Oliver North is just here to fix American Culture
On North's Latest Book, "Tragic Consequences"
According to the National Rifle Association (NRA), before, during, and since his installation in May 2018 as the Association’s president, Oliver North had been an employee—not a contractor, as they had originally understood, of the NRA’s advertising agency, Ackerman McQueen.
In a lawsuit opened in 2019, the NRA sought damages from multiple conflicts of interest stemming from this relationship and for the fact that important documentation about the nature of his relationship with the agency had been withheld.
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According to the NRA, in advance of his presidency, North also planned with them the details of a NRA-TV documentary series they would make together, to be titled “American Heroes.” The NRA alleged that after 12 months, he produced a total of 70 minutes across three episodes— not 12 feature length episodes per 12 month period.
This particular lawsuit is currently in purgatory until the resolution of New York attorney general Letitia James’ suits against the NRA for violations of regulations governing not-for-profits and for crimes of financial mismanagement.
Meanwhile, American Hero Oliver North, together with four-time coauthor David Goetsch, have prescribed to the whole of the American public a remedy—Jesus Christ—for our collective cultural sins in their latest book, Tragic Consequences: The Price America is Paying for Rejecting God and How to Reclaim Our Culture for Christ.
The book is a literary crusade against each of America’s various cultural ills as the authors perceive them, though conveniently, the root problem of each is Insufficient Jesus.
Seeking to correct Americans’ loosening appreciation for the Bible as a scientific work, the authors open by citing one of the most creative scientists of our time, Kurt Wise. Struck by his defense of the truthfulness of the story of Noah’s Ark, North and Goetsch write—
For those of you reading this having been told the great Flood is a myth, scientific evidence continues to amass to confirm the truth of this story. One of the best books ever written on the subject is Faith, Form, and Time: What the Bible Teaches and Science Confirms about Creation and the Age of the Universe by Kurt Wise.
As a point of reference for Wise’s intellectual curiosity, he wrote in one of his books—
As I shared with my professors years ago when I was in college, if all the evidence in the universe turned against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate.
The Word of God notwithstanding, the seventy-eight years of Oliver North’s Historical Record seems to suggest that he may be a poor messenger of moral castigation.
To appreciate one of the best bits from the authors’ latest book, some brief historical context is appropriate.
On July 30, 1866, outside of the Mechanics Institute in New Orleans, demonstrators for and against the continuation of Louisiana’s ‘black codes’ gathered ahead of the start of the Louisiana Republican party’s Constitutional Convention.
After the South’s 1865 Civil War defeat, in order for Confederate states to be allowed back into the Union, Confederate states each had to ratify the fourteenth agreement abolishing slavery. The question of suffrage for black males had been left unaddressed, and was essentially disregarded as a federal matter altogether once Andrew Johnson, a former slaveholder himself, ascended to the presidency following Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865.
In that year’s November elections, Democratic Party candidates—largely former Confederate leaders—were elected to state leadership posts throughout the former Confederacy. As was characteristic of 19th century Democrats, their policies immediately began chipping away at the freed slaves’ newly recognized rights.
The Republicans, their primary opposing party, saw an opportunity to reclaim office in the southern states by supporting black suffrage as a party plank. This would be a core agenda item at this July 1866 Republican Party Convention. The supportive demonstrators outside of the Mechanics Institute, whose ranks included at least 200 former slaves freed a year prior, sought to give party leaders a glimpse of the size of a potential whole new cohort of Republican voters.
Adjacent to these marchers were protestors hostile to expanding voting rights, and the two sides confronted one another with escalating ferocity. A young boy yelled “Damned sons of bitches” at a group of black men who turned and began to approach the boy, who was promptly whisked to safety by police officers. Moments later, the first of many indiscriminate shots were fired and bricks were thrown from one side of the crowd to the other.
The law enforcement for the event was handled foremost by New Orleans city sheriff Harry Hays. Hays, a former brigadier general for the Confederacy, was joined by the eponymous Hays Brigade Relief Society, ostensibly a Confederate veterans organization, but functionally a pseudo-militia of former Confederate soldiers who had served under Hays. One day before the Convention, Hays deputized 200 members of the Relief Society under the pretext of needing reinforcements for quelling any rowdiness outside of the convention.1
Considering the aftermath, it is hard to discern any way that the presence of law enforcement served to enforce any law, let alone maintain peace. It would take more than a year for the official human cost to be definitively stated in a report published by the Congressional Select Committee on the New Orleans Riots: 38 casualties—34 of them black—and 146 wounded.
Weeks after the riot, The Times-Picayune, a New Orleans newspaper, distinguished the worthy from the unworthy victims so brazenly that Chomsky and Herman may have found the example too gratuitous—
In our present report we will not endeavor to give a list of the names of the
negroes who were wounded or arrested. At the first district there were upwards of
one hundred and fifty or two hundred taken. At the second district station fiftythree were received. Three died after being brought to the station, and three others are supposed to be mortally wounded. In all, I suppose there has been about fifty negroes killed…Officer Sokoloski, a well-known and faithful officer, received a
ball in the groin, and is not expected to recover. Officer James Henry is also said
to be mortally wounded…A son of Dr. Cenas, a medical student…received a shot
in the neck from one of the windows in the Hall, and expired immediately. He had
nothing to do with the battle then raging.2
For what purpose might a contemporary author recollect the events of New Orleans’ 1866 riot, and in support of what thesis? For Oliver North and David Goetsch, it seemed fitting as the opener to the chapter entitled Mob Violence and Defunding the Police.
