Official Reality

| Fri Nov. 10, 2006 11:32 AM EST

Given the turn of events the past few days, I am reminded of what someone told me for a piece on Iran contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar I published earlier this year in the magazine:

...To many who saw the Iran-Contra scandal unfold, it all adds up to a familiar picture. Jonathan Winer worked for a Senate committee led by John Kerry that, in the mid-1980s, probed rumors of the secret arms deals and of the funneling of the profits to Nicaragua's right-wing Contra rebels. For years as the investigation continued, critics—led by then-congressman Dick Cheney—"called us conspiracy nuts," says Winer. The committee kept hearing tips about private individuals secretly carrying out the government's business, he recalls. "Officials tell you none of it is true, because there's no record that any of these things took place. It creates a situation where oversight is practically impossible because official reality is completely misleading, and unofficial reality—which is the truth—does not exist." In the end, the scandal was uncovered after control of Congress shifted to the Democrats and, simultaneously, more and more evidence was revealed in Iran-Contra-related lawsuits and media investigations.

"What has to happen is, you have to have the press and Congress and the courts all playing their constitutional role for the truth to come out," Winer says. "If any of those components don't function, you can wind up with serious problems."

Press working: Check. Congress playing a role? Now, presumably in the coming months, yes, check. What Winer told me that didn't make it into the piece is that the whole exercise was not about punishing people, as far as he was concerned, that wasn't what he wanted; what he cared about was getting the truth -- so that official reality is no longer so misleading.

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