Together with Ariel Sharon, he endorsed the game plan that, after Iraq, the United States and Israel must deal militarily with Iran and Syria. Of Bolton, Jesse Helms said, "[he] is the kind of a man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon.

Eliot Abrams, one of the most vicious of the Iran-Contra gang, has been appointed senior director for Near East and North African affairs on the National Security Council.

And Michael Ledeen, for all practical purposes an Israeli fifth columnist, is a longtime propagandist for the cabal, a Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, who ... was deeply involved in the Iran-Contra crimes. Ledeen is one of the most vocal proponents of "total war," calling for the overthrow of Iraq, Iran, Syria and even Saudia Arabia, as well as the removal of Yasser Arafat.

Perhaps the Israel lobby's greatest asset has been its ability to stifle criticism of its views by conflating opposition to the murderous policies of the Sharon Government of Israel with anti-Semitism, including a shameful denigration of the horror of the Holocaust, constantly equating Middle Eastern regimes with Hitler's. Donald Rumsfeld, a staunch supporter of this group, has referred to "the so-called occupied territories," and demonized French and German opposition to his Iraq war plans by slyly referring to the "Old Europe," a reference to Nazism and collaboration. Only as this agenda became open and blatant with the United States on the brink of war and threats of possible preemptive nuclear attacks emanating from the Pentagon, were some voices in the mainstream media speaking out with trepidation against the unbridled power of these hawks and the outrageous fallacies of their arguments .

Control over the limits of debate in the media has been vicious, with swift retaliation against any attempted breach in the wall surrounding Israeli righteousness. This goes well beyond the long-standing linguistic tricks, whereby, for example, Palestinians only "attack," and Israelis only "retaliate," whereby a Palestinian child who throws a rock at an Israeli tank is a terrorist, while an Israeli soldier who bulldozes the home of the mother of a suspected terrorist, killing her in the process, is an antiterrorist.


by Fred Landis
CAQ 1987

[Oliver] North and [Michael] Ledeen have worked together in a number of operations in recent years, very different, but all, one way or another, involving psyops or disinformation. In 1983, North was involved in the Grenada invasion l The media were excluded and U.S. Army psyops took over the local press and radio. The mainstream U.S. media got a bizarre white paper authored by Michael Ledeen, purportedly based upon the three tons of documentation the U.S. invaders seized.

That same year Ledeen and North participated in a National Security Council planning group that led to the creation of the State Department's Office of Public Diplomacy. North fed the office CIA and DIA material on Nicaragua, grist for its propaganda mill, while Ledeen and others churned it out.

In 1984, North masterminded an attempted drug trade sting against Nicaragua. North's colleague, "retired" Gen. Richard V. Secord, purchased a C-123K cargo plane from Southern Air Transport. It was outfitted with hidden cameras and turned over to DEA agent Barry Adler Seal. Seal then force landed at a military airfield in Nicaragua, where he got photos of a Nicaraguan official, Federico Vaughn, investigating. That photo then became the basis of much disinformation on a supposed Borge-Castro narcotics trafficking ring. President Reagan used the photo on television, stating, with utterly no evidence or justification, that a box in the picture was filled with drugs. Like a bad penny, the same plane returned to Nicaragua in October 1986, carrying Eugene Hasenfus.

After the 1984 congressional elections, North helped plan a series of sonic booms over Nicaragua, in an attempt to rattle the Sandinistas. Ledeen then orchestrated a rumor campaign among the Washington press corps that the invasion of Grenada had just been a preamble to the invasion of Nicaragua.

In the 1986 congressional elections, North assisted in the political campaigns of Senators Paula Hawkins (Rep.-Fla.) and Jeremiah Denton (Rep.-Ala.). They lost. But interestingly, Denton's Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism and Hawkins's Subcommittee on Children, Family, Drugs and Alcohol were both favorite platforms for Ledeen to spread his media hoaxes.

