Source The People's Daily World (212) 924-2523 239 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011 (T
Source: The People's Daily World (212) 924-2523
239 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011
(To subscribe at a super-low $10 per year or for
more information about the PDW, contact the above.)
THE NORTH NOTEBOOKS
By Tim Wheeler
May was not a good month for those assigned to the coverup of the
Iran-contra conspiracy. New disclosures erupted in legal proceedings across
the country. And all of the new information reinforced evidence pointing in
one direction -- toward President George Bush.
The information was so revealing that it would have precipitated a
full-fledged political crisis were it not for collaboration in the coverup by
the bi-partisan congressional leadership, the courts, and the Big Business news
media. Indeed, the refusal of Congress and the media to root out the source of
the Iran- contra conspiracy and bring the criminals to justice is now becoming,
in itself, an overriding issue. Investigative writers such as Seymour Hersh of
the New York Times and Scott Armstrong of the National Security Archive are
beginning to sharply assail Congress and the media for cowardice and
collaboration in the conspiracy. More and more, Iran-contra is exposed as a
crisis of the two-party system with the Democrats unable or unwilling to
challenge the secret junta in the White House basement.
Congress's refusal to take principled action means that the
conspirators are making a clean getaway. They may be emboldened to resort once
again to the same criminal enterprise if Congress, for example, terminated all
aid to the death squad regime in El Salvador. After all, the main reaction of
Congress to the Iran-contra affair was to repeal the Boland Amendment, which
had outlawed aid to the contras, and to restore that aid. And not one of the
White House conspirators -- including National Security Advisers Robert
McFarlane and Adm. John M. Poindexter, Oliver North, Fawn Hall -- has yet
served an hour in jail. What a contrast to the Watergate scandal, which forced
the resignation of President Nixon and sent John Ehrlichman, H.R. Haldeman,
Attorney General John Mitchell and a bunch of others to jail.
The problem is that no matter how hard Congress and the media try to
sweep the Iran-contra crisis under the rug, new revelations keep bubbling up in
both expected and unexpected places: In Portland, Oregon, a jury unanimously
acquitted Richard Brenneke, the former CIA agent of lying when he accused
George Bush of attending a secret meeting with Iranians in Paris in 1980 in
which a deal was made to keep the 52 American hostages in captivity in Teheran
until after the 1980 elections. Bush's former national security adviser,
Donald Gregg, flew back from South Korea, where he is Bush's ambassador, to
testify that Brenneke was lying. The jury believed Brenneke, not Gregg.
In Miami, the Justice Department is maneuvering to convict Panamanian
General Manuel Noriega of drug trafficking while denying Noriega's attorneys
access to evidence they need to defend him. A federal judge threw out one deal
in which the federal government would pay the legal fees of Noriega's lawyers
in exchange for their agreement not to subpoena the CIA's files. Those files
would be highly embarrassing because they contain the record of Noriega's
employment on the CIA payroll for 20 years at $200,000 per year and show that
he had many accomplices in high places, including Bush, with whom he met
In Washington, at the request of Irangate special prosecutor Lawrence
Walsh, a new grand jury has been empanelled to consider evidence that Bush and
President Reagan were very much "in the loop" on the criminal enterprise. Also
in Washington, Sen. John Kerry (D- Mass.), chair of the Foreign Relations
Subcommittee on Terrorism and Narcotics, announced May 18 that he is examining
thousands of newly released photocopied pages from Lt. Col. Oliver North's
notebooks, which expose White House lying on the Noriega case. The National
Security Archive and Ralph Nader's Public Citizen released thousands of the
same pages at two press conferences on May 8 and May 18.
Senator Kerry declared, "The North notebooks confirm that high-level
U.S. officials, including officials at the CIA and the NSC [National Security
Council], knew about General Noriega's drug trafficking and corruption in 1986,
kept him on the U.S. payroll and discussed helping him clean up his image in
return for his help for the contras."
"The information was important because throughout 1988, while my
hearings were taking place, the White House was denying that it had known about
Noriega's drug trafficking." Kerry added, "There is something fundamental that
is violated in a democracy when the White House can classify documents as
'Codeword Top Secret' in order to suppress politically damaging information in
an election year." Kerry suggested that Walsh examine sworn testimony of
former Assistant Secretary of State Elliot Abrams and Donald Gregg to determine
if they committed perjury. Kerry said the documents also raise questions of
whether NSC and intelligence officers engaged in domestic surveillance in
violation of the law.
The North notebooks provide a wealth of new evidence. One page,
released for the first time May 8, lists a "mtg w V.P." at 12 noon, August 6,
1986. North began that day by meeting with Israeli terrorist expert, Amiram
Nir. According to North's notes, he then went to an extraordinary meeting at
the White House with members of the House Permanent Select Committee on
Intelligence. According to his later testimony, North "lied, lied, lied" to the
lawmakers about the Iran-contra conspiracy. North then met with several other
covert agents, including Gregg. Finally he met with Vice President Bush. Did
the Vice President discuss with North his lies to an official oversight
committee of the U.S. Congress?
Asked about this notation in North's notebook, White House Press
Secretary Marlin Fitzwater declared, "The vice president's role in the Iran-
contra affair was completely examined in the congressional inquiry and we have
nothing to add."
