On Oct. 5, 1986, Eugene Hasenfus’ plane was shot down by members of the Sandinista regime, the governing party in Nicaragua. After questioning, Hasenfus admitted that he had been tasked with delivering weapons to the Contras (a Nicaraguan revolutionary group) on behalf of the American Central Intelligence Agency. This revelation was the beginning of the discovery of the “Iran-Contra” scandal, a covert operation in which the Reagan administration sold weapons to the Iranian government and used the funds to support the Contras in Nicaragua.
The “Iran-Contra” affair is one of many examples of foreign policy conflicts that have resulted in disputes between Congress and the executive branch. Congress had specifically prohibited any form of funding for the Contras in the 1984 Boland Amendment, and required several members of the Reagan administration to provide testimony following the revelation of the scandal.
When Congress learned that members of the government were supporting the Contras, a major political scandal erupted. In the end, fourteen members of the Reagan Administration were indicted. President H.W. Bush later pardoned those who were convicted.
- What is the role of Congress in overseeing the foreign policy of the executive branch?
- Nicaragua is again in the news, as the same leader President Reagan sought to overthrow (Daniel Ortega) has again taken control of the country. What has changed in the world, that what was so dominant in world news in 1986, has become so unimportant today?
- Do you think something like this could happen again today? Why, or why not?
20, Aug. 1985, Reagan meets with (left to right) Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of State George Shultz, Attorney General Ed Meese, and Chief of Staff Don Regan in the Oval Office [Digital photograph]. Retrieved from <google.com>.