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May 17, 2008

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Hilzoy for Vice President!

Obamazoy and Hilzoy in 2008!

The lion's share of McCain voters will not vote so that we are governed by McCain, but so that we are not governed by someone else.

If the 'something else' is painted in grim enough terms, it'll happen.

Ah, the memories. As Mark Russell said in reaction to the story about the cake in the shape of a key, "this is rip and read, folks!"

I have noticed that a number of our public officials and pundits seem to have not only weak memories, but a lack of awareness that there is such a thing as video tape. We can only hope that a majority of people notice.

Jesus. Not to mention, wasn't Carter the one who ordered direct military intervention without negotiation? Which, you know, backfired horribly?

God, these idiots couldn't be any more wrong if they tried.

"Not to mention, wasn't Carter the one who ordered direct military intervention without negotiation?"

Most certainly not. He ordered direct military intervention, in the form of Operation Eagle Claw, after six months of fruitless negotations, tried with a wide variety of intermediaries and Iranians claiming to be able to help, both in and out of the Iranian government, which wasn't exactly a stable construct at the time, thus causing the whole problem in the first place.

It should also be said that the Iran-Contra deals with the Iranians resulted in the release of Reverend Benjamin Weir in July of 1985, and the release of Father Lawrence Martin Jenco in July of 1986 -- these were the among the various hostages taken in Lebanon by Hezbollah over the course of several years.

Since receiving all those vital TOW and Hawk missiles, and other spare parts, worked out so well for Iran and Hezbollah, the end result of these prolonged negotiations by Ronald Reagan's team was the further kidnapping of Americans Joseph Ciccipio, Frank Reed, and Edward Tracy, in Beirut in September and October of 1986, and the eventual release of David Jacobsen on November 2nd, 1986, after more than a year of captivity.

William Francis Buckley wasn't so lucky.

The supplying of arms to Iran, and the negotiations, went on for over two years of the Reagan presidency, and included supplying Iran with:

* August 20, 1984. 96 TOW anti-tank missiles
* September 14, 1984. 408 more TOWs
* November 24, 1984. 18 Hawk anti-aircraft missiles
* February 17, 1986. 500 TOWs
* February 27, 1986. 500 TOWs
* May 24, 1986. 508 TOWs, 240 Hawk spare parts
* August 4, 1986. More Hawk spares
* October 28, 1986. 500 TOWs
Let's all thank Michael Ledeen, and remember that we've been at war with Iran since 1979! How lucky we were to have his insights paid attention to at the highest levels of our government on who the "moderate elements" were in the Iranian government that we could successfully negotiate with, and help these moderates strengthen their power. What's the penalty for arming the enemy in time of war, again?

Much as it pains me to defend McCain, I think it is clear that McCain is referring to Reagan not negotiating with Iran for the release of the US Embassy hostages in 1980/81, not the hostages in Lebanon in the mid-80's (our hostages came home from Iran can't refer to the hostages in Lebanon). As you say, it is obviously true that Reagan did negotiate with Iran in the mid-80's (although not directly, apparently Bush and McCain believe that if Chamberlain had sent low ranking officials to negotiate the Munich Agreement with low ranking Nazi officials, everything would have been fine, so long as Hitler and Chamberlain never sat down together - God, I hate it when people auto-Godwin the discussion), and I personally believe that Reagan sent Bush to negotiate with the Iranians to ensure that the hostages were not released until after the inauguration, but the supporting evidence for the is weaker.

It is sickly funny that McCain's comment can also be read as agreeing with the GHWBush-Iran negotiation speculation, when he says that "I believe that it’s not an accident that our hostages came home from Iran when President Reagan was president of the United States." I believe that too, but I think it was the first of many stains on the Reagan presidency.

Arms list taken from here, and the link held over so as to not have more than 3 links in a comment, so as to not have to risk having to wait a day or two to see my comment appear.

