Over one month ago I sent the following letter via snail mail to the pastor of a nearby church in response to a widespread, and obviously quite expensive, multimedia advertising campaign touting an upcoming appearance by Lt. Col. Oliver North. To date I have not received a response; and since the event has already taken place as scheduled, I do not expect to receive one.
Dear Dr. _____:
As a fellow Christian, I was greatly dismayed to see billboards around the area proudly advertising an upcoming appearance by Lt. Col. Oliver North at [your church]. Lt. Col. North has participated in or supported many great evils and continues to do so to this day.
Yes, I am aware that North professes to be a Christian. So do former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, yet somehow I get the strong suspicion that neither would be welcome at your church — nor should he be, for each has committed grievous evils for which neither has, to my knowledge, repented. The same goes for North.
For starters, North voluntarily participated, as a platoon leader, in the United States’ unconstitutional war against North Vietnam, a country that had not attacked or even threatened us in the slightest. (The Gulf of Tonkin incident, not surprisingly, never occurred, as an NSA report declassified in 2005 established. Governments routinely lie their populations into supporting wars, the ease of which Hermann Goering famously recounted while awaiting trial at Nuremberg in part for having participated in an aggressive, rather than defensive, war.) In that horrific conflict our government employed absolutely unconscionable tactics against civilian populations, including the use of napalm and Agent Orange; massacres of entire villages; and bombing and strafing. Estimates of civilian deaths in North Vietnam range from 50,000 to hundreds of thousands. Not all of those deaths were at the hands of the U.S. military — Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Cong were no angels — but certainly a sizable percentage was. At least 5,000, for example, were killed by the American military in Operation Speedy Express. Then there are the 58,217 needless and senseless deaths of American military personnel, along with over 300,000 wounded and nearly 2,000 missing in action, for which our government and its enablers such as North bear sole responsibility.
As with all military personnel, North took an oath to defend the Constitution. The Constitution, however, demands that Congress declare war before troops can be committed to action. Since Congress never declared war against North Vietnam, North, and all other U.S. military personnel, should have refused to participate in attacking it. Thus, North’s first public lie was to swear fealty to the Constitution.
Of course, North is most infamous for his participation in, and attempted cover-up of, the Iran-Contra scandal. Here the U.S. Congress passed a perfectly constitutional series of laws, which President Reagan signed, specifically to restrain the Executive Branch from providing support to the Contras in Nicaragua, in a conflict that was none of our business anyway. The Republicans, who had in 1946 correctly excoriated FDR for his one-man foreign policy that he employed to provoke the Japanese into striking Pearl Harbor and thus to ensure U.S. entry into World War II (remember what I said about governments’ deceiving their populations into wars?), turned on a dime and became the most ardent defenders of Executive Branch exclusivity in foreign policy, despite the fact that Congress constitutionally has the power of the purse and other powers to restrict the Executive’s exercise of foreign policy. North, not surprisingly, was one of the chief defenders of a foreign-policy dictatorship in the person of the President, again in contravention of his oath to uphold the Constitution.
In the course of violating the law, North, via deceptive means, sold arms to the government of Iran, which at that time was an enemy of the U.S. (mostly as a backlash against earlier U.S. meddling in Iran, in which our government overthrew their democratically elected prime minister and replaced him with the brutal Shah). These arms were surely used against both Iranian citizens and Iraqis, with whom Iran was at war at the time. The U.S. was also supplying arms to Saddam Hussein during this time period, so North, along with the rest of those in power during this era, bears significant responsibility for the estimated one million deaths on both sides of the war. In addition, the Nicaraguan Contras have been credibly charged with numerous atrocities — as were the Sandinistas, but as the old saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right — for which North again bears some responsibility.
As if these crimes were not bad enough, North then actively participated in a cover-up of his, and others’, misdeeds, including destroying relevant documents and repeatedly lying to Congress. Now Congress has done nothing over the years to earn the right to be dealt with honestly, for its members lie to us on a daily basis; but nevertheless a Christian ought not lie to anyone, regardless of the honesty of his interlocutor. North was convicted on three felony counts and only escaped punishment on a technicality, with the assistance of every Christian’s friend (please note sarcasm), the American Civil Liberties Union.
Furthermore, North has been implicated in drug running in the course of supplying arms to the Contras. While the CIA and other government officials, including North, did not necessarily participate in the actual drug sales, they were not averse to using drug runners for their own nefarious purposes, probably figuring that one crook was not likely to squeal on another. As a result of these activities, North has been barred from ever entering Costa Rica by its democratically elected government.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God," said Jesus. North, however, has been anything but a peacemaker for his entire career, from Vietnam to the present day, where he currently supports the unconstitutional, aggressive war against Iraq, another country that had neither harmed nor threatened us. The Iraq war — yet another war sold to the American people under false pretenses — to date has resulted in the deaths of over 4,000 Americans and a credibly estimated 100,000-plus Iraqis, according to the Lancet. In addition, it has caused the destruction of the world’s oldest Christian community, which had previously been protected and allowed to worship freely under former U.S. ally Saddam Hussein. Most Iraqi Christians have fled to neighboring countries, while those who have remained behind have been subject to violence. North has also made clear that he supports aggression against Iran, which also has done us no harm. In fact, it would be hard to find a U.S. military operation that North has not supported (perhaps one under a Democratic president?). This is hardly the mark of a peacemaker.
I also note that your church has the unmitigated gall to charge people $10 admission to attend North’s appearance. North has lived at our expense for his whole career and continues to receive a military pension, also at our expense. This, of course, is nothing but legalized theft, for taxpayers have no choice but to pay under the threat of force. North ought to be paying us to come see him rather than the other way around — and even then I wouldn’t set foot in the same building as this so-called Christian.
North is thus known to have violated innumerable biblical injunctions, including, but not limited to, prohibitions against lying, stealing, and murder. To my knowledge he has never publicly repented of any of these sins and has, in fact, taken pride in them and continues to do so. Unless you would care to argue that being ordered to perpetrate evil by the State somehow sanctifies these actions — and it certainly didn’t get the Nazis or King David very far — I fail to see how you can, in good conscience, not only permit North to speak at [your church] but also proudly advertise this fact. What message does this convey to nonbelievers other than that Christians can be suborned into celebrating sin if it is sanctioned by the government, and even more so when that government is controlled by members of a particular political party? What message, for that matter, does it convey to believers?
I ask that you prayerfully reconsider your invitation to Lt. Col. North. Consider whose interests you are furthering by allowing him to appear at your church: God’s or the State’s. The State has ever been God’s enemy, either persecuting his people or leading them into idolatry, and the United States government is no exception. "No man can serve two masters," said our Lord. Which one are you serving?
Michael Tennant [send him mail] is a software developer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.