[Iran-Contra: Defrauding the United States]

* The Law and Politics of Iran-Contra (Help)

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
-- Decimus Junius Juvenal, Satires VI 347.

"Who will guard the guardians?" As it happens, Juvenal was talking about the difficulty one might face in the management of a harem; for which exotic difficulty the ancients arguably did manage to find a solution of sorts. Whereas we are less fortunate, for we have found no ready solution to a similar and -- alas -- not very exotic problem. We elect people to govern in accordance with the Constitution, and to make real the promises and protections contained therein; but not only are we unable to prevent them -- our duly appointed Constitutional guardians -- from themselves betraying the cause -- we are also, it seems, unwilling and unable to bring them to justice.

[ Iran-Contra: _Dramatis_Personae_ ]

Consider the following indictment:

"First, using Government resources, the conspirators conducted an unauthorized covert program in support of the contras. Because they feared that Congress would stop them if it knew of their activities and because they feared, as well, the political consequences of that exposure, they deceived Congress about the fact that they were providing this support. By so doing, the conspirators obstructed Congress's legitimate functions of regulating governmental expenditures and overseeing foreign covert actions.

"Second, [the conspirators] used their Government positions to create a hidden slush fund under [their] exclusive control [...] This conflict of interest affected [their] actions in numerous ways. On a mundane level, they permitted significant profits to be generated for the benefit of the private members of the conspiracy [...] On a power-grabbing level, [they] -- in order to increase the body of funds [not subject to Congressional restriction] for covert activities -- used [their] position to drive down the amount that the U.S. Government received from the Iran arms sales and to inflate the amount that the Iranian purchasers paid the conspirators.

"Third, by secretly pursuing their own ends, the conspirators outraged the Iranians they were attempting to persuade and thus jeopardized the success of the Iran initiative. In particular, the initiative's goals of establishing improved relations with Iran and securing the release of American hostages held by groups sympathetic to that country were jeopardized by the conspirators' private objective to overprice the weapons in order to secure additional proceeds for unauthorized purposes."

-- Lawrence E. Walsh, Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, August 4, 1993

It is one of life's little ironies that those who bray most indignantly about "law and order" and "criminals getting off on technicalities" are so often the same ones who presume to "defend" the primary actors in Iran/Contra -- on the remarkable grounds that so few of them were actually convicted. Of course, it is difficult to convict people when their friends in high places insist that documents which might constitute definitive proof of their guilt are conveniently "classified for reasons of national security"; and even more difficult when they are "pardoned" by a friendly president, before a trial has established that there is anything to pardon. For what, exactly, were these people "pardoned," one might well ask -- but the irony is cold comfort. Nevertheless, we now know much of what happened under the rubric of "Iran/Contra" -- it might do us good to keep it in mind:

As always, your comments are welcome.

June 27, 1995 Ideas? Questions?   Let us know! [HTML Hit Counter]