CIA recruits radical Muslims to fight in Afghanistan. Founding of DLC. US swaps arms to Iran for hostages. Abu Nidal attacks on El Al airline counters in Rome and Vienna.
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CIA recruits radical Muslims to fight in Afghanistan
The CIA supports the ISI's efforts to recruit radical Muslims from around the world to come to Pakistan and join the mujaheddin. Eventually, around 35,000 radical Muslims from 43 countries will come to Pakistan to fight; tens of thousands more come to Pakistan to study militant Islam, all funded by the ISI and the CIA. The main base of operations for these expatriates is Peshawar, center of Osama bin Laden's guerrilla war operations. Later, then-President Bhutto of Pakistan tells President G.H.W. Bush that he is "creating a Frankenstein," but Bush refuses to listen. By 1993, Pakistan admits that the area around Peshawar is under the control of the mujaheddin and not Pakistan, and asks for help from Egypt in reasserting control. That help never materializes. (CCR)
Osama bin Laden, 1989
The CIA begins using the Arab bank BCCI as a major conduit for funding of the Afghanistan mujaheddin. (Bushwatch)
During the year, Reagan submits a budget of $588 billion to Congress. Congress returns a budget of $583 billion, $5 billion less than Reagan requests. Over his two terms, Reagan will ask for $16.1 billion more in spending than Congress will authorize. Rush Limbaugh will later write in his book See, I Told You So, "[D]on't blame that [the deficit] on Reagan.... He tried his best to reduce spending, but every one of his budgets was pronounced 'dead on arrival' by the Democratic Congress." Limbaugh is echoing the Republican party line blaming Reagan-era deficits, the largest in US history until George W. Bush breaks the record, on liberal Democrats who insist on fattening up the budget. Unfortunately for Limbaugh and the conservatives, the facts tell a different story. In The Way Things Ought to Be, Limbaugh concocts a famous chart that "proves" under Reagan, taxes on the poorest 20% of Americans were cut by a whopping 540%, while the middle 20% enjoyed a modest but significant 21.5% tax cut and the richest 1% got a mere 7.9% tax cut. Unfortunately, as satirist Al Franken writes, "the numbers have been cooked like the income statement for Don Corleone's olive oil import business." In reality, between 1980 and 1988, the tax rate for the poorest 20% actually increased by 15%, while the taxes on the wealthiest 1% dropped 15%. In 1989, George H.W. Bush cuts taxes on the poorest 20% by an aggregate 104%, but continues to cut taxes on the wealthiest 1% by an aggregate 33%, shifting the burden of the tax cuts onto the working poor, whose taxes jump 21%. After George W. Bush's election in 2000, the tax rates for the wealthiest Americans will drop precipitously, while taxes on the middle and lower classes will rise by an alarming rate. (Al Franken)
Founding of DLC
The Democratic Leadership Council, an organization of moderate and conservative Democrats, is formed to counter the "leftwards tilt" of the Democratic Party. Founded and led by conservative Democrat Al From, the DLC will maintain that "traditional" leftist candidacies, such as those mounted by George McGovern and Walter Mondale, are doomed to failure, and that to succeed, the Democrats must move rightwards. Future president Bill Clinton, who will be among the DLC chairpersons, will mark the highwater of success of the DLC. Other prominent right-leaning Democrats, including Senator Joseph Lieberman and Representative Richard Gephardt, will serve as the DLC chairs in their turns. Lieberman will lead the Democratic criticism of Clinton over the Lewinsky affair; the DLC will heavily impact the Clinton administration, including its backing of Clinton's controversial, conservative-friendly Welfare Reform Act. In 2004, many Democrats, in particular Howard Dean, will publicly distance themselves from the DLC, criticizing it for attempting to pull Democrats away from supporting the party's traditional base and traditional issues such as minority rights, abortion rights, and combating poverty. The DLC is increasingly perceived as willing to abandon traditional Democrats for big-money, corporate donors. In 1992, William Greider will write, "The DLC's main objective was an attack on the Democratic Party's core constituencies -- labor, schoolteachers, women's rights groups, peace and disarmament activists, the racial minorities and supporters of affirmative