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October Surprise Paperback – November 10, 1992
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From Library Journal
Piercing the shadowy netherworld of international espionage, Sick has written one of the most controversial and disturbing accounts of political intrigue to appear in recent years. In 1980, William Casey, then campaign manager of the Reagan-Bush ticket, without the knowledge or approval of the legitimate government, arranged a deal with the Iranian government that in return for military equipment, the Iranians would not release the 52 American hostages until Ronald Reagan was safely inaugurated. Sick offers no proof, nor does he try to, that George Bush took part in these talks, or that Reagan was aware of this international scam. What is critical and potentially devastating is that a party out of power subverted the democratic process for gain. Sick, with impeccable credentials as one of America's leading authorities on Iran, presents a thoroughly documented, convincing appraisal of what he describes as nothing less than a political coup. Highly recommended for current affairs collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/91.
- Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp . Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Casey is the ominous voice & Bush is the corrupt clown behind the curtain, strategizing & manipulating his way to the White House.
Liberals will love it, Conservatives will repel its Republican blasphemy, and everyone else will appreciate the sliver of light exposing this political cancer.
Gary Sick writes a fabulous tale of factual American political corruption, deceipt & manipuation...painfully it carries the burden of being a history book...and for its contents, I am ashamed.
I don't know whether he's right or not, but this book will make you take a second look at those traumatic 444 days.
Those who say the book claims George H.W. Bush flew to Paris on an SR-71 have fallen for the Big Lie. It most emphatically does NOT say that (that claim actually comes from a similarly-titled book by Barbara Honegger).
What Gary Sick *does* say, on page 223, is this: "In the absence of convincing corroboration, however, I have reserved judgment. For example, several reports have surfaced claiming that vice-presidential candidate George Bush was present at least briefly in Paris during the course of negotiations in October. I have always been uncomfortable about this allegation. [...] I was also aware that the allegation about Bush might have been deliberately floated in order to discredit the story."
And what is this "story" that so needed discrediting? What negotiations were taking place in Paris during October of 1980?
This book presents a sober, convincing and very carefully-documented case that members of Ronald Reagan's transition team -- led by William Casey, Reagan's campaign manager and future head of the CIA -- met on October 19, 1980 with representatives of the Iranian government and various intermediaries and arms dealers. Their purpose? To trade arms and frozen assets for a promise that the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini would continue to hold the American hostages, seized in a raid on the American Embassy almost a year earlier, until AFTER the US presidential elections in November.
As it turned out, the hostages were released just minutes after Reagan was inaugurated January 20, 1981.
The imprisonment of these 52 American hostages was lengthened by at least 177 days for the sole purpose of ensuring a Reagan victory in the elections.
Reagan was later revealed (in 1986, the "Iran-Contra Affair") to have traded arms to the Iranians, in direct contravention of the arms embargo, in order to fund the Nicaraguan Contras, in direct contravention of the Congressional ban on such funding (The Boland Amendment).
These are the facts. They are not in dispute.
The Paris negotiations are particularly important because Ronald Reagan was not president at the time, and had no power to negotiate with foreign governments. In fact the Carter Administration had laid down a rule that there would be "no negotiating with hostage-takers." That was official US policy.
However, by fall of 1980 the Iranians were publicly signaling their willingness to release the hostages. The deposed Shah, whose return had been the only condition of the hostage-takers, had died of cancer in Egypt in July. On September 22, at the urging of the Reagan Administration, Saddam Hussein had invaded Iran. Khomeini was therefore desperate to resume delivery of spare parts for Iran's American-made military equipment, already ordered and paid for under the Shah's regime. Carter was in a supreme bargaining position.
Enter Reagan. He promised to resume arms sales (through Israel), to unfreeze the Shah's assets, to support Iran in their fight against Iraq -- all if Khomeini would deny Carter the public relations benefit of a hostage release just before the election. All if Khomeini would continue to hold the hostages -- until AFTER the US election.
This was strictly against official US foreign policy, of course.
And that makes it treason.
For his part, Khomeini released the hostages a mere *20 minutes* after Reagan's inaugural speech in an apparent attempt to discredit Reagan and expose the illegal deal -- but Reagan's team spun this as Khomeini being afraid of Reagan and the press bought the story. Then came Iran-Contra of course.
I know this book is twenty years old now, and the story of Republican "dirty tricks" in 1980 (and in 1984, 2000, and 2004) is old news by now. But recently somebody complained that President Obama "is turning into Jimmy Carter before our eyes" and I wanted to remind myself that Carter's legacy was formed not so much by his own actions -- but by those who apparently risked hanging to sabotage him.
Page 109 tells of the investigation into the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103; there were many suspicious characters on that single transatlantic flight, apparently quite by chance. There was a hidden layer below the surface of events that is still unknown, due to the many dubious or dangerous passengers!
The fundamental question is: did William Casey travel to Paris during October 15-20 1980 and meet with Iranian representatives to arrange a delayed release of the American hostages in return for promises of military equipment? The answer is yes! The Carter administration's negotiations with Iran collapsed, even though the Iranians had shown great interest in obtaining military equipment from the US (pp.155-7). It was not due to Khomeinin's unremitting hatred of Jimmy Carter, but to a better offer. A group of private citizens entered into diplomatic negotiations with a hostile foreign power to undercut their own government in a ruthless quest for political power (p.175).
Why was the Reagan-Bush campaign afraid of an early release for the hostages held in Iran (p.168)? Perhaps they did background polling and learned this would increase Carter's votes. The October polls showed the candidates in "a dead heat". If the hostages were released, Carter would get a 10% boost (p.170). President Carter's briefing book, with his answers to questions, was stolen and handed to the Reagan-Bush campaign; this allowed them to prepare their responses. The Republican disinformation campaign also predicted an imminent hostage release (p.173) just before the election. This would create a disappointment.
Page 214 discusses the policy on "contract employees". They recruit those who have the needed skills, and a propensity for exaggeration. After a couple of assignments, the contractor is arrested. This, with his boasting, ensures his record will discredit his testimony.
Barbara Honegger's book was published first and is longer. I found it to be more readable and better organized. One chapter lists the fates of those involved in the deal.