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Saturday, May 08, 2010

The (at least partial) vindication of Danny Casolaro
Posted by Jill | 5:48 AM
Danny Casolaro was an investigative journalist who was found dead in his bathtub in 1991. His death was ruled a suicide even though he had been receiving threatening phone calls in the days leading up to his death. Casolaro had been investigating what he called "The Octopus", a huge web of conspiracy which included the odd timing of the release of American hostages held in Iran minutes after Ronald Reagan took office in January 1981.

The Iran hostage crisis was arguably the kiss of death for the re-election prospects of Jimmy Carter. It's questionable whether a guy who had already had to get through an Arab oil embargo which resulted in long lines for gasoline, who talked about American "malaise", who dared to tell the truth, and who was putting solar panels on the White House decades before such things were even in the public consciousness, could have been re-elected anyway. But what Casolaro was investigating would have demonstrated a campaign doing back-door deals with enemy governments for political gain.

This was just part of what Casolaro was investigating, and no one with a brain actually buys the story that Casolaro would have committed suicide just when he was on the brink of a story that would blow the Reagan years wide open. But for the most part, Casolaro is now either forgotten, or regarded as a conspiracy kook, with some justification, largely because of his gullibility when dealing with associates of Lyndon LaRouche in the Inslaw case.

But even a conspiracy kook gets to glimmers of truth sometimes, and it appears that at least where the arms-for-hostages deal is concerned, he was right:
In other words, the Russian report – possibly representing Moscow’s first post-Cold War collaboration with the United States on an intelligence mystery – was not only kept from the American public but apparently from the chairman of the task force responsible for the investigation.

The revelation further suggests that the congressional investigation was shoddy and incomplete, thus reopening the question of whether Reagan’s landslide victory in 1980 was, in part, set in motion by a dirty trick that extended the 444-day captivity of the hostages who were freed immediately after Reagan was sworn into office on Jan. 20, 1981.

The coincidence between Reagan’s inauguration and the hostage release was curious to some but served mostly to establish in the minds of Americans that Reagan was a tough leader who instilled fear in U.S. adversaries. However, if the timing actually resulted from a clandestine arms-for-hostage deal, it would mean that Reagan’s presidency began with an act of deception, as well as an act of treachery.

The Russian report also implicates other prominent Republicans in the Iranian contacts, including the late William Casey (who was Reagan’s campaign director in 1980), George H.W. Bush (who was Reagan’s vice presidential running mate), and Robert Gates (who in 1980 had been a CIA officer on the National Security Council before becoming executive assistant to Carter’s CIA Director Stansfield Turner).

Casey, who served as Reagan’s first CIA director, died in 1987 before the 1980 allegations came under scrutiny. Bush, who was President during the task force’s 1992 inquiry, angrily denied the accusations at two news conferences but was never questioned under oath. Gates, who was CIA director in 1992 and is now President Barack Obama's Defense Secretary, also has brushed off the suspicions.

As described by the Russians, the 1980 hostage negotiations boiled down to a competition between the Carter administration and the Reagan campaign offering the Iranians different deals if the hostages were either released before the election to help Carter or held until after the election to benefit Reagan.

The Iranians “discussed a possible step-by-step normalization of Iranian-American relations [and] the provision of support for President Carter in the election campaign via the release of American hostages,” according to the U.S. Embassy’s classified translation of the Russian report.

Meanwhile, the Republicans were making their own overtures, the Russian report said. “William Casey, in 1980, met three times with representatives of the Iranian leadership,” the report said. “The meetings took place in Madrid and Paris.”

At the Paris meeting in October 1980, “R[obert] Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security Council in the administration of Jimmy Carter, and former CIA Director George Bush also took part,” the Russian report said. “In Madrid and Paris, the representatives of Ronald Reagan and the Iranian leadership discussed the question of possibly delaying the release of 52 hostages from the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran.”

Both the Reagan-Bush Republicans and the Carter Democrats “started from the proposition that Imam Khomeini, having announced a policy of ‘neither the West nor the East,’ and cursing the ‘American devil,’ imperialism and Zionism, was forced to acquire American weapons, spares and military supplies by any and all possible means,” the Russian report said.

According to the Russians, the Republicans won the bidding war. “After the victory of R. Reagan in the election, in early 1981, a secret agreement was reached in London in accord with which Iran released the American hostages, and the U.S. continued to supply arms, spares and military supplies for the Iranian army,” the Russian report continued.

The deliveries were carried out by Israel, often through private arms dealers, the Russian report said. [For text of the Russian report, click here. To view the U.S. embassy cable that contains the Russian report, click here.]

The Russian report came in response to an Oct. 21, 1992, query from Hamilton, who asked the Russian government what its files might show about the October Surprise case. The report came back from Sergey V. Stepashin, chairman of the Supreme Soviet’s Committee on Defense and Security Issues, a job roughly equivalent to chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In what might have been an unprecedented act of cooperation between the two longtime enemies, Stepashin provided a summary of what Russian intelligence files showed about the October Surprise charges and other secret U.S. dealings with Iran.

In the 1980s, after all, the Soviet KGB was not without its own sources on a topic as important to Moscow as developments in neighboring Iran. The KGB had penetrated or maintained close relations with many of the intelligence services linked to the October Surprise allegations, including those of France, Spain, Germany, Iran and Israel.

Ronald Reagan is regarded by Republicans as a founding father of their modern movement. Every Republican seems to be required to swear an oath of fealty to Ronald Reagan. When you look at how Republicans are embracing overthrow-the-government teabaggers these days, and you realize that Reagan's victory in 1980 was at least partially due to an act of treason, it all fits together as to what Republicans stand for -- the grabbing of power by any means necessary.

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Anonymous Dave W. said...
The problem with the "October Surprise" scenario you say is described by the Russians (Reagan outbids Carter to keep hostages held until after the election) is that it implies that the Iranians were insanely naive. Certainly the Republicans may have wanted to explore and make such a deal. But in any such bidding war, Carter was holding the master trump card: he was the only player on the American side who could guarantee that he could deliver what he promised. Reagan could promise the Iranians the moon, but if he didn't get elected, he wouldn't be able to do squat for them. If Carter's team actually had an acceptable deal on the table, the Iranians would have been fools to turn it down in favor of whatever pie-in-the-sky Reagan might have been offering, particularly given that most of their leverage to extract concessions from Carter would disappear as soon as the election was over. I don't believe the Iranians were such fools. Accordingly, I believe that either no such deal was on offer, or that the Iranian negotiators were unable to fulfill their end of the bargain, perhaps due to Iranian internal politics.

It may seem that the Iranians could have counted on Reagan's election based on the actual results of the election. But I remember that election being extremely close up until the last minute. The final polls the week before the election called it too close to call. I had been planning to vote for Anderson's independent bid, but switched my vote back to Carter because I felt I would never be able to live with myself if I voted for Anderson and Reagan carried New York and the election by just a few votes. As the Wikipedia article says, "According to President Carter's Press Secretary Jody Powell's memoirs, internal tracking polls showed the President's tiny lead turning into a major Reagan landslide over the final weekend."

Given that the Iranians were not likely to have access to better polls than the White House, they would have been hard-pressed to believe that Reagan's election was anywhere near certain. Under the circumstances, anything reasonable that Carter offered would outweigh any promise that Reagan might make.

Blogger merlallen said...
They worship Reagan because they don't remember Reagan.
He raised taxes 6 times. He sold missiles to our enemies. He cut and ran from Lebanon.
When I told someone that, he didn't believe me.