| As Le Monde Turns
The Skeletons in Robert Gates's Basement
Pierre Tristam/Candide's Notebooks, November 9, 2006
From Le Monde today, thanks to Sophia: A profile about Robert gates that highlights the irony of his nomination as Secretary of Defense the very week-the very day-that Daniel Ortega, Gates' old Sandinista nemesis, was elected president in Nicaragua. (The Bush administration, always ready to abide by its high principles of democracy and fair elections, has vowed to pull all support from the duly elected government of Daniel Ortega.) Le Monde points out that in 1991 Gates' nomination was hiccuped by his ties to the Iran-Contra scandal (for those of you born in the amnesiac years of the Reagan administration, Iran-Contra had the Reagan White House selling missiles to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages then held in Lebanon, even though it had pledged never to negotiate over the hostages. The proceeds of the missile sales went to the Contras in Central America, illegally, since Congress had cut off funding for them. The broker in all this, on behalf of the Reagan junta, was Oliver North, fall-guy, felon and talk show host).
Back to Gates, a "historian" by education. He was, in fact, nominated to head the CIA in 1987, but his nomination had to be withdrawn because of Iran-Contra. The first George Bush, always one for cynical one-upmanship, re-nominated him in 1991. During his confirmation hearings in 1991, Gates was among the many Reagan administration officials who suddenly discovered the joys of amnesia. He "forgot" what the extent of his involvement in Iran-Contra had been. It isn;t for nothing that Sen. Tom Harkin denounced him as the wrong man for the job. But Le Monde points out that other problems surfaced: "Numerous testimonies accused him of being responsible for truncating and editing internal CIA reports in order to make the USSR appear in the most negative light possible, thereby strengthening Reagan's [hawkish] policies." Gates was recommending the selling of weaponry to Iran during the Iraq-Iran war, in order to help the Islamic regime there against what Gates perceived as Soviet designs on Iran. Gates' aim: to help Teheran's "moderates." As Sophia points out in the comments, the Gates tactic of sexing up massaged evidence at the expense of facts for political gain is essentially a repeat of what the CIA did in the run-up of the Iraq war, and what the current Bush demanded. The headline over the Wall Street's Journal's lead story today: "Rumsfeld's Ouster Transforms Iraq Debate." Does it really? As a veteran of the Reagan junta and a habitué of the Bush club, Gates will fit right in with Junior's Ollie North Brigades.