Thursday, July 28, 2005

Selling Missiles to Terrorists Gives Him the Moral High Ground

Remember how Dick Durbin got in huge trouble for saying that an FBI report describing prisoner maltreatment at Guantanamo sounded like descriptions of maltreatment of prisoners by morally bankrupt regimes? Remember how the right-wing spinmeisters were outraged, outraged, outraged--not by the maltreatment but instead by Durbin saying that when you describe abuse it makes the abuse sound abusive? Remember how Durbin caved in and apologized for having pointed out the obvious?

I was ticked at Durbin for caving in, but beyond that I didn't think much about it. That sort of nonsense happens a lot. Then I remembered Iran-Contra, whereupon I was overwhelmed by a powerful feeling of--I dunno, call it comic historical vertigo.

Iran-Contra, you'll remember, was a scandal during the Reagan years. Reagan supported the Nicaraguan Contras against the Sandinistas (who had overthrown a government controlled by the Somoza family, one of the most astonishingly corrupt US allies in Latin American history). But Congress had passed a law that prohibited funding the Contras, who tended to do things like rape and murder nuns and blow shit up indiscriminately, so Reagan couldn't send troops or money directly to the Contras.

Accordingly, somebody (with or without Reagan's knowledge), orchestrated a scheme whereby the US government sold weapons to the Iranians (who had in 1979 taken a bunch of Americans hostage and then commemorated Reagan's first inauguration by releasing them). Remember that at that time the Iranians were at war with our then-ally Saddam Hussein and were also, as they are now, state sponsors of terrorism. In fact, some of those terrorists (Hezbollah) were holding Americans prisoner in Lebanon, and the sale of the weapons was intended not only to illegally fund the Contras but also to bribe the Iranians to convince Hezbollah to release those hostages.

Lt. Col. Oliver North and National Security Adviser John Poindexter were both found guilty of playing a role in Iran-Contra but were later acquitted on technicalities. They have never once apologized, nor have the right-wingers called on them to do so.

Remembering that is what made me start to feel the vertigo. When Dick Durbin says that the abuse committed at Guantanamo Bay sounds like abuse committed by worse governments, the right-wing pundits start baying for his blood. When Oliver North and John Poindexter get caught and convicted of selling weapons to a terrorist government that sponsors other terrorists, what happens? Poindexter gets brought back under G.W. Bush to be the head of DARPA's Information Awareness Office, and North gets generously bankrolled during a Senate campaign that he nearly wins before he goes on to become, among other things, a right-wing pundit.

Can you imagine what would've happened to Durbin if he'd been the one to arrange the illegal sales of weapons to Iran (that may also have functioned as a bribe to Hezbollah)? Seriously, think what would have happened to any Democrat who'd arranged not just to break the law but to break the law by selling missiles to a nation that sponsored terror against Americans. The Ollie Northish pundits would have been calling for his execution as a traitor.

North's hypocrisy in this is particularly painful and ridiculous because he was one of those who attacked Durbin for saying what he did. In a very dumb recent column, North goes after Durbin for his remarks and lists Durbin as one of his finalists for "Revisionist Historian of the Year" award. North then goes on to attack NBC's Brian Williams at length for not having drawn a bright enough dividing line between our founding fathers and Iran's new president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. North also ridicules Ahmadinejad's claims that he only supported that 1979 kidnappings (the ones that ended on Reagan's inauguration) because Ayatollah Khomeni supported it. And then he attacks Ahmadinejad for supporting Hezbollah, including its kidnappings of Americans in Beruit.

What? I mean--what?

That Ayatollah Khomeni is the same guy who held sway over the Hezbollah terrorists who kidnapped the Americans in Lebanon in the mid 1990s. He's the same guy North arranged to sell weapons to in order to illegally fund the Contras.

North is bitching out Durbin for quoting an FBI report that says depressing things about a handful of American soldiers and bitching out Williams for saying that many Iranians might not be as opposed to Iranians taking Americans hostage as Americans are. But this is the same North who did his level best to make sure that Iran got 500 HAWK missiles. What the hell gives this guy the right to natter on about patriotism or to take a hawkish stance on people who don't say mean things about jihadi terrorists?

North broke Congressional and moral laws. He sold weapons to an enemy government that sponsored jihadi terrorists, terrorists who just took more hostages (maybe using American money or weapons) after they'd released the ones he helped bribe them to release. And how dare he criticize Ahmadinejad for supporting Khomeni-inspired terrorist acts when he went further than mere support by actually selling weapons to Khomeni's country?

Even if Durbin and Williams were guilty of the transgressions of which North accuses them, listening to North excoriate them would be like listening to Charles Manson scolding the makers of Grand Theft Auto for promoting sex, drugs, and violence. As it is, it's like listening to Charles Manson scold the producers of This Old House for the same offense. Somebody's revising history like crazy, but it isn't Durbin or Williams.


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