Activision uses convicted felon Oliver North to sell ‘Call of Duty’

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, May 2, 2012 16:54 EDT
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Oliver North appearing in a trailer for "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2." Screenshot via YouTube.
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Col. Oliver North, a man convicted on multiple counts during the Iran-Contra scandal — who by his own admission had a “fairly good relationship” with the brutal, drug-running Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega — is apparently the new frontman for Activision’s next “Call of Duty” game.

In a video published this week, North does his best to fearmonger about fictional threats, like a hacker taking control of every single airplane over the U.S., plugging “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2″ in an unusual trailer that appears to depict the hacktivst movement “Anonymous” as “the enemy.”

While it wouldn’t be the first time a shooter game has seized upon current political memes — for instance, the next “Rainbow Six” game from publisher Ubi-Soft uses a fictional terrorist threat from the 99 Percent movement — it is the most galling yet, especially considering their new spokesperson’s checkered past.

In short, North was one of the most stunningly corrupt officials to face criminal charges during the Reagan administration.

During the Iran-Contra scandal, Americans got their first clear look at how the National Security Council uses the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in actual black ops — in this particular case, the U.S. was using money from the sales of illegal arms and drugs to funnel weapons to rebel fighters in south America — and North was smack in the middle of it.

In his diaries, revealed by a congressional investigation, North wrote that he had a “fairly good relationship” with Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who’d worked with U.S. intelligence for years before leading the country. As Panama’s notorious military intelligence chief, Noriega was said to have long standing ties to drug lord Pablo Escobar — yet North actually pitched President Ronald Reagan on Noriega’s plan to help America’s covert operations in Nicaragua, provided the administration “help clean up his image.” North even wrote that an extra $1 million, taken from illegal profits gained through the sale of hundreds of missiles to Iran, might help seal the deal.

Other documents revealed that North and Noriega had discussed setting up a commando training camp in Panama where Nicaraguans and Afghanistan’s rebels — who later became Al Qaeda — could train for military-style operations. Noriega was later convicted in the U.S. of racketeering and drug trafficking, and he’s currently residing in Panama after spending time in French and American prisons.

During the investigations into Iran-Contra, numerous pieces of evidence surfaced that North and the National Security Council were aware that drug-running channels were being used to funnel weapons from the U.S. into Nicaragua, and some hints emerged that President Reagan did too. Two agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency even testified that North had wanted to take $1.5 million in cartel bribe money and give it to the Nicaraguans, and North convinced Reagan officials to intercede for a drug-running Honduran general who’d helped the Nicaraugans before.

Gen. José Bueso Rosa, who’d planned to fund the assassination of the president of Honduras with a $40 million sale of cocaine in the U.S., was later credited by the Justice Department with hatching “the most significant case of narco-terrorism yet discovered.” In spite of this, Reagan officials led by North were able to get Rosa’s eventual jail sentence toned down to just five years in a Florida prison.

Though charged with seven felonies and convicted on three specifically relating to actions he undertook to cover-up the scandal, North ultimately saw his convictions overturned on a technicality. The American Civil Liberties Union argued that witnesses against him, many of them convicted felons, may have been unduly prejudiced by his earlier testimony that a congressional committee had deemed to be immune from prosecution, and a judge agreed.

North has since gone on to write several books on military history and appear on the Fox News Channel as a conservative political commentator. His involvement with Activision’s “Call of Duty,” while unusual, is also not entirely unexpected. Prior games in the series have quoted controversial American figures like Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Mcnamara, and the first “Call of Duty: Black Ops” title fictionalized behind-the-scenes events following the failed overthrow of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

This video was published to YouTube on April 30, 2012.

Image: Screenshot via YouTube.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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