However, the safe conventional wisdom continues to be the acceptance of the false history that was created in the early 1990s as the easy way for all the various powerful players to avoid painful clashes over accountability and guilt.
That is the manufactured version of events that Ted Koppel repeated in the Washington Post's "Outlook" section, even drawing conclusions for the future from the false premises.
So, instead of facing up to the evidence that the Iranian mullahs and the Republicans struck a deal in which Reagan and Bush cleared the way for a clandestine Israeli-run pipeline of U.S. weapons for Iran, Koppel concluded that the Iranians simply timed the release of the hostages as a sign of disdain for Carter, while risking U.S. military retaliation from Reagan.
Koppel acknowledged that the expected reprisals against Iran were not forthcoming from Reagan, but concluded that was just a case of Reagan's empty threats, what Koppel called "Reagan's broad-shouldered bravado."
Perhaps still singed by the ugly attacks from the New Republic and Newsweek in 1991, Koppel has chosen to shy away from a more realistic assessment of this history: that the Republicans promised the Iranians a flow of weapons if they kept the hostages until Reagan was sworn in and then released them for maximum propaganda effect for the incoming administration.
Under that scenario, Reagan and his team would talk tough -- about how the Iranians caved rather than face Reagan's wrath -- but the behind-the-scenes reality was that the Republicans would let Israel make shipments of U.S.-manufactured weapons to Iran. That's the version that matches up best with the known evidence.
All sides got something. Reagan was assured the White House; Israel's Begin got rid of the despised Carter and got to control a lucrative supply line to Iran for its war with Israel's bigger enemy, Iraq; and the Iranians got both the weapons they desperately needed and -- for Tehran's inner circle -- huge profits from the secret arms sales.
But that reality would require a more rigorous and courageous analysis than the safe and fallacious one embraced by Ted Koppel in the Washington Post on Sunday.
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