But this is not the only bit of buried history that Phillips successfully resurrects. Even more significant, perhaps, is his treatment of the “October Surprise” story.
Some of you may even recall the story. Its basic outline went like this: In the runup to the 1980 election between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, it became clear that the outcome largely hinged on the release of the 52 Americans who had been held hostage by Iran since November 1979. If Carter was able to obtain their freedom, he was likely to win re-election. If he failed, it was nearly certain Reagan would win. As you may recall, the latter was what happened. The hostages were freed on the day of Reagan’s inauguration. Later it emerged that a cadre of Reagan campaign officials led by former CIA chief William Casey, who was the campaign manager may have actually negotiated with Iran behind the scenes to ensure precisely this outcome. There were even indications they may have been involved in sabotaging the attempted rescue of the hostages.
The story gained real traction in the early 1990s when a former Carter intelligence official named Gary Sick released a book detailing the plot. It was promptly pooh-poohed by articles in Newsweek and The New Republic, and a brief House investigation came up dry. Afterward, anyone who even suggested they thought the scenario had any credibility was dismissed as a loony conspiracy theorist. Even the respected AP reporter Robert Parry found himself a journalistic pariah for his dogged pursuit of the story; you can find the results of much of his work at his marvelous Web site Consortium News.
Phillips not only resurrects the story, he examines the evidence and finds that it is almost certainly substantial, despite the all-too-eager earlier dismissals of its substance. More to the point, he compiles a wealth of subsequent evidence, most of it having emerged since 1992, pointing to his conclusion that “Bill Casey a born schemer and true buccaneer and his associates probably were involved in machinations akin to those Sick alleged.” This evidence includes intelligence material from the French, the Soviet Union, Israel and Iran, as well as material that has been ignored by the House investigators.
All of this ties in with Phillips’ theses that the October Surprise was a precursor to Iran-Contra (in fact, he argues, the latter was actually a confirmation that the former had occurred) as well as Iraqgate the consequences of which, he ably demonstrates, have come home to roost in the current war in Iraq.
Once again, it turns out that the cynics probably had it right. (Boy, sure looks like Sparky has paid a few visits to the plastic surgeon since 1992, doesn’t it?)
(…my God. Sparky the penguin was introduced in 1991. He’s been around for thirteen years.)