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Minority report.


Thus Robert Graves, taking an early revisionist line in "The Persian Version.' Now, either the White House's Persian version is an account of a well-laid plan thwarted by ill luck and malice, or it is a mere chapter of accidents. The press and the Democratic leadership, by bleating about "aberrations,' "inconsistencies,' "credibility' and "revelations,' implicitly support the President in his witless excuses. Is this scandal a blow to the Reagan doctrine, or is it the Reagan doctrine in full view?

The case for regarding the blood-money triangle linking Iran, Israel and Nicaragua as politics and not as fiasco need not await the pomposities and distractions of a special prosecutor. Over the past few years various flatterers and timeservers in Washington have evolved the notion of a Reagan doctrine. This doctrine was moderately intelligible long before Lieut. Col. Oliver North became a household name. It rested on certain explicit principles:

(1) The United States was to be among those present whenever any anticommunist fighters debated their next move, however quixotic or extreme.

(2) Congress and the public, especially after their ingratitude to Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, were unfit to overhear such deliberations.

(3) One could not be too choosy about the resulting military and political alliances.

(4) The Israelis were the only stout and consistent surrogate for U.S. action in the Third World.

This has been the dull, insistent throb set up by Elliott Abrams, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Charles Krauthammer and the related, well-promoted chorus of Commentary, The National Interest, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal and others. Now those people have got, in every detail, the policy for which they argued and shouted. And what are they doing? They are remembering pressing appointments elsewhere.

The traditional right, to its weird credit, is preparing its own Persian version road-tested in the stab-in-the-back dramas of China, Cuba and Vietnam. In this scenario Ollie North plays General MacArthur or General Westmoreland. George Shultz plays the treacherous, striped-pants pointy-head --a laugh if ever there was one. As usual, nobody plays William Calley or even claims to have met him. But, once again, all would have been well if the gallant men in the field had not had their hands tied behind their blah, blah. This time-honored dirge of reactionary self-pity is at least familiar and well rehearsed.

Still, one can imagine North bravely giving his all in some heroic, stupid finale of Reaganite theater. And he doesn't deny, meanwhile, that there was a Persian version--i.e., a plan. For him, poor sap, the Reagan doctrine was his job. Contrast his manner and bearing, as courageous at the front as it was at the shredder, with the suave, vicarious pseudo-intellectuals who wove and sold the justifications:

"A wink and a nod, hell--we think it's been fine.'

"If it's true, then they are heroes.'

"God bless them.'

That was Elliott Abrams, while denying government complicity in the Hasenfus mission in October. A few months earlier Jeane Kirkpatrick had been accepting pennants from contra units and had opened a museum in Miami dedicated to the Bay of Pigs invasion. Who did they think was paying for all that gaiety? Now look at what they say. This was Kirkpatrick in her dreary column syndicated on November 30:

In government, as in life, some problems are inevitable. Others are downright unnecessary. The difficulties suffered in recent days by Ronald Reagan and his Administration are self-inflicted wounds that could and should have been avoided.

Lieut. Col. Oliver North and Vice Adm. John Poindexter had no obligation more important than informing the President of all actions associated with the Iranian transactions, especially the questionable aspects.

Note the decline on the part of this duo from braggartry to euphemism. Abrams, who is in nominal charge of Central American policy in this Administration, now says that he learned of the Iranian blood money only by watching television. You can't get a quote out of him this week, let alone one about "heroes.' He willed the end, but he wanted to preserve "deniability' about the means. That defines the valet du pouvoir. And it defines the entire claque of right-wing Democratic defectors who wanted revenge for the fall of Nixon and who hitched themselves to the Reagan bandwagon. Norman Podhoretz spoke more truth than he could have known when he called 1980 "the election that Watergate postponed.'

By executing such a quick fade when things got rough and by leaving all the hero talk to their fool of a President, the neoconservatives have dropped below the moral level of the old John Birch and Chiang Kai-shek militants who were doing their dirty work. For years the favorite taunt employed by the neocons against the left has been "useful idiot.' They are now revealed as a disposable item in the armory of Reaganism, lacking even the cowardice of their convictions. Useless idiots, if you need a phrase for them.
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Title Annotation:Iran and contra weapons sale scandal
Author:Hitchens, Christopher
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:column
Date:Dec 13, 1986
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