In 1985, elements within the US National Security Council centred around lieutenant colonel Oliver North began to sell arms, via Israel, to the Islamic republic of Iran. The arms then went to Lebanese terrorists who, in return, released some Western hostages held in Beirut and Lebanon; the profits accruing to the USA were channelled into the clandestine US effort to support anti‐Communist guerrillas in Nicaragua, the Contras. This was all illegal, and against declared Reagan administration policy. A Senate investigation began in 1986. It uncovered the details of the affair but could not conclusively prove the involvement of President Reagan or Vice‐President Bush. Reagan was judged to be incompetent, not complicit. Instead, leading members of the National Security Council, most prominently Lieutenant Colonel North and an associate, John Poindexter, were found guilty of misleading Congress. Their convictions were later overturned on technicalities. The issue dogged Bush from 1987 and revealed a willingness on the part of the federal government comprehensively to mislead the American public and government. It also overshadowed much of Reagan's second presidency, though compared to the Lewinsky Affair it did relatively little harm to his reputation in the long run.
Subjects: Warfare and Defence — History.