Iran-Contra Scandalby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
For those who are old enough to remember the Iran-Contra scandal, the name they remember most is that of Oliver North. Since then he has remained a prominent figure on the national stage. But who is he really?
Oliver North was born in San Antonio, Texas, on October 7, 1943.1 A graduate of the Naval Academy, North served as a Marine for twenty-two years, receiving multiple decorations, including two Purple Hearts, the Silver Star, and the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam.2 He could have had more Purple Hearts, but turned them down so that he could stay with his men.
North joined the National Security Council staff in 1981 and went on to become the deputy director of Political-Military Affairs under Ronald Reagan1 and in 1983 the nation's counter-terrorism coordinator until 1986 when he was fired. Although he had helped plan the rescue of 804 students on Grenada, the capture of those who hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro, and the attack on Qaddafi's terrorist bases in Libya, he had also been selling arms to Iran and channeling the proceeds to anti-communist rebels in South America called contras. This commerce was against at least two congressional embargoes on trade and support for these groups.3
When North went before the Congressional committees to be questioned about his involvement with the whole affair, he was granted partial immunity. This immunity would later help him during criminal proceedings. North consistently denied wrong doing and emphasized presidential involvement.3 When asked about covering up his activities to the point of lying to inquiring committees, he said, “And I was put in this situation where having been raised to know what the Ten Commandments are, that it would be wrong to do that, but I never perceived that it would be unlawful.” North went on to tell the committee that he did not feel like he had been working in a den of thieves, but among honorable men. 3
During these hearings he was asked about an illegal gift in the form of a $16,000 home security system which he had received. He claimed his family’s lives and his own life were threatened. When asked for details he cited multiple instances when he had received death threats made against his and his family’s lives, and several instances when thugs and terrorists had actually attempted to carry out these threats. The terrorist mainly responsible, according to North, was a man named Abu Nidal, who worked for the Libyan government. On one occasion he and his family were sequestered on a military base for their own protection after a group of armed men, who had been arrested during an attempt to assassinate the North family, fled bail.4
North was obviously unrepentant of his Contra-dealings, which he admitted were illegal, but insisted that he had done the right thing. The hearings finished in 1988 when North was indicted for crimes concerning his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair. He was eventually found guilty on three counts, but in 1990 all of his convictions were overturned on the basis of the limited immunity granted by the congressional hearing.3
North gained the Republican nomination for the Senate in the state of Virginia in 1994. He was defeated by Charles Spittal Robb. Unlike many defeated candidates, North did not drop out of the public eye, but has remained very much in the middle of it.1
Oliver North is a published author of both novels and non-fiction works. His well known books include War Stories, an account of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Mission Compromised, the first in a series of novels.2
In addition to writing books, North has a nationally syndicated radio program called “Common Sense Radio,” which is broadcast by Radio America in Washington D.C. He also has a weekly documentary “War Stories” which airs every Sunday on the FOX News Channel.
North values family and home life. He is married with four children. He proudly announces that as his greatest accomplishment.2 North also has a scholarship program for children of soldiers killed in combat called Freedom Alliance.
Mr. North wrote about President George W. Bush, "As evidenced by his words and actions, President Bush apparently recognizes the truths that his faith dictates, fundamental truths that include hope that others will accept Jesus Christ as their savior. This is the desire of every Christian. We're supposed to respect the beliefs of others -- and pray that God will grant the openness of heart and mind to see the truth to those who do not understand or accept. ...We're blessed to have such a man as our president."5
Oliver North came to the attention of the American people during the Iran-Contra affair, and he has managed to stay more or less in the public eye since that time. He is something of a paradox. Here is a man who appears to love his country, but breaks its laws. Here is a man who seems to know right and wrong, but who also appears to have engaged in destroying evidence of wrong doing. Here is a man who seems to have ambition, but he turned down purple hearts in Vietnam, so he could stay with his men. And here is a man who is accomplished as an author, a marine, a T.V. and radio personality, and yet he claims his greatest accomplishment is being a husband and father of four. What a fascinating and complex man!
1“Oliver North” <http://www.who2.com/olivernorth.html> 11/16/04
2“Oliver North” <http://www.northamerican.com/bio.htm> 11/16/04
3“United States vs. Oliver L. North” <http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/walsh/chap_02.htm> 11/16/04
4 Mikkelson, Barbara and David. “Oliver North” 1995-2004. Last update, 2002. <http://www.snopes.com/rumors/north.htm> 11/16/04
5 North, Oliver. January 22, 2005 "Of faith and freedom" <http://www.townhall.com/columnists/ollienorth/on20050122.shtml>