by Virginia Kivel


Ronald Reagan was president during the Iran Contra Affair. Reagan, strongly opposed to communism, was determined to end communism everywhere. One of these places was Nicaragua (Brewster 217). He wanted to support Contra rebels here that opposed the government, which was backed by communist Cuba. However, Congress passed the Boland Amendment to restrict what the Reagan, the CIA, and the Department of Defense could do in Nicaragua. Reagan retaliated by telling National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane to "do whatever you have to do to help these people" ("General Article...").

In addition, Iran and Iraq had been at war. The United States had an embargo on selling weapons to Iran ("General Article..."). As Iran wanted help, Hezbollah terrorists working for the Iran Government captured Americans and held them as hostages ("Iran-Contra Affair"). In the events that followed Reagan would go back on his promise to "never negotiate with terrorists" (Bard 302).

The government sold weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of the hostages (Bard 302). Thirty million dollars worth of over 1500 missiles were sold to the terrorists. When the deal was examined, it was found that 18 million dollars had never reached the government's funds. Lt. Colonel Oliver North said that he had diverted the money under orders from his commanding officer and he had though from Reagan ("General Article..."). The money had been sent to the Contra Rebels in Nicaragua (Bard 302). The original sale and the money transfer were illegal. Also the government had gone back on the President's promise never to negotiate with terrorists (Brewster 217).

The Affair was made public when a Lebanese newspaper, "Al-Shiraa", printed information about the deal. Originally Reagan said that the story was a lie, but he retracted his statement shortly after. When he told the American people that it was not an arms for hostage trade, only 14% of the population believed him ("General Article..."). In addition, the terrorists simply captured more prisoners after the original hostages were released.

In 1987 President Reagan created a special panel to investigate the sale of the weapons. Led by Senator John Towers, the panel found that Reagan "bore the responsibility for the policy" but hadn't known about the diversion of money to the Contra rebels (Bard 303). The panel said that the role of the president had only been poor management, but that he had sanctioned the arms sale.
In May-August of 1987 hearings regarding the Affair took place. North, the main negotiator; McFarlane, National Security Advisor in charge of North; John Poindexter, McFarlane's successor who had told North to divert the funds to the Contra rebels; and Casper Weinberger, Secretary of Defense, were all publicly investigated. They were either convicted or were most likely going to be. However, President George H.W. Bush expunged all charges against the people involved in the Iran Contra Affair on December 24th, 1992 ("Iran-Contra Affair").

For President Reagan there was no firm consequences. No-one in his administration ended up punished and Reagan had never been connected with the illegal acts. However, his image of the strong, worthy leader of America was brought down (Bard 303). People came to the conclusion that either Reagan was a very poor leader who was unaware of and unable to control the events in his administration, or that he had been involved in the illegal Affair as well (Brewster 217). Although President Bush revoked all convictions, the Reagan Administration lost its good name, as well as the respect of many Americans.

Source Annotation

Bard Ph. D, Mitchell. The Complete Idiots Guide to Middle East Conflit. alpha books. Indianapolis, IN. 1999. Print.

Summarize: This book gives a basic description of the Iran-Contra Affair. It is broken up into easy-to-read sections and has boxes for additional non-key information. The source is easy to use, but not very thorough or detailed.
Assess: I think that this book will be a reliable source. The information agrees with the other sources that I have found. Also, the book is part of a series by a known publishing company.
Reflect: This source is helpful for gaining a basic understanding of the topic. It won't help me with details, but will be useful in explaining the basics of the Iran-Contra Affair.

Brewster, Todd and Peter Jennings. The Century for Young People. Random house. New York. 1999. Print.

Summarize: This book used the Iran-Contra Affair to explain how the publics view of the Reagan Administration was changed. It tells what the Affair was, but focuses on Reagan's Administration and the publics view of them changing.
Assess: This book appears to be a good source. It is from a very well known company and is put together professionally (I know this doesn't always make it reliable though). Also the information fits in with the situation that the other sources describe.
Reflect: This book will be helpful for explaining the political effect of the Iran-Contra Affair. I can use it to explain the ramifications of the Affair for the Reagan Administration and why.

