The Right View: Iran Contra, Benghazi, and the media matter

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When will we ever learn? Show me a time in history where gun running by the United States government has resulted in a positive outcome.

While I don’t doubt the Gipper’s heartfelt desire to eradicate communism back in the day, the Iran Contra affair was an utter disaster. Now we have Benghazi.

Let’s review, shall we?

According to a Brown University applied ethics and public policy course project called “Understanding the Iran Contra Affair,” the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, a self-described Marxist-Leninist organization whose goal was to create a socialist state (current New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio was an ardent supporter, by the way) seized power through a revolution in 1979.

When former President Jimmy Carter took office in 1977, he initially cut off all aid to the Nicaraguan government, citing human rights violations. However, in an about face two years later, he sent the Sandinistas close to $100 million in aid hoping this would turn that regime pro-U.S. It didn’t.

Then the Regan administration, fearful of the potential spread of socialism throughout Latin America, backed the paramilitary Contras who sought to overthrow the Sandinistas.

On the other side of the globe, a revolution was occurring in Iran, also in 1979. From the early 1950s up until that time, Iran was a United States ally in the Middle East under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (“the Shah”). However, after two years of violent rioting in ’78 and ’79 over the Shah’s close ties to the U.S. and his secularism, the Shah fled Iran. The Ayatollah Khomeini ‘s return was cheered after years in exile. Khomeini declared the country an Islamic state, severed all ties with the U.S., and proclaimed Israel illegitimate.

Seven American hostages were then seized in Lebanon by an Iranian group, the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution. In what apparently seemed like a good idea at the time, since the Iranians wanted American TOW missiles during the Iran-Iraq war, the Reagan administration decided that giving Iran these missiles, despite an arms embargo to that country, was the way to go to improve relations with Iran and to gain the hostages’ release. Lt. Col. Oliver North, who in 1985 was part of the National Security Council, then diverted the funds from the sale of those missiles to the Contras in Nicaragua.

So here we are, in 2014, and the Obama administration thinks it is a good idea to arm the rebels in Syria. But how to do it? Oh, I know. Run them through a little-known CIA outpost in Benghazi, Libya, according to multiple sources, including Damien McElroy last August in The Telegraph, and Jessica Donati, Ghaith Shennib and Firas Bosalum of Reuters last June.

In March 2011, Reuters first reported that President Obama authorized a secret order allowing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces to force Moammar Gadhafi out of office in Libya. At the time though, it was known, according to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., that those rebel forces had links to al-Qaida and had fought against U.S. forces in Iraq. We had no assurances that they would not pose a threat to the United States.

In a February 2012 speech at the Stimson Center in Washington, DC., Andrew J. Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, described an unprecedented multi-million-dollar U.S. effort to secure anti-aircraft weapons in Libya after the fall of Gadhafi’s regime ($40 million, in fact, according to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton). He explained how U.S. experts were fully coordinating the collection efforts with the Libyan opposition.

In November 2012, Middle Eastern security sources described both the U.S. mission and nearby CIA annex in Benghazi as the main intelligence and planning center for U.S. aid to the rebels in Syria that was being coordinated with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Middle Eastern security officials further stated that after Gadhafi’s downfall, Stevens was heavily involved in the State Department effort to collect weapons from the Libyan rebels. The weapons were then transferred in part to the rebels fighting in Syria, the officials stated. Again with the problem, though: many Syrian rebel fighters are openly members of terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida.

Finally, shipping records indicate that the Libyan-flagged vessel Al Entisar was received in the Turkish port of Iskenderun on Sept. 6, 2012. According to the Times of London, “Al Entisar was carrying 400 tons of cargo … some of it weapons headed for Syria’s rebels on the front lines.” Ambassador Stevens’ last meeting on the evening of Sept. 11, 2012, before the terror attack, was with the Turkish consul general, Ali Sait Akin.

So now here we are. There are further indications that the Internet video/spontaneous demonstration gone awry in Benghazi is a complete fabrication by individuals within this administration. It took a federal lawsuit to gain access to reams of redacted e-mails, including ones written by then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes, that start the process of blaming the terrorist attack on the video.

It seems as if there is even something deeper here that they did not want us to know about. Can you imagine this headline, right before an election (if you could find a newspaper to print it?): Obama Administration Arming al-Queda Terrorists Through Benghazi Outpost.

Republican U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina has been named chairman of a House Select Committee to investigate the matter further, just as was done in Iran-Contra. The U.S. Capitol police are investigating threatening e-mails Gowdy has received, and Democrats are threatening to boycott any appointments to this committee. The Republicans must be on to something.

If this matter interests you at all, don’t bother watching CBS for updates. Ben Rhodes, who was actually promoted to deputy national security adviser after the Benghazi affair, is the brother of David Rhodes, president of CBS News.

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Julie McDonald is a registered nurse, former Capitol Hill staffer, and chairwoman of the Cape Elizabeth Republican Committee. Her column appears every other week.