People who have been honest, just and compassionate deserve every second chance they can get – but how bitter it is when people who have inflicted only harm are rewarded nonetheless. The naming of Oliver North to the presidency of the National Rifle Association (NRA) is a flagrant display of cynicism. It confirms that the NRA lacks not only a moral compass, but also the most basic respect for the lives of all those who find themselves in the line of fire.
Oliver North was the architect of the illegal exchange known as the Iran-Contra scandal through which the United States sold arms to Iran to finance the Nicaraguan Contra. This was done behind the backs of the people of the United States and at the expense of thousands of Nicaraguan lives. If that scandal had not been revealed – despite North’s efforts to hide it by destroying sheaves of evidence – it is possible that we would never have achieved peace in Central America.
It’s no surprise that the NRA would choose an unscrupulous hawk as its leader. In many ways, North and the NRA deserve each other. An organization dedicated to corrupting the U.S. political system by injecting massive sums of money in exchange for paralysis and indifference in the face of mass shootings finds in Oliver North a leader worthy of its mission.
I speak from experience. The NRA was a fierce opponent of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that my second presidential administration presented before the General Assembly of the United Nations to prohibit the international sale of arms to states, groups or individuals when evidence exists to show the arms will be used to violate human rights or international law, or perpetrate acts of terrorism. NRA lobbyists did everything they could to boycott the agreement, although they were unsuccessful. The ATT, small Costa Rica’s largest contribution to the world, took effect in 2014 and has been signed by 130 countries.
Oliver North never served time for his crimes in the in the Iran-Contra affair. History, nevertheless, provides its own sentences, and there is no immunity from those.
Oscar Arias is a former president of Costa Rica (1986-1990, 2006-2010) and Nobel Peace Laureate (1987).