By Andrew Bosworth, PhD
Oliver North, host of “War Stories” on Fox News, devoted an entire hour to “jihad.” Presented as a “special investigation,” it replaced the normal format of the show: a blood-and-soil adoration of military power; a “my-country-right-or-wrong” mentality; and the insistence that war fits into some kind of larger purpose or design. North really does love the smell of napalm in the morning…
In the latest “War Stories” episode, some of the major distortions, omissions and lies deserve mention. For example, Oliver North linked Yasser Arafat to Radical Islam. While Arafat certainly employed terror tactics – and practically invented the concept of “skyjacking’ – Arafat was a secular leader of a nationalist movement. His most famous declarations and programs made absolutely NO mention of Islam. So why is North eager to depict all Middle Eastern anti-western movements as Islamic? The simplicity harkens back to the glory days of the Cold War, when communists all emanated from the same monolithic bloc.
Oliver North then turned his attention to Iran. There was no mention that under the Reagan administration North helped sell weapons to the Ayatollah Khomeini and then used the ill-gotten gains to sponsor death squads in Central America. That was the reason for North’s mug-shot. North was separated from terrorism by zero degrees.
The only reference to the Shah of Iran in “War Stories” was that he was the “toast of Hollywood” and that he was usurped by the radical Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. North never mentioned that the US had helped install the Shah after “Operation Ajax” overthrew the democratically-elected president of Iran, Dr. Mossadegh, whose fatal mistake was a plan to nationalize oil. North never mentioned that the Shah employed a secret police force, SAVAK, which was world famous for torture and other human rights abuses. Domestic oppression was a major cause of the revolution. The Shah… the “toast of Hollywood!”
The 1979 Revolution in Iran is also depicted, by North, as some kind of reaction to Israel’s persistent military victories far to the West. Iran, however, had virtually nothing to do with Israel during this period and was never ranked among the nations that attacked Israel (as were Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt).
Iran’s 1979 Revolution was a reaction, instead, to the dislocation of modernization and westernization in the cities, particularly in their new slums, and like other revolutions it coincided with a population explosion. The 1979 Revolution was also about preserving, for a critical mass of Iranians (especially in the 80s) the identity of Persian civilization. It was about building atop the dozens of layers of empires already established. But none of this fits into today’s agenda.
And Hezbollah, for Oliver North, is entirely a creation of Iran. Hezbollah accepts arms and money from Iran (and Syria), and has employed terrorist tactics, but their origins lie in local resistance to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. It’s hard to believe that a million and a half Hezbollah supporters can all be Iranian stooges. But that’s what they are for North: stooges.
This “blame-the-outsiders” mentality is even evident in the neo-con analysis of Iraq: if it weren’t for those pesky Jordanians and Syrians students infiltrating the border…North thinks all resistance is Al Qaeda; he still hasn’t heard of POI (“pissed off Iraqis”). The well-worn script goes back to Vietnam: if it weren’t for the Ho Chi Minh Trail…
North then discussed a “California teenager” and “boy next-door” who became an agent for Al Qaeda, apparently lured by the Internet(s). No doubt, if the young man professed violence against civilians then those charges are serious. What is most disturbing about North’s segment, however, is his linking of treason to dissent. It’s not the first time that North or Fox News has tried this brownshirt tactic.
The boy’s parents are shown having wandered from the path of American Goodness because the father, as it turned out, was a hippie. Which meant what? That the teenager could surf Islamic websites and chat with clerics without having to type “POS” or “Parents are looking Over my Shoulder?”
To complete the insinuation, North includes footage of the 1960s summer-of-love, of its flower power, with long-hairs smearing each other with body paint. Lucy in the Sky with Osama. And it’s the first depiction of the acid-rock culture as a gateway to terrorism.
North then stated to Vice President Dick Cheney (better known as the “bagman” for Halliburton) that “some people don’t accept we are at war…” The meta-message here is that Americans opposed to a war (which could have been avoided and which can still be reversed) are traitors. It’s a slippery slope from an anti-war demonstration to a Pakistani madrassa.
Oliver North decided that “jihad” specifically means “to expand or defend the Islamic state.” There is a huge difference, however, between “expand,” which is what a tiny fraction of Muslim clerics desire (and which would include spreading Islam into Europe) and “defend,” which is what many more Muslims desire (and which would include removing US forces from the Middle East). North seizes upon the feverish pronouncements of a handful of Muslim clerics to generalize about the motivations of 1.2 billion people – an absurdity matched only by Glenn Beck.
Interestingly, this segment of “War Stories” began to flirt with the nuances of Islam, pointing out that it has several currents. The show even addressed the possibility that “jihad” meant spreading peace by revealing the peace in one’s heart.
That was dangerous territory, however. Those few seconds threatened to expose the complexity of the Middle East. They also threatened to suggest the possibility that America is similarly divided between modernists and theocrats.
The entire program could have unraveled at that point. So Oliver North rushed to this grand question: “It’s a global war… Can the West prevail?” North has yet to realize that the next world war, or “Crusade,” as Pres. Bush once called it, will produce no winners. And so the struggle against warmongering and fundamentalism must begin at home.