action. Its stated goal was to restore the party's appeal to disaffected white males, especially in the South." Unfortunately, while the DLC can claim some credit for helping elect Clinton, its policies have been, by and large, more effective in shutting out Democrats from public office and from influencing opinion on public issues. Women will be disenchanted with the DLC's insistence on disbanding women's caucuses within the party and the removal of pro-abortion planks from the national platform. Poor and minority voters will be angry that funds for education and poverty relief will be cut in favor of balancing budgets and fiscal conservatism. Many leftwards Democrats will be horrified at the Clinton/DLC support for NAFTA, and for the draconian 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (the precursor for the USA Patriot Act). Clinton's failure to protect across-the-board abortion rights, his failure to support homosexual (read "minority") rights, and his DLC-supported welfare reform package that opened federal coffers to religious groups, will result in the disenchantment of many traditional Democrats with the Clinton administration, a disaffectation that will influence the 2000 Bush-Gore campaign. (Wikipedia, Laura Flanders
Neil Bush joins the board of Silverado Savings and Loan, at the invitation of Silverado's president, an ambitious Republican fund-raiser seeking connections to the White House. During Bush's 3 years on the board, he convinces the S&L to loan his company, JNB Exploration, $132 million, which is never repaid. He also allows Silverado to forgive $11.5 million in debt from another real estate developer who had agreed to invest $3 million in JNB. (Bush forges a relationship with the Argentian government, in particular its corrupt president, Carlos Menem; JNB, which has never done a moment's work in international oil exploration, will be awarded a lucrative Argentinian contract for just such exploration.) Silverado eventually collapses, at a cost of over $1.3 billion to American taxpayers. Bush resigns just ahead of the regulatory investigation, saying he didn't want the investigation to be constrained by his presence; financial reporter Steven Wilmsen says his resignation was because he was already under investigation. An expert hired by regulators will declare that Bush suffers from an "ethical disability," and he will be required to pay a $50,000 fine for his ethical lapses at Silverado, as well as being banned from banking activities for life. The regulators investigating Silverado were called off by officials in the Reagan administration, preventing the Federal Home Loan Bank from closing Silverado until after the 1988 elections; investigation shows that the Reagan administration did not want to give the campaign of Democratic presidential contender Michael Dukakis any ammunition to use against Vice President George H.W. Bush, Neil's father. Neil was not fined or banned until 1990. A Republican fund-raiser soon set up a fund to help Neil defer the costs of his prosecution and fine. Neil will later go on to found an educational firm, Ignite!, which will receive most of its operating capital from Bush family oil contacts in Japan, Taiwan, and the Middle East. Ignite! is designed to profit from the $26.5 billion education bill signed by his brother, President George W. Bush. Neil Bush will never admit to any wrongdoing in his Silverado dealings: "I happened to be one of hundreds of other American businessmen and women who served as an outside director on the board of a savings and loan institution that failed during the 1980s," he will later say. "I regret that the institution's failure cost taxpayers so much money." (Village Voice, Bushwatch, Mother Jones, Austin Chronicle, Pasadena Star, Washington Post, Joe Conason)
February: Through dummy corporations abroad, NSC staffer Colonel Oliver North and two associates, Richard Secord, a retired Air Force major general, and Albert Hakim, an Iranian-American arms dealer, make the first of six purchases of weapons destined for the contras. The money comes from private contributions, all secret. By keeping the source of the money private, the White House is able to squeeze through a loophole in the Boland Amendment and maintain that this arms supply is legal. In the summer, North will be "outed" by press reports as the Reagan administration's secret liason to the contras. North will assist security director Robert McFarlane in hiding evidence and preparing a denial for Congress.
