Oliver North Is Still Running Arms

North, the NRA’s new president, seems to always turn up when dictatorship looms.

Joel Bleifuss June 20, 2018

(L) The April 19, 1989, editorial discussed Bush and Reagan’s complicity in North’s crimes. (R) In the June 27, 1994, issue, Robert Parry wrote about North’s campaign for U.S. Senate in Virginia.

Oliv­er North is the new pres­i­dent of the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion (NRA) and an old bête noire of In These Times. Recall that this is the man who, in 1987, lied to Con­gress about his role in pro­vid­ing weapons to Iran in exchange for mon­ey (and the release of Amer­i­cans held hostage by Hezbol­lah) and then using the prof­its from those arms sales to ille­gal­ly fund the Con­tras in Nicaragua. He was even­tu­al­ly indict­ed on 16 felony counts and con­vict­ed on three, includ­ing lying under oath to Congress.

In Decem­ber 1987, In These Times cov­ered the report of the joint House-Sen­ate con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tion into the Iran-Con­tra scan­dal. Peter Korn­bluh wrote:

The seamy side of the Iran-Con­tra scan­dal — the administration’s col­lu­sion with ter­ror­ists, mer­ce­nar­ies and dope ped­dlers — is con­spic­u­ous­ly omit­ted. … Both the scan­dal and the report offer con­clu­sive proof of Congress’s self­in­d­uced inabil­i­ty to make covert oper­a­tions com­pat­i­ble with Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy, and the unfail­ing ded­i­ca­tion of America’s nation­al secu­ri­ty man­agers to keep things that way. More­over, the report doc­u­ments the extra­or­di­nary threat to the Amer­i­can way of life that these oper­a­tions por­tend. Buried on page 390 is the report’s most sig­nif­i­cant obser­va­tion: The type of oper­a­tions being run by Rea­gan and his men rep­re­sent­ed the path to dic­ta­tor­ship” for the Unit­ed States. Yet instead of call­ing for a nation­al debate on the com­pat­i­bil­i­ty of covert oper­a­tions with a con­sti­tu­tion­al democ­ra­cy, the report endors­es para­mil­i­tary wars such as the ongo­ing one in Nicaragua. … Ignor­ing the over­whelm­ing evi­dence of insti­tu­tion­al crim­i­nal­i­ty, the com­mit­tees con­clude: The Iran-Con­tra affair result­ed from the fail­ure of indi­vid­u­als to observe the law, not from defi­cien­cies in exist­ing law or in our sys­tem of governance.”

Under the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, North has again been busi­ly blaz­ing the path to dic­ta­tor­ship.” This time, he teamed with ex-CIA offi­cer John R. Maguire (an Iran-Con­tra vet­er­an) and Black­wa­ter founder Erik Prince to pitch the White House on a pri­vate intel­li­gence ser­vice that would report direct­ly to the pres­i­dent and the CIA direc­tor. Accord­ing to The Inter­cept, North and com­pa­ny tried to sell their scheme as a way to counter the influ­ence of deep state” bogey­men. The White House has denied any meet­ings took place.

With North at the helm of the NRA, Trump now has one of his avid sup­port­ers lead­ing an army of gun-tot­ing wingnuts. The two men share a dis­dain for the rule of law. They also are unit­ed in their enmi­ty for Bill and Hillary Clin­ton. In 1994, North, his felony con­vic­tions set aside on a tech­ni­cal­i­ty, ran for U.S. Sen­ate, chal­leng­ing Virginia’s Sen. Charles Robb.

As Robert Par­ry report­ed in June 1994 for In These Times, at the Repub­li­can state con­ven­tion, North set his sights on the Clin­tons and the 20-some­thing kids with an ear­ring and an axe to grind” who had tak­en over the White House. Today, we send the Clin­tons and their cronies a sim­ple but unmis­tak­able mes­sage,” North told the crowd. This is our gov­ern­ment. You stole it and we are going to take it back.”

And, like Trump, North is a stranger to the truth. In the wake of the San­ta Fe High School shoot­ing in Texas on May 18, the new pres­i­dent of the NRA blamed the 10 deaths not on guns, but on drugs: Many of these young boys have been on Rital­in since they were in kinder­garten.” That may be the case; the 17-year-old shoot­er, how­ev­er, was not one of them.

Joel Blei­fuss, a for­mer direc­tor of the Peace Stud­ies Pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­souri-Colum­bia, is the edi­tor & pub­lish­er of In These Times, where he has worked since Octo­ber 1986.

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