Former White House National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane, a top aide to President Ronald Reagan who pleaded guilty to his role in the hostage deal for illegal weapons known as the Iran-Contra affair, has died . He was 84 years old.
According to a family statement, McFarlane, who lives in Washington, died Thursday from complications of a previous illness at a Michigan hospital where he was visiting family.
“As his family, we would like to share our deep sorrow at the loss of our beloved husband, father and grandfather and note the profound impact they had on our lives,” the family said in a statement. “Although recognized as a strategic political thinker, we remember him for his warmth, his wisdom, his deep faith in God and his commitment to serving others.”
McFarlane, a former Marine lieutenant colonel and Vietnam War veteran, resigned from his White House position in December 1985. He was later put into service by the administration as part of a covert – and illegal – plan to sell weapons to Iran in exchange for freedom. To pass along the proceeds to the Western hostages in the Middle East and to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua for their fight against the Marxist Sandinista government.
led secret delegation
He played a major role in the case, leading a secret delegation to Tehran, now an anti-American, to open contacts with so-called moderate Iranians who were believed to have influence with the kidnappers of American hostages. He brought with him a cake and a Bible signed by Reagan.
The plan began in October 1986 after the Sandinistas shot down a cargo plane carrying a CIA-arranged shipment of weapons in Nicaragua, which eventually became one of the largest modern political scandals.
MacFarlane was taken to a Washington-area hospital after taking a Valium overdose in February 1987, the day he was scheduled to testify for the Presidential Commission to Investigate the case.
He pleaded guilty in March 1988 to four offenses of withholding information from Congress. His lawyer said he was being unfairly selected because he had voluntarily testified before the inquiry panel, unlike other key figures in the case. He also accepted his role.
“I actually hid information from Congress,” he told reporters at the time. “I firmly believe that, my actions were motivated by my belief in the interest of the foreign policy of the United States.”
President George HW Bush pardoned him and five others from the scandal.
McFarlane, a career Marine known as “Bud” to his friends, had risen to positions as lieutenant colonel and in the Nixon and Ford administrations. During his presidency, Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Served as Ford’s National Security Special Assistant.
During the Carter administration, he was on the Republican staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He returned to the executive branch with the election of Reagan, serving as State Department counselor until his departure as deputy to National Security Adviser William Clark at the White House in January 1982. He was appointed to the top national security post in 1983.
MacFarlane, a graduate of the US Naval Academy, was the son of William Dodridge MacFarlane, a former Democratic Congressman from Texas who served from 1932 to 1938. He is survived by a 63-year-old wife, two daughters and a son.