Former White House National Security Advisor Robert C. McFarlane, one of President Reagan’s top aides who pleaded guilty to the charges for his role in an illegal hostage-exchange arms deal known as the Iran-Contra affair , died at 84.
McFarlane, who lived in Washington, died Thursday of complications from a previous illness at a Michigan hospital where he was visiting his family, according to a family statement.
“As your family we wish to share our deep sadness over the loss of our beloved husband, father and grandfather, and to 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 faith in God and his commitment to serve others.”
McFarlane, a former Navy lieutenant colonel and Vietnam combat veteran, resigned from his White House post in December 1985. He was later put into service by the administration as part of a covert and illegal plan to sell weapons to the US. Iran in exchange for the freedom of Western hostages in the Middle East and pass on the proceeds to the contra rebels in Nicaragua for their fight against the Marxist Sandinista government.
He played an important role in the affair, leading the secret delegation in Tehran, then as now an opponent of the United States, to open contacts with so-called moderate Iranians who were thought to have influence on American hostage-takers. He brought with him a cake and a Bible signed by Reagan.
The plan began to develop after a cargo plane carrying a cargo of weapons organized by the CIA was shot down in October 1986 by Sandinistas in Nicaragua, sparking what eventually became one of the biggest modern political scandals.
McFarlane was rushed to a Washington area hospital in February 1987 after he overdosed on Valium the day before he was scheduled to testify before a presidential commission investigating the affair.
He pleaded guilty in March 1988 to four misdemeanors for withholding information from Congress. His lawyer said he was unjustly identified because he, unlike other key figures in the affair, underwent spontaneous tests in front of the investigative committees. He also admitted the role of him.
“I really withheld the information from Congress,” he told reporters at the time. “I firmly believe that, in all, my actions were motivated by what I believed to be in the interests of US foreign policy.”
He was pardoned by President George HW Bush, along with five other scandal figures.
McFarlane, a career Marine known as “Bud” to his friends, had become a lieutenant colonel and positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations. He served as Special Assistant National Security to Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford during their presidencies.
During the Carter administration, he was part of the Republican staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He returned to the executive branch with Reagan’s election, serving as an adviser to the State Department until he moved to the White House as Deputy National Security Advisor William Clark in January 1982. He was named first for national security in the 1983.
McFarlane, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, was the son of a former Texas Democratic Congressman, William Doddridge McFarlane, who served from 1932 to 1938. He was survived by his 63-year-old wife, two daughters and a son.