NSC terrorism expert Rand Beers recalls North as a "very disruptive influence in the government," describing North as "a rogue of the first order who found it very difficult not to embellish his stories and renditions. He inflated what actually happened, whether he was directly involved or not. I never felt I got a straight story from him in conversations." Beers says that North's activities not only caused the government to "rewrite the procedures for doing covert action," with far more oversight, but that North "basically undermined the notion that the NSC doesn't participate directly in operations, on behalf of the president, the NSC directs other agencies to do operations. ...And subsequent NSCs have sought to avoid being perceived acting in such a hands-on role." Beers rises to a high position in the NSC before quitting the NSC in disgust over the Iraq war in March 2003. (Iran-Contra Timeline)
March: The US escalates the war in Afghanistan; joint operations by the CIA, ISI, and British MI-6 see guerrilla attacks from Afghanistan launched into neighboring Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (both then part of the Soviet Union). These attacks last until the end of the war. (CCR)
March: A document written by Assistant Defense Secretary Richard Perle to Secretary Caspar Weinberger cites a CIA report "indicating that Iraq continues to actively pursue an interest in nuclear weapons, that the large number of Warsaw Pact nations in Iraq makes diversion in place a real possibility and that in the past Iraq has been somewhat less than honest in regard to the intended end-use of high technology equipment." Instead of blocking Iraq's attempts to obtain nuclear technology, the US will assist the efforts. (New American)
May: The US Department of Commerce licenses 70 biological exports to Iraq between May of 1985 and 1989, including at least 21 batches of lethal strains of anthrax. The Commerce Department also approves a shipment of weapons grade botulin poison to Iraq in May of 1986. And a Florida company ships Iraq cyanide with the knowledge and involvement of the CIA during the 1980s, a fact not revealed until 1991 by London's Financial Times.. (Iran Chamber Society)
May: Unbeknowst to Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jim McDougal sells the remaining Whitewater lots to Arkansas realtor Chris Wade. McDougal did not share the $35,000 proceeds with the Clintons. The Clintons only become aware of this when their attorney David Kendall investigates Whitewater in 1993. (H.R. Clinton)
May 15: Three years after his last strike, the "Unabomber" plants another bomb in UC-Berkeley's Cory Hall, a bomb concealed in a stack of three-ring binders which severely maims John Hauser, an engineering student with aspirations of being an astronaut. (Unabomber Timeline)
Summer: Evangelist Billy Graham visits the Bush family at their summer retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine. George W. Bush is weathering a personal low: his drinking is out of control, his oil business is collapsing, and he feels inadequate and unsuccessful when measured against the accomplishments of his father and uncles. Graham, according to Bush, "planted a mustard seed" of salvation in his soul. By early 1986, Bush says he has sworn off alcohol, is studying the Bible, and considers himself a born-again Christian. He abandons his family's Episcopalian faith to become a Methodist. By 1988 he will be his father's liason to the religious right for the Bush presidential campaign. Bush's association with Graham gives him tremendous credibility; he also has the assistance of Doug Wead, an Assemblies of God minister formerly associated with Amway, singer Pat Boone, and the television ministry of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. The elder Bush also makes a remarkable religious transformation, inviting the Bakkers to visit their home and discussing his own "life-changing experiences" at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in an address that is videotaped and shown to evangelical leaders. The younger Bush is invaluable in reassuring conservative Christians that his father was indeed a true believer, forging ties with hard-right evangelical kingmaker Paul Weyrich with the assistance of Wead. With Wead, the younger Bush will oversee the creation of the book George Bush: Man of Integrity, a tome overtly aimed at evangelicals and hard-right conservatives, and featuring long discussions of the Bush family's connections with Graham and Falwell. Largely operating under the radar of the national media, George W. Bush will help the Bush campaign derail the presidential campaign of evangelist Pat Robertson, reaping great rewards among evangelical Republicans, and will help to bring Robertson's former supporters into their own fold. Themes originally employed by the Robertson campaign -- deploring secular opposition to the Pledge of Allegiance, slamming the ACLU's supposed hostility to religion -- will prove effective in the campaign against Democrat Michael Dukakis.