"and I personally believe that Reagan sent Bush to negotiate with the Iranians to ensure that the hostages were not released until after the inauguration, but the supporting evidence for the is weaker."

For the record, the Iranian hostages were released as part of a final deal involving:

[...] Perhaps fearing the new incoming administration, Iran then began new negotiations to free the hostages. Iranians originally asked for $24 billion in return for the captives, but eventually lowered their demands.

On Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 1981, Iran agreed to accept $8 billion in frozen assets and a promise by the United States to lift trade sanctions in exchange for the release of the hostages.

You're otherwise referring to the October Surprise assertions. Those interested might wish to read">http://www.google.com/search%3Fq%3D%2522Gary%2Bsick%2522%26ie%3Dutf-8%26oe%3Dutf-8%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26client%3Dfirefox-a&sa=X&oi=print&ct=result&cd=3&cad=author-navigational&pgis=1">read Gary Sick's book.

The Senate report "The US Senate’s 1992 report concluded that "by any standard, the credible evidence now known falls far short of supporting the allegation of an agreement between the Reagan campaign and Iran to delay the release of the hostages".[3]"

This is not an exoneration. The House report was stronger in its claims that "here is no credible evidence supporting any attempt by the Reagan presidential campaign---or persons associated with the campaign---to delay the release of the American hostages in Iran'."

Various independent investigators have come to various conclusions, though certainly there is strong support for the conclusion that most of the significant parties testifying to various circumstances were either not credible, or were outright fabricators.

I don't know what the truth is. I think that the accusations are entirely believable, but in no way does that mean they are true. Decide for yourself.

I don't believe in the "October surprise" theory about the Iranians agreeing to delay the release of the hostages for Reagan. Oh, I can believe that the Reagan campaign might have wanted to negotiate a secret agreement like that. I just can't see why the Iranians would have wanted to go for it.

Because the final result of the election was such a landslide for Reagan, it's easy to look back and think that his victory was inevitable. It wasn't. The final public polls before the election were calling it too close to call. I remember switching my vote from Anderson to Carter at the last minute, because I decided that I would never forgive myself if Reagan won New York by just a few votes and I had voted for Anderson. The final stampede of undecided voters for Reagan happened in the last week before the election, most of it over the final weekend (see the note from Jody Powell's memoirs about how Carter's own polls showed the election going from a tiny lead for Carter into a Reagan landslide over that last weekend).

Unless the Iranians had better pollsters than the Carter White House, Reagan would have looked like a guy that had at best a 50-50 chance of being able to deliver on anything he was promising before the election. No matter what Reagan might have been offering, why would the Iranians risk striking a deal with him that would piss off the guy who had a 100% chance of being able to deliver on his promises? I can't see it, unless they were convinced that no deal with Carter was possible - and that doesn't fit the "October surprise" narrative at all.

"I just can't see why the Iranians would have wanted to go for it."

Why do you believe the Iranian governement waited until an hour after Carter wasn't President to release the hostages?

Why do you believe the Iranian government waited until an hour after Carter wasn't President to release the hostages?

That could have been a snafu, or could have been a final "in your face" to Carter. I'm talking about why they wouldn't have wanted to do a deal before the election.

Post-election, Reagan's inauguration was certain, but conversely, Reagan had no particular reason to want them to delay the release any longer, except for an extra chance to humiliate a man who had already lost. Stack that up against the chances that delay means an extra opportunity for the hostage release to go off the rails and become Reagan's headache, and I don't see him wanting any further delays.

So in summary: before the election, I don't see the Iranians wanting to delay the release for Reagan's benefit. After the election, I don't see Reagan wanting any further delays. Either way, I don't see the opportunity for the supposed secret deal to go down.

"Most certainly not. He ordered direct military intervention, in the form of Operation Eagle Claw, after six months of fruitless negotations, tried with a wide variety of intermediaries and Iranians claiming to be able to help, both in and out of the Iranian government, which wasn't exactly a stable construct at the time, thus causing the whole problem in the first place."

