Oliver North: Obama 'Deeply Seeks Affirmation from America's Enemies'
June 11, 2009 - 9:17 AMAppearing on CNSNews.com's "Online with Terry Jeffrey," retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North said that President Obama "deeply seeks affirmation from America's enemies."<br />
North was asked about a passage in Obama’s highly publicized speech to the Muslim world, delivered at Cairo University last Thursday, in which Obama said that after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks the United States took actions that contradicted American traditions and ideals.
“9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country,” Obama told the Egyptian audience. “The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.”
North argued that Obama’s speech was misguided and historically inaccurate.
“There’s several aspects of what he said, and the way in which he says it, that have me deeply alarmed,” said North. “First, this is a president who deeply seeks affirmation from America’s enemies. He somehow is apparently convinced that, by being this better person than his predecessors, that it will make people like the ayatollahs running Tehran, or the brutal leadership in Pyongyang, or even Osama Bin Laden to renounce what they have intended to do and what they plan to carry out. … But, in fact, we ought to know better. History teaches us differently. History also teaches us that we’re not a brutal country.”
“This president wants people to love him,” said North. “He believes that he is an enlightened person that understands better than the rest of us mere mortals what went on.”
“And Obama doesn’t understand he’s not going to change the hearts of those who rule in Pyongyang, or Tehran, or Osama Bin Laden, or any of his minions by being this enlightened person,” said North. “They will still hate Americans and make us their number one target.”
North appeared on “Online with Terry Jeffrey” to discuss his latest book, “American Heroes: In the Fight Against Radical Islam.”
Here is a transcript of the full interview:
Terry Jeffrey: Welcome to "Online with Terry Jeffrey." Our guest for this episode is bestselling author and war correspondent Oliver North. Ollie is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for valor, and two Purple Hearts for his service with the Marines in Vietnam. From 1983-86, he served in President Reagan’s White House as the counterterrorism coordinator on the National Security Council staff. He is the founder of the Freedom Alliance. He is also a New York Times bestselling author and host of “War Stories” on Fox News. His latest book is “American Heroes in the Fight against Radical Islam.”
Ollie, you’ve written a number of books --
Oliver North: Eleven of them.
Jeffrey: -- bestselling books. Why this book? Why did you write this book?
North: Well, I wanted the American people to see who these young Americans really are. They’ve never gotten a fair break from our colleagues in the mainstream media, and you guys know that.
They’ve--If you ask your average American to name a place in Iraq, right after the word Baghdad, they will say Abu Ghraib, as though that were the commonplace kind of activity that took place over there.
The sad fact of it is these are the finest, brightest, best educated Americans who have ever served in any armed force ever, and what they offer us is a better hope for our future. These are the future leaders of this country. These are the young Americans who have put their lives on the line--all volunteers--and they have never gotten a fair break from the media. So, this is their story.
I might have been there to get it. I might be standing next to the eyewitness participant from the gunfight that we just aired on Fox News, but these are remarkable for courage, their perseverance and their true Christian compassion. They’ve changed the world.
Jeffrey: You tell a lot of inspiring stories in this book, and lately the CIA has been under attack by certain people in this town. President Obama released those memos from the Justice Department explaining the legal rationale for the enhanced interrogation techniques that they used. Nancy Pelosi is saying the CIA misleads Congress all the time. In your book, you tell a story about the Special Activities Division of the CIA and someone named Mike Spann--
North: Mike Spann.
Jeffrey: What’s that?
North: Right. Mike Spann’s picture is up here in the boardroom at Freedom Alliance because he’s an American hero. He’s the first American killed in Operation Enduring Freedom. He was killed in the process of rounding up Taliban supporters, and al-Qaeda supporters and, of course, brutally murdered--and reflects the kind of good person we’ve got serving, and again now given the back of the hand by the administration and by, unfortunately, most of the media.
Thank God, Dick Cheney has stood up to defend what they’ve done and make it known to people that those enhanced interrogation techniques--that we now know what they are--were never regarded to be torture until this administration came into town. I’ve been waterboarded. I used to waterboard people as a--
Jeffrey: Did you go through SERE training?