Increasingly, as historian Kevin Phillips notes, "old-line country-club Republicans found themselves outnumbered by Christian tabernacle-goers." Unlike his father, who may have won evangelicals' votes but never earned their trust, the younger Bush will maintain solid credentials with conservative Christians. He will work hard to maintain those credentials, always emphasizing his religious beliefs, salting his speeches with biblical quotes and phraseology, and nurturing his connections to the "parachurch network," made up primarily of viewers of televangelical broadcasts, key ministers, and evangelical political activists. Unlike his father, George W. Bush will never have to "kowtow" to the evangelicals in the Republican party; they always know the younger Bush is one of their own. In 2000, Bush will win only 48% of the nation's popular vote, but will take a record-breaking 84% of the evangelical vote, exceeding both his father's and Ronald Reagan's totals. "[F]or the first time," writes Phillips, "a Republican victory rested on a religious, conservative, southern-centered coalition led by a bloc of white Protestant fundamentalists and evangelicals numerous enough to cast 40 percent of the total ballots amassed by a presidential nominee."
By the 2000 election, 46% of the nation's evangelicals will profess a belief that Armageddon, the Christian "end times," would occur during their lifetimes. The younger Bush strongly, if quietly, aligns himself with these "end times Christians." A similar alignment will take place among fundamentalists in Jewish and Muslim nations, all anticipating, and in many cases actively working towards, a great confrontation in the Middle East. Doctrinal Christians point to one sign after another indicating that the end of the world was near. Fundamentalist Jews wait for the tenth red heifer of ancient prophecy signaling the birth of their messiah to be born (and evangelicals in America try to breed that heifer). Apocalyptic Muslims look for a rising tide of wars, corruption, and fighting over Jerusalem. After the Bush ascendancy, the US, Israel, and a large number of Islamic countries will be politically controlled by parties dependent on fundamentalist support. After the 9/11 attacks, Bush will respond in a manner consistent with his own end-times belief: he will rail against "evil" and "evil ones," phrasing that earns laughter from secular Americans but resonates deeply with evangelical Christians. He will confide to friends that he believes God has selected him to lead the nation against the final attack of Satan's minions. He even refers repeatedly to the US's response to the attacks as a "crusade." (Kevin Phillips)
July: Israeli Government officials, who have long viewed Iran as a counterweight to Iraq and other Arab enemies of Israel, tell National Security Director Robert McFarlane that the Iranians want to open a "political discourse" with Washington. Although the United States publicly views Iran as a government supporting Islamic terrorism, and has outlawed arms sales to it, this overture soon leads to the first shipment of American weapons to Iran, without legal authorization. The shipment, in turn, brings about the release of one of seven Americans held hostage in Lebanon by Islamic militants. (Iran-Contra Timeline)
US swaps arms to Iran for hostages
Late July: A clandestine meeting between American and Iranian officials takes place in Hamburg, Germany. Former CIA operative Larry Kolb, present at the meeting, says it will become one of the most "investigated, reinvestigated...misreported, misunderstood, and infamous" meetings in American foreign policy history. The purpose seems to be part of an attempt to either destabilize the radical Shi'ite government of the Ayatollah Khomeini, or to plan for a more moderate, US-friendly regime to follow Khomeini. Some of the participants include businessman and Saudi operative Adnan Khashoggi, Iranian arms dealer and SAVAK member Manucher Ghorbanifar, CIA operatives Kolb and Miles Copeland, NSC consultant and hardline neoconservative Michael Ledeen, Israeli Foreign Minister and intelligence head David Kimche, Israeli arms dealer Al Schwimmer, former Israeli military attache to tehran Jacob Nimrodi, and Hassan Karrubi, a confidante of Iranian moderate Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. Karrubi proposes that the US, in contradiction to its arms embargo against Iran, agree to sell Iran a variety of aircraft parts and TOW missiles in return for Khomeini toning down his opposition to US influence in Iran, along with an agreement to broker the release of the four remaining American hostages in Beirut and a decrease in Iranian support of terrorism. (Hostage Benjamin Weir will later be released, apparently as a resut of the meeting.) Khashoggi says that, to avoid any trail of arms deals from the US to Iran, that the deal be brokered through Israel. Much of the meeting concerns larger geopolitical concerns, particularly the resistance to Soviet influence in Iran and the increase of US influence in the region.