Ledeen and Contragate

Ledeen's role in Iran-a-scam and Contragate begins with his secret missions to Israel. But it is unclear who was urging whom to do what. According to leaked portions of a Senate Intelligence Committee report, the sale of arms to Iran was planned and implemented by the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad. Each time that the United States rejected further participation in the Israeli plan, some Mossad agent was urgently dispatched to the United States to put their plan back on track. Throughout the leaked Senate report, there are references to "the Israeli plan." And the text of a memo by Lt. Col. Oliver North titled "Covert Action Finding Regarding Iran" reads: "Prime Minister Peres of Israel secretly dispatched his special adviser on terrorism (Amiram Nir) with instructions to propose a plan by which Israel, with limited assistance from the United States, can create conditions..."

But instead of trying to shift the blame to Israel, the White House sought to delete all references to the Israeli role from the Senate report and the media accounts followed suit.

Naturally, the New York Times placed the initiative with the National Security Council: President Reagan contended that the program had its inception in mid-1985 when McFarlane sent a U.S. consultant, Michael Ledeen, to Israel.

The Israeli press depicted Ledeen as an U.S. agent who got Israel invoked as a broker in a deal between the United States and Iran. Defense Minister and former Director General of Foreign Affairs David Kimche told the Los Angeles Times that the purpose of his July 1985 visit to Washington was to confirm Ledeen's bona fides. However, there were a number of glaring problems with the Israeli cover story. Kimche had already met with McFarlane in January 1985 to urge arms sales to Iran.

He had been pushing for this policy since 1981.

And Ledeen was hardly a stranger to Israeli officials. In fact, the ludicrous part of the Israeli cover story is the allegation that Kimche, who lived in New York for five years in the 1960s as chief of Mossad's Western Hemisphere operations division, had to travel to Washington to establish Ledeen's bona fides. David Kimche and Amiram Nir spent their professional lives in the Mossad, an agency not unknown to Ledeen.

Ledeen and Israel

Michael Ledeen was a founder of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and was a major participant in the 1979 and 1984 Jonathan Institute conferences on terrorism. Both institutes have substantial ties to Mossad. Indeed

Ledeen is the missing link of covert operations by Mossad in the United States during the Reagan Administration.

The most visible trail left by Mossad is the disinformation activities of Ledeen and friends. Michael Ledeen, Robert Moss and Claire Sterling were all speakers at the 1979 Jerusalem conference of the Jonathan Institute, a meeting which many Israeli intelligence agents attended. The speakers bemoaned the fall of Somoza and the Shah; Moss blasted the KGB;6 Ledeen pointed out that even the KGB would not have succeeded if it were not for their mole (unnamed) in the Carter Administration. Ledeen and his codisinformationists always raise the specter of a KGB role in Iran and Nicaragua, primarily to justify more U.S. covert action. Indeed one of the themes at the Jerusalem Conference was that Carter had destroyed the CIA.

Israel's Worries

Governments like South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and especially Israel, simply cannot survive without continued U.S. military and economic assistance. The loss of Iran and Nicaragua under the Carter Administration led them to a certain concern about the reliability of the United States. Israel decided it would have to play a more aggressive role in U.S. domestic politics in order to guarantee an unwavering partner. The propaganda themes spread during the Jerusalem conference were aimed at the 1980 U.S. elections, to discredit Carter, support conservatives and present Israel as the U.S.'s most reliable ally in the face of terrorist and Soviet threats. The vehicle was disinformation.

The Golden Age of Disinformation

At no other time in U.S. history, not even during World War II, have so many millions of U.S. citizens been led to believe such hysterical hoaxes.

The Reagan era will go down in history as the golden age of disinformation. And if you follow the paper trail of verifiable disinformation spread the last six years within the United States, the Israelis are first, the CIA a poor second and the KGB dead last as a source of disinformation spread in the United States.

