Chapter 5Strength in the Crucible of Crisis

For Bud McFarlane, 1986 was the year lightning struck.

On October 12, the New York Times ran a short story giving a few details about a plane that had been shot down over Nicaragua, allegedly carrying weapons to Contras, anti-Sandinista rebels engaged in guerrilla warfare against the ruling communist government. The story might have blown over, had it not been for what happened a few weeks later: A Lebanese newspaper, Al-Shiraa, printed an article based on the testimony of an Iranian informant, detailing a U.S. scheme to sell American antitank and antiaircraft missiles to Iran to use in its war against Iraq. The scheme, which had been approved by National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane, had carried with it the hopes of future release of Iran-held U.S. hostages. Over time, the situation had degenerated into an unsavory weapons-for-hostages deal run completely undercover. Further investigation revealed that the money from the arms deal was going to support the Contras. The arms sales to Iran had been carried out in secret, and the support of the Contras had illegally circumvented Congress's prohibition of Contra support. The so-called Iran-Contra affair became the biggest political scandal of the Reagan administration.

In the midst of the disgrace, McFarlane fell into a clinical depression driven by his deep regret of having embarrassed President Reagan and shamed his country. On the morning of February 9, 1987, the day he was ...

Get View From the Top: An Inside Look at How People in Power See and Shape the World now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.