Kolb later writes that some reports imply that he and his superior officer, Copeland, were locked away by Khashoggi and Ghorbanifar and forced to write up "the conspirators' dark plan;" in reality, Copeland and Kolb return to England and produce a "white paper" outlining the issues and proposals of the meeting, titled "Adnan Khashoggi's Views on the Possibilities of a Strategic Initiative Between the United States and Iran." Very little of the paper actually focuses on the proposal of an arms deal between Iran and the US; most of the paper is concerned with the Soviet threat to Iran and the reasons to take advantage of what seems to be a secret peace offering to the US by Iranian moderates. Kolb writes, "We had no idea that the vaguely contemplated transactions we'd written up would ever come to fruition; that months later a wild-*ss Marine colonel [Oliver North] would force the whole thing out into the open by stealing Adnan's fifteen-million dollar bridge loan which funded the sale and sending the money to Nicaraguan Contra rebels, that Miles and I had written the initial plan for what would become known as the Iran-Contra affair." Kolb continues, "Once the story broke, I remember Miles and me watching in wonder as the news unfolded. Every day we learned rich new details about things like a hot-looking secretary named Fawn [Hall] slinking out of the White House with documents stuffed down her panty hose, Nelson Bunker Hunt and Ross Perot adding little wrinkles like shoulder-fired Blowpipe missiles and the Contras to our plan, and what Ollie North was really up to way down there in the subbasement of the West Wing, all while our fearless Vice President Bush was perpetually 'out of the loop.'" What could have been a solid peace initiative between Iran and the US will be transformed into a farce of criminal activities and a political scandal that still resounds through US-Middle Eastern foreign policy conflicts today. (Michael Ledeen/Steve Clemons, Larry Kolb)
Fall: Interest in Whitewater land purchases has reached zero, mostly due to soaring interest rates. Land owner Jim McDougal continues to sink money into the property to keep it viable, but it is a money-losing proposition. He has little contact with the Clintons over the property, and they show little interest in it. During this time, Jim and Susan McDougal separate. (Susan McDougal)
Fall: Neoconservative godfather William Kristol writes in The National Interest that America should adopt what he calls a policy of "global unilateralism." According to Kristol, America is better off acting alone, without the consideration of the interests of its allies, who he says are weak, have no faith in their own values, and uniformly hate Israel. Resultingly, the US, says Kristol, should adopt a posture that is less risk-averse: "In the years ahead, the United States will be far less inhibited in its use of military power." He writes that unless Communist and other anti-American regimes willingly transform what he calls their "secular, political messianisminto a stable orthodoxy," the US should engage in "political, economical, and military" conflicts with them all, "though always short of nuclear war." Theodore Draper later calls this "interventionist isolationism," where Kristol and his neocons are "global in their intervention and unilateral in the way they go about it." What read like aberrant, militaristic ravings in 1985 will become US policy in 2002. (National Interest/Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
September 14: US begins giving Iraq huge monetary loans. US also ships 408 TOW missiles to Iran as part of secret "arms for hostages" deal; a day later, Benjamin Weir is released. In early 1986, 4000 more missiles were shipped to Iran through Israel. (Bushwatch, US/Iraq Relations Timeline, MidEast Web)
