Those historical facts relating to Republican contacts with Iran's Islamic regime more than a quarter century ago are relevant today because an underlying theme in Bush's rationale for war is that direct negotiations with Iran are pointless. But Bush's own father may know otherwise.
The evidence is now persuasive that George H.W. Bush participated in negotiations with Iran's radical regime in 1980, behind President Jimmy Carter's back, with the goal of arranging for 52 American hostages to be released after Bush and Ronald Reagan were sworn in as Vice President and President, respectively.
In exchange, the Republicans agreed to let Iran obtain U.S.-manufactured military supplies through Israel. The Iranians kept their word, releasing the hostages immediately upon Reagan's swearing-in on Jan. 20, 1981.
Over the next few years, the Republican-Israel-Iran weapons pipeline operated mostly in secret, only exploding into public view with the Iran-Contra scandal in late 1986. Even then, the Reagan-Bush team was able to limit congressional and other investigations, keeping the full history and the 1980 chapter hidden from the American people.
Upon taking office on Jan. 20, 2001, George W. Bush walled up the history even more by issuing an executive order blocking the scheduled declassification of records from the Reagan-Bush years. After 9/11, the younger George Bush added more bricks to the wall by giving Presidents, Vice Presidents and their heirs power over releasing documents.
But that history is vital today.
First, the American people should know the real history of U.S.-Iran relations before the Bush administration launches another preemptive war in the Middle East. Second, the degree to which Iranian officials are willing to negotiate with their U.S. counterparts and fulfill their side of the bargain bears on the feasibility of talks now.
Indeed, the only rationale for hiding the historical record is that it would embarrass the Bush Family and possibly complicate George W. Bush's decision to attack Iran regardless of what the American people might want.
The Time magazine cover story, released on Sept. 17, and a new report by retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner entitled "The End of the 'Summer Diplomacy'" make clear that the military option against Iran is moving rapidly toward implementation.
Gardiner, who taught at the National War College and has war-gamed U.S. attacks on Iran for American policymakers over the past five years, noted that one of the "seven key truths" guiding Bush to war is that "you cannot negotiate with these people."
That "truth," combined with suspicions about Iran's nuclear ambitions and Tehran's relationship with Hezbelloh and other militant Islamic groups, has led the Bush administration into the box-canyon logic that war is the only answer, despite the fact that Gardiner's war games have found that war would have disastrous consequences.
In his report, Gardiner also noted that Bush's personality and his sense of his presidential destiny are adding to the pressures for war.
"The President is said to see himself as being like Winston Churchill, and to believe that the world will only appreciate him after he leaves office; he talks about the Middle East in messianic terms; he is said to have told those close to him that he has got to attack Iran because even if a Republican succeeds him in the White House, he will not have the same freedom of action that Bush enjoys.
"Most recently, someone high in the administration told a reporter that the President believes that he is the only one who can 'do the right thing' with respect to Iran. One thing is clear: a major source of the pressure for a military strike emanates from the very man who will ultimately make the decision over whether to authorize such a strike the President."