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«U.S. Foreign Policy and the Iran-Contra Affair: Was Oliver North a Patriot, a Pawn, or an Outlaw? Author: Catherine Holden, Franklin High School, ...»

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American Presidency Project, “Congressional Committee Iran Contra Majority Report.” Understanding the Iran Contra Affair, “Minority Report,” Brown University, available from http://www.brown.edu/Research/Understanding_the_Iran_Contra_Affair/h-thereport.php. Accessed 27 June 2011.

Lawrence E. Walsh, Firewall: The Iran Contra Conspiracy and Cover Up (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997)184.

Educational materials developed through the Baltimore County History Labs Program, a partnership between Baltimore County Public Schools and the UMBC Center for History Education.

–  –  –

Vocabulary Contras – a member of the U.S.-supported, counter-revolutionary force that tried to overthrow the Nicaraguan government in the 1980s Covert – secret; not intended to be known, seen, or found out Extralegal – not permitted by or subject to the law Islamic – a monotheistic (singular god) religion based on the word of God as revealed to Muhammad during the seventh century Marxist – a person who subscribes to the political, economic and social principles and policies of socialism as advocated by Karl Marx, a 19th-century revolutionary philosopher and economist Paramilitary – an organization supplying military weapons and tactical aid to a group fighting against the official ruling power Pawn – one who is used for the advantage of another person or organization Conducting the History Lab Overarching Question: How did American foreign policy decisions in the Middle East and Latin America during the 1980s lead to the Iran-Contra Affair?

History Lab Focus Question: Based on his actions in the Iran-Contra Affair, should Oliver North be regarded as a patriot, a pawn, or an outlaw?

Materials  Projector and markers  RS#01 Background on the Iran-Contra Affair Iran-Contra Sources (All students will receive RS#02 Source 1 and RS#09 Source Evaluation Sheet. Make enough copies of the next six sources for students to work on one individually and then in a group.)  RS#02 Source 1 – Congressional Hearings, Majority Report, 1987 (Excerpt)  RS#03 Source 2 – Reagan Doctrine, 1985  RS#04 Source 3 – Legislation, 1982-1985  RS#05 Source 4 – Hearing Testimony, Adolfo Calero, 1987  RS#06 Source 5 – Email from Oliver North  RS#07 Source 6 –Hearing Testimony, Fawn Hall, 1987  RS#08 Source 7 – Polls, 1986-1994  RS#09 Source Evaluation Sheet  RS#10 Assessment Option 1 – Oliver North Trading Card Educational materials developed through the Baltimore County History Labs Program, a partnership between Baltimore County Public Schools and the UMBC Center for History Education.

 RS#11 Assessment Option 2 – Ballad of Oliver North  RS#12 Composition Scoring Tool (for Assessment Options)  RS#13 Iran-Contra Affair Timeline (for teacher reference) Procedures Step 1: Initiate the Lab To activate students’ prior knowledge, conduct a brief discussion on the Iranian Hostage Crisis that riveted the nation and was influential in the presidential election of 1980. (Students may be familiar with the topic from the movie Argo.)  What sort of government did Iran have in 1980 and what happened to U.S.-Iranian relations as a result of the Iranian Revolution and hostage crisis?

Next, review the role and position of the United States in Cold War era foreign-policy decisions in the Western Hemisphere in the 20th Century, such as the Guatemalan Coup of 1954. Remind students that the Monroe Doctrine had long guided America’s view of its pre-eminence in the Western Hemisphere.

Ask: How had U.S. foreign policy been influenced by the presence of Soviet-backed uprisings and governments in the Western Hemisphere?

 Students may mention actions taken in Cuba (rise of Fidel Castro and Soviet alliance, Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis) as an example.

Transition: Mention that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Administration (NSA) continued to take a large and covert role in the Cold War and immediate post-Cold War era.

Intelligence gathering in a zero-sum environment often led to risky and unethical decision-making.

 Post the overarching question and focus question on the board for students to use for reference.

 Explain that in this History Lab, students will examine the decision-making on two hot button, interconnected foreign relations matters during the Reagan administration: The kidnapping of seven Americans in Beirut, Lebanon by forces allied with the radical Iranian government in the mid-1980s and the administration’s determination to support anti-communist forces in toppling the Communist government of Nicaragua. They will see how the extra-legal actions taken by members of the administration, in particular those of Lt. Colonel Oliver North, led to a major scandal in the late 1980s.

 Post and review the vocabulary for the History Lab.

Assign the reading “Background on the Iran-Contra Affair” (RS#01) for homework. Ask students to take notes, as they read, on the major events and actors. Students should write down when the events occurred and in what order.

Step 2: Frame the Lab As a class, construct and display a timeline of the major events and people for the Iran-Contra affair, using the homework reading and student notes.

Educational materials developed through the Baltimore County History Labs Program, a partnership between Baltimore County Public Schools and the UMBC Center for History Education.





Ask and discuss:

 Why did the Reagan administration want to help the Contras in Nicaragua?

 Why was it illegal for the Reagan administration to help the Contras in Nicaragua by the mids? (Discuss the Boland Amendments passed by the Congress and signed into law by President Reagan from 1982-1984. The amendments prohibited direct support of the Nicaraguan Contras, although the restrictions were loosened between the first and subsequent versions of the legislation.)  If Americans were being held hostage in Lebanon, why would Iran help?

