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A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs Hardcover – June 1, 1991

4.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Working largely from congressional testimony and private depositions, Draper ( Abuse of Power ) reconstructs the Iran-Contra affair, showing how a handful of little-known officials, in defiance of the law and without the knowledge of any other branch of government, took control of U.S. foreign policy. The study adds thinly to what we already know about President Reagan's (and then-vice-president Bush's) knowledge of and involvement in the arms-for-hostages deal and the diversion of funds, but Draper's scholarly efforts deepen our understanding of other major elements of the affair: for example, the exclusion of secretaries of State and Defense Schultz and Weinberger after January 1986, the role of CIA director William Casey, and the administration's attempt to shift blame for its Iran policy to the Israelis. This is the fullest and most authoritative account to date of the usurpation of power by a small, strategically placed group of insiders--lieutenant colonel North, admiral Poindexter et al.--and is also an instructive exploration of the line that separates the legitimate from the illegitimate exercise of power. Photos. BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Veteran writer Draper has reconstructed from the voluminous documentary records the Washington connection that linked the arms sales to Khomeini's Iran with the support of the anti-Sandinista forces in Nicaragua. With keen analytical insight, he seeks out "a very thin line" that "separates" the legitimate from the illegitimate exercise of power in our government" and portrays these tangled events as "symptomatic of a far deeper disorder in the American body politic," a disorder based on the assumption of "a president almighty in foreign policy." While Stephen Kinzer's Blood of Brothers ( LJ 3/15/91) and Joseph P. Persico's The Lives and Secrets of William J. Casey: from the OSS to the CIA ( LJ 10/1/90) cover specific aspects of these events, Draper's work will stand as the definitive source on the constitutional consequences of the Iran-Contra affairs for decades to come. Highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/91.
- James Rhodes, Luther Coll., Decorah, Ia.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 690 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; First Edition edition (June 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809096137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809096138
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #680,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on August 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read this book in college and gave my copy to my history prof when I left school. If I had known how difficult it would be to try and get another copy, I might not have left it. (just kidding Proffessor Gill) This is perhaps the best book I have read since Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as far as bringing a dense and complicated seiries of events together in an easily understandable, fascinating read. I followed the Iran-Contra "affair" very closely as it happened, and read many books on it before this; but only after reading this book did I feel as if I actually understood what went on. A keeper for anyone's non-fiction library.
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Format: Paperback
In a nutshell the author has reviewed the voluminous data, (transcripts, interviews, personal logs and diaries, etc.) and has written a coherent and engaging book documenting an extremely convoluted and complicated foreign policy initiative, (actually several initiatives) during the Reagan presidency. Aid to the contras, weapons sold to Iran and the diversion of funds from those weapons sales are tracked from inception to implementation to the exposure of these "affairs". This includes all the high hopes and noble causes, the "zeal" of the Americans involved, the greed and corruption of the middlemen used for the transactions, and at times the sheer incompetence which led to the inevitable exposure of what was really happening behind the scenes. This last item being the crux of the book - the hijacking of US foreign policy in the Middle East and Central America by a handful of men, (at times overworked, completely over their heads and out of their league), outside of any purview, oversight or review by the White House, Cabinet or Congress. As for who knew what and when, from President Reagan on down, the author also does a very good job documenting this time line and each of the major players involved. (As an aside, Sec. of State Schultz's involvement, or really conscious lack thereof, was an eye opener for me.) As for the timeliness of re-visiting this affair 20 years later and any lessons to be learned, if any, .... All I know is I found this book both fascinating and a little scary.
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Format: Hardcover
"A Very Thin Line" tells the bizarre story of a cabal of White House ideologues who hijacked foreign policy from the State Department and the Pentagon. The results were disastrous: terrorists were empowered and America's global image was left in tatters. It might sound like the book is about the Bush Administration and Iraq -- but it is actually about the Reagan Administration and Iran/Contra. Plumbing the documentary record compiled by Congressional investigators and federal prosecutors, Draper recreates this sordid and hilarious episode from the 1980s in painstaking detail. His book is smart and readable. Anyone who was surprised by the intelligence and policy failures in Iraq should read "A Very Thin Line" for a reminder of how Washington really works. (I'm a State Department official.)
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Draper writes an extremely detailed case study of the events surrounding the two controversial decisions that led to Congressional hearings and tarnished Reagan's image as a leader of the country. The desire to fund the Sandinista rebellion in Nicaragua ultimately has been combined with the need to rescue American hostages in Iran. Draper follows the events leading to the decisions, introducing the reader to the multitude of players that had a hand in the actions taken by the US Government.

Evidence of Draper's in depth investigative skills comes to bear quickly and is clear throughout the book. Upon starting his research, he discovered a mountain of information in the form of records, interviews, hearing transcripts, letters, and many more articles. He states in his introduction that he was surprised by the amount of info and decided then to allow it to speak for itself. He presents his work matter-of-factly, without too much interpretation. It's a good choice, as the events speak for themselves, the lack of political bias is refreshing in a work written as recently as this.
Draper includes photographs, allowing the readers to visualize the men involved with the scandals. He doesn't, however, include maps or charts which would have illuminated some of the numerous facts and figures he gives. One of the most beneficial elements he adds is a chronology in the appendices. It gives a step by step overview of the events that can eliminate some of the over-worked detail he includes in the text.
This book is excellent for Graduates researching the period. It includes too much detail for the undergraduate student in a survey or limited study course. The reference material alone would be a benefit for research in the topics.
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Format: Hardcover
The information contained in this book will keep your jaw dropping from page to page. If anyone is wondering why George W. Bush isn't being impeached, after reading this book, you'll know why. Why wasn't Reagan ipmeached? Or Bush Sr.? The abuse of power, the parsing and skirting of law has been going on since the early '80s. Nothing is new - even the people.
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