The Iran-Contra scandal was one of the most serious political scandals in United States history. Unlike Watergate which tried to cover up a breaking in and entry, or the Lewinsky scandal which tried to cover up sexual harassment and a blow-job, this scandal involved the illegal transfer of American weapons to a country that considers the United States the "Great Satan" and using the proceeds from the illegal transfer to fund a terrorist organisation. However, it all started in a small Central American nation known as Nicaragua. Somehow, Ronald Reagan and his administration thought this was all a REALLY GOOD IDEA.
 Backgroundrevolution led by a socialist movement known as 'Sandinista National Liberation Front' (FSLN). This revolution deposed the brutally-repressive regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle, which was a recipient of large-scale United States military and economic aid and was known for its gruesome violations of human rights. The FSLN established a new government that promised reforms, redistribution of the land and an end to human rights violations.
Tensions mounted when an anti-Sandinista faction called the 'Contras' began to mobilize and conduct coordinated attacks on the infrastructure of the country in an attempt to destabilize the FSLN government. The Contras for the most part consisted of right-wing extremists, former land elites and ex-members of the feared and vicious Guardia Nacional, which was responsible for the most egregious human rights violations under the previous Somoza regime. While many observers called the Contras "death squads," the Reagan administration called them "freedom fighters" (to be fair there were war crimes committed by both sides, although the Sandinista's human rights record was immensely better than the military regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, also being supported by Reagan).
Since the Reagan administration opposed communism, and since the Sandinistas were communist sympathizers, the Reagan administration thought it would be a good idea to give US aid to the Contras, including money and weapons. However, Congress was uninterested in getting the United States involved in another country's civil war (again) and explicitly forbade any such actions. But Reagan really wanted to do it so they had to find a way around the law.
 The Scheme
Saint Reagan's national security team (led by Marine Colonel Oliver North) cooked up this idea: the US sold weapons to its enemy (Iran), and used the proceeds to 1) pay the ransom for various hostages in the Middle East, 2) pay for weapons for its allies (the Contras of Nicaragua) and 3) Turn a blind eye to the importation of a new refined cocaine product the Contras were making (called crack cocaine) into the American cities. Of course, paying the ransom on the hostages merely encouraged more hostage taking, crack has caused enormous suffering in poor (mostly minority communities) in America and the weapons could have just gone to the Contras instead. Needless to say the transfers of this money had to be kept under the table or otherwise laundered. However, Washington is pretty bad at keeping secrets and when this one broke it naturally triggered Congressional hearings and criminal proceedings. Reagan actually managed to dodge impeachment as the American people believed that he "misspoke" on national TV about the whole thing. Whoops!
 See also
- ↑ Inter-American Commission on Human Right (ICHR). Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Republic of Nicaragua : Findings of the "On-site" Observation in the Republic of Nicaragua, October 3-12, 1978 (Washington: Organization of American States, 1978)
- ↑ Heleno Claudio Fragoso and Alejandro Artucio, Human Rights in Nicaragua: Yesterday and Today (Geneva: International Commission of Jurists, 1981)
- ↑ Amnesty International, The Republic of Nicaragua (London: Amnesty International Publications, 1977), page 32: In 1977 Amnesty International reported that 7 out of 10 prisoners detained by the Somoza regime had been tortured. The report also disclosed that in the countryside many peasants had been tortured and raped by Guardia patrols. It gave detailed testimony from individuals describing their torture which included beatings, electric shocks, and mutilation.