North: I did, and I was a SERE instructor. So, I’ve waterboarded people.
Jeffrey: So this was routine?
North: Terry, none of us thought it was torture. We all knew it was very difficult, certainly very uncomfortable. But we also knew something that every American taken hostage by these people knows. Most of them are worth more alive than dead, and until we revealed what we were doing in those enhanced interrogation techniques, they worked.
Jeffrey: Ollie, you personally underwent waterboarding in your training as a U.S. Marine--
Jeffrey: --somewhere along the line?
North: And I did it to others, Terry.
Jeffrey: You did it to others. So, you don’t think it’s an intrinsically evil act--
Jeffrey: --to pour water over someone’s face?
North: But I am concerned that I’m liable to get sued by some of my former students. (Laughter)
Jeffrey: Well, the statute of limitations might have run out.
North: I hope.
Jeffrey: Actually, if you read the Justice Department memos laying out the legal rationale for these enhanced interrogation techniques, one of the things they say is each one of these ten techniques--of which waterboarding was--
Jeffrey: ---the most harsh, were actually derived from the SERE training that you underwent.
Jeffrey: And there was years and years of experience in the U.S. military of what actually happens to people--
Jeffrey: --in the short run and the long run.
North: Who’ve been told to stand naked in the middle of the desert when it gets cold at night, who’ve been stuffed into what they call a hot box, which is about one tenth the size of a phone booth and have insects dropped on your head, who’ve been--they’ve dropped things that sound like--you can’t see, of course, it’s dark--and you think it might be snake but you don’t know. All those things that create uncertainty in the mind. All those who’ve graduated from SERE training in the U.S. military, soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and marines, know exactly what it’s like.
Jeffrey: Well, here’s the interesting thing. At CNSNews.com, where I’m the editor in chief, when these memos came out, our White House correspondent, Fred Lucas, tried to find out: Is the U.S. military, right this moment with President Obama as commander-in-chief, in fact carrying on with waterboarding troops in the course of their training? And they kicked us up through several people in the Pentagon, and we finally got to the person they said this’ll give you the answer.” He said, “Well, we’re no going to tell you.” But I assume--is it reasonable to assume that under Commander in Chief Obama, we are in fact going to be waterboarding our troops as we are doing?
North: But not our enemies.
Jeffrey: But not our enemies.
North: I think it’s reasonable to assume that we are still training American soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and marines to the very toughest of conditions because that’s what they can expect while they’re deployed, if they’re taken hostage by enemy. But unlike us, they will decapitate an American. We won’t.
We’ve never jammed bamboo shoots up underneath somebody’s fingernails. We didn’t disembowel them like the Japanese did and perform medical experiments on people – sawing off limbs, chopping off fingers, cutting off ears. We didn’t do those things. That would be torture. We didn’t torture.
Jeffrey: And, in fact, the medical data from many, many years of U.S. service personnel being subjected to these enhanced interrogation techniques demonstrated the there was no short-term or long-term health or psychological implications of these techniques.
North: Indeed, although you never want to be exposed to it again if you can avoid it.
Jeffrey: Yet, you have President Obama, you have Senator (Carl) Levin (D.-Mich.) the other day, arguing that when it may be okay to do this to our troops, it’s not okay to do this to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11.
North: Well, unfortunately, we’ve forgotten 9/11, and unfortunately, Terry, you’ve got a political elite in Washington, some in both parties, who have forgotten the horror of that day.
I won’t. I was on Northwest Airlines Flight 238, due to land at Reagan National Airport at about 9:50 that morning, and we’re coming down the Potomac River with the wheels down and the flaps down. Anybody who’s flown into Reagan National knows the route that comes down the river to avoid the federal area on the left, avoid the big buildings in Rosslyn on the right. You can actually look out and look up at the buildings in Rosslyn. And suddenly the airplane has to pull up. And what had happened, of course, there was another airplane flying up the river, passed right over top of National Airport, banked hard to the right and slammed into the West wall of the Pentagon. We ended up landing at Dulles Airport among hundreds of other airplanes that were forced to divert from their original destinations.
