Former White House national security adviser Robert McFarlane — who pleaded guilty for his role in the Iran-Contra affair — died at a Michigan hospital on Thursday. He was 84.
McFarlane died from complications of a previous illness, his family said in a statement.
“As his family we wish to share our deep sadness at the loss of our beloved husband, father and grandfather, and note his profound impact on our lives,” the family said in the statement to the Associated Press.
“Though recognized as a strategic political thinker, we remember him for his warmth, his wisdom, his deep belief in God, and his commitment to serving others.”
McFarlane, a former Marine lieutenant colonel who served in Vietnam, had resigned from his White House post in 1985 before the Reagan administration pushed him into participating in a clandestine plan to exchange Iran arms for western hostages in the Middle East.
The proceeds from the exchange would be passed along to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua fighting against the Marxist Sandinista government.
McFarlane led the secret delegation to Iran, armed with a cake and a Bible signed by Reagan, with the hopes of making contact with those who could influence the release of American hostages.
The scheme became public after the Sandinistas shot down a cargo plane in October 1986 filled with CIA-arranged arms, revealing one of the largest political scandals of the 20th century.
In February 1987, McFarlane was hastened to a Washington-area hospital after overdosing on Valium the day before he was scheduled to testify before a presidential commission about his leading role in the operation.
In March 1988, he pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts of keeping information from Congress, which he admitted, but claimed he acted in what he believed to be the country’s best interests.
I did indeed withhold information from the Congress,” he told reporters at the time. “I believe strongly that, throughout, my actions were motivated by what I believed to be in the foreign policy interest of the United States.″
He and five others connected to the scandal were later pardoned by President George HW Bush.
McFarlane had risen to lieutenant colonel in the Marines, and to positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations, where he served as a national security special assistant to the two presidents.
He served with the Republican staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee during the Carter administration before he returned to the executive branch following Reagan’s election where he served as a State Department counselor until moving to the White House as national security adviser William Clark’s deputy in January 1982 . He was appointed to the top national security post in 1983.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, two daughters and a son.
With Post Wires