I would like to join my colleagues, Mr. Rudman, and Mr. Hamilton in thanking you for the fair and impartial way in which you have proceeded in this matter. It is not an easy assignment to serve on this committee, and it certainly hasn't been an easy assignment for either of our colleagues,
Mr. Hamilton or Senator Inouye. They have indeed done a very fair and impartial job of presiding over these events.
I think it is also important, Mr. Chairman, to point out there is another individual who has been very supportive and cooperative of everything this committee has done to date, that is the President of the United States. These won't be easy hearings to watch in the West Wing, but it is important, I think, for people to know that the President has indeed cooperated fully with our investigation.
Earlier this year he appointed the Tower Commission to examine these events on behalf of the executive branch. That report has been made public, and it, too, is not easy reading. It contains some very tough criticism of our foreign policy with respect to the events under investigation by this committee, but the President, I thought, responded well to those developments.
It takes a big man to submit himself and his administration to that kind of scrutiny. In connection with this inquiry, which he has encouraged, he has placed no obstacles in the path of our investigation, and as was mentioned earlier by Senator Inouye, he has even made available to members of the committee the most intimate personal thoughts of his administration, his own diary.
Mr. Chairman, these are hearings about important events. It is a case study, if you will, of the condition of U.S. foreign policy. It is a very interesting story to be told about arms sales to Iran, about negotiations for hostages, and about support of the Contras in Central America. Some will say it is even a fascinating story. But all of this has little meaning unless it is viewed within the broader framework of American foreign policy. A complete understanding of these events requires us to consider the context within which they occurred. For example, the development of a private support network to assist insurgents fighting the Civil War in Central America makes little sense considered in isolation. But it takes on a whole new significance when placed in the context of the following developments: the establishment of a Communist government in Nicaragua, an outpost of the Soviet Union; the diffusion of hundreds of millions in military aid from the Soviet Union and Cuba; efforts by the Communist Government of Nicaragua, by subversion, to destroy the fragile democratic governments in Central America; and of course a U.S. Government policy characterized by doubt and uncertainty—a policy which changed from supporting the Contras to prohibiting official military assistance to supporting military assistance, all within a few months.
Obviously, the merit of policy options in Central America will be debated in other committees and on the floor of both Houses, but we must be conscious as we pursue the facts of the Contra matter, of the larger issues which may have led to these events. One important question to be asked is to what extent did the lack of a clear-cut policy by the Congress contribute to the events we will be exploring in the weeks ahead.
What is needed, Mr. Chairman, is a calm, objective weighing of the evidence to be presented. Once all the evidence is in, we will have the opportunity to draw conclusions and to make recommendations to the House and Senate. The issues raised by these events are not new. We have had previous debates over the role of covert actions, the role of the President, the role of private individuals, and the appropriate role of Congress in foreign policy.
Some will argue that these events justify the imposition of additional restrictions on Presidents to prohibit the possibility of similar occurrences in the future. In my opinion that would be a mistake. In completing our task, we should seek above all to find ways to strengthen the capacity of future Presidents and future congresses to meet the often dangerous and difficult challenges that are bound to arise in the years ahead.