Thursday, May 21, 1987, p. 1.
Robert McFarlane at SCCC:|
"We took a risk and failed"
- McHugh on McFarlane
- What price McFarlane?
By TOM RUE
- LOCH SHELDRAKE - In an address before over 1400 listeners at Sullivan County Community College (SCCC), Robert McFarlane, President Reagan's embattled former national security advisor, spoke about America's role in the Middle East and options in response to international terrorism.
- Entitled American Foreign Policy - Our Options in the Middle East, the lecture was McFarlane's first public appearance since his widely publicized Congressional testimony last week. The address lasted about 40 minutes and was followed by almost an hour of questions and answers.
- McFarlane defined terrorisma as "an attempt by a minority to inflict violence on innocent people and to create fear throughout the society for a political purpose."
"Given a choice between taking a risk and doing nothing, I think you'd pay people to take a risk now and then."
- When confronted with the question whether the U.S. was financing and directing terorism by aiding the Contra rebels in Nicuragua, McFarlane countered that atrocities by the Sandinista government -- similar to those committed by the Contras -- are eunder-reported in the American media.
- While about 40 people demonstrated outside the college field house where the event was held, most of the audience appeared to sympathize with McFarlane -- if not as a former policy-maker, then as a man. Some gave him a standing ovation when he approached the podium, and intermitten warm applause.
- In testimony before Congress, McFarlane said he felt responsible for the damage done to the Reagan administration by the public disclosure of the now well known arms-for-hostages deal with Iran, which facilitated illegal aid to revolutionaries in Nicaragua. After the scandal broke McFarlane attempted suicide.
- Many people who asked questions or offered public comment, however, appeared critical of the administration's policies in Central America.
- McFarlane stated that "in the nuclear age, the overwhelming devasation that is caused by nuclear power has made it no longer sensible to use military means to try to promote whatever your foreighn policy ambitions may be."
- Therefore, he said, the United States has found itself in a quandry, with limited effective means of countering terrorism.
- Speaking generally of international politics, McFarlane explained, "I have been involved with a lot of things in government and have come to the conlclusion that you -- the taxpayers -- pay people to go to Washington, not to sit on their hands, but to try to make the country better; little by little, step by step, trying as best you can, though therey may be risks, as opposed to going to Washington, collecting your salary, and doing nothing.
- "And if the choice at the end of 60 years or 70 years, when you've devoted yourself to a profession, is that 'I maintained the status quo and never stuck my head up,' I submit that you're going to be very unfulfilled and not terribly pleased with yourself."
- "Given a choice between taking a risk and doing nothing, I think you'd pay people to take a risk now and then."
- In this regard, McFarlane called upon other natoins to take some risks -- Israel for example, in its upcoming election. McFarlane asserted that the expected vote there "will be a benchmark test of whether the Israeli people have decided that peace works -- peace in terms of giving up territory for a political document."
- There are also some things this country could do, he suggested. America should "have a Secretary of State go to the Middle East and stay there," he stated, recalling the extended visits of Henry Kissinger in the 1960s and 70s.
- "It seems to me the other element that you need is an economic element, and that is to build better conditions in the effected countries. If the people of Israel and the West Bank and Egypt could look forward to a $50 billion investment program to develop the water resources of the Nile, to provide jobs, roads, health care, schools, hospitals for people on the West Bank. And, in short, to make clear that peace makes things better.
- "Now that sounds easy, but where am I going to come up with $50 billion? Who can afford that? But there are countries that can afford it.
- McFarlane called for Japan to carry a larger share of the burden of security in the free world, rather than directing its riches into re-armament. "They've already tried that once," he reflected.
- Referring to opponents of U.S. aid to the Contras in the back of the field house -- who occasionally shouted comments and questions -- McFarlane said, "For those in the back who say 'Don't do anythikng,' I say nonsense!"
- "There must be someone with enough courage in this country, the leader of the free world, to be able to say: yes it's difficult, yes it's going to be hard, and yes we care a lot -- enough to take some risks."
- "And the moment this country stops saying that, is the moment we begin our decline," McFarlane asserted.
McHugh on McFarlane
- [The following are comments by Congressman Matt McHugh on May 14, following the close of testimony by former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane before joint hearings of the Congressional committees investigating the Iran-Contra matters.]
- I think Mr. McFarlane's testimony has been very interesting for several reasons. He now concedes that covert operations should be undertaken only in rare cases, and then only when there is full consultation with the congressional intelligence committees and bipartisan support is forthcoming. This is a matter of obvious interest to me as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee's Subcommittee on Legislation, which is now considering legislation to tighten reporting requirements on covert operations, so as to prevent incidents such as the secret Iranian arms sale and the concurrent illegal diversion of funds to the Nicaraguan contras.
- Mr. McFarlane has also conceded that when he testified earlier before the congressional committees, he was not telling the entire truth, and that he this has contributed to a breakdown in confidence between the Congress and the White House. As one who was present at meetings with Mr. McFarlane -- both on Capitol Hill and in the White House -- during which it turns out he deliberately sought to mislead members of Congress on foreign policy activities, I am hopeful that his admission will help pave the way for more constructive relations between Congress and the White House.
- Finally, the testimony of Mr. McFarlane -- together with the President's brief comments on it to the press -- begins to make clearer that the President knew more than previously admitted about the details of those covert operations -- not only the arms sales to Iran but also the solicitation of funds for the contras. Undoubtedly more of the details will be coming out in subsequent hearings.
What price, McFarlane?
- LOCH SHELDRAKE - Robert McFarlen came to Sullivan County with a price tag of $10,000, although he claimed that the figure was a mere half of what he usually gets for such appearances.
- Payment of the hefty sum for the two hour lecture generated some resentment locally. One demonstrator outside the hall carried a sign which read, "Don't pay McFarlane $10,000! He helped murder 30,000."
- Editors condemning the privately-funded payment appeared in area newspapers, and more than one questioner at the lecture alluded to it.
- "As to what I do for a living, I came by invitation and no one needs to be here who doesn't care to be here," McFarlane told one college student.
- A retired marine, McFarlane is presently employed by the Center for Strategic International Studies at Georgetown University.
Related external links
- Sullivan County Community College
- Georgetown University
- Center for Strategic International Studies