Just in passing, let me say that the great spiritual leader Desmond Tutu is 83 years old today. He has always been a leader in the fight for social justice and he was a very important figure in ending South African apartheid. Since that time, he has been an outspoken leader on a number of other issues such as the fight against AIDS. It is interesting that as an Anglican, he is able to do something about this huge problem and not, as Catholic priests, make it worse. But if you have any question of Tutu’s greatness, all you have to do is look at his Wikipedia page where you will find that someone has gone in and added things like, “Tutu’s admirers see him as…” There is really nothing negative said about him, but the implication is that the reality is something else entirely. I’ll have to check back in a month and see if these subtle slights are a constant. Regardless, I wanted to spend today talking about someone really vile, so obviously Tutu was out.
The American traitor Oliver North is 71 today. In the 1980s, one of the great American bogeymen was Nicaragua. You see, Nicaragua was a democracy, but it was a leftist one and so from the perspective of America, it had to be destroyed. Ronald Reagan, that great lover of freedom and the law, was in the process of illegally selling arms to Iran. The idea was that by selling Iran weapons, they would help with another problem. At that time, there were seven American hostages being held by members of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Over the course of two years, five of the seven hostages were released. But in the mean time, three more Americans were kidnapped to replace the first three who were released. Even if the arms for hostages deal had been a good idea, the administration totally screwed it up.
Oliver North was in charge of the second half of the plan: take the money from Iran and give it to the Contras. Reagan called them “freedom fighters.” It would be more correct to call them a terrorist group. Here is a list of some of the things these “freedom fighters” did: assassinating healthcare workers; kidnapping, torturing, and murdering civilians; raping women; attacking and seizing civilian housing; and burning down houses.
Regardless of what you want to call them, the Contras were primarily a right wing group that did not like the fact that the people of Nicaragua did not want them in power. Outside the fact that what Oliver North did was a treasonous act in his own country, what he did inside Nicaragua was a complete violation of international law. In fact, the International Court of Justice found in favor of Nicaragua against the United States. We lamely claimed that the US Constitution trumped international law, as though the US Constitution gave us the rights to overthrow any democratically elected government we didn’t like.
I remember the Iran-Contra hearings. I was glued to the radio. And Oliver North coming in to testify was a very big thing. It was the high point of North’s life because he more or less invented the modern Republican Party right there. Rather than stand by any sense of patriotism or legislative norms, he came in and basically said, “I did it; so what?!” Those on the committee were stunned. They weren’t prepared for North, the same way one is never prepared for someone who acts in a totally inappropriate way. The American people, of course, loved it. We are more a style oriented people. Substance is for the eggheads. And since North wasn’t apologetic, and since the Democrats were (as always) a bunch of pussies, North won.
He was indicted for 16 felonies but found guilty of only three minor ones. He was given a three year suspended sentence. But on appeal, all convictions were dropped. That’s America: smoke a joint, go to prison for thirty years; subvert the Constitution, become a national hero. And a hero he did become! At least on the right. And his career was made. It’s a funny thing about the right in this country. They constantly claim that liberals are traitors. But they joyously welcome actual traitors.
Happy birthday traitor Oliver North!