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The right's Chicago trial.

The Right's Chicago Trial

Fascism with a human face, in this case the visage ofLieut. Col. Oliver North, disturbed more than the left political community, which has been correctly proclaiming a Reagan putsch for years. As President Reagan ages in the attic, the youthful colonel spoke up as Reagan ecorche, self-satisfied in his contempt for Congress, for law, for the Constitution. If the efficient procedures of the soap opera could be applied, Reagan would now be written out of the script and Ollie brought in as the new lead, as good an actor at half the age. But the scriptwriters are already in Iowa, and Olliemania will have the staying power of the hula hoop.

A friend of mine, active in the New Left and the antiwarmovement at the end of the 1960s, remarked to me that North reminded him of himself twenty years ago: ebullient, brimful of confidence as the exponent of history's true mission, histrionically effective in playing to the gallery to the discomfort of vested authority. The Iran/contra hearings have, in a sense, been the right's echo of the Chicago conspiracy trial. In both cases those in the dock or at the witness table had the political certitude to face down their inquisitors and seize control of the proceedings. The Chicago trial concluded radicalism's season as the pacemaker of political discourse, and the Iran/contra inquiry is a similar swan song for the right.

This is not to insinuate that Reaganites are the moralequivalents of radicals. The Chicago Eight were trying to stop the kind of war Colonel North was trying to start, and they were the sort of people he had in mind when he collaborated in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's secret contingency plan to suspend the Constitution and appoint military commanders to run state and local governments under martial law during a national crisis, understood to include domestic opposition to a military invasion abroad. It is still unclear whether Reagan ever signed an executive order consummating North's vision. Those plans for martial law may be in the files now, waiting to become operational. When the excellent Representative Jack Brooks tried to question North about the secret contingency plan, Senator Daniel Inouye, sheeplike, cut him off.

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Title Annotation:Beat the Devil; Iran Contra hearings
Author:Cockburn, Alexander
Publication:The Nation
Date:Aug 1, 1987
Previous Article:Bosco's coup.
Next Article:Ralph's Thermidor.

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