Thursday, June 01, 2006

Tomgram: Greg Grandin on the Mother of All Scandals

You never can be too early when it comes to an anniversary. It's barely June, but a quick look down the road reminds us that the twentieth anniversary of the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra Affair lies just ahead this November. As Greg Grandin reminds us, Irangate (as it came to be known in the wake of Nixon's Watergate fiasco) was a kind of coming attractions, right down to its cast of characters, for our own era of right-wing domination, carnage, and now -- finally -- full-blown corruption scandals. From Vice President Cheney to the new Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, so many of the Iran-Contra era scoundrels returned to the political stage these last years for a grim second bow and, perhaps not so strangely, similar results -- though this time not on the relatively parochial stage of Central America, but in the oil heartlands of our planet.

The question Grandin's piece raises is this: Is a look into the past also a look into the future? As the Iran-Contra moment seeded our own second age of Bush, what will this Bush moment bequeath us? What cast of characters, another decade or two down the line will emerge to take that grim second bow? For those who care for some deeper background on that 1980s moment and our own, don't miss Grandin's superb new book, Empire's Workshop, a history of the American imperial presence in Latin America; but even more compellingly, a history of how, in relation to that region, the New Right first was stirred into a combustible political brew. Tom

The Swift Boating of America

By Greg Grandin

An illegal war, torture rooms, warrantless wiretapping, manipulated intelligence, secret prisons, disinformation planted in the press, graft, and billions of reconstruction dollars gone missing: just when it seemed that the Bush administration had reached its corruption quota comes a new scandal. This one is a bribery case involving defense contractors, Republican congressmen, prostitutes, secret Hawaiian getaways, Scottish castles, and -- wait for it -- the Watergate Hotel. At its center is the just ex-Executive Director of the CIA, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, whose sole qualification for being appointed to that post by just ex-Director Porter Goss seems to have been his ability, while head of the Agency's Frankfurt post, to hand out bottled-water contracts to friends and show junketing politicians a good time.

Don't fret though if you are having trouble separating this particular crime from other Republican offenses. There's a good reason -- they're all one scandal, part of the same wave of militarism, fraud, and ideology that has swamped American politics of late. While this wave of scandal seems now to be heading for tsunami proportions, its first swells date back decades. Just take a look at Dusty's résumé.

After his zealotry got him booted from Sears' security and the San Diego police department, Foggo drew on his collegiate Young Republican connections to land a job in the early 1980s with the CIA. His first mission was in Honduras, then the staging ground for Ronald Reagan's secret paramilitary war against Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government. In addition to his official duties, Foggo helped his old college buddy Brent Wilkes -- the defense contractor now implicated in the ongoing bribery case involving former Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham -- bring conservative cadres down to Central America. There, he introduced them to anti-Sandinista rebels, better known as Contras. It seems that, even then, a lot more than anti-Communist solidarity was on the agenda. Three of Wilkes' former friends now claim that these trips included partying with prostitutes.

A New Right Mecca

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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