The new NRA president is a deep-state thug

May 31, 2018

The NRA peddles conspiracy theories about shadowy “big government” thugs coming to take its members’ guns away — but its new president is notorious for actually being a deep-state conspirator, writes Danny Katch.

WHEN THE National Rifle Association (NRA) selected Oliver North as its president last month, you probably reacted with what has become the baseline emotion of the Trump era: entirely unsurprised shock.

It may seem strange for an organization that claims to stand for the right to arm “good guys” against criminals to choose someone best known for illegally running guns and drugs on three continents. But in reality, North and the NRA are made for each other.

For one thing, he’s perfect for an organization that needs to step up its trolling game. The NRA relies on generating outrage in order to make its members feel under siege so more guns.

No disrespect to the organization’s current leaders working tirelessly to further the trauma of school-shooting victims by calling them crisis actors and demanding that their teachers be armed, but they needed someone with cable news star power to compete for airtime with the Troll-in-Chief.

Oliver North
Oliver North (Michael Vadon | flickr)

By bringing in North for a largely ceremonial position, the NRA hopes to copy the White House’s winning formula: Aging C-list Fox News celebrity? Shameless self-promoting con artist? Check and check!

Oliver North is basically Donald Trump without the draft dodging. He even has his own dodgy charity run jointly with presidential pal Sean Hannity.

North got his debut as the new voice of gun fundamentalism came after the May 18 school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, but he came out firing blanks:

The problem that we got is we are trying like the dickens to treat the symptom without treating the disease. The disease in this case isn’t the Second Amendment. The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence.

They have been drugged in many cases. Nearly all of these perpetrators are male, and they are young teenagers in most cases. And they have come through a culture where violence is commonplace. All you need to do is turn on the TV, go to a movie. If you look at what has happened to the young people, many of these young boys have been on Ritalin since they were in kindergarten.

Gotta do better than that, Ollie. NRA preachers are supposed to bring the fire and brimstone — like when you labeled protesting Parkland students “terrorists.”

Instead, your “it’s these newfangled TV shows, dagnabbit!” routine sounded like a cranky old man. You probably would have added that these whippersnappers are spoiled by participation trophies — if your new bosses didn’t offer almost 200 trophies at its national shooting “championships.” (At the NRA, everyone who isn’t an animal, a criminal, a socialist, a gangbanger or a a winner!)

Fortunately for the NRA, and tragically for everyone else, Ollie will have plenty more mass shootings in the coming months to work on his game.

NORTH DREW widespread media scorn for his hypocrisy in calling out violent media without mentioning his own history as a paid shill for the “first-person shooter” video game Call of Duty.

But it would be nice to see more attention paid to the far larger issue that the nation’s largest “gun rights” organization is now being headed — okay, figure-headed — by someone with a long record of gun wrongs.

It’s referred to as the Iran-Contra Scandal or Iran-Contra Affair, but scandal and affair are frustratingly tame words that don’t do justice to North’s crimes, and even feed his self-styled reputation as a bad-boy 1980s action hero who played by his own rules to get the job done.

I can’t think of a single word that does the trick, unfortunately, so let’s go with: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy to Give Killers Machine Guns and Flood the U.S. with Crack.

The “contras” were death squads formed from the ranks of the hated Nicaraguan regime that was overthrown in the 1979 Sandinista revolution. Over the next decade, they would kill 40,000 people and be labeled the “worst human rights violators in all of Latin America” by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

Naturally, the Reagan administration hailed them as “freedom fighters” — just like Osama bin Laden’s Mujahideen Islamist insurgents challenging the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan — and armed them to the teeth in the early 1980s.

But by 1984, reports that the CIA had mined Nicaraguan harbors and advised the contras in how to kidnap and kill government officials led Congress to cut off military aid to the contras.

So what did the White House do? It simply went around Congress.

Here’s how it worked: Oliver North collaborated with Israel to supply weapons to Iran — supposedly the arch-enemy of the U.S. and Israel — in exchange for getting Iran’s ally Hezbollah to release hostages in Lebanon. And the proceeds of the weapons sales were used to supply the contras with “munitions and lethal aid.”

The dirty war on the Sandinista government was also financed by running cocaine from Central America into the U.S. — all while Ronald Reagan was launching a “war on drugs” that would lead to millions of low-level users and dealers being locked up, while anti-poverty spending was effectively transferred into expanding police and prisons.

All this is to say that even the most far-fetched racist fantasy about immigrants rights organizations being led by the MS-13 street gang are roughly equivalent to what’s happened at the NRA: an organization that claims to fight for legally responsible gun ownership making Oliver North its leader.

Oh right, that’s another thing. Oliver North has his fingerprints all over the origins of MS-13 — winner of the 2018 right-wing boogeyman of the year award — which was formed behind prison walls inside the U.S. by poor Salvadorans caught up in the drug-war dragnet after fleeing North’s dirty war in their home country.

ALL TOLD, bringing in Oliver North is the latest evidence that the NRA just might be completely full of shit.

This is an organization, remember, that claims to militantly defend individual liberty against “government control.” Amid the post-Parkland outrage, NRA leader Wayne LaPierre warned about shadowy enemies, whose goal “is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.”

LaPierre made his name back in the 1990s when he declared that a ban on semi-automatic weapons “gives jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us.”

There are, in fact, government thugs who do just this on a daily basis in poor and nonwhite neighborhoods. They’re called police.

But as the Washington Post’s Radley Balko points out, the NRA is almost always silent about police shootings — and is actually totally cool with local police forces becoming militarized, both in weaponry and in mindset.

Making a former covert operations spook its president is another order of cognitive dissonance for an organization that traffics in conspiracy theories about secret government plans to round up all the true patriots.

And that’s true even if you don’t believe the reporting from Wired about a conspiracy hatched in Reagan’s Federal Emergency Management Agency to use a secret database to round up American dissidents and throw them into detention by Oliver North.

HOW CAN the NRA be so mind-blowingly hypocritical?

Shane Bauer pointed out years ago in Mother Jones that the NRA straddles a “delicate line between glorifying law enforcement and fanning fears of big, tyrannical government” because the organization is both a membership-based organization that wants looser gun laws for its dues-payers and a lobbyist for weapons manufacturers that want to promote further militarization (and sales) in police departments.

That’s all true. But it’s also important to see the connecting lines between the NRA’s seemingly contradictory positions. After all, it really isn’t that hard to see a common thread in supporting racist cops and supporting racist “stand your ground” vigilantes.

Racism isn’t the entirety of the NRA’s politics, but rather a key component of its thoroughly warped understanding of tyranny and freedom.

By “big government,” the NRA doesn’t mean the military, police, prisons, immigration Gestapo, spy agencies and other forces of repression that claim the majority of government budgets in the U.S. No, they mean elected lawmakers who (occasionally) try to represent their constituents by passing widely supported bills to regulate guns and gun corporations.

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By tyranny, they mean democracy. And by freedom, they mean the inalienable right for their constituency of mostly well-off white men — who, indeed, were the only people who the Founding Fathers intended to have democracy — to do whatever the hell it takes to protect their property.

For years, the NRA has taken this longstanding reactionary outlook and added the gasoline of manufactured outrage necessary to increase sales of expensive guns to people who already own a bunch.

Much of this outrage used to stem from the organization’s self-image as decent, lawful citizens unfairly treated by cultural elites. But all sorts of masks are coming off in the Trump presidency — and by bringing in Oliver North, the NRA is making it clear which side of the freedom/tyranny divide they’re really on.

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