The events are retold as follows to open chapter 5, never to be revisited—
Mob violence is another of the tragic consequences America is suffering for rejecting God but accepting sin. It is one more example of what happens in a culture no longer centered on Christ. Mob violence is not new in America. There have been riots in our country dating back more than 100 years. In fact, one of the most violent and costly riots in American history occurred in New Orleans in 1866. The backdrop for this riot was the simmering resentment on both sides in the aftermath of the Civil War. It began as a protest against the newly enacted black codes but quickly morphed into a riot when protestors and anti-protestors clashed. By the time peace was restored, forty-four people were dead.
The New Orleans riot, like many in America, began as a protest. Not surprisingly, it quickly became violent…
Even removing the role played by the Hays Brigade in the affair, it is remarkable the authors could not find any better example to cite as the opener for a chapter that proceeds to condemn the protests in response to George Floyd’s killing by law enforcement.
Moreover, North is a remarkable voice to hear on the topic of nearly every cultural ill that his book seeks to condemn. Precious few individuals have a resume as relentlessly villainous as his. Now into the fifth decade of his illustrious career, North’s involvement in numerous sketchy national security scandals have been thoroughly reported on.
Nonetheless, it would be irresponsible not to briefly revisit the most consequential of North’s activities, which occured during the Reagan and H.W. Bush administrations.
Since 1937, Nicaragua had been ruled by the Somozas, a dynastic dictatorship —starting with two decades Anastasio Somoza García, who was then succeeded by numerous family members and allies. They controlled all branches of the government, installing judges and organizational heads on the basis of their loyalty.
The Nicaraguan population’s disdain for the Somozas had grown and been channeled in the 1960s into a popular movement led by labor unions and students called the Sandinistas. As the Sandinista’s protests grew more organized, the Somozas increasingly responded by deploying the Nicaraguan National Guard to destroy any embers of dissent.
In 1979, the movement grew too large to repress. The Somozas ultimately fled the country, and their National Guard troops surrendered. The Sandinista movement seized leadership of Nicaragua.
They would invest heavily in social services—more than 30% of the governments’ total expenditures from 1980-1984.3 They created a ministry of health to institutionalize medical education, build healthcare facilities, and distribute vaccinations, reaching 85% of applicable patients for polio, measles, and malaria vaccines.4
The Sandinista Ministry of Education implemented a “Literacy Crusade”, a mass-mobilization of citizens teaching other Nicaraguans to read, and implemented universal free education.5
Most provocatively, they confiscated and redistributed the massive amount of land— 2 million acres—owned by the Somoza family and its allies. The Nicaraguan Ministry of Agricultural Development and Agrarian Reform then implemented a collective ownership system, wherein rural families could join cooperatives that assured them farmland as well as better agricultural mechanization.6
Within a few years, these farm cooperatives became one of the key targets of attacks from counterrevolutionary (Contra) forces, funded and trained by the United States. As Noam Chomsky captured in What Uncle Sam Really Wants, the socialist reforms were an unacceptable point of comparison for the US to subject the world’s eyes to—
One of the most respected Central America correspondents, Julia Preston (who was then working for the Boston Globe), reported that "Administration officials said they are content to see the contras debilitate the Sandinistas by forcing them to divert scarce resources toward the war and away from social programs."
That's crucial, since the social programs were at the heart of the good example that might have infected other countries in the region and eroded the American system of exploitation and robbery.7
As an up and coming U.S. Marine working on the National Security Council staff at the Reagan White House, Lt. Col. North played a leading role in the US government’s covert war in Nicaragua. He led the implementation of plans to plant mines throughout Nicaraguan harbors, acting in the name of the counter-revolutionary forces.
This action, pursued without the knowledge of any US Congressional committee overseeing US intelligence operations, spurred the passage of the Boland Amendment, which prohibited any intelligence agency of the US from directly or indirectly supporting Nicaraguan military or paramilitary (Contra) forces.
But no matter. North would proceed to help establish private and foreign channels that would raise money to support Contra and other Central American anti-leftist movements. North, in conjunction with the CIA, would spearhead a clandestine laundering project to fund and arm the Contras, selling US arms to foreign governments including apartheid South Africa, South Korea, Iran (a sale intended to sway the release of diplomats being held hostage by Iran, though this would never be followed through on), and Saudi Arabia; the weapons typically transported by Israel to maintain the US’s plausible deniability.
