The Consortium

GOP Chutzpah on Iran

Apparently hoping to embarrass President Clinton in an election year, the Republican-controlled House approved a special investigation into his "green light" for Iran to ship arms to Bosnia's embattled Muslims in 1994. The 225-203 vote, largely along party lines, was expected.

But what was striking was how the Republicans framed the inquiry. Over and over, they justified the new probe by making allusions to the 1992 investigation into the so-called October Surprise case -- the long-standing charge that the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign sabotaged President Carter's negotiations to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran. Carter's failure to gain the hostages' freedom assured Ronald Reagan's victory.

In pressing for a special task force to conduct the Bosnia inquiry, Republicans acted as if the Democrats had aggressively pursued the October Surprise investigation for political gain in 1992. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Democrats, led by the accommodating Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., let the inquiry be run by former Reagan-Bush attorneys. The chief investigator, E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., also was both the lawyer for the corrupt Bank of Credit and Commerce International (which was implicated in the October Surprise case) and a law partner of former Sen. Paul Laxalt, R-Nev., who was chairman of the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign.

As we now know from documents recovered from the 1992 investigation, the Barcella team "debunked" the October Surprise charges by adopting bogus alibis for Reagan's campaign director, William J. Casey, and by concealing reams of incriminating evidence. (For details, see The October Surprise X-Files: The Hidden Origins of the Reagan-Bush Era.)

Unlike the timid Democrats, however, the hard-nosed Republicans are not likely to accept the see-no-evil approach that Hamilton did. The Republicans approved nearly $1 million so they could dig deep into the Iran-Bosnia case, subpoena records and compel testimony by Clinton administration officials, who are already drained of patience and cash by the Whitewater hearings.

On May 8, at a key moment in the Iran-Bosnia debate before the House International Relations Committee, the panel's Democrats walked out to deny the Republicans the quorum they needed to grant themselves subpoena power. Only one Democrat, Lee Hamilton, sat with the Republicans and gave them the necessary number of congressmen present to approve the subpoena motion.

Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., who served on the Iran-contra investigation and found no wrongdoing in that scandal, will direct the House probe into the Iran-Bosnia case. Hyde also was the ranking Republican on the October Surprise task force.

A smart politician, Hyde announced that he wants Hamilton, the Republicans' favorite Democrat, to serve as the ranking minority member of the Iran-Bosnia task force.

Robert Parry, Editor of The Consortium

(c) Copyright 1996 -- Please Do Not Re-Post

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