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It takes a liar… | Mellanöstern Tidningen Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
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Published On: Thu, May 10th, 2018

It takes a liar…

There is a saying, and a song by the American rock group “Taking Back Sunday”, that it takes a liar to know a liar. In the case of Oliver North, the newly elected president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), in 1987 he lied to congress about his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. In 1989 he was convicted of obstructing the work of Congress by shredding documents and taking an illegal gratuity, but the conviction was later dismissed due to a technicality.

NRA President Oliver North interviewed by Fox News host Sean Hannity

North has made the news now for saying that all Iranians are liars. In an interview with the Fox News pseudo-journalist Sean Hannity, North declared: “Never believe an Iranian — because if their lips are moving, they’re lying.” This idea that an entire group of people are dismissed as liars has a long history. Consider what Martin Luther said about the Jews in 1543:

“What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blasphemy… I shall give you my sincere advice: First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians.”

Although not a devout Lutheran, the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels said in 1942: “The Führer once again expressed his determination to clean up the Jews in Europe pitilessly. There must be no squeamish sentimentalism about it. The Jews have deserved the catastrophe that has now overtaken them.” These two quotes represent anti-Semitism at its worst; North’s remarks are not only deeply Islamophobic, but share the same sentiment that inspired violence against Jews in Europe.

It is important to note that North was involved in facilitating the sale of arms to Iran, for which there was an arms embargo imposed by the U.S.. The murky details of the clandestine arms deal echo the current political swirl of events about Iran, but with a twist. There were seven American hostages held by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. So the plan to rescue them was for Israel to ship arms to Iran and be resupplied by the U.S., so that Iran would use its influence to free the hostages. Oliver North, who was on the National Security Council, decided to use some of the proceeds of the arms deal to fund the anti-Sandinista or Contra terrorists to bring down the socialist government of Nicaragua. In short, the official policy of attempting to shut off arms to Iran was subverted by North not only to release hostages, but also to engage in destabilization of a Central American country.

The hostage deal worked. “On August 20, 1985, Israel sent 96 American-made TOW missiles to Iran through an arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar. Subsequently, on September 14, 1985, 408 more TOW missiles were delivered. On September 15, 1985, following the second delivery, Reverend Benjamin Weir was released by his captors, the Islamic Jihad Organization.” How many people were late killed by these same weapons is not known, but it is likely that some of the weapons shipped by Israel to Iran eventually ended up with Hezbollah, their enemy. As they say, what goes around, comes around, also a song by Justin Timberlake.

The current political attacks on Iran from the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia threaten to further enflame a region already aflame with violence and intolerant rhetoric on all sides. Trump considers Iran a threat in part because he wants to undo just about everything that President Obama accomplished, no matter that the vast majority of American diplomats and foreign leaders urged him not to go back on the Iran nuclear arms deal. Netanyahu has branded Iran as a modern day Nazi regime, but such verbiage is also a smokescreen to take attention away from criminal charges against his rampant corruption. The Saudis want to exert their Sunni/Salafi domination of Islam against Iran by bombing the Huthis in Iran and opening up relations with Israel. The old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is in full force, but nothing could be more temporary than such an alliance.

Despite the old saying, it does not take a liar to recognize a lie. Some lies are so obvious, as exemplified in Trump’s first two years in office, that any rational person can see through them. The fact that the NRA has made North its president goes well beyond lies. The man leading the charge for the Gun lobby is an Islamophobe at a time when the U.S. president fuels resentment of Muslim refugees. That is an uncomfortable truth.

About the Author


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Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, a Senior Postdoctoral Scholar at the Institute for Social Anthropology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.