By Ryan J. Travis

The Iran -Contra scandal, involving the illegal sale of weapons to terrorists in Iran, the funds for which were used to support the right wing Contras in Nicaragua fighting the leftist Sandinista regime, was a gross violation of U.S. and international law by President Ronald Reagan and military personnel within the United States government.
In 1979 Anastasio Somoza, the dictator of Nicaragua, fled the country and in doing so purloined approximately one half of the nation\'s wealth. This event left a void in the nation\'s leadership that was to be filled with the bloody-handed Sandinista regime, a leftist organization boasting a Marxist philosophy and totalitarian administrative policies (Goldstein et al, 107). President Carter sent 175 million in funds to support the fledgling Latin American government (Goldstein et al,107).
In 1980, the Sandinista government begins a suppression of free press and series of attacks on religious organizations, this coincides with Sandinista support of neighboring communist factions fighting for control of their own Latin American republics. This spurned President Carter to shut off all aid flowing to the now totalitarian Nicaraguan institution (Goldstein et al ,107). President Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency of the U.S. in 1981, this event paralleled the formation of a right-wing internal resistance movement known as the Contras. Reagan welcomed this internal opposition group with open arms (Goldstien et al ,107).
In 1982 Reagan authorized continuing CIA aid to the Contra rebels (Goldstein et al,107), this violated the Boland Amendment passed in 1984 by Congress stating that such aid to Nicaraguan resistance groups was unlawful. CIA aid continued after the passing of the law (Encarta). In 1983 Senator Boland of Massachusetts accused Reagan of violating neutrality laws. Reagan denied these weighty allegations stating that he was merely adhering to George F. Kennan\'s policy of containment by stopping the spread of communism into other Latin American countries and not directly attacking an already existing Communist entity. (Goldstein et al, 108). U.S. media sources reveal Reagan\'s underhanded schemes in Nicaragua, detailing CIA involvement in the Nicaraguan civil war (Goldstein et al ,207). Britain and France address the issue of mines being placed in Nicaraguan harbors (supposedly by Contra forces) stating that these mines are a potential hazard to foreign shipping in Nicaragua. Experts speculate that the Contra rebels do not have the expertise necessary to undertake this kind of mine laying and that they must have outside assistance. Attentions fall on the CIA ( Goldstein et al, 115).
In 1985 Reagan publicly condemns the Sandinista regime and questions the legitimacy of their government as a real nation. He further states that the U.S. seeks to remove the Sandinistas from power but at the same time asserts that he has not been trying to dislodge the Marxist government through covert action or CIA involvement (Goldstein et al,116). He imposes a trade embargo on the Nicaragua to put pressure on the Nicaraguan people. The Sandinistas refuse to back down. Critics say that Reagan is only hurting the people of Nicaragua and that his embargo is pointless (Encarta).
The Iran -Contra scandal becomes public knowledge in 1986 when the White House admits that funds totaling 30 million dollars illegally acquired in an arms for hostages deal with Iranian terrorists were used to support the Contra rebels fighting for freedom in Nicaragua. This violated the U.S. policy of not negotiating with terrorists. Reagan admits that he had knowledge of the deal but does not acquiesce to the accusation that he traded arms for hostages. National Security Advisor John Poindexter resigns and his aid , Lt. Col. Oliver North, who was the chief negotiator of the deals involving the arms/hostages trade, is fired and becomes the primary focus of blame for the Iran-Contra scandal (Rubel, 166).
In 1988, the Nicaraguan civil war drew to a close with the signing of a U.S. endorsed peace agreement between Sandinista and Contra forces. The Sandinistas promise to undertake democratic reforms. This promise does convince the Nicaraguan people, they vote the Sandinistas out of power in 1990 (Goldstein et al, 123).