Oliver North Runs Guns Once More: The NRA’s Freudian Slip
It may be our proudest tradition as a democracy, but I’m starting to think that most of our problems as a country are the byproduct of our beloved “democratic restraint.” That’s the principle that democratic governments don’t use the powers of their offices to go after their political opponents, which allows the trust needed for all factions to accept election results and govern together.
However, democratic restraint isn’t good for much when it only goes in one direction, as it has for at least 30 years. While Republicans have attacked every stray email server as a crime against the republic, Democrats have consistently refused to hold Republicans accountable for serious attacks on our bedrock values, lest we erode the good faith that the GOP had already abandoned long before Trump even showed up.
Obama declined to pursue justice for the victims of Bush’s CIA torture program in the interest of healing the country (and in the interest of not being called a Muslim terrorist sympathizer any more than he already was). Tip O’Neill kept Iran-Contra from touching Reagan, because national security concerns once trumped politics *cough* Benghazi *cough*. Needless to say, these acts of grace have not been repaid in kind.
See, the problem with preemptive forgiveness is that people don’t learn shame when you don’t hold them accountable for their actions, and in the absence of proof to the contrary, they start to act like they never did anything wrong in the first place.
Obama could’ve put Dick Cheney on trial, or at least called him out, but he decided to spare a economically battered country that ordeal. For that magnanimity, 44 had to suffer his every foreign policy move to be attacked as “un-American” by a former Veep who found the time to personally hook terrorists’ nuts up to car batteries while serving as president of the Senate. Also, we probably wouldn’t be nominating a torturer as CIA director if a Truth & Reconciliation Commission had produced an official record of Ms Haspel’s interrogation enhancements.
Likewise, if the Democratic Congress had properly run out the string on Ronald Reagan’s pro-democracy Nicaraguan jungle rape squads — like their Republican colleagues would ten years later, with a certain intern who was not being paid to blow the president by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard — not only would Reagan have been exposed as a gun-running crack dealer, but every John Birch lunatic involved in the arms-for-hostages-for-arms-for-cocaine deal wouldn’t claim lesser Conservative sainthood to this day.
Which brings me to Oliver North, who has ridden that fringe sainthood right into Chuck Heston’s old job.
My dad worked for Reagan’s Office of Management and Budget in the mid-80’s as an international program analyst, and among his responsibilities was evaluating the proposals of a NSC working group called the Central American Task Force, led by one Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. A coworker of my dad’s happened to know the man from high school, and viewed him as the creepiest kind of right-wing true believer — there is nothing DC hates more, from either end of the spectrum.
Nonetheless, they figured their prior relationship would make her an ideal liaison with the CATF, and she would regularly return from task force meetings to present OMB staff with a list of proposals for analysis and approval. For any five given proposals that my dad and his colleagues received from Col. North’s team, their responses would look something like this:
- That would violate U.S. Law.
- That would merely be reckless and incredibly dangerous.
- That would be a war crime.
- Yeah, we might be able to do that. Will consult counsel.
- That would violate U.S. Law, at least two of the Geneva Conventions, and possibly the law of conservation of energy.
Despite constant rejection on legal, ethical, and moral grounds, the unhinged Cold Warrior battle plans kept coming, because Oliver North was on a divine mission to “save” South America from Communism, and in his single-minded view, the bureaucracy was there to support his mission, not to respect the rule of law. In his mind, he was fighting a battle for civilization, to do what a bunch of pussy-footing congressmen didn’t have the balls to do themselves, and a man as willing to spill innocent blood as Col. North wasn’t going to concern himself too much with red tape.
Ultimately, that blind certainty is what lead Col. North (and our 40th President) to betray the Congress and their oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution, in order to funnel weapons from America’s bitterest enemy to a Congressionally-proscribed guerrilla army unbound by humanity or decency, all while comfortably ignoring the screams of the innocent brown people murdered by those weapons.
With all that in mind, who better to lead the NRA than Ollie?
The NRA claims to be an advocacy organization, but they’re really a domestic arms cartel which increases the profits of its constituent merchants of death in two ways. The organization gins up the paranoia of white folks to convince them to tool up for a race war — this began more as a means to an end (see following), but then they started making billions of dollars from white gun owners who wait in joyful hope for the coming of Helter-Skelter.
Secondly, the NRA reinvests the political capital generated by that white paranoia into keeping gun laws as porous as possible, mainly by threatening lawmakers with their gun-obsessed voter base. The NRA inevitably insists this is about “preserving freedom” or one of their other go-to bromides, but their true intent is to maintain the flow of legally-sold guns to drug dealers through straw buyers.
Despite the NRA’s insistence to the contrary, that is the entire reason that the gun-show loophole is still open, and why you can buy enough firepower to maintain tactical superiority over the Mexican Army. Gun manufacturers get paid to arm the murderous drug cartels destroying Mexico via legal sales on our side of the border. It was cute when they pretended to care about the Fast and Furious scandal.
The truly genius part is that NRA TV and the rest of the right-wing media use the ensuing drug violence to scare their viewers, making hay of murders that the NRA itself actively facilitates. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that turns fear into votes, to the psychological detriment of those taken in by it.
Oliver North is the ideal NRA chief, not just because he’s experienced with off-the-books Latin American arms sales, but because his role in the fiasco ingratiated him to the white paranoia complex long before Fox News ever went on air, let alone his show on the network.
As far as the Conservative flock is concerned, everything Reagan did was righteous and good and any act of Congress that tried to curb him was by definition unjust, so North’s defiance of the law became civil disobedience by extension. To someone deep enough in the Breitbart hole, Mr. North starts to look like Henry David Thoreau, at least if you squint. In any case, they argue, that immunity deal vacated his convictions, for the crimes he definitely committed as a matter of public record.
A batshit reactionary audience demands a batshit reactionary spokesman, and they got one. In the 80’s, Oliver North was single-minded enough in his anti-Communist crusade to ignore the cognitive dissonance of betraying the rule of law to defend our way of life. Now he’ll put that to good use by ignoring the cognitive dissonance of letting thousands of people die in order to “protect” the innocent, of flooding our streets with guns in order to empty them of bullets, and of taking money from a Russian tyrant to preserve our “only defense against tyranny.”
On that last count, there’s a part of me that wonders if he wasn’t selected for a different sort of experience: going before Congress to act as the fall guy for a conspiracy much larger than himself. If and when the Democrats’ endless reserves of democratic restraint finally fail them, and we demand answers for the $30 million worth of treason the NRA put towards the 2016 election, I think we’re due for a Totally-80’s Congressional hearing throwback.
Then again, given how many people have migrated from television commentary to the White House recently, perhaps this unholy union simply came out of the media-driven insularity of their deluded corner of American “politics,” which currently holds sway over every other corner. Maybe among that incestuous little tribe of jackasses and marginal figures who had nothing to lose when they signed on with Trump, this makes sense. However, in the real world, where one very rarely feels a pressing need to kill people let alone assert their ability to do so, we see nothing more than a Machiavellian, gun-running zealot and convicted criminal who proves every ill word ever spoken about the NRA, and reaffirms the post-Parkland collective will to see a terrorist organization destroyed.
It’s just a shame this didn’t happen in time for Oliver North to convince President Trump that we can trust the Iranians. He was at the NRA Convention this weekend too…