October 7: Palestinian Liberation Front terrorists hijack the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro. The Palestinians hijack the ship as it leaves Egypt for Israel, and hold 400 passengers hostage for two days. 69-year old wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer, an American Jew, is shot, then thrown overboard by the terrorists as his wife watches in horror. They will release the other hostages after Egypt agrees to grant the terrorists safe passage. As Egypt flies the terrorists to Tunis, US Navy fighter planes force them to land at a NATO base in Italy (Reagan informs the terrorists in a speech, "You can run, but you can't hide"). Insisting upon jurisdiction, the Italian government immediately send Mohammed Abu Abbas, the mastermind of the hijacking, to Yugoslavia for safety. (Abbas will later be convicted in absentia to life imprisonment.) The apprehended Palestinian hijackers were tried and sent to Italian prisons where they later escaped. On April 14, 2003, Abu Abbas will be captured in Baghdad by US occupation forces. A number of the hijackers are convicted of their roles in the crime; the Palestinian Liberation Organization is sued for its participation, and avoids a judgment by agreeing to pay an undisclosed sum to Klinghoffer's daughters, which is used to fund the Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer Memorial Foundation of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. (American Victims of Islamic and Arab Terrorists, Wikipedia, Laura Flanders)
November: Gunmen from Abu Nidal's terrorist organization seize EgyptAir Flight 648 in Malta; the hijacking is resolved badly when Egyptian commandos storm the plane. In the resulting firefight, 58 of the 91 passengers are killed. (Wikipedia)
November 15: A research assistant for a University of Michigan student is injured when a bomb mailed by the "Unabomber" explodes in his face. The bomb is apparently intended for a psychology professor, who suffers partial hearing loss because of the bombing. (Unabomber Timeline)
December 11: A bomb filled with nail fragments is picked up by Hugh Scrutton, who owns a RenTech computer supply store in Sacramento. The bomb, the latest from the "Unabomber," kills Scrutton. (Unabomber Timeline)
Abu Nidal attacks on El Al airline counters in Rome and Vienna
December 27: Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, who leads what the US State Department calls "the most successful terrorist organization in existence," the "Abu Nidal Organization" or, more accurately, the Fatah Revolutionary Council, leads a bloody pair of attacks on the Israeli airline El Al's counters in Rome and Vienna. ANO gunmen, high on amphetamines, open fire on passengers in simultaneous, coordinated attacks; 18 die and 120 are wounded. Nidal's organization is founded after Nidal has a public split with the Fatah organization of Yasser Arafat. Nidal, born Sabri al-Banna, is considered an Islamic terrorist but often hires his organization out on "contracts" to various nations, including Iraq, Syria, and Libya; his organization is credited with over 20 operations and over 900 people killed. (Many observers consider Nidal himself less of an ideological terrorist and more of a psychopath.) The ANO's hallmark, according to Nidal's biographer Patrick Seale, is the "random cruelty" of its operations. The ANO had close ties to the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). After 1991, when PLO deputy Abu Iyad is assassinated by ANO gunmen, the organization will essentially cease to operate. Nidal himself goes to ground in Baghdad, where he lives quietly, battling leukemia, until August 16, 2002, where he dies of what is reported to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, though most believe he was killed by order of Saddam Hussein (Nidal was said to have been facing charges of treason against the Hussein government). Ironically, Nidal's residence in Baghdad will be used in 2002-03 as "proof" by the Bush administration that Hussein knowingly harbored terrorists; though it is true that Hussein allows Nidal to live in Baghdad during his declining years, it does not constitute the link to current Islamic terrorism that the Bush administration will try to prove. American intelligence will use Jordan's successful move against the ANO in the late 1980s as a model for its own attempts to counter al-Qaeda in 2001 and beyond; after Nidal threatened the life of Jordan's King Hussein, Jordanian intelligence agents will kidnap the family members of known ANO members and use them to neutralize or "turn" the members upon pain of death to the kidnapped family members. By the early 1990s, the ANO will be crippled by internal dissension. "Jordan is the one nation that totally succeeded in penetrating a group," says a CIA official. "You have to get their families under control." (Wikipedia, Seymour Hersh)