Former National Security Adviser Robert McFarland dies at 84

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former White House national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane has died. He was 84.

McFarland, who lives in Washington, died Thursday from complications from a previous illness at a Michigan hospital where he was visiting family, according to a family statement.

“As his family, we want to share our deep grief over the loss of our beloved husband, father and grandfather and to note his profound impact on our lives,” the family said in a statement. “While recognized as a strategic political thinker, we remember him for his passion, his intelligence, his deep faith in God, and his commitment to serving others.”

McFarlane, a former Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and Vietnam War veteran, resigned from the White House in December 1985. He was later forced into office by the government as part of a secret and illegal scheme to sell weapons to Iran in exchange for Iranian freedom. Taking Western hostages in the Middle East and passing the proceeds to Nicaragua’s opposition to fight the Marxist Sandinista government.

He played a major role in the affair, leading a secret delegation to Tehran, then an adversary of the United States, to openly engage with so-called moderate Iranians, who are believed to have influence over those who took American hostages. He brought a piece of cake and a Bible signed by Reagan.

The scheme began when a cargo plane carrying a CIA-arranged arms shipment was shot down by Sandinistas in Nicaragua in October 1986, sparking what would eventually become one of the biggest modern political scandals.

In February 1987, McFarland was rushed to a Washington-area hospital for an overdose of Valium the day before he was scheduled to be investigated by a presidential committee.

In March 1988, he pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress. His lawyers say he was unfairly singled out because, unlike other key figures in the incident, he volunteered to testify before the panel. He also acknowledged his role.

“I did withhold information from Congress,” he told reporters at the time. “I firmly believe that, throughout, my actions have been motivated by what I believe is in the foreign policy interests of the United States.”

He was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush and five other figures in the scandal.

McFarlane, a career Marine known to his friends as “Budd,” had risen to lieutenant colonel and served in the Nixon and Ford administrations. He served as special assistant to national security during the presidencies of Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford.

During the Carter administration, he was a Republican staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He returned to the executive branch with Reagan’s election, serving as a State Department counselor until moving to the White House as national security adviser William Clark’s deputy in January 1982. He was appointed to the top national security post in 1983.

McFarlane, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was the son of former Texas Democratic Congressman William Dodridge McFarlane, who served from 1932 to 1938. He leaves behind a 63-year-old wife, two daughters and a son.


Associated Press news researcher Ronda Shafner from New York.

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