Among the North notebooks released May 18 were those reflecting the
coverup began November, 25, 1986, when then-Attorney General Edwin Meese
announced at a White House news briefing the sale of U.S. arms to Iran and
diversion of the profits to the contras. Much has been written about the
notations North jotted on one page of his steno pad that day. "Call from JMP,"
North wrote, referring to his boss, National Security Adviser John M.
Poindexter. The page continues: "VP call Peres ... Discovered contra
connection ... wd be best if Israel wd accept that they were aware that some
funds were diverted ... Put it off on Gorbanifar [sic]." Thus, North suggests
that Vice President Bush telephoned Israeli Defense Minister Shimon Peres to
enlist his help in the cover story pinning the diversion on Iranian businessman
and arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar.
In the photocopy of that page from North's notebook released by the
congressional Iran-contra committee two years ago, Exhibit JMP- 85, all
references to Israel are blacked out. On the second line, only the letters
"VP" are legible.
That same frenzied day, with shredders working overtime, North scrawled
notes on other conversations. "Meese story wrong," is the headline on one page,
evidently recording the protests of an Israeli official, almost certainly
Amiram Nir. "Israelis: Elements of what Meese said are wrong, some are
correct," North wrote. "Finding drafted before we had any sense that finding
wd be used for this purpose."
A few lines down North jotted, "Nir/North ... we first discussed ...
Does Meese know truth?" Then, beneath this, North wrote, "Finance: purposely
constructed finding so that there were several layers of denialability ... No
CIA resources." This referred to a finding signed by President Reagan
authorizing the Iran-contra adventure.
Later, North's notes seem to reflect growing anger by Nir. North wrote,
"Nir -- statement being issued ... What basis did Meese use? Worse possible
end to an ... Easily proven wrong." Then North placed in quotation marks the
following, "I cannot back this story." The final sentence on that page
declares, "Message has been read to Shultz and Perez [sic] prior to release." A
few pages later, North wrote, "1845 -- Call from President Reagan."
Part of the problem in deciphering North's notebooks is filling in the
blank spots in his shorthand. Analysts at the National Security Archive have
become expert at reading North's hieroglyphics. Malcolm Byrne, a National
Security Archive analyst, told reporters at a May 18 news conference, "George
Bush has said he was 'out of the loop' and did not realize the Iran initiative
was an arms-for-hostage deal until December 1986. The new North notebooks
place Bush much closer to the loop than ever before." Byrne described Bush as
a "godfather" of Iran-contra who was "key to getting the Israelis on board with
the cover story once the scandal broke in November 1986."
Byrne said comparing the heavily redacted or blacked-out photocopies of
North's notebooks released earlier with the relatively legible versions
released through the Archive's Freedom of Information lawsuit is, in itself,
revealing. Most of the redactions of the earlier versions were North
references to Bush and to Israel. A high priority, he said, was "protecting
Israel ... Bush."
Amiram Nir is the link between Bush and the Israelis in the operation.
Deleted at White House request from the very first Senate report on the Iran-
contra affair in January 1987 was a reference to a meeting Bush held with Nir
some time in September 1985. The likely significance of a Bush-Nir meeting at
an unknown time and place in September 1985 becomes clear in a review of what
Nir did in the months that followed that meeting. "I recall that we met New
Years Day  or the day after," North testified to Congress, "and it was
Nir's proposal at that point to use the profits ... selling Israeli TOWs at a
profit, replenishing them with part of that money, using part of that money for
other operations." Did Nir discuss this scheme in his September 1985 meeting
with Bush? Why was the White House so anxious to have that Bush-Nir meeting
expunged from the Senate's report? Perhaps it was Bush who authored the
diversion scheme. The Senate complied with the White House request but then
voted not to release the report, which remains classified to this day.
Bush met again with Nir on July 29, 1986 at the King David Hotel in
Jerusalem. That meeting gave Bush a chance to work out with Nir a more
plausible alibi and to put a tighter lid on their meeting the previous
Nir knew too much. On November 30, 1988, three weeks after Bush's
election, Nir died in a plane crash in Mexico.
Scott Armstrong, founder of the National Security Archive, wrote a
scathing article in the May-June edition of the Columbia Journalism Review
about the refusal of the media to expose the truth about the Iran-contra
conspiracy. Armstrong pointed out that Nir was "the most likely vehicle for
reporting on Bush's involvement in the Iran arms deal" since he was an
intelligent agent "who served as the point of contact with Israeli intelligence
for both George Bush and Oliver North." After Nir's death, Armstrong declared,
"even investigative reporters seemed to lose interest in the already well-
documented set of facts about Bush's involvement."
Armstrong blasts Congress, special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh and the
media "for not pursuing the most obvious trails of evidence: the violations of
law ... When Congress fails to act as an anvil, the hammer of the press flails
harmlessly in the air. 'If neither house of Congress cares, why should we?'
went the typical Washington jounalist's refrain. The fervor with which serious
journalists pursued Watergate was missing. The press seemed to share, rather
than challenge, Congress' willingness to pass the buck." Armstrong cites the
trial of John Poindexter on charges that skirt the main issue -- Iran-contra's
menacing affront to constutional government. Wrote Armstrong, "I sometimes
wonder if, should new revelations emerge -- illegal support for the contras,
for example -- the press would even to bother to cover the story."
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank