Oliver North

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Oliver North

Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver Laurence North (USMC-Retired) (b. 1943) is an American government and political figure best known for his involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair.


Early life and career

North was born on October 7 1943 in San Antonio, Texas, was raised in Philmont, New York, and attended the State University of New York Brockport before attending the U.S. Naval Academy, from which he graduated in 1968.

North served as a Marine for twenty-two years, including service in the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for valor, and two Purple Hearts for wounds in combat.

North was assigned to the National Security Council staff of the Reagan administration in 1981, served as the United States government Counterterrorism Coordinator from 1983 to 1986, and eventually became Deputy Director for Political-Military Affairs. He coordinated the 1983 invasion of Grenada and the successful 1985 attempt to arrest the hijackers of the passenger ship Achille Lauro in Italy. He also helped plan the controversial 1986 air raids on Libyan military bases in Tripoli and Benghazi in retaliation for the bombing of a Berlin nightclub.

Iran-Contra Affair

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Oliver North testifies before Congress

North became famous due to his participation in the Iran-Contra Affair, in which he was the chief coordinator of the illegal sale of weapons via intermediaries to Iran, with the profits being channeled to the Contra rebel group in Nicaragua. He was responsible for the establishment of a covert network used for the purposes of aiding the Contras.

In November 1986, North was fired by President Reagan, and in July 1987 he was summoned to testify before televised hearings of a joint Congressional committee formed to investigate Iran-Contra. During the hearings, he admitted that he had lied to Congress, for which he was later charged. He defended his actions by stating that he believed in the goal of aiding the Contras, whom he saw as "freedom fighters," and said that he viewed the illegal Iran-Contra scheme as a "neat idea."

North was tried in 1988 in relation to his activities while at the National Security Council. He was indicted on sixteen felony counts and on May 4, 1989, he was convicted of three: accepting an illegal gratuity, aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and destruction of documents. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell on July 5, 1989, to a three-year suspended prison term, two years probation, $150,000 in fines, and 1,200 hours community service.

However, on July 20, 1990, a three-judge appeals panel overturned North's conviction in advance of further proceedings on the grounds that his public testimony may have prejudiced his right to a fair trial. [1] (http://www.picard.tnstate.edu/~cmcginnis/PISI431-I.htm) The Supreme Court declined to review the case, and Judge Gesell dismissed the charges on September 16, 1991, after hearings on the immunity issue, on the motion of the independent counsel.

Essentially, North's convictions were overturned because he had been granted limited immunity for his Congressional testimony, and this testimony was deemed to have influenced witnesses at his trial.

Later life and career

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Oliver North signing one of his books

In 1994, North unsuccessfully ran for the Senate as the Republican candidate in Virginia. Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia endorsed Marshall Coleman, a Republican who ran as an independent, instead of North. North narrowly lost to incumbent Democrat Charles Robb. North's candidacy was documented in the 1996 film A Perfect Candidate.

North has written several best-selling books including Under Fire, One More Mission, War Stories — Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mission Compromised, and The Jericho Sanction. He is also a syndicated columnist, and is the host of the television show War Stories with Oliver North and a regular commentator on Hannity and Colmes, both on the Fox News Channel. In addition, he regularly speaks at both public and private events.

North is married to Betsy, and has four children.

Political legacy

North was a figure of great controversy, with supporters enjoying his impassioned defense of his actions, and opponents disapproving of his breaking the law.

Despite North's history (and indeed, in some cases, because of it), he receives support from some conservatives. Some believe that North was used as a scapegoat for the Iran–Contra Affair, and that other top government officials in the Reagan administration laid the blame on him. Some hold the view that North's goal of defeating communist expansion was just, and the way he tried to achieve it is irrelevant. Some appreciate his advocacy of conservative political causes.

North's critics argue that in a democracy and a nation of laws, one man cannot act above the law regardless of how righteous he believes his goals to be. Some point out that his activities substantially contributed to an attempted overthrow of a sovereign, democratically elected government, and to terrorism.

External links


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