WASHINGTON — Former White House national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane, a top aide to President Ronald Reagan who pleaded guilty to charges for his role in an illegal hostage arms deal known as business name Iran-Contra, died. He was 84 years old.
McFarlane, who lived in Washington, died Thursday of complications from a previous illness at a Michigan hospital, where he was visiting family, according to a family statement.
“As his family, we wish to share our deep sadness at the loss of our beloved husband, father and grandfather, and note its profound impact on our lives,” the family said in the statement. “Although 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 Lt. Col. and Vietnam veteran, resigned from his White House post in December 1985. He was then commissioned by the administration as part of a secret – and illegal – plan aimed at selling arms to Iran in exchange for the freedom of Western hostages in the Middle East and donating the proceeds to contra rebels in Nicaragua for their fight against the Marxist Sandinista government.
He played a major role in the affair, leading the secret delegation to Tehran, then an adversary of the United States, to open contacts with so-called moderate Iranians suspected of influencing American hostage kidnappers. He brought with him a cake and a Bible signed by Reagan.
The scheme began to unfold after a cargo plane carrying a CIA-arranged arms shipment was shot down in October 1986 by the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, sparking what eventually became one of the biggest political scandals. modern.
McFarlane was rushed to a Washington-area hospital in February 1987 after taking an overdose of Valium the day before he testified before a presidential commission to investigate the case.
He pleaded guilty in March 1988 to four counts of withholding information from Congress. His lawyer said he was being singled out unfairly because, unlike other key figures in the case, he testified voluntarily before commissions of inquiry. He also acknowledged his role.
“I did hide information from Congress,” he told reporters at the time. “I firmly believe that throughout my actions were motivated by what I believed to be in the interests of United States foreign policy. »
He was pardoned by President George HW Bush, along with five other scandal personalities.
McFarlane, a career Marine known as “Bud” to his friends, had become a lieutenant colonel and served in the Nixon and Ford administrations. He served as Special Assistant for National Security to Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford during their presidencies.
During the Carter administration, he was on the Republican staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He returned to the executive with Reagan’s election, serving as an adviser to the State Department until he moved to the White House as deputy to National Security Advisor William Clark in January 1982. He was appointed to the top national security post in 1983.
McFarlane, a graduate of the US Naval Academy, was the son of a former Democratic congressman from Texas, William Doddridge McFarlane, who served from 1932 to 1938. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, two daughters and a son.