If students are having difficulty understanding the events, considering using the parody made by a television show like American Dad to simplify the “plot” and engage the students. The American Dad parody, titled “Oliver North Song,” is available on YouTube.

Also refer to the reference timeline (RS#13).

Step 3: Model the Historical Process Distribute RS#02 “Source 1 - Congressional Joint Hearing, Majority Report, 1987 (Excerpt)” Have students read the sample source. As a class, identify and discuss the text, context, and subtext for

the source. Review definitions, if necessary:

Text – What information is provided by the source?

Context – The conditions under which the source was created. Why was the source produced? What was going on during the time period?

Subtext – What information can be determined by reading between the lines? Was the document meant to be read by the public? Whom was the source intended and why was it produced?

 Does the source offer any information to support the idea that the arms-for-hostages deal was necessary?

 Is there any evidence that arms-for-hostages deal was illegal?

 Who was the author of this source? Is this source biased (was the author trying to influence the reader)?

Reread the text. Underline examples indicating whether the author believed Oliver North was a patriot, a pawn, or an outlaw.

Transition: Distribute RS#09 “Source Evaluation Sheet.” Explain that students will now examine a variety of evidence in an attempt to answer the focus question. Have students complete the section for Source 1.

Step 4: Facilitate the Lab Provide each student with one of the six other sources. Allow students time to read the source and identify if the source supports North’s portrayal as a patriot, a pawn, or an outlaw. Move students into groups based on the source.

Educational materials developed through the Baltimore County History Labs Program, a partnership between Baltimore County Public Schools and the UMBC Center for History Education.

Have students complete their portion of RS#09 Source Evaluation Sheet by circling the term or terms and supplying supporting details from the source. Provide time for the students to assess the subtext of each source and its impact on the text of the source.

Step 5: Present Information and Interpretations Each group will present its findings to the class. All students will complete RS#09.

Step 6: Connect to the Overarching Question Discuss the focus question: Based on his actions in the Iran-Contra Affair, should Oliver North be regarded as a patriot, a pawn, or an outlaw?

 Which sources support the viewpoint of Oliver North as a patriot?

 Which sources support the viewpoint of Oliver North as a pawn? (For example, the Majority Report notes how Oliver North followed the direction of his superior officers in the administration.)  Which sources support the viewpoint of Oliver North as a criminal? (For example, according to the legislation, Oliver North broke the law.)  How should Oliver North be regarded? Which sources are the most persuasive?

Make the connection to the overarching question. Ask students: How did American foreign policy decisions in the Middle East and Latin America during the 1980s lead to the Iran-Contra Affair?

 How did Iran-Contra reflect the concerns of the Reagan Administration and its foreign policy in Latin America and the Middle East during the Cold War?

 Could the United States have pursued alternative actions with Lebanon to secure the release of the American hostages?

 Did the United States have the right to take action against the government in Nicaragua?

 Prediction: How would U.S. actions in Nicaragua affect the relationship between the United States and Soviet Union? Explain.

 Prediction: Would the Cold War intensify or improve because of U.S. actions in Latin America and the Middle East? Justify your response.

Step 7: Assess Student Understanding The assessment can be a homework assignment. Use RS#12 Composition Scoring Tool to evaluate student writing (optional).

Assessment Option 1 – Oliver North Trading Card (RS#10) In 1988, a company produced a set of 35 trading cards on the individuals involved in the Iran-Contra affair. Each card contained an image of the individual and a biography.

Distribute RS#10 Assessment Option 1 – Oliver North Trading Card

Explain: You have been commissioned to create a trading card for Oliver North for a set of cards on the Iran-Contra Affair. Using the template on the sheet, develop a “character sketch,” to include an image of North (on the left) and a biography (on the right), that is based on your interpretation of his role in IranContra and how he should be remembered. Take into account the timeline of events and the other “actors.” Explain your rationale by referencing at 2-4 historical sources. Write in complete sentences.

Educational materials developed through the Baltimore County History Labs Program, a partnership between Baltimore County Public Schools and the UMBC Center for History Education.

Assessment Option 2 – Ballad of Oliver North (RS#11) Many songwriters use the events of the day as their inspiration. In 1987, Tom Bridges recorded the song, “Give ‘Em Hell Ollie,” about Oliver North and the Iran-Contra Affair.

(Follow this link http://www.authentichistory.com/1974-1992/3-reagan/5irancontra/19870000_Givem_Hell_Ollie-Tom_Bridges.html to listen to the song.) Discuss how Bridges depicts North. Was North a patriot, a pawn, or an outlaw?

Your task is to develop your own song lyrics about Oliver North and the Iran-Contra Affair.

Distribute RS#11 Assessment Option 2 – Ballad of Oliver North

Explain: Write the lyrics for your own song about Oliver North. Based on what you have learned, express your view of North. Do you see him as a patriot, a pawn, or an outlaw? Make sure to include some of the other “actors” and the chronology of the events. Bonus – Set your song to music!

References

Historical Sources with Annotations:

Congressional Hearings, Majority Report (RS#02 - Source 1) Source: Understanding the Iran-Contra Affair. “Majority Report.” Brown University. Available from http://www.brown.edu/Research/Understanding_the_Iran_Contra_Affair/hthemajorityreport.php. Accessed 27 June 2011.



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