As a supplementary funding stream, the Contras would traffic cocaine into the United States. This was at a minimum known by North, based upon the remnants of his own notes—illegally shredded in bulk upon the breaking of the Iran Contra scandal in 1986.8
Never one to leave a shady enterprise under-exploited, North would likewise accept at least $98,000 from Contra leaders which he would use for personal purposes, part of which he would put toward a home security system.11
The congressional Iran-Contra committees prepared this list of personal expenditures North made using Contra travelers checks12
In November 1986, a Lebanese newspaper reported that the United States had secretly sold weapons to Iran. This spurred Congress to establish two committees to investigate the conspiracy, which in July of the following year would call North to testify.13
Meanwhile, the District Court for the District of Columbia appointed an independent counsel to prosecute North criminally. This case required that jurors not be exposed to the nationally televised Congressional testimony so as to not infringe upon his fifth amendment protections against self-incrimination.
Nonetheless, after producing a guilty verdict on three criminal charges, the district appellate court threw out the charges for exactly such a violation.
North’s virtues may leave some wanting, but certainly not his entrepreneurship. His knack for, at least among his defenders, parlaying his nationally televised Congressional testimonies into a lucrative brand foreshadowed the opportunity presented to retired generals today by the national media (Here are the YouTube results for “retired general” in the past month).
North would maintain his veil of commonality with everyday humans by next transforming himself into a small business owner of a bulletproof vest company when self-identifying during speaking engagements, despite those gigs netting him more than seven figures per year while his business barely produced any revenue.15
The LA Times reported in 1993 that—
In a recent interview, North acknowledged that his Iran-contra celebrity had made him wealthy. Since his involvement in the scandal became public, North's family has purchased a sprawling farm in Clarke County that his disclosure says is worth between $500,000 and $1 million. North also has a diversified stock portfolio and small shares in several hotel partnerships.
North said he sees nothing wrong in profiting from his role in the Iran-contra scandal. "I earned it," he said. "Every one of those speeches was a night away from home."
North parlayed his name recognition into various stints as a right wing radio and television personality, before the natural evolution into the president of National Rifle Association (NRA).
Now, the NRA joins Ronald Reagan among North’s regretful— if unsympathetic—bedfellows, as they await the recommencement of their lawsuits again him.
Hollandsworth, J. G. (2004). An Absolute Massacre: The New Orleans Race Riot of July 30, 1866. United States: LSU Press.
Gunnufsen, JoAnna L., "Reporting Rumors in the Reconstruction South: The Aftermath of the New Orleans Riot of 1866" (2016). Honors Theses. 408.
Richard Millet, Guardians of the Dynasty (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1977), 79.
Kent Norsworthy, Nicaragua: A Country Guide (Albuquerque: Inter Hemispheric Resource Center, 1989), 72.
Zaremba, Laura M., "Nicaragua: Before and After the Revolution" (1992). Honors Theses. Paper 21.
Anthony Lake, Somoza Falling (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989), 19.
Chomsky, Noam. What Uncle Sam Really Wants. Berkeley: Odonian Press, 1992. Print.
Schwarz, Jon. “Oliver North Worked with Cocaine Traffickers to Arm Terrorists. Now He’ll Be President of the NRA.” The Intercept, 12 May 2018, theintercept.com/2018/05/12/oliver-north-nra-iran-contra/.
Parry, Robert. “Robert Parry: With the US Meddling Again in Latin America, a Look Back at How Washington Promoted Genocide in Guatemala.” Consortium News, 21 Feb. 2013, https://consortiumnews.com/2019/01/27/robert-parry-with-the-us-meddling-again-in-latin-america-a-look-back-at-how-washington-promoted-genocide/.
Scott, Peter Dale, et al. The Iran-Contra Connection. Canada, Black Rose Books, 1987.
Pichirallo, Joe. “SECORD GUILTY in IRAN-CONTRA.” Washington Post, 9 Nov. 1989, www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1989/11/09/secord-guilty-in-iran-contra/25825e9e-653b-46ef-9ec0-90f6d33218a1/. Accessed 14 July 2022.
National Security Archive. “Oliver North’s Checkered Iran-Contra Record | National Security Archive.” Nsarchive.gwu.edu, 16 May 2018, nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/iran/2018-05-16/oliver-norths-checkered-iran-contra-record. Accessed 15 July 2022.
“United States of America v. Oliver L. North, Appellant, 910 F.2d 843 (D.C. Cir. 1990).” Justia Law, Summer 8AD, law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/910/843/463467/. Accessed 18 July 2022.
Marcetic, Branko. “The Only Explanation for Why the NRA Has Chosen Oliver North as Its New President.” In These Times, 18 May 2018, inthesetimes.com/article/oliver-north-nra-national-rifle-association-president-iran-contra-scandal. Accessed 17 July 2022.
Jenkins Jr, Kent. “NORTH MAKES a BIG PROFIT off IRAN-CONTRA, REPORT SAYS.” Washington Post, 10 Oct. 1993, www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1993/10/10/north-makes-a-big-profit-off-iran-contra-report-says/4827bb9c-d62d-47b3-81ae-aaf77185814d/. Accessed 16 July 2022.