By John Crudele
There’s only one mention of Bill Clinton in Tom Cruise ’s new movie, “American Made,” which is about a Washington-sponsored operation in the early 1980s to send guns to rebel forces in Nicaragua from an airfield in Mena, Ark.
That operation didn’t go quite as planned for a number of reasons, including the fact that Cruise’s character, the real-life and long-dead Barry Seal, was enlisted by the Medellín drug cartel to bring cocaine to the US.
Rather than fly his planes empty on the return trip — and probably get killed for refusing the cartel’s request — Seal agreed. And the former TWA pilot made a lot of money in the process, leading to a one-man economic boom for Clinton’s Arkansas.
I happen to know a fair bit about the Mena operation because I was investigating Bill and Hillary Clinton’s financial dealings in the late 1990s, and that mysterious airfield repeatedly came up.
And as a result, I acquired copies of a whole lot of Seal’s documents, including phone records, legal documents and notes scribbled on napkins and bits of hotel stationery.
Toward the end of the movie, Seal (Cruise) has been picked up by Arkansas investigators and is about to be charged when then-State Attorney General Joe Svoboda is interrupted by a phone call.
Gov. Clinton is on the line.
“He says it’s urgent,” the AG’s receptionist says. Svoboda picks up the phone and says: “What you need, Bill?”
Seal has already taunted the investigators by saying that he was going to walk out a free man. Then, Svoboda says, “He’s free to go.”
The implication, although not stated in the movie, is that Seal was released at the request of someone in Washington — probably someone in the Reagan White House, whose CIA was deeply involved in the gun-running operation that later became known as the Iran-Contra Affair. MORE