by Nick Giambruno, International Man:
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
“Read my lips: no new taxes.”
“We were not trading arms for hostages.”
Politicians are professional liars. They do it every day. And they usually do it without any consequences.
I’d bet that Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, who told the three lies quoted above, didn’t think twice about them.
But the lies would all come back to haunt and humble them. Those words cost Bush senior his reelection.
Congress nearly impeached Clinton.
And the Iran-Contra scandal forced Reagan to apologize on national TV.
The Iran-Contra scandal showed that a strange series of events in a small, obscure, and impoverished country could come back to humiliate the most powerful person in the world.
That country was Nicaragua, and I was recently there to see it firsthand.
The Iran-Contra scandal involved senior members of the Reagan administration who secretly facilitated the sale of arms to Iran, which was fighting a brutal war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Reagan’s administration hoped selling arms to Iran would help secure the release of U.S. hostages being held by Iranian allies in Lebanon. It would also provide a stash of off-the-books funds to fund covert mischief.
The Iranian hostage crisis was still fresh in the public mind. Like a bull that sees the color red, the American public raged at anything to do with Iran. Many found the idea of sending arms to the country to be outrageous. Even to this day, many Americans get angry at the mere mention of the country.
But if they knew the real history of the reasons behind Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution—namely the CIA’s overthrow of a secular nationalist in the 1950s and installing an authoritarian client regime—they may see things differently.
The Real Story Behind Iran-Contra
In defiance of Congress, the Reagan administration used the proceeds from the arms sales to Iran to secretly fund a guerilla war in Nicaragua. The rebel fighters were known as the Contras (from the Spanish word for counter-revolutionary, contrarrevolucionario).
At the time, the Sandinistas, a group of communist fighters, had just thrown out a U.S. backed dictatorship. The U.S. tried to salvage its influence in the country by backing the Contras for most of the 1980s.
Today Daniel Ortega, the leader of the Sandinistas, is the president of Nicaragua. He’s been the leader of the country since 2007, and previously from 1979 to 1990.
Ortega has never been very friendly with the U.S. Washington supported the dictatorship he helped overthrow in the late 1970s. Washington also supported an armed insurgency against his rule. Plus, the Sandinistas had a political alliance with Castro’s Cuba and Chavez’s Venezuela, both foes of the U.S.
Ortega also took lots of controversial actions while in power. He nationalized businesses, took land from some and gave it to others, and redistributed wealth.
Because of this, the average American perceives Nicaragua to be a dirt poor, crime-ridden, war torn country with a hostile regime. The country has considerable psychological baggage.
But that’s not the Nicaragua of today. That’s not the country I just saw.
As a contrarian, that perception gap is exactly what I like to see.
Nicaragua is actually quite safe. It has the lowest homicide rate in the region. I didn’t feel threatened there at all. There were plenty of tourists and retired expats walking the streets comfortably.
The land and wealth distribution is ancient history. The Ortega of today is not the Ortega of the 1970s with revolutionary fervor. There is an appreciation of property rights. Foreign investors have been putting money into the country since the end of the conflict with no issues.
The Panama Canal Almost Ended Up in Nicaragua
You’ve probably never heard of the Nicaragua Canal. That’s because it doesn’t exist…
But you probably do know of the Panama Canal. Just ten years before it was built, the U.S. had seriously considered building it through Nicaragua instead. In the spring of 1902, the Nicaragua Canal plan seemed sure to get approval by Congress.
But it all came undone with a postage stamp…
Supporters of the Panama Canal didn’t want a rival canal in Nicaragua. They argued that Nicaragua was prone to earthquakes and volcanos. As a last ditch effort, they pointed to the fact that the Nicaraguans even featured an erupting volcano on their own postage stamps.
The lobbyists sent a stamp to each senator in Washington DC. They included a note that suggested the stamp was evidence that building a canal in Nicaragua was too risky because of violent natural disasters.
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