Weapons' Consultants . . . And You Could Get It Through Sears

Posted: December 16, 1986

"I Know Plenty of Nothin" is the song that runs through Ronnie Baba and the Forty Thieves, the musical comedy now playing to standing-room-only in Washington. Ronnie; Nancy; CIA Director William J. Casey; Secretary of State George P. Shultz; Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger; Rex, the White House King Charles spaniel; even Larry Speakes and assorted stenographers knew nothin' about the Iranian arms deal.

In fact, there doesn't seem to have been anyone in Washington who wasn't in some way involved in this mess without knowing it.

Now, the final comic touch has been added by bringing Sears Roebuck & Co. onto the stage. It has been suggested that this hallowed American institution served as consultant in the Iranian arms sale. I suppose this should come as no surprise - after all, Sears is "where America shops."

Through its Sears World Trade subsidiary in Washington, the nation's largest retailer has been acting for the last three years as a consultant to U.S. and foreign companies wanting to sell military equipment. Needless to say, officials at Sears' Chicago headquarters didn't know nothin' about the military contracts the subsidiary had worked on.

Donald Rumsfeld, former secretary of defense who serves on Sears' board, said that he didn't "personally" remember being briefed on these activities. Another board member, smart enough to refuse to be named, exclaimed, "You're kidding!" Then he went on to say, "I have to confess ignorance, and I certainly would have remembered it if it had been discussed."

It's all so complicated that I don't see how any of these gentlemen could be expected to keep matters straight, much less remember anything. As Sir Walter Scott so succinctly put it/ "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive."

Government officials, Sears executives, and heaven knows how many others may not be "first" practicing to deceive but, in the length of time they have been doing so, they certainly have woven a tangled web.

The right word is web, for there is in an interlacing of threads, a complexity, a network and an entangling that the most diligent spider could not achieve. Nevetheless, let us try to follow some of these threads: The three-year-old consulting susidiary of Sears World Trade has one of those glitzy names so beloved in Washington, the International Planning and Analysis Center, Inc. Its acronym is IPAC.

James R. Allen, a retired four-star general, directly oversees the military consulting efforts of the Sears offshoot. He and 12 other former military officers are among the 72-member staff that also provides export marketing advice to the Third World with - hold your hats - funding from the State Department's Agency for International Development.

If we were to follow that thread, would we find that this Agency for International Development was used to set up the Iranian arms deal? We can ask the question but we won't get any other answer from State Department officials than "I Know Plenty of Nothin'."

Wait, there's still another thread: IPAC's role in military sales has been confirmed by the chairman of Sears World Trade who said that in no case has IPAC ever done "consulting on lethal weapons;" IPAC experts have stuck to providing advice on harmless stuff like radar, transport jets, flight simulators, trailers for military equipment and anti-aircraft missiles.

I was under the impression that anti-aircraft missiles were intended to be fatal to enemy pilots, but I must have been wrong, because the person who says they are not is none other than Frank C. Carlucci 3d, who is President Reagan's latest choice to head the National Security Council.

This is going full circle to get back to where the scandal started.

Carlucci was once deputy director of the CIA and deputy secretary of defense.

Then he helped create IPAC. So a man who headed a business alleged to be mixed up with the disgraceful Iranian caper is to head the National Security Council. This appointment convinces us that President Reagan is telling the truth when he sings, "I Know Plenty of Nothin.' "

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