Washington reels from one scandal to another

AT THE end of a week in which charges were brought against a former defense secretary, Clark Clifford, over the BCCI banking affair, and the trial began of Clair George, the former head of covert operations at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), over his role in the Iran-Contra affair, Washington is gasping from the weight of scandals bearing down on it.

The nation's capital, already held in record low regard by the American people, faces an extraordinary outbreak of high- profile political inquiries which can only reinforce the popular perception of an establishment in decay and may, in the end, wound the Bush administration itself. The scandals are especially shocking because they threaten to disgrace so many figures formerly considered pillars of respectability and authority in government, from Mr Clifford perhaps eventually to Ronald Reagan.

Mr Clifford, charged this week with covering up the purchase by BCCI of Washington-based First American Bank, was a friend and servant of four presidents going back to Truman. There was an overwhelming poignancy about a press conference given by the 85- year-old and now frail Mr Clifford, and his co-defendant Robert Altman, a wealthy Washington lawyer, as he dismissed the allegations and appealed for the chance to clear himself in an early trial. 'As long as I have the strength and the health to do it, I will fight each day. I am spending the rest of my life to get my good name restored,' he pledged.

Facing charges in the Iran- Contra imbroglio, meanwhile, is another former defence secretary, Caspar Weinberger, who served under Mr Reagan. Mr Weinberger, who claims innocence, fell foul in June of a 5-year-old inquiry into the Reagan adminstration's role in the Iran-Contra affair of 1986, when funds raised by the illegal sale of arms to Iran were diverted to fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Last week, reports suggested that the special prosecutor in charge, Lawrence Walsh, was preparing to deliver charges against Mr Reagan himself, and his former secretary of state, George Schultz. Mr Bush, who was Mr Reagan's vice-president, seems for now largely to have been passed over in the investigation.

Clair George, meanwhile, is standing trial already for the role he played, as number three in the CIA at the time and in overall charge of covert operations, in withholding from congressional committees vital information about the operation to transfer funds to the Contras. It was masterminded by Colonel Oliver North, who has already been acquitted. The trial, which had one of Mr George's former colleagues in tears as he testified against him, attracted intense media coverage.

For President Bush, however, the most threatening of all the inquiries is the dogged attempt by two congressional committees to get to the bottom of the administration's dealings with Iraq in the months before the Gulf war. Leading the inquiry is a Democratic Representative from Texas, Henry Gonzalez.

He has compiled evidence to suggest that Mr Bush and his Secretary of State, James Baker, disregarded the warnings of their own federal departments and continued to extend credits to Saddam Hussein, allegedly for non-military use, but which were in fact used to build up the Iraqi army. At first largely ignored, Mr Gonzalez's investigation into what has already been dubbed 'Iraqgate' is increasingly drawing attention as a potentially lethal harpoon aimed straight at the White House. In the latest development, Democrat members have formally asked for a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations. Mr Bush has dismissed the probe as a politically-inspired 'witch-hunt'.

ANAHEIM - President Bush attacked his Democratic rivals in California on Thursday, saying their proposals for cutting defence spending would threaten national security, AFP reports.

On the campaign trail in southern California, Mr Bush told employees of a robotics firm that despite the end of the Cold War, the United States continued to face military threats, such as that posed by Iraq. 'Someone has to speak up for the military muscle that gives meaning to American leadership,' he said. 'Someone has to say, even now that we've won the Cold War: America is safe . . . so long as America stays strong.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'