Disinformation became one of the buzzwords of the Reagan Administration. It covered every piece of news they didn't like, including statements by Democrats. Meanwhile the CIA spread disinformation about Libya, Iran, Grenada and Nicaragua. Hours before the Grenada invasion, Admiral Poindexter told reporters an invasion was out of the question. Later he wrote his famous memo outlining a policy of disinformation aimed at Libya. President Reagan accused Sandinista leaders of being dope dealers. As part of McFarlane's cover story for U.S. involvement in Iran, he repeated disinformation about a massive buildup of Soviet strength on the Iranian border.

Disinformation is intrinsically of interest to journalists because someone is polluting the information stream. What is not generally realized is that disinformation is always coordinated with other covert operations. Often a specific disinformation theme is deception and cover for other activities by the originator. Michael Ledeen has been involved in the dissemination of a number of disinformation stories which provide sufficient data to test this proposition.

Before popping up in the middle of the Iran-Contra scandal, Ledeen had built up a reputation concocting or spreading major disinformation themes, among them:

* The notion that the CIA was destroyed under Carter;

* That there was a KGB mole in the Carter Administration;

* That the loss of Iran and Nicaragua was the work of the mole;

* That the Soviet Union is behind an International Terror Network;

* That it tried to kill the Pope;

* That the Libyans tried to kill President Reagan;

* That the Iranians tried to kill President Reagan; and

* That Fidel Castro and Tomas Borge are major narcotics dealers.

These fake stories, spread with the conspicuous help of Israel, had the surface appearance of being solely right-wing U.S. propaganda. In fact, Israel was actively covering its penetration of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. Indeed, the first four hoaxes were the Mossad Party platform for the 1980 U.S. elections. To sell its expertise in the area of combating terrorism and to get the attention of credulous U.S. conservatives, Israel fostered a Soviet angle. It tried to curry favor with the CIA and to discredit further the existing liberal U.S. foreign policy establishment by launching a witch-hunt against nonexistent moles.

Mossad cannot stand détente, between Iraq and Iran or between the United States and the Soviet Union. It is to the advantage of Israeli intelligence to promote the notion that the Soviet Union tried to kill the Pope and that it is behind all acts of international terrorism.

While everyone else was amused by the preposterous story of a Libyan "hit squad" out to kill the president, a story which originated with Israeli intelligence, Reagan had concrete bunkers built to surround the White House and heavily armed Marines in fatigues on the roof. If you are an intelligence agent and you want to get the attention of some world leader, tell him you have uncovered a terrorist plot to kill him. The CIA had been employing this trick in the Third World for years; why should we be :surprised that Mossad pulled it on Reagan?


What Vice-President Bush Knew and Why He Knew It
by Anthony L. Kimery
CAQ 1992



"What is striking about George Bush's role as vice-president is that - L was much more than has ever been suspected. [In the Iran-Contra operation, he]... actually helped execute the dirty-tricks schemes that hijacked Congress's prerogatives in the 1980s," wrote Frank Snepp and Jonathan Marshall. Bush was in the big middle of the Reagan Administration's covert operations; not just as a yes man to Reagan, but as an ardent supporter of and facilitator for, the CIA and the covert operations crowd at Langley and the Old Executive Office Building. That involvement buttresses emerging evidence that Bush has been connected to the clandestine services for nearly four decades.

From his early days at Yale in the 1940s, when he was a member of the Agency-linked Skull and Bones Society, to his career as a moderately successful Texas businessman in the 1950s and early 1960s, to his stint as a political player in the 1960s and 1970s, Bush has been unofficially linked to the CIA in one way or another. In 1976, when Bush became head of the Agency, the connection came into the open and stayed unusually close through his term as vice-president. Bush orchestrated CIA covert activities employed by the Reagan Administration to achieve its foreign policy objectives-the same ones Bush had a heavy hand in designing.

