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Liars Club: Ollie North and General Kelly


Oliver North is a liar. He was also part of a conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine.  Furthermore, he was part of another conspiracy to build, arm and train mercenaries to fight a public/private enterprise known as the Contra war in Nicaragua.  He is a shameless egocentric maniac loved by several million US television viewers who watch his nonsensical FOX series War Stories. When he was forced to testify about his activities in the aforementioned crimes, he did what most dishonorable crooks do.  He snitched, spreading the blame around, implicating then Vice President George HW Bush and hinting that President Reagan was also aware of what he was doing. In other words, he wasn’t the kind of Marine who would fall on a grenade to save his brother-in-arms.   Despite his non-heroism, North ultimately took the fall and was convicted of a few counts of lying.  As it turned out, the conviction was overturned on a technicality after then president GW Bush pardoned several of North’s co-conspirators. Draw your own conclusions.

I was surprised when I read that Oliver North was to become the president of the National Rifle Association (NRA.)  Not because that doesn’t make perfect sense, but because I figured he would have a job in the Trump White House by now.  After all, he is an arrogant self-centered protofascist who thinks his military career qualifies him as an expert on all policy matters, foreign and domestic. Kind of like that Marine in the Trump White House, John Kelly.

Kelly’s most recent comments regarding the separation of children from their parents when a family is caught illegally crossing the border are a perfect example.  According to Kelly, it is “not cruel” to separate children from their parents.  After all, the parents are breaking a law and the law, of course, is the law, no matter how discriminatory it is or how arbitrarily it is applied.  Kelly followed these remarks by telling an interviewer that immigrants did not have the necessary skills to live in the United States.  Either Kelly is ignorant of the demographics of immigration or he is intentionally using xenophobic and racist rhetoric in his campaign against migration.  Either way, both remarks reveal a deeper fear and hatred that abounds in current regime in Washington.

Something else Kelly said last week was that he was not rich.  As far as I can tell, he is worth around 4.5 million dollars.  While that may not be rich to billionaires, let me tell you it is rich to most of the rest of us.  The question I have though is how does a career military officer become a multimillionaire?  This question leads me to wonder as to what types of graft and inside dealing did he participate in to accumulate that wealth?  I have friends and relatives who retired from the military as officers and have nothing close to that amount of assets unless they went into the private sector after their military retirement.  Kelly did no such thing.  In fact, his career took him from the Marines to Homeland Security.  From there, he was appointed to his current position in the Trump White House.  Like most of the individuals in Congress, it appears that General Kelly took advantage of his position to fatten up his bank account.  While Forbes magazine claimed in a December 22, 2016 article that most of Kelly’s worth came from his military pension, they did not break this number down or state where the rest of it came from.  An article on military pensions dated January 9, 2014 reported that a four-star general with forty years in the military would receive $237, 144 a year, with cost of living increases raising that amount each year.  If one counts Kelly’s original enlistment from 1970-1972, he was in the Marines for forty-two years.  Now I don’t understand high finance like a stockbroker on Wall Street, but I can do addition and multiplication.  I just can’t figure out how anyone collecting about a quarter million dollars a year for two years can have made that into 4.5 million .  In other words, if Forbes magazine is correct when it writes that Kelly made almost all of his 4.5 million dollars from his military pension and he had only been collecting that pension for less than a year when the Forbes article was written, how did he get to be worth 4.5 million dollars? Even when one adds the income Kelly reported on hispublic disclosure form he submitted before he was appointed by Trump to head DHS, the numbers do not seem to add up.  Maybe Kelly had friends who helped him invest some of that money? If so, I would like to meet those kind of people because they got some serious mojo going on. More likely, however, is something a little less magical.

Milo Minderbinder is a character in Joseph Heller’s classic satire of modern war, Catch-22.  Minderbinder is a sergeant who buys and sells everything and anything he can get his hands on, from prostitutes to military weaponry.  Furthermore, he sells to anyone, no matter what side they might be on. Journalist John Sack had a similar personality in his new journalism work on the Vietnam war, the book titled M.  The difference between Minderbinder and Sack’s profiteering cynic was that Sack’s character was a colonel, not an NCO.  I bring these characters up primarily in relation to a potential, yet unverified source of General Kelly’s financial fortunes.  It is a fairly well known fact, after all, that millions of US dollars went missing during the heyday of the US military occupation of Iraq.  Most of that money has not been officially recovered.  Other generals, like Kelly’s fellow Marine, Mad Dog Mattis, end up on the payroll of defense contractors (Mattis sits on the board of General Dynamics)–a much safer and legal way to engage in profiteering of war makingand preparing for war. As for Kelly, he was on the board of DynCorp—a security outfit known for its mercenaries in Iraq and its coziness with Homeland Security—for a while before he became head of DHS.

Like Oliver North, General Kelly is an embarrassment to some of his fellow marines.  The arrogance and self-importance of Kelly and North leaves a sour taste in the mouths of those who believe they served all those in the US, not just those whose politics they agreed with or whose bank accounts they could benefit from.  Those Marines (and their fellows in the other military branches) did what they did without expectations of reward during or after the time in.  Many of them have only their consciences to consider when their deeds in uniform are remembered.   From where I sit, the longer Kelly and Mattis serve the current regime in DC, the more I can see just the kind of consciences they have.

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Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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