Armitage Part II: History in Washington

Mizgin's Desk Reports

Mizginslogo2Our first look at the life of Richard Armitage, the new American Turkish Council chairman, focused on his adventures in Southeast Asia. Today we'll look at his history in Washington.

Back in Washington in 1980, Armitage served as a foreign policy advisor to President-elect Ronald Reagan, and was soon appointed by Reagan to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia and Pacific Affairs. Armitage held that position from 1981 until 1983, when he was promoted to the position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy. Wikipedia has a list of the duties associated with Armitage's position as Assistant Secretary of Defense. He held this position until 1989.

ArmitageScrowcroftDuring this time, Armitage became involved with US arms shipments from Israel to Iran that eventually became known as the Iran-Contra Affair. In a report by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, it was determined that US weapons were, in fact, delivered to the Islamic Republic of Iran by Israel on behalf of the US. Neoconservative Michael Ledeen and Iranian businessman Manucher Ghorbanifar facilitated links between the US, Israel, and Iran and they would be mentioned years later when a subsequent US administration sought to manufacture evidence of yellowcake sales to Iraq.

LTC Oliver North modified the original plan of arms sales to Iran in order to divert money to the Nicaraguan Contras and it is through North that Armitage became entangled in the affair. According to the History Commons, with links to reports by the Independent Counsel on Iran-Contra Affairs:

"National Security Council (NSC) officer Oliver North has become far more outspoken among government officials about his illegal funding of the Nicaraguan Contras (see May 16, 1986). During a meeting of his Restricted Interagency Group (RIG—see Late 1985 and After), CIA official Alan Fiers, a member of the group, is discomfited at North’s straightforward listing of the many activities that he is causing to be conducted on behalf of the Contras, everything from supplying aircraft to paying salaries. Fiers is even less sanguine about North’s frank revelations about using illegally solicited private funding for the Contras (see May 16, 1986). North goes down the list, asking if each activity should be continued or terminated, and, according to Fiers, making it very clear that he can cause his Contra support program (which he now calls PRODEM, or “Project Democracy”) to respond as he directs. North also begins arranging, through Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, for $2 million in stopgap funding for the project. North will confirm the $2 million in an e-mail to NSC Director John Poindexter. North will conduct similar meetings in August and September 1986, at least one of which will include Assistant Defense Secretary Richard Armitage (see July 22, 1987) and other Defense Department officials (see November 13, 1990). It is not until Fiers testifies in 1991 about North’s behaviors that verification of North’s discussion of such specifics about Contra activities and funding will be made public (see July 17, 1991)."

In September, 1986, North brought up for discussion in an RIG meeting in Armitage's office the fact that the Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega, would be willing to conduct sabotage inside Nicaragua for money. The discussion focuses on the possibility of paying Noriega from private funds. The offer is ultimately rejected.

In July, 1987, Armitage failed to recall anything:

"Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Armitage, who has attended some of Oliver North’s Restricted Interagency Group (RIG) meetings (see Late 1985 and After and July 1986 and After), testifies before the Joint House-Senate Committee investigating Iran-Contra (see May 5, 1987). Armitage is asked about RIG meetings in which North recited a list of his activities in coordinating the Contras, discussed the private funding of the Contras, and demanded item-by-item approval from group members: “[D]o you recall, regardless of what dates, regardless of where it was, regardless of whether it had exactly the players he said—because he could have gotten all that wrong—do you recall any meeting at which he did anything close to what his testimony suggests?” Armitage replies, “I do not.” It is not until RIG member Alan Fiers, a former CIA official, testifies in 1991 about North’s behaviors that verification of North’s discussion of such specifics about Contra activities and funding will be made public (see July 17, 1991)."

The Office of the Independent Council eventually decided not to prosecute Armitage for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair:

"The notes demonstrated that Weinberger's early testimony -- that he had only vague and generalized information about Iran arms sales in 1985 -- was false, and that he in fact had detailed information on the proposed arms sales and the actual deliveries. The notes also revealed that Gen. Colin Powell, Weinberger's senior military aide, and Richard L. Armitage, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, also had detailed knowledge of the 1985 shipments from Israeli stocks. Armitage and Powell had testified that they did not learn of the November 1985 HAWK missile shipment until 1986.

[ . . . ]

"There was little evidence that Powell's early testimony regarding the 1985 shipments and Weinberger's notes was willfully false. Powell cooperated with the various Iran/contra investigations and, when his recollection was refreshed by Weinberger's notes, he readily conceded their accuracy. Independent Counsel declined to prosecute Armitage because the OIC's limited resources were focused on the case against Weinberger and because the evidence against Armitage, while substantial, did not reach the threshold of proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

As a result of the conclusions of the Independent Council, we may assume that Armitage received a less than honorable exoneration in this scandal. Shortly afterwards, Armitage became entangled in another scandal which forced him to withdraw his name from consideration by George H. W. Bush as the Secretary of the Army:

"Richard L. Armitage, President Bush's choice as Secretary of the Army, withdrew his name from consideration today rather than undergo confirmation hearings expected to include questions about his role in the Iran-contra affair and his relationship with a woman convicted of illegal gambling.

