A VERY THIN LINE by Theodore Draper


The Iran-Contra Affairs
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 A step-by-step explanation of the labyrinthine scandal that briefly unnerved the Reagan presidency, presented with all the crushing force of a prosecutor's 650-page brief. Sifting through a staggering amount of source material50,000 pages worth of Congressional testimony and trial documentsveteran journalist/historian Draper (A Present of Things Past, 1989, etc.) meticulously follows the serpentine twists of the two separate covert activities conducted, and later fatally linked, by National Security Council staffer Oliver North. For all its self-delusions about creating an opening to Iranian moderates, he shows, the Reagan Administration was engaged in an arms-for-hostages deal characterized by ``obstinate gullibility and ineptitude,'' including blind dependence on an Iranian go-between who failed 13 of 15 questions on a polygraph test. Draper also spotlights other key issues in the scandal, including the attempt to make Israel the scapegoat for the Iran fiasco; the abdication of responsibility by the hostage deal's two biggest Cabinet foes, George Shultz and Caspar Weinberger; the fear of impeachment that seized the administration; and the roles of CIA director William Casey (not the mastermind depicted by North) and Vice-President Bush. Above all, Draper argues persuasively, even if President Reagan was not aware of the diversion of funds from the Iranian arm sales to the contras, he bears responsibility for the affairs because of his obsession with freeing the hostages and keeping the Nicaraguan ``freedom fighters'' together ``body and soul.'' A compelling warning about the Constitutional dangers posed by presidential overreaching in foreign policyoverwhelming at times, but with all the insistent urgency of a fire alarm in the night. (Photographsnot seen.)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-8090-9613-7
Page count: 650pp
Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1991