Got in to the city that day and, Terry, you know I’ve had a few of those moments in life where you just never forget what happened. Watching thousands of people walking across the Roosevelt Bridge to escape Washington, because the Metro was shut down, there was a bomb scare at the State Department. People walking out of that city, young Americans helping old Americans, people pushing wheelchairs, black and whites helping, probably some Republicans helping Democrats--getting across the Roosevelt Bridge--
Jeffrey: Maybe even some Democrats helping Republicans.
North: Uh, maybe. But trying to get out of Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital, and looking to my right as I’m stopped there at the bridge by the state police, and seeing that pall of smoke from the Pentagon--not yet seeing until hours later that day when I finally got to Fox, seeing exactly how devastating it was. We have forgotten what it was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did, and how important it was to prevent something like that from happening again in California, because they already had it planned. They were getting ready to carry it out, and had he not revealed that information, thousands more may have died that way.
Jeffrey: And the fact of the matter is the Justice Department memos that Obama himself released say that, after he was subjected to the enhanced interrogation techniques--including waterboarding--Khalid Sheikh Mohammed revealed information about the so-called Second Wave attack and they were able to round up this East Asian terrorist cell, the al Guraba cell, 17 members, that had already been tasked--
Jeffrey: --with the job of hijacking an airplane and flying it into a building in L.A. And the C IA today, by the way, Ollie, says they stand by those facts.
And yet, you talk about 9/11 being a watershed moment in the history of this country, and also the way we look at radical Islamic terrorists. Let me read you something that President Obama said today in Cairo about the way America responded after 9/11.
He said: “9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.”
North: And, of course, he gets a rousing round of applause. Here’s--There’s several aspects of what he said, and the way in which he says it, that have me deeply alarmed. First, this is a president who deeply seeks affirmation from America’s enemies. He somehow is apparently convinced that, by being this better person than his predecessors, that it will make people like the ayatollahs running Tehran, or the brutal leadership in Pyongyang, or even Osama Bin Laden to renounce what they have intended to do and what they plan to carry out. Look--
Jeffrey: He literally thinks he’s going to change their hearts.
North: But, in fact, we ought to know better. History teaches us differently. History also teaches us that we’re not a brutal country. We’re not, as he put in that speech in Cairo, “a colonial power”. We never have been. The United States of America has sent its sons and daughters around the world, not for gold, or colonial conquest, or oil. They’ve done it to give others the hope of liberty, because it will make us a safer place as a consequence. He does not, apparently, grasp that.
Jeffrey: It was a serious misreading of history, was it not, for him to conflate the history of the United States of America with the colonial powers of Europe?
North: And, of course, mentioning slavery as though, as though--Think of this: History teaches us that about 90 percent of the slaves, the black slaves from the heart of Africa, were shipped to other countries, Europe initially, then to the Caribbean, and eventually to the United States--were blacks who were not Muslims, grabbed by Muslims and sold to Western slavers. He didn’t mention that, either, and you cannot ignore the realities of history if you’re going to lead us into the future.
Jeffrey: And at the core of his analysis of what’s going on in the War on Terror, vis a vis what you said, it seems to be he’s saying that the root cause of it really is the perception among Muslims about the United States of America. And in this remark here he made in Cairo today that America in fact acted contrary to our traditions and our ideals in our response to 9/11, that we are giving some Muslims legitimate reason to feel badly about the United States of America. Therefore, if we change our behavior, we will change the behavior of these people who might be inclined to act against us.
North: Well, unfortunately, as we know from his arrival in Riyadh, Osama Bin Laden’s not reading from his playbook. Osama Bin Laden, when he makes that audio tape and has it released to coincide with the president’s arrival in Riyadh, doesn’t do it because he wants people to love him. Osama does, or Obama does. He doesn’t do it because he wants people to admire him, he doesn’t. Osama Bin Laden wants people to fear him. This president wants people to love him.
He believes that he is an enlightened person that understands better than the rest of us mere mortals what went on. Perhaps he’s forgotten what happened the day before he left for this trip to Riyadh and Cairo. I don’t, because there was a U.S. Army soldier who was murdered, and another one who was gunned down in front of a recruiting station in Arkansas. And they were gunned down not by some, you know, bank robber. They were gunned down by a person who had been converted to radical Islam, okay, and he admits that.
The FBI apparently had been watching this man for some time, ever since he had been arrested carrying a false Somali passport, trying to get terrorist training. And yet, Bin Laden gets it, but Obama doesn’t. And Obama doesn’t understand he’s not going to change the hearts of those who rule in Pyongyang, or Tehran, or Osama Bin Laden, or any of his minions by being this enlightened person. They will still hate Americans and make us their number one target.
Jeffrey: There were only 19 al-Qaeda terrorist that were dispatched to carry out the 9/11 terrorist attacks--
North: 20, maybe, yeah.
Jeffrey: 20, perhaps 20, but we know that--
North: 19 died.
Jeffrey: --19 actually perpetrated it, and this al Guraba cell that we know from a Justice Department memo was tasked with carrying out a similar attack on L.A. That was only 17 people. We’re not talking about a huge body of people that Osama Bin Laden needs to recruit in order to carry out these kind of attacks on the United States. Is it realistically possible, Ollie, for the United States of America to carry out some sort of propaganda policy that actually prevents 30, 40, 50, a thousand people like that from rising up in the Muslim world?
North: Well, Terry, I think it’s possible that if the United States told the rest of the world and reminded them routinely of the innate decency of the American people, of the Judeo-Christian value system that made this nation what it is, not walked away from it in embarrassment, not tried to claim, as Mr. Obama did before he went on this trip, that we’re one of the greatest Muslim nations on the planet. In fact, not only is that a falsehood, it’s so twisted on its face. There are 48 majority-Muslim nations. All but a handful of them have many more than the two plus million people who profess to be Muslims in the United States. Osama Bin Laden intends to recruit one tenth of one percent of that population to his jihad. If he only succeeds in that, there are hundreds of thousands of terrorists who want to kill you and me first, and they’re not going to be dissuaded by Obama being enlightened about who they are.
Jeffrey: Right. You and I would recognize that the vast majority of Muslims in the world and in the Middle East are good, law abiding--
Jeffrey: --peaceful people that have no interest in any kind of terrorist activity at all. That still doesn’t deal with this small core of people that can be recruited by Osama Bin Laden.
North: But one of the things that does make a difference--and this is one of the reasons why they’ve fought us so hard in Iraq, and it’s in this book—it’s young Americans wearing flak jackets and helmets, flight suits and combat boots have become the protectors of Muslim women. Now that drives al-Qaeda in Iraq crazy. It drives Osama Bin Laden and all of his minions nuts, because women to them are nothing but chattel.
What Americans have done is said--Americans have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly Iraq, and said: You’re a woman. You can vote. You’re over the age of 18, you can come in, dip your finger in ink, and walk in and cast a ballot.
Women are not casting ballots in Iraq so that they can deny their girls the chance for an education. They’re not casting a ballot in Iraq so that their kids grow up to become suicide terrorists. What mothers want is for their children to have an opportunity to live a better life instead of dying the right way. That’s what he doesn’t get.
Jeffrey: You’ve spent a lot of time in Iraq since the invasion.
North: Way too much.
Jeffrey: Tell me a little bit about what you see has changed in terms of the attitudes of the people in that country.
North: You know, no one talks about this aspect of it, but it’s the women of Iraq who now can have a credit card. They can own a business. They can have a telephone. They don’t have to have five male family members walking with them out in the street. They can drive a car. Think of all the things that women were denied as a part of that society. They can now fully participate in it. Any--
Jeffrey: And they’re appreciative of this?
North: There’s no doubt. We just don’t show that in the mainstream media. We wouldn’t want to go and interview an Iraqi woman who’s now running a business in Baghdad or in places like Ramadi--once the bloodiest place on the planet Earth. Ramadi, Iraq, where you have women in the local legislature. You have men working. You have women educating children and young girls going to school by the hundreds. I’ve been to Ramadi, Iraq and Fallujah, Iraq, I think, nine times over the course of the years since 2003. I’ve never gone, except this last time a few months ago, down the streets in Ramadi without crawling through sewage, primarily because the guys I was covering--soldiers, marines, and SEALs--were being shot at.
Jeffrey: And these were formerly the two most violent cities in the Sunni triangle. This was the epicenter of the war.
North: Terry, these were two of the most violent cities on the planet Earth, and today, there’s stop lights. There’s little kids going to school. There hasn’t been an American killed out there until very recently--one in a suicide bombing, interestingly enough after Mr. Obama has announced when the American troops are going to come out.
Jeffrey: Ollie, back around the time of the 2006 election it was very violent in Iraq. U.S. casualties were at a near peak. People were despairing. Republicans in Washington were very upset with the course of the war. General Petraeus put in motion the surge strategy. Why did the surge strategy succeed so well?
North: Because it convinced the Iraqi people that we weren’t going to bug out on them. There’s a wonderful little interview I did live on Fox News and then wrote about it in this book: a young Iraqi captain by the name of Nazir. And I asked him at one point in the interview--of course, we’re standing on a street, he’s wearing a flak jacket and a helmet--and I said “When did you join the Iraqi army?” He said, “Last March.”
And I said, “Why did you wait until then?” And he looks, and you could just see in the picture in the book, the beginning of the smile when he’s thinking about the answer--because he speaks fluent English, which means he was probably in the old intelligence service. But he’s be thoroughly vetted and he now leads an Iraqi army rifle company. And he’s looking up at me, and he’s smiling, he said, “Because I wanted to see which side was going to win.”
And when we ran it, Terry, I get a lot of e-mail from people who watch our broadcast, and one of the e-mails said, “I can’t believe what a cynical answer that is.” Well, of course that’s not cynical if you wife and children are living in that country, and you want to be on the side of the winner. What the surge did was to convince the Iraqis. More than the military might that those 20,000 additional troops brought, it convinced the Iraqis this administration, George W. Bush, is not going to pull out. And they could see what the American press was running. They got the front page of the New York Times and the Washington Compost just like we did, and they watched what was on the Awful Broadcasting Company and the Nasty Broadcasting Company, and they decided, “Gosh, the Americans could indeed get cold feet.” But the surge showed them otherwise.
Jeffrey: Now back then, Senator Biden, who’s now the Vice President of the United States, was putting out a plan that maybe we should really just divide Iraq into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish regions and, you know, famously everybody believed that these people couldn’t live together unless they had an iron-fisted dictator like Saddam Hussein. Are you optimistic that, once the U.S. actually pulls out of Iraq, that the Sunni and the Shia will be able to live together and actually run a representative government together?
North: Well, I don’t necessarily think it’s optimistic. I think a cold, hard, pragmatic look at what’s happened there, Terry, says that one, it’s never going to be a Jeffersonian democracy. There’s always going to be some rough and tumble in that part of the world. But what you’ll have is a representative government, one that wants the best for the people of Iraq in toto. There’s going to be the rough and tumble of politics between Sunni and Shia and Kurds up in the North. But in fact it may turn out to be our closest ally in that part of the world. And that’s because the Iraqi army and police have been trained by Americans.
One of the problems that we’ve got in Afghanistan is that we turned it all over to NATO in 2002 and said, “Here, you guys do it.” We have a U.N. resolution that says NATO’s in charge and aside from the Brits, the Canadians, and the Aussies, none of the NATO troops fought. None of them did a particularly good job at training. We turned over to the United Nations the rebuilding of infrastructure, and today there is one paved highway in the entire country and that was built by the Russians.
