This text looks at the issues which were raised by America's most bizarre political scandal. After the trials of Oliver North and John Poindexter and the peculiar testimony of Ronald Reagan, this is the first book to reflect on the scandal as an extraordinary test case of political morality. What was this scandal, in which Ollie North said he would stand on his head if the president told him to, and in which Fawn Hell was so sure she had to go above the law that she smuggled out memos in her boots? What was going on in the minds of these people, and why is this scandal still so mysterious and morally ambiguous? What does this scandal tell us about American politics and about modern politics in general? This book aims to offer an insight into the political ethics of the late 20th century set against a mixture of low comedy, high tragedy, questions of conscience, and pure farce.
Introduction. PART I PICTURES ON A SCREEN. I The politics of illusion. 2 Unseen, unknown. 3 Secret agents and mystery papers. 4 The scandal as cinema. PART II JUST CAUSE AND HOLY WAR. 5 Flag, country, cause. 6 Justifying Nicaragua. 7 Bartering for bodies. 8 Bakhshish. PART III OBEDIENCE. 9 Soldiers and servants. 10 Lawful orders. 11 Chains of command. 12 The men responsible. PART IV WHAT'S RIGHT AND WHAT'S LEGAL. 13 On the edge of the law. 14 Right and wrong. 15 Criminal inquiries. PART V LIVES AND LIES. 16 The realm of the lie. 17 Questions and answers. 18 'A damn good story'. Epilogue. Acknowledgements. Sources. Reference Notes. Index.