Point taken, and my apologies to President Carter.

But nonetheless, that doesn't change my key point, which is that Carter did the "tough" thing, and it just made the situation worse. And conversely, as you point out, it was Reagan who did the appeasing -- which, as Chris Matthews reminded us all, means actually doing something concrete, not just entering negotiations like Carter did. And, well. In terms of the narrow goal of getting the hostages free, it seems to have worked. (Although it was a pretty dumb and counter-productive move in the long run.)

"That could have been a snafu, or could have been a final "in your face" to Carter. I'm talking about why they wouldn't have wanted to do a deal before the election."

The reason I asked is that it was clearly "a final 'in your face'" to Carter, and the same purely emotional reason answers your implied question as to "why the Iranians would have wanted to go for it," i.e., screw Carter earlier. They hated him for admitting the Shaw into the U.S. thus triggering the whole hostage crisis in the first place.

I can't imagine why you think their feelings of rage would have taken a few days off so that they would want to screw Carter from the moment the Shah was admitted to the U.S., up until the time Reagan's people would allegedly have made contact with them, and then gone back to their same feelings thereafter.

"Reagan had no particular reason to want them to delay the release any longer, except for an extra chance to humiliate a man who had already lost."

Reagan -- or his people -- had every reason in the world to cause the hostage release to not happen until after election day. That's the entire point of the alleged "October Surprise."

That the Iranians would still want to not give Carter the satisfaction of seeing the hostages come out while he was still President wasn't something I realized was in question -- is it? -- and as it has no connection to Reagan's team motivation of winning the election, I don't understand why you're equating them as if they were the same decision, or why you'd conflate the Iranian's motivations (screw Jimmy Carter and America, both by causing Carter to lose the election, and by further humiliating him by not releasing the hostages) and the Reagan team's motivations for an alleged agreement to delay the release until after the election (winning the election), and conflate the alleged Iranian delay past the election (meeting the goals of both parties), with the delay of the release of the hostages until Inauguration Day (Iranian motivation as stated above, and while it would't really matter much to Reagan's side, they wouldn't be making the decision, so how is the Reagan side's acts or motivations even relevant to that question?).

"After the election, I don't see Reagan wanting any further delays."

I don't follow: what would Reagan's, or his team's, desires at that point have anything to do with it? (I'd be inclined to put the blame on Casey and Richard Allen, myself, if it actually happened; Reagan wasn't exactly a detail guy, and this is exactly the sort of thing a loyal aide would want to preserve his deniability on.)

And even if Reagan's team somehow controlled the Iranians -- who has posited that? -- why would they object? To help Jimmy Carter look less bad in the eyes of history? Humanitarianism suddenly clicking in? Or what?

But nonetheless, that doesn't change my key point, which is that Carter did the 'tough' thing, and it just made the situation worse.
It was a very risky plan, but it should be pointed out that it could have worked. So it's unclear to me that this somehow demonstrates that "toughness," or military action is always the wrong choice. And since Carter only did it as a last resort, while it may have been a bad decision, I don't see it as emblematic of thoughtlessness or recklessness.

If these are not the points you were trying to make, my apologies for misunderstanding you. I agree that Jimmy Carter gets blamed for endless things that he doesn't deserve blame for.

Gary: The point of the "October Surprise" narrative, as I've usually heard it, was that Carter and the Iranians were all ready to strike a deal to release the hostages when Reagan's campaign offered the Iranians a better deal to delay the release until after the election. That's the narrative I'm disputing. If the Iranians who counted were so enraged at Carter that they weren't serious about a deal, then there was no deal to derail, and it didn't matter what Reagan might have been willing to offer. If, on the other hand, they were ready to do a deal (as they clearly were in January), then they weren't about to get sidetracked by an "better" offer from a guy who only had a 50-50 chance of being able to deliver.

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