Section One

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April 6, 1983: “Eh?”
Washington Post

President Reagan reversed the détente of the 1970s in favor of rolling back the Communist world wherever possible, backing anti-Communist movements in El Salvador, Grenada, Angola, and most notably, Nicaragua. Congress, fearful of another Vietnam, prohibited U.S. aid in Nicaragua. The Reagan administration continued the operation anyway, and National Security Council staffer Colonel Oliver North began channeling funds to Nicaragua’s anti-Communist Contras.

In an unrelated episode, the radical Islamic group Hezbollah, backed by Iran, was taking Western hostages in Lebanon. Responding to Reagan’s desire to free the hostages, National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane sought to secure their release and build good relations with “moderates” in Iran through covert arms sales. A decision was made to divert funds from the arms sales to fund the Contras, thus circumventing Congress. When the Iran–Contra scandal broke in 1986, Reagan said he had no memory of authorizing the arms sales or the diversion. What exactly happened is still unknown.