Why Don’t We Teach Iran-Contra?

If you ever watch interviews with so-called mafioso rappers that were big in the 90s, there’s always a point where they mention “Iran-Contra” and the crowd (and sometimes the host) looks dumbfounded.

I had one of these moments the other day. A friend asked me about some books I had just picked up from the library and two of them happened to be on the Iran-Contra Scandal. My friend is one of the more politically aware people I know and yet she had never heard of the affair.

How is it that the American public seems to have forgot or has no clue about one of the craziest political scandals in history?

Everyone knows about President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. If you were alive and had access to a TV at the time you probably have the phrase, “I did not have sex with that woman,” seared into your mind.

However, the President getting head in the Oval Office has nothing on trading guns for hostages in Iran and flying cocaine into poor, mostly black and Latino, neighborhoods to support a terrorist organization in Nicaragua. It doesn’t help that President Ronald Reagan, Vice President George H.W. Bush and other high level officials were in on it.

While that might sound hard to believe, that is exactly what happened during the Iran-Contra affair, which became public in November 1986.

The US was supplying Israel with weapons to ship to Iran then resupplying weapons and taking the Israeli payments. Lebanese Shia Islamist group Hezbollah was holding six US hostages and the Iranian recipients of the weapons promised to do whatever they could to free them. It eventually became an arms for hostages exchange where members of the executive branch of the US were selling weapons to Iran.

To top it off, military and high level officials like Oliver North diverted some of the money from arms sales to the Contras, an anti communist, terrorist organization in Nicaragua. Not just did the Contras commit numerous human rights violations in their opposition to the Sandinista government, they also made money by trafficking drugs to the US. North even admitted that they used CIA planes to fly cocaine into the states.

Fourteen Reagan Administration officials were indicted, resulting in eleven convictions. However, some of those convictions were vacated on appeal and the rest were pardoned in the final days of Bush’s Presidency.

That this coincided with the crack explosion in the US in the mid 80s is far from a coincidence.

It would explain why I’ve learned more about Iran-Contra from hip-hop than school curriculum.

I took an upper division political science course at the University of Oregon and we discussed Iran-Contra for all of two minutes.

Conversely, all kinds of emcees from Jay-Z to Ras Kass discuss the affair constantly because they were either selling CIA imported crack when it flooded the streets and/or saw their communities deteriorate during this era.

Even the documentary “Ghostride the Whip” mentions Iran-Contra and how crack hit the hardest in communities the Black Panthers were concentrated in.

Some might argue that we don’t need to teach about the Scandal because it was almost 25 years ago. However, the effects have lasted long past the pardons.

Several of the people involved served in the administration of George W. Bush. Some were a part of the controversial 9/11 Commission Report.

During recent years Ronald Reagan idolization has consumed conservatives and this gaping hole in his “armor” has rarely been mentioned. What does it say when the “savior” pushed crack into black and brown communities while funding gratuitous human rights violations abroad?

I’ve never read the Bible in full but I’m almost positive Jesus wasn’t slinging opium to the prostitutes and tax collectors he walked amongst (If I’m wrong please correct me).

When men like Ronald Reagan, and to a lesser extent George H.W. Bush are lionized despite showing such callous to particular communities, it shows the character of their worshipers.

How does one respect US drug policy when the government can get caught in the mother of drug operations and simply pardon everyone involved?

This past year, the US government got caught running guns to Mexican cartels and shipping drugs from Mexico back into the US. There’s been little coverage, almost as if certain people don’t want the public to draw the obvious comparisons to Iran-Contra, or simply remember the affair period (Wait, history repeats itself, especially when the guilty go free? Who knew?).

This highlights the real threat of not teaching about the scandal. Ignorance allows these crimes to continue in live action. It’s hard to diagnose a problem if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

The Iran-Contra scandal was a government corruption blueprint. Why waste an invaluable tool like knowledge?

Despite its valiant effort, it will take more than hip-hop to keep Americans from sleeping on history.


One Response to “Why Don’t We Teach Iran-Contra?”

  1. Wouter Rademaker Says:

    Good article. History repeats itself over and over again.

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