In 1981, when CIA Director William Casey first laid out his plan to launch a secret war against the Sandinista Government, Bush eagerly supported the scheme. And for good reason: It was drafted by his longtime friend, CIA career officer Donald Gregg, who was the Agency's man on the National Security Council (NSC) and who arranged for an expansion of Bush's role in the planning and approval of covert operations. Shortly after Casey's plan was adopted by the White House, Bush appointed Gregg his national security adviser. Resigning from the Agency in 1979 to sever the official link, Gregg began in 1981 to manage the Contra supply effort that Oliver North was running from the NSC. By this time, Bush was a member of the NSC, the National Security Planning Group, the Task Force on Combating Terrorism and chair of the White House Special Situations Group.

From then on, Bush attended nearly every key meeting concerning Iran-Contra, signed off on early deliveries of arms to the Contras, helped organize a resupply bridge to Contra bases in Honduras, sent members of his staff into the field to write progress reports and helped stage-manage the Israelis' central role in arming the Contras and brokering the initial arms sales to Iran.

Given his hands-on approach, institutional centrality and personal involvement, Bush's contention that he was out of "the loop" is elementally ludicrous. In a recently surfaced 1987 memo, then Secretary of State George Shultz and then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger expressed incredulity at Bush's assertion that he was unaware that the two cabinet members had opposed the Iran arms sales to fund the contras. "He [Bush] was on the other side [of the debate]. It's on the record," the memo noted recording Shultz's anger. "Why did he say that."

A key link was Donald Gregg, Bush's national security adviser. Gregg oversaw the operation through his trusted friend Felix Rodriguez, a CubanAmerican career CIA operative who first linked up with the Agency during its war against Fidel Castro. According to some accounts, Gregg specifically pitched the idea of putting Rodriguez in charge on the ground in Central America, to which Bush replied: "This sounds like a good idea. See if you can arrange it."

Since Rodriguez reported to Gregg and met on several occasions with Bush, it is not surprising that Bush's office was one of the first places notified when, on October 5,1986, Nicaraguan soldiers shot down a cargo plane trying to drop weapons to the Contras. Onboard were ex-CIA operatives working for the White House, including Eugene Hasenfus, the sole survivor of the shoot-down. Orchestrated denials, particularly by Bush's office and frenetic high-level "spin controls" began immediately. Until forced to recant by the weight of incontrovertible evidence, the White House stonewalled. "There is no government connection with that plane at all," Reagan declared; the aircraft was part of a private Contra supply operation, Shultz and Assistant Secretary Eliot Abrams claimed.

Indictments and More Lies

The extent and nature of that protection involved an elaborate fabric of both legal lies to the public and illegal lies to the Congress. This screen served to distance Vice-President Bush from the mess-until Tuesday, July 9, 1991. That morning, the first of many indictments against former CIA of officials was handed down by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh who was conducting what would become a five-and-a-half year investigation.

It was then that Alan D. Fiers, chief of the CIA's Central America Task Force (1984-88), pleaded guilty to lying to Congress when he testified that "we do not know" whose airplane was shot down or "who was behind the flights.'' Fiers told Congress that the CIA, like Bush, had been out of the loop. Significantly, Fiers stated he was ordered to lie by Clair George, his superior at the Agency. He also admitted knowing that George planned to lie in his testimony to Congress. When Fiers presented George with a suggested opening statement explaining the Hasenfus flight as an unfortunate aberration from the legal "humanitarian" aid flights, George rejected admitting any administration connection to the downed flight. "No," testified Fiers quoting George's response, "I [George] don't want that... It puts the spotlight on the White House, Ollie North or the administration... I don't want to be the first person to do that," a weeping Fiers testified in George's trial. Nearly a year earlier, Fiers had testified that George had told him "this was a State [Department]White House operation."

This high-level coverup is important not only because it hid facts, but because it disguised the trail that might-had the truth been impossible for congressional investigators to dismiss-have led to George Bush.

Covert Action

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