Richard L. Armitage was born on 26th April, 1945. Armitage graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1967. He joined the United States Navy and served on a destroyer stationed in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. This eventually resulted in him becoming an advisor to the Vietnamese naval forces.
In 1973 joined the office of the U.S. Defense Attaché in Saigon. Here he became involved with Ted Shackley, the CIA chief in South Vietnam. According to Joel Bainerman (The Crimes of a President) Shackley and his Secret Team (Thomas G. Clines, Carl E. Jenkins, David Morales, Raphael Quintero, Felix Rodriguez and Edwin Wilson) became involved in the drug trade while serving in Laos. They did this via General Vang Pao, the leader of the anti-communist forces in Laos. Vang Pao was a major figure in the opium trade. To help him Shackley used his CIA officials and assets to sabotage the competitors. Eventually Vang Pao had a monopoly over the heroin trade in Laos. Shackley and Clines also helped Vang Pao to obtain financial backing to form his own airline, Zieng Khouang Air Transport Company, to transport opium and heroin between Long Tieng and Vientiane.
Ted Shackley also brought others into his drug operation. This included Armitage and Major General Richard Secord. According to Daniel Sheehan: “From late 1973 until April of 1975, Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines and Richard Armitage disbursed, from the secret, Laotian-based, Vang Pao opium fund, vastly more money than was required to finance even the highly intensified Phoenix Project in Vietnam. The money in excess of that used in Vietnam was secretly smuggled out of Vietnam in large suitcases, by Richard Secord and Thomas Clines and carried into Australia, where it was deposited in a secret, personal bank account (privately accessible to Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines and Richard Secord). During this same period of time between 1973 and 1975, Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines caused thousands of tons of US weapons, ammunition, and explosives to be secretly taken from Vietnam and stored at a secret "cache" hidden inside Thailand." This money, with the help of Raphael Quintero, found its way into the Nugan Hand Bank in Sydney. The bank was founded by Michael Hand, a CIA operative in Laos and Frank Nugan an Australian businessman.
Saigon fell to the NLF in April, 1975. The Vietnam War was over and Armitage moved to Washington to serve as a consultant for the United States Department of Defense. He was immediately sent to Iran. In Tehran, Armitage, set up a secret "financial conduit" inside Iran, into which secret Vang Pao drug funds could be deposited from Southeast Asia. According to Daniel Sheehan: “The purpose of this conduit was to serve as the vehicle for secret funding by Shackley's "Secret Team," of a private, non-CIA authorized "Black" operations inside Iran, disposed to seek out, identify, and assassinate socialist and communist sympathizers, who were viewed by Shackley and his "Secret Team" members to be "potential terrorists" against the Shah of Iran`s government in Iran. In late 1975 and early 1976, Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines retained Edwin Wilson to travel to Tehran, Iran to head up the "Secret Team" covert "anti-terrorist" assassination program in Iran.”
As a result of State Department internal investigation, Armitage was forced to resign his post. He moved to Bangkok where he ran the Far East Trading Company. According to Leslie Cockburn (Out of Control), Armitage "carried on funneling drug money out of the Southeast Asia and into Nugan-Hand and elsewhere."
In 1978 he became an aide to Bob Dole. Two years later he became foreign policy advisor to President Ronald Reagan. In 1981 he was appointed as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia and Pacific Affairs in the Pentagon. In this post Armitage played a leading role in Middle East Security Policies.
On 17th March, 1983, Donald P. Gregg had a secret meeting with Felix Rodriguez and George H. W. Bush in the White House. As a result the National Security Council established a secret scheme to provide aid to the Contras in Nicaragua. Rodriguez agreed to run the Contra supply depot in El Salvador. In a memo written to Robert McFarlane, Gregg argued that the plan grew out of the experience of running "anti-Vietcong operations in Vietnam from 1970-1972". Gregg added that "Felix Rodriguez, who wrote the attached plan, both worked for me in Vietnam and carried out the actual operations outlined above."
On 21st December, 1984, Gregg met with Felix Rodriguez and George H. W. Bush. This led to Gregg introducing Rodriguez to Oliver North. Later, Bush wrote a note to North where he thanked him for "your dedication and tireless work with the hostage thing and with Central America."
In October, 1985, Congress agreed to vote 27 million dollars in non-lethal aid for the Contras in Nicaragua. However, members of the Ronald Reagan administration, including George Bush, decided to use this money to provide weapons to the Contras and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.
Gene Wheaton was recruited to use National Air to transport these weapons. He agreed but began to have second thoughts when he discovered that Richard Secord was involved in the operation and in May 1986 Wheaton told William Casey, director of the CIA, about what he knew about this illegal operation. Casey refused to take any action, claiming that the agency or the government were not involved in what later became known as Irangate.
Wheaton now took his story to Daniel Sheehan, a left-wing lawyer. Wheaton told him that Thomas G. Clines and Ted Shackley had been running a top-secret assassination unit since the early 1960s. According to Wheaton, it had begun with an assassination training program for Cuban exiles and the original target had been Fidel Castro.
Wheaton also contacted Newt Royce and Mike Acoca, two journalists based in Washington. The first article on this scandal appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on 27th July, 1986. As a result of this story, Congressman Dante Facell wrote a letter to the Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger, asking him if it "true that foreign money, kickback money on programs, was being used to fund foreign covert operations." Two months later, Weinberger denied that the government knew about this illegal operation.
