An Exclusive Interview with Oliver North
The Retired U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Discusses Osama Bin Laden, the War on Terrorism and President Bush
From the Print Edition:
Cuban Spy Scandal, May/Jun 02
Richard Nixon. Ted Kennedy. Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton. Newt Gingrich. Rush Limbaugh. Mention these names in partisan political company, and you will be barraged with either vitriolic denunciations or hyperbolic praise. Mention Lt. Col. Oliver North, and you may get an even broader range of responses, ranging from the renegade who threatened our democratic system to the patriot who defended American interests at the height of the Cold War by securing funding for the Nicaraguan contra war.
Today, Northoccupies a space in the American political landscape as an outspoken advocate of conservative causes. He is heard Monday through Friday on more than 100 radio stations nationwide with his "Common Sense Radio" program. He hosts a show on Fox News Channel called "War Stories," which is a combination of historical and documentary reports on famous battles or military subjects. In the wake of 9/11, North also has become one of the Fox News Channel's most visible and knowledgeable commentators about the war on terrorism, and he has 0capitalized on his prestigious standing in the U.S. military to gain almost unprecedented access to the troops in the field.
Before the intrigue and scandal surrounding his role in the secret funding of the Nicaraguan contra war, North had been a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1968, and served in Vietnam. He won the Silver Star, the Bronze Star of Valor and two Purple Hearts for wounds in action. He was assigned to President Reagan's National Security Council staff as an aide in 1981 and, until his departure in 1986, he was involved in planning for the Grenada rescue operation, the capture of the Achille Lauro hijackers, the U.S. raid on Mohamar Khadafi's terrorist bases in Libya, and the rescue of American hostages in Beirut.
North's role in securing funds for the Nicaraguan contras put him squarely in the spotlight of a congressional inquiry, which investigated how the Reagan administration had ignored resolutions prohibiting any U.S. government money from reaching the guerrilla army. The scheme, which sought to gain the release of hostages held by Hezbollah in Lebanon, involved the sale of arms to Iran, also an illegal act, and the proceeds were funneled to the contras. Although North was indicted and convicted of three federal crimes, the charges were overturned on appeal. The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals allowed that North's congressional testimony, under the grant of partial immunity, had unfairly influenced the