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Tuesday, 15 May 2018 06:32

Ollie North: A Gunrunner Heads the NRA

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BILL BERKOWTZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT   berkowitz 5 15 18 jpgOliver North speaking at the 2012 CPAC in Washington, D.C. Gage Skidmore
 
Lt. Colonel Oliver North, USMC (Ret.) was the military uniform wearing, dashing young lion defending the Reagan administration during congressional hearings on the Iran/Contra scandal in the summer of 1987, perhaps the most television worthy congressional hearing since John Dean had testified in the Watergate hearings years before. Now, North, is taking on a different role, tapped to be president of the National Rifle Association.
 
North, once one of America’s most infamous gun runners, had significant involvement in illicit arms deals and connections with brutal Latin American dictators, raised millions for a failed run for the Senate, held forth on Fox News for several years, and has a long anti-LGBT record – likening same-sex marriage opponents to anti0-slavery activists -- is going after the Parkland, Florida kids for advocating stricter gun control laws. 
 
"I like the idea of a good fight," said North, from the Virginia office of Freedom Alliance, his military charity. "Over the course of the last two or three months, in particular, the attacks [on the NRA] are personal, legal, financial, digital -- and they are physical against some people who run the institution." 
 
In a recent interview, North told The Washington Times that the NRA was a victim of "civil terrorism." 
 
"They call them activists. That’s what they’re calling themselves. They’re not activists -- this is civil terrorism. This is the kind of thing that’s never been seen against a civil rights organization in America," North told the Times. "You go back to the terrible days of Jim Crowand those kinds of things -- even there you didn’t have this kind of thing. We didn’t have the cyberwar kind of thing that we’ve got today."
 
North also told the Times that anti-gun advocates "can do all the cyberwar against us -- they’re doing it. They can use the media against us -- they are. They’ve gone after our bank accounts, our finances, our donors, and obviously individual members. It’s got to stop. And that’s why the leadership invited me to become the next president of the NRA."
 
"What they did very successfully with a frontal assault, and now intimidation and harassment and lawbreaking, is they confused the American people. Our job is to get the straight story out about what happened there, and to make sure that kind of thing doesn’t happen again because the proper things are being done with the advocacy of the NRA," North told the Times.
 
"This is the most exciting news for our members since Charlton Heston became President of our Association," said NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, in an NRA press release. "Oliver North is a legendary warrior for American freedom, a gifted communicator and skilled leader.  In these times, I can think of no one better suited to serve as our President."
 
In a recent piece, The Intercept’s Jon Schwarz (https://theintercept.com/2018/05/12/oliver-north-nra-iran-contra/) takes us back to those thrilling days of yesteryear when Ollie North was involved with supplying arms to Iran in exchange for Americans held hostage, as well as money that was funneled to the Contras, a group opposing Nicaragua’s left-wing government, when such aid was banned by a law passed by Congress. North, who was prosecuted on 16 felony counts, and convicted on three charges, had his convictions vacated on technicalities.
 
North was an active-duty Marine when he joined the Reagan administration’s National Security Council in 1981. One of Reagan’s top priorities was organizing and funding the Contras, a guerrilla military force, to overthrow the revolutionary socialist Sandinista government of Nicaragua. But the Contras engaged in extensive gruesome terrorism againstNicaraguan civilians. Congress gradually reduced and then eliminated appropriations supporting them, leading the Reagan administration to secretly search for money elsewhere.
 
According to the report from a later congressional investigation, North was put in charge of this operation, which participants dubbed "The Enterprise."
 
North … led many of the clandestine schemes that later became known as the Iran-Contra scandal. The Sultan of Brunei donated $10 million (which North’s secretary Fawn Hall accidentally wired to the wrong Swiss bank account), and Saudi Arabia ponied up as well. North also pushed what hecalled "a neat idea": selling U.S. military equipment to Iran, with the proceeds passed along to the Contras.
 
Meanwhile, the Contras had a neat idea of their own: facilitating cocaine trafficking through Central America into the U.S., with a cut going toward supporting their war against the Sandinistas. Some Contras were themselves cocaine traffickers, and others were simply happy to make alliances of convenience with drug cartels.
 
One of North’s most immediate goals, aside from attacking the Parkland kids, is to bring 1 million new members – "as fast as we can" -- to the already 6 million-strong NRA. 
 
New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait recently pointed out that "North was the 1980s version of a long line of right-wing populist heroes, … . [a] plain-speaking demagogue [who] electrified the right-wing faithful by forcefully defending their values and lashing out at their enemies."
 
"It’s no surprise that the NRA would choose an unscrupulous hawk as its leader. In many ways, North and the NRA deserve each other. An organization dedicated to corrupting the U.S. political system by injecting massive sums of money in exchange for paralysis and indifference in the face of mass shootings finds in Oliver North a leader worthy of its mission," former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias told the Tico Times. 
 
North, says Peter Kornbluh, who was co-director of the Iran-Contra documentation project at the National Security Archive, is "the perfect pick to further the NRA’s reputation for favoring bloodshed and criminality over responsible gun control and ownership."