Jeffrey: Okay now, Ollie, once we’re completely out of Iraq, a more proximate influence will be Iran. Of course, the Iranian regime is a Shiite regime. The majority of the people in Iraq are Shiite. Still, too, the same people who dominate the Iraqi government are Shiite, many of whom came out of political organizations and groups that were loyal to Iran even in the years under Saddam Hussein.
Jeffrey: Will the Iranians not have an interest in trying to cause trouble in Iraq after we leave?
North: There is no doubt that, because of Iraq’s predominant Shia population--though Arab, unlike the Shia Persian population next door in Iran--there is no doubt that the Iranians will be up to great mischief, which is one of the reasons why--and I don’t mean to sound negative here—but I can’t foresee the moment when there are no American troops left inside Iraq.
I can envision military bases like Al-Asad Air Base. I can envision U.S. Army armor units that are training there at the invitation of the government with a status of forces agreement, just like we have in Germany or in Japan, where incidentally we still have American troops.
Jeffrey: But, you know President Obama said today in Cairo that he did not want bases in Iraq--
Jeffrey: --and he seemed to be saying that he was pulling all the troops out eventually.
North: Well, this is the same President Barack Obama who campaigned on the promise of his first action in office was going to be to close Gitmo, and he wrote an executive order and he suddenly found out just a couple of weeks ago that: Oops, I don’t have a plan for how I’m going to do this. And his own Democratic Party joined the Republicans and said: We’re not going to give you a penny to do that until you come up with a realistic plan.
Jeffrey: Do you think realism might just drive him to keep some residual force in there as a hedge against Iran?
North: He would be very unwise to ignore the advice of senior military officers like David Petraeus about the value of having American troops, not in great numbers, not fighting day to day, but American troops and assets if you will--
Jeffrey: Somewhere on the ground there.
North: Somewhere on the ground in Iraq.
Jeffrey: And you have no doubt they’d give him that advice?
North: I have no doubt that that’s his advice. I mean--
Jeffrey: There’d be another question though, Ollie, with Iran. Today, the president was talking about Iran and saying the Iranians have a right to develop peaceful nuclear power, and clearly everybody suspects that what Iran is up to is developing a nuclear weapon. And the question is how can the United States realistically prevent that from happening?
North: Very simply, the same way we did the sanctions against South Africa. You know people say, well, sanctions never work. Sanctions did work in South Africa to bring an end to apartheid, and it worked because the rules that were established for dealing with South Africa were: If you’re a private company from anywhere in the world, if you do any business with South Africa--in South Africa or with a South African affiliate outside of South Africa--you cannot do business in the United States.
Jeffrey: So you believe, if we really tighten up the economic sanctions--
North: It works.
Jeffrey: --on Iran that we could get them to relent and pull back on the quest of a nuclear weapon.
North: Oh, I have no doubt that that quest will continue. What I’m suggesting to you, Terry, is that once you’ve laid down that rule, it will become very difficult for them to do it. Because without Siemens providing electricity, without European companies providing truck tires, without European businesses providing automobiles, without Europeans providing the material by which they can refine uranium or extract plutonium--
Jeffrey: You think they’d actually lack the resources to be able to do it.
North: Well, they would. I’m saying it’s any company in the world that does business with them cannot do business here. We’ve never done it.
Jeffrey: Some people have argued or suggested that the Israelis might be preparing for a pre-emptive attack on some of the facilities that are known to be connected to the Iranian nuclear program. You would not advocate that?
North: No, I’m not saying I wouldn’t advocate it. I’m saying that there is a way short of military action that you could stop the nuclear program in Iran and in North Korea.
Jeffrey: If you’re aggressive enough--
North: If you imposed the kinds of sanctions I’ve just told you about, we could do that. The question is will we have the political will to do it. Because there’s all kinds of European companies that go crazy as soon as we do it.