"Over the past two years, Mr. Armitage has been the focus of repeated allegations about his private life, some of them published by the columnist Jack Anderson. The Texas industrialist H. Ross Perot joined the fray in 1987 when he complained to then Vice President Bush of Mr. Armitage's possible involvement in drug operations when he served in the Vietnam War.

"Mr. Armitage has denied the charges. He was out of town today and could not be reached for comment. He withdrew so that he could spend more time with his wife and eight children, said a Pentagon spokesman.

[ . . . ]

"Mr. Armitage's withdrawal, which came before his name was formally submitted to the Senate represented a surprising reversal. Just two weeks ago, he had been providing Democratic senators with a detailed written rebuttal of the allegations relating to Vietnam and Ms. O'Rourke. Mr. Armitage told senators he was ready to refute the charges personally at his confirmation hearings, a Senate aide said."

Frank Carlucci, National Security Advisor at the time, asked Ross Perot in secret to drop his investigation of Armitage's involvement with Nguyet O'Rourke and her connections to organized crime. Both Carlucci and Armitage would later serve as board members of the Middle East Policy Council.

During the Gulf War, Armitage served as a special emmissary to the King of Jordan and later in the 1990s he "directed US assistance to the new independent states (NIS) of the former Soviet Union." In 1996, the US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce was established in Washington with Armitage on its board of directors. Other board members included John Imle of Unocal while Zbigniew Brzezinski served the USACC as an Honorary Council Advisor. By the end of the 1990s, Armitage would have served as a lobbyist for Unocal at a time that Unocal was courting the Taliban in Texas in order to win a pipeline bid to move Turkmenistani gas through Afghanistan to Pakistan.

It was in 1997, too, that Armitage "went to Burma on a trip sponsored by the Burma/Myanmar Forum, a Washington group with major funding from UNOCAL." Burmese villagers filed a lawsuit against Unocal for human rights abuses. Armitage was implicated in the lawsuit. Hamid Karzai and Zalmay Khalilzad were, like Armitage, also affiliated with Unocal. Karzai was a representative of Unocal in Afghanistan while Khalilzad was an advisor to Unocal and participated in its talks with the Taliban.

Armitage and Khalilzad were both signatories of the PNAC letter to President Clinton in 1998 which outlined the policy of "containment" of Saddam Hussein that would be adopted by the Bush administration in its war against Iraq after 11 September, 2001. Before those attacks, however, Armitage would be called back to public service by The Vulcans.

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  1. Mizgin, great job; thank you. This guy has been operating under all the radars (obviously not ours) for the last 3 decades. In a way, he is more dangerous than let’s say Perle, Feith…since for some reason he’d gotten himself guardians on both sides: ‘D’ & ‘R’The left has been giving him a pass consistently, and the right, has been protecting him since the start…Anyway, looking forward to Part III.

    To our readers: come on; let’s disseminate this guy, expose him, and make it a bit harder for him to operate invisbly…

    More later…I’m taking my daughter to the Harbor to watch ice-skaters, listen to our local band, and maybe freak out when she sees the guy with big red hat, long white beard, who has a hearty ho ho ho…Let’s face it, sooner or later she’d be coming face-to-face with him, the sooner the better! Seriously, I did the warm up with a couple of story book pictures, so it won’t be that scary;-)

  2. Good article as usual Mizgin. Off topic here’s an interesting new article on info about prior knowledge of 911 in the various intelligence agencies. It’s only an excerpt from the full article but this is the first time I’ve heard anyone mention Syrian intelligence in this context.

  3. “Ross Perot joined the fray in 1987 when he complained to then Vice President Bush of Mr. Armitage’s possible involvement in drug operations when he served in the Vietnam War.”

    If only Mr Perot had known.

  4. Great piece, btw.

  5. Bill Bergman says:

    Thanks, Mizgin. A follow up history of the ATC and Armitage’s role would be interesting.

    Thanks for the link, Metem.

  6. @Mr. Bergman

    I tried to hunt down your own blog by clicking on your name at Sibel’s old site. But it looks like you haven’t really posted anything much and I didn’t know if you checked it much. I was just wondering what you think of the current bill to audit the Fed. Besides secret bailouts of many other companies any idea what we’d be likely to find if it goes through.

  7. Bill Bergman says:

    Metem, I thought HR1207 made sense, and I’ve written about it elsewhere. Federal Reserve ‘independence’ is a many-splendored thing, but I think its at least curious that current Chairman Bernanke has said things along the lines of “I don’t think the American people want Congress making monetary policy.” The Fed ‘independence’ debate is thick and interesting, but most often it is framed in terms of the Fed’s position relative to the executive branch, not the Congress. If the Fed is indeed constitutional, it resides in most important part on the Aritcle I authority of the Congress to ‘coin money, and regulate the value thereof.’ The Fed exists as a creature of Congress, the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. This Act created the Fed, and with a Presidential signature, the Fed could be disbanded tomorrow by another Act of Congress.

    A longer story, one I’ve written a longer article about. We’ve been through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and we need some answers. I think HR 1207 is productive.

  8. Bill Bergman, there will be one more post on Armitage in which we’ll look at why he’s been selected to head the ATC.


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