"General Article: The Iran-Contra Affair." American Experience. PBS: the Public Broadcasting System. 1996. Web. 10 May 2011.
Summarize: This site focuses on Reagan and the Political implications of the Iran-Contra Affair. It doesn't explain much about the Affair itself, but gives detail about the political people involved. How everything was exposed and the implications of the actions is covered as well.
Assess: This source should have good information. PBS is usually fairly non-biased and reliable. The information fits with what I have learned elsewhere and it is from a reputable site.
Reflect: This source would be good for discussing people involved and the aftermath of the Iran-Contra Affair.

"Iran-Contra Affair." United States History. Web. 10 May 2011

Summarize: This site explains the basics of the Iran-Contra Affair in a concise manner. It also gives more detail about specific subtopics. There is a clearly marked section on the illegal trading and one on how the Affair was exposed, for example. This site also goes in depth as to the aftermath of the Affair, such as the people involved and their hearings and convictions.
Assess: I think that this information will be good. I have used this website before and it always fits the other information that I have found. The information matches this time as well, so I am confident it is credible.
Reflect: This source is good for getting a general understanding of the Iran-Contra Affair. It is also good at explaining how the people involved reacted and what became of them after the Affair was made public.

Reflections and Conclusions

I find this whole ordeal to be irresponsible on the part of the government. The government's job is to do what the people want and what is best for them. It is set up the way it is in order to protect the ideals of the founding fathers and the people. In the Iran-Contra Affair Reagan and his administration bypassed Congress and the rules that they had set up (on two accounts). First they sold arms to Iran, against an embargo, then they gave money to the Contra Rebels, against the Boland Amendment. A government system can't work if people ignore the rules set up by other parts of the same system. Also, Reagan went back on his promise to the American people not to negotiate with terrorists.

I also don't understand how President Bush could revoke the punishment of all people involved after the Supreme Court found the guilty. I know that for some reason he does have that power, but WHY? It seems like it gives too much power to the president.

I guess I can understand why the administration did what they did. It makes senses that they would want to help the American hostages. It would be a difficult decision to make. I can even get why they might want to help Contra rebels. A government that is strongly anti-communist would want to help others fighting communism. However, the way that they approached the situation was inexcusable. They ignored laws, acted against the judgment of their fellow people in power, and tried to hide it from the American people. No-one in the government told the citizens what was going on until a Lebanese newspaper printed information about it, then they tried to lie and cover it up.

Also, how could Reagan have not known what was going on, in regards to the diverted money? Was he that out of touch with the people working for him? I find it hard to believe that no-one notice until there was a formal investigation that 18 million dollars were missing. It doesn't seem possible that no-one would have mentioned something to the president had they noticed. I think Reagan must have know, unless he silently gave it his "ok" in that he just ignored the illegal doings of his advisors and the others that reported to him. Either way, I think he must have been more involved than was proven.


Here is a video of President Reagan Addressing America about the Iran-Contra Affair:

Here Reagan says that he takes responsibility for the actions of his staff and apologizes for compromising his promise in the Iran Hostage Crisis, which led to the Iran Contra Affair. He also tells the public that he realizes that the people had lost faith in him and his leadership for good reason.

Works Cited

Bard Ph. D, Mitchell. The Complete Idiots Guide to Middle East Conflit. alpha books. Indianapolis, IN. 1999. Print.

Brewster, Todd and Peter Jennings. The Century for Young People. Random house. New York. 1999. Print.

"General Article: The Iran-Contra Affair." American Experience. PBS: the Public Broadcasting System. 1996. Web. 10 May 2011.

"Iran-Contra Affair." United States History. Web. 10 May 2011