Why Oliver North Is Not a Hero

Oliver North is not a hero. In fact, Oliver North is a coward. He broke the law, then tried to cover up his misdeeds, and finally blamed his transgressions on his superiors. After making so much of his military code of "just following orders," North quickly turned on his commanders and played the innocent scapegoat as his trial defense strategy.

When one breaks the law for reasons of conscience, a crucial component of such principled civil disobedience is a willingness to accept the consequences of one's actions. Oliver North violated the law for reasons of ideology and then did everything possible to hide his actions and shift the blame elsewhere.

A jury convicted North for lying to Congress, destroying evidence, and financially benefiting from his illegal schemes. These are not the marks of a hero or the characteristics of conscientious civil disobedience.

What Oliver North is ultimately guilty of is an utter contempt for democracy. He simply doesn't believe in it. In fact, he is afraid of democracy. North is an anti-communist, not a democrat. And in his anti-communism he acted in complete accord with one of communism's central tenets -- the ends justify the means. He believed, as communist ideologues do, that a small cadre of elite leaders know better than the people and should have the right to act as they see fit, above or apart from the law.

The fact is that Congress voted in 1984 to cut off aid to the contras because public opinion was turning against the Reagan policy in Nicaragua. Yet the covert operators who were running the government refused to accept the public verdict on the contra war. With the encouragement of the president, they became a secret government pledged to sustain the contras at any cost, in complete defiance of the law and the will of the Congress.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Subscribe