Jeffrey: You know, obviously there’s all sorts of collateral damage, politically, if the United States were to be involved in a military action against Iran--
North: Terry, if--let us just posit--
Jeffrey: If you were advising the President of the United States, Ollie, what policy would you tell him to pursue? Obviously, you’re saying multilateral sanctions.
North: No, I’m saying unilateral sanctions. It’s very unilateral. It says the United States--If you’re a company doing business with Iran, you cannot do business in the United States of America, period. Do you suppose Michelin would still be selling tires in Iran if we shut them out of here?
Jeffrey: You would also try and work with other nations to in fact have the same policy?
North: They don’t even have to have the same policy. We simply say to their private corporations, you cannot—I’ll give you an example. Tehran is buying Airbuses for their airlines, okay? If we say to them: You can’t sell another Airbus in America if you sell any to them. Who do you suppose buys more Airbuses? I can--U.S. Air buys a lot more than the entire Iranian government.
Jeffrey: If it got to the point where that wasn’t stopping the development of a nuclear weapon by the Iranians, could we realistically take military action that would actually eliminate an Iranian nuclear program.
North: There are military operations that have already been planned by both the United States and by Israel which would stop their nuclear program in its tracks. And it’s on an escalating scale of violence. I mean, you start with conventional munitions, and if they don’t work, you can go nuclear.
I can assure you this. If the Israelis, with the help of the Indians, who they get there satellite downlinks from geostationary satellites launched by India--actually, launched by the French for the Indian intelligence service--and if the Israelis see a Shabbaz missile or a Sijaz being loaded up with something on the end of it that they can tell that it’s not a satellite, that it’s possibly a nuclear weapon, the Israelis will act militarily because they know target number on for Tehran is Tel Aviv. They’ve promised themselves since 1948, never again. They will not sit by and wait to be nuked.
Jeffrey: And you think they could effectively take it out if they had to.
North: I have no doubt, but I also have no doubt--and I’m convinced that Prime Minister Netanyahu has the same perception--that if they acted that way, they would be perceived by the rest of the Arab world as having, quote, even though the Persians aren’t Arabs, that they basically would have precipitated World War Four.
Jeffrey: Do you think President Obama would support or oppose the Israelis?
North: I think he’s very clearly told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his own office, in the Oval Office two weeks ago: Don’t do it, and we’ll not support you. And one of the issues is can the Israeli aircraft that launch that strike get back to Israel without flying over U.S. controlled airspace
Jeffrey: Ollie, you’ve seen a lot of war, as this book and other things you’ve written make clear. In this book, you point out that people who go to cover war as journalists also face dangers and, in one of the stories in your book, you talk about a helicopter trip that you and your excellent producer, Griff Jenkins, took. Can you tell us about that?
North: Opening day of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Middle of the night. The bird right next to us went down, killed everybody aboard. And I, for several hours afterward, was of the impression, in fact, Griff should have been aboard that airplane. Because of the way the British had loaded the aircraft, Griff was bumped to another bird. And so for the better part of about five or six hours I was trying to figure out how I was going to tell Kathleen, Kathleen Jenkins, that I’d taken her husband off to operation, that he wasn’t going to come home.
I’ve been blessed in all of my experience in war to have been dinged up a few times, but I’ve made it home safely, and I’ve seen far too many of those around me not make it home. And I grieve over that.
On this last trip out there a few weeks ago, my cameraman, Chris Jackson--remarkable young guy--was blown up in a vehicle. Blown right out of the vehicle, and somehow got back up, and as he’s lying there, sees the vehicle totally engulfed in fire. And in the right front seat, Sgt. Courtney Rauch, who I had covered in Iraq and is now in Afghanistan -- and somehow, Chris Jackson scrambled back up, somehow jerked that armored door open, grabbed Sgt. Rauch and dragged him to safety and saved his life. He is today the only American, in fact the only journalist from any country, that’s been decorated for heroism by the U.S. military. And he’s a hero. I get to keep company with heroes. It’s the best job you could ever have.
Jeffrey: He is an American hero, and that’s what the book is about: American heroes. Thank you very much, Ollie.
North: Thanks, Terry.