On 5th October, 1986, a Sandinista patrol in Nicaragua shot down a C-123K cargo plane that was supplying the Contras. That night Felix Rodriguez made a telephone call to the office of George H. W. Bush. He told Bush aide, Samuel Watson, that the C-123k aircraft had gone missing.
Eugene Hasenfus, an Air America veteran, survived the crash and told his captors that he thought the CIA was behind the operation. He also provided information that several Cuban-Americans running the operation in El Salvador. This resulted in journalists being able to identify Rafael Quintero, Luis Posada and Felix Rodriguez as the Cuban-Americans mentioned by Hasenfus.
In an article in the Washington Post (11th October, 1986), the newspaper reported that George Bush and Donald P. Gregg were linked to Felix Rodriguez. It gradually emerged that Armitage, William Casey, Thomas G. Clines, Oliver North, Edwin Wilson and Richard Secord were also involved in this conspiracy to provide arms to the Contras.
On 12th December, 1986, Daniel Sheehan submitted to the court an affidavit detailing the Irangate scandal. He also claimed that Thomas G. Clines and Ted Shackley were running a private assassination program that had evolved from projects they ran while working for the CIA. Others named as being part of this assassination team included Rafael Quintero, Richard Secord, Felix Rodriguez and Albert Hakim. It later emerged that Gene Wheaton and Carl E. Jenkins were the two main sources for this affidavit.
Six days after the publication of Sheehan's affidavit, William Casey underwent an operation for a "brain tumor". As a result of the operation, Casey lost the power of speech and died, literally without ever talking. On 9th February, Robert McFarlane, another person involved in the Iran-Contra Scandal, took an overdose of drugs.
In November, 1986, Ronald Reagan set-up a three man commission (President's Special Review Board). The three men were John Tower, Brent Scowcroft and Edmund Muskie. Armitage was interviewed by the committee. He admitted that he had arranged a series of meetings between Menachem Meron, the director general of Israel's Ministry of Defence, with Oliver North and Richard Secord. However, he denied that he discussed the replenishment of Israeli TOW missiles with Meron.
Armitage also claimed that he first learned that Israel had shipped missiles to Iran in 1985 when he heard William Casey testify on 21st November, 1986 that the United States had replenished Israel's TOW missile stocks. According to Lawrence E. Walsh, who carried out the official investigation into the scandal (Iran-Contra: The Final Report), claims that Armitage did not tell the truth to the President's Special Review Board. "Significant evidence from a variety of sources shows that Armitage's knowledge predated Casey's testimony. For instance, a North notebook entry on November 18, 1986, documents a discussion with Armitage about Israel's 1985 arms shipments to Iran - three days before Armitage supposedly learned for the first time that such shipments has occurred."
Walsh also adds that "classified evidence obtained from the Government of Israel... and evidence from North and Secord show that during the period Meron met with Armitage, Meron was discussing arms shipments to Iran and Israel's need for replenishment. Secord and North, on separate occasions, directed Meron to discuss these issues with Armitage."
The report implicated Oliver North, John Poindexter, Casper Weinberger and several others but did not mention the role played by George H. W. Bush. It also claimed that Ronald Reagan had no knowledge of what had been going on.
The House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran was also established by Congress. The most important figure on the committee was the senior Republican member, Richard Cheney. As a result George H. W. Bush was totally exonerated when the report was published on 18th November, 1987. The report did state that Reagan's administration exhibited "secrecy, deception and disdain for the law."
Oliver North and John Poindexter were indicted on multiple charges on 16th March, 1988. North, indicted on twelve counts, was found guilty by a jury of three minor counts. The convictions were vacated on appeal on the grounds that North's Fifth Amendment rights may have been violated by the indirect use of his testimony to Congress which had been given under a grant of immunity. Poindexter was also convicted of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and altering and destroying documents pertinent to the investigation. His convictions were also overturned on appeal.
When George H. W. Bush became president he set about rewarding those who had helped him in the cover-up of the Iran-Contra Scandal. Bush appointed Armitage as a negotiator and mediator in the Middle East. Donald Gregg was appointed as his ambassador to South Korea. Brent Scowcroft became his chief national security adviser and John Tower became Secretary of Defence. When the Senate refused to confirm Tower, Bush gave the job to Richard Cheney. Casper Weinberger, Robert McFarlane, Duane R. Clarridge, Clair E. George, Elliott Abrams and Alan D. Fiers, Jr. were pardoned by Bush.
In 1991 Armitage became special emissary to King Hussein of Jordan. In 1992 George H. W. Bush sent Armitage to Europe where he directed U.S. foreign aid to the states that had been formed out of the old Soviet Union.
Armitage lost office when George H. W. Bush was defeated by Bill Clinton. He returned to the private sector but remained involved in politics. In 1998 Armitage was one of those who signed The Project for the New American Century that was sent to President Clinton in 1998. The letter urged Clinton to target the removal of Saddam Hussein from Iraq before he created weapons of mass destruction. The main intention of the letter was to protect Israel from Arab countries in the Middle East.
During the 2000 U.S. Presidential election campaign Armitage served as a foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush. After his victory, Bush appointed Armitage as his Deputy Secretary of State. He left office on 22nd February, 2005 when he was replaced by Robert Zoellick.