October 12, 2012 | 0 comments
The October Surprise hoax is laid to rest — at least outside the Clinton Administration.
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The book actually represented a first effort to rehabilitate the Carter Administration, and in particular Sick’s own role in Iran. In essence, Sick parlayed one of the most abysmal foreign policy failures of post–World War II history into a raging success. Here was a man who presided over the collapse of America’s strongest Islamic ally, leaving the Reagan Administration with few options in dealing with a rogue regime bent on disrupting the Middle East. Instead of being held accountable for the loss of Iran — after all, Sick was in charge of Iran policy on the Carter NSC — Sick managed to shift the blame elsewhere.
Soon after the book came out, Sick became a regular on the networks (particularly the “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour”) and was quoted routinely in the Washington Post and New York Times any time Iran was in the news. Yet his analysis was pedestrian and his special insight derived from nothing more than reading the publicly available Foreign Broadcast Information Service translations of Iranian radio and newspaper reports. In fact, it was no secret that Sick knew virtually nothing about Iran. He never spoke Farsi and never studied Iran. One of the reasons he got the job at the NSC was that he had received an advanced degree under Zbigniew Brzezinski at Columbia University in the 1970s.
The day after Congress released its report, Sick was in Washington, attending a conference on Iran sponsored largely by American oil companies. He presented a paper that spelled out an agenda for discussion with Iran under the Clinton Administration. The paper was based on a report Sick had prepared for the Clinton transition team at the request of Secretary of State–designate Warren Christopher in December 1992. Sick had glorified his former boss Christopher’s 1980 hostage agreement with Iran — an agreement that gave appeasement a bad name. And Christopher returned the favor in early 1992 by echoing Sick’s call for an investigation into the “October Surprise.”
Christopher’s endorsement of the investigation was scandalous — for if there was one official who had to know that Sick’s charges were demonstrably false, it was Christopher himself. As chief hostage negotiator, Christopher had read all the State Department and CIA cable traffic and government intercepts of Iranian conversations. Those cables and intelligence reports unambiguously showed that there were no secret meetings in Europe between Iranian and Republican campaign operatives and that there were no secret arms deliveries between the United States and Iran. Christopher also read highly classified intelligence reports, according to logs acquired by congressional investigators, that showed that the Ayatollah Khomeini despised Jimmy Carter, that the Ayatollah was determined to do anything to hurt his re-election, and that he would never release the hostages to Carter.
That Sick was asked to provide a paper on Iran for the Clinton transition team and was being seriously considered for a Middle East policy position in the Clinton Administration shows how thoroughly Carterites have taken control of the foreign policy apparatus. It also shows that there is no accountability for committing wholesale fraud.
Not surprisingly, Sick’s paper for the incoming Clinton Administration claimed that except for Iranian-directed “political violence” against Iranian dissidents, Iran had essentially dropped “classical terrorism.” To the victims of Iranian terrorism in Egypt, Israel, and Argentina, Sick’s statements would come as a great surprise. And what would Sick tell the Iranians about the religious death sentence (fatwa) issued against author Salman Rushdie? You can keep the fatwa, he would advise, but drop the bounty.
By any normal standard of accountability and rationality, the House investigation — on top of other evidence of the man’s incompetence — should have terminated the Clinton Administration’s interest in Sick. It didn’t. In the end, though, we may be thankful to Gary Sick for at least one thing: we now know a little more about why the Carter Administration lost Iran.
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