The Iran-Contra Story

Longtime CP journalist Alan Black, known for being ‘fast off the draw,’ dies

Alan Black, who published this story at the height of the Iran-Contra scandal, died last week at age 76.

The news of Black’s death comes just two days after he and I published a story about the life of former Marine pilot Joseph L. Wilson, who wrote the book Born in the U.S.A.

The two articles had to do with Wilson’s role in the Iran-Contra scandal, but our focus was largely on his book, which was a best-seller. Wilson’s book, which was based on his service in South Vietnam, details the day-to-day activities of drug lord Pablo Escobar, the founder of the Medellín drug cartel in Colombia, and his part in the Iran-Contra affair.

Black, who was the editor of the Chicago Tribune‘s political cartoons from 2000 to 2006, wrote the article at the height of the Iran-Contra scandal (which began in 1985) and was clearly distraught about the unfolding of the scandal.

During that time, President Ronald Reagan was involved in a multi-million dollar CIA operation to sell arms and money to Iran to enable the Nicaraguan Contras to fight the Marxist Sandinista government of Nicaragua—after which millions of dollars were diverted to support the Contras, the largest source of funds went to the Contras and the CIA, and the US government lied about it all—essentially, all of it.

The article did not have the ‘eye of a needle-punching’ writer’s flair, and it did not have the journalistic ‘touch’ that Black had developed during the decades he had spent reporting on the Contra war. Black began his career on the editorial page at the Milwaukee Journal back in the 1960s.

“That’s all well and good,” said Black, “That’s what I was told when I got here. What the editors expected of me – was that I was going to do some of the most

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