An Interview with Oliver North: Part 1
- Janet Chismar Senior Editor, News & Culture
- 2003 10 Oct
Oliver L. North is a combat decorated Marine, the founder of a small business, a syndicated columnist, the host of a nationally-syndicated daily radio show and the host of "War Stories" on the FOX News Channel, yet claims his most important accomplishment as being "the husband of one and the father of four."
Born in San Antonio, Texas, North graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and served 22 years as a U.S. Marine. Assigned to the National Security Council Staff in the Reagan administration, Colonel North was the United States government's Counter-Terrorism Coordinator from 1983-1986 and was involved in planning the rescue of medical students on the Island of Grenada. He also played a major role in the daring capture of the hijackers of the cruise ship Achille Lauro. After helping plan the U.S. raid on Muammar Gaddafi's terrorist bases in Libya, North was targeted for assassination by Abu Nidal, one of the world's deadliest assassin.
His first two books, Under Fire and One More Mission were international best sellers. His latest book, Mission Compromised also rose to the New York Times best-seller list and was the number one fiction best seller in the month of September for LifeWay Christian Stores.
In his interview with Crosswalk.com, North discusses his experiences in Iraq, his new book and approaches to terrorism.
Crosswalk: One of the things I wanted to talk to you about is your time in Iraq. What spiritual lessons did you learn there, and how has God used that experience to grow your relationship with Him?
North: I survived the experience, which is ample evidence – and I’ve seen it so many times – of God’s power to intervene in my life. Getting shot up a lot and actually shot down once in the helicopter without anyone getting hurt is a vivid example of the power of prayer. Those kinds of experiences remind me even more vividly of His sovereignty.
Crosswalk.com: What was the most difficult thing you experienced or witnessed in Iraq?
North: Oh, just keeping up with 19-year-old kids. There were a couple of times on the special we put together for FOX, when you can hear me huffing and puffing to keep up with these youngsters. A firefight would erupt not too far from where I was standing, so you’d have to run a couple hundred meters. I’m in fairly good shape, particularly for a guy my age, and I’m still huffing and puffing. One of the sergeants, you can hear him off camera saying, “Hey, Colonel, you all right?” So I said, “Yea, why?” “Cause you’re sweatin’ like a hog.”
Crosswalk.com: You’d just had basic training all over again!
North: Yeah, I did. But I think for a lot of my contemporaries, fellow journalists who were out there in combat for the first time, the idea of seeing men hurt and killed right there in front of you, was the hardest thing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think anyone’s ever really been to a war ever gets over that kind of thing, but the awareness beforehand that it’s going to happen, makes it a little easier. It brings home to you that war is about the most awful thing that man does to himself, yet in the midst of it, you see some very, very inspiring things.
What I tell people, a young American soldier in that circumstance, before he went, wouldn’t even share a candy bar with his younger brother. And yet, this is a kid who will give away his last drop of water to a wounded comrade, who will share his last meal with a hungry Iraqi kid, and who will share his ammunition in a firefight with his mates because he knows that’s what expected of him. And so there is great inspiration that even old soldiers like me can take from those kinds of experiences.
Crosswalk.com: Would you do it again?
North: Well, in fact, FOX wants me to do it again, so I’ll probably go back out there before the end of the year. A lot of it is driven by what time I’m available –publishing schedules and book releases. I’ll probably end up going back out there and living with the troops. I’m not big on living in Baghdad or Kabul. I don’t think it ought to be about the journalist. I think it ought to be about those youngsters and letting people hear from them what it is that they are doing.
Crosswalk.com: Transitioning to the topic of books, I wanted to talk a little bit about how The Jericho Sanction differs from Mission Compromised. Where does it pick up?
North: A lot of people ask me at the end of Mission Compromised if Peter Newman makes it. Obviously, this is the sequel to that last book and explains how all of that happened and provides another exciting episode in the life of a guy and his wife who go through some very, very dramatic events. And even though it’s certainly fiction and set in a very exciting genre, if you will, the kinds of circumstances that they confront are very much like those that the rest of us confront. It might not be quite as exciting in our day-to-day life, but it’s all the same. Hopefully people will draw from it not just a great read, but maybe some inspiration for their own particular set of circumstances.
Crosswalk.com: That’s a good segue to my next question, because I was going to ask, “Are there spiritual/moral lessons people can take away from reading The Jericho Sanction?”
North: People ask me why I write about these kinds of things and why I put these kinds of people in the context that I put them in. I think it was Mark Twain who said, when he was asked why he wrote about certain things, “I have to write about the things I know.” Well, I have to write about the things I know. I can’t make them up, so I write about people I’ve known and kinds of events that I’ve experienced.
These really are the kinds of folks that we’ve got. I reported that youngsters out there in Iraq hold Bible studies. The fact that we’ve got folks who carry weapons and wear 3-pound helmets and 20-pound flak jackets but also carry Bibles, ought not to come as a shock to people – although, apparently, it does to a lot of my colleagues in the media. So, I’m hopeful that the American people, when they read books like this, take some kind of inspiration from it that we’ve got some really remarkable young people who have put their trust in the Lord. Peter Newman certainly comes to that conclusion and like a lot of us, sometimes it takes a two-by-four upside the head to get there.
Crosswalk.com: What do you want readers to be thinking about when they put down this book?
North: There’s an overlying theme in this book and that is, “How does the United States deal with the issue of terrorism and what should we be doing?” Of course there’s a lot of different ways of handling that: one is to make concessions to them; one is to kill them … if you’re going to decide to lift the current prohibition on assassination, as some advocate. The Jericho sanction is the Israeli model for how to deal with the ultimate kinds of threats to the government of Israel; it’s very accurate. The Jericho missiles that are out there have nuclear warheads on them. And if the Israelis are confronted by a weapon of mass destruction that kills thousands of Israelis, they will reply, just as I quote Israeli officials in that book, “Respond the only way we can.” What does that mean? That means what’s in this book.
And so you ask yourself at the end of reading this trilogy, are we doing this the right way? Terrorism clearly is, if you will, World War IV. (The third World War would be the Cold War.) How we fight this war is the question we ought to be asking ourselves. And, of course, there are a lot of questions about what did the President know, and when did he know it, and how did certain things find their way into a State of the Union address? Far more important than 16 words in a State of the Union address is the way the United States confronts the issue of, if you will, jihad terrorism. This book tries to at least offer one scenario for that. The third book will explore a third way.
Crosswalk.com: I was going to ask you about the third book. Have you started working on it?
North: Absolutely. We’ve had several different discussions about it – who the next enemy is that we’re going to have to confront. I think people can pretty much conclude that the neighborhood around Iraq where this book is set is not a particularly friendly neighborhood. And so you’re going to see some more of that neighborhood.
Editor’s Note: Stop back tomorrow for Part Two of our interview, as Oliver North talks about his marriage and children.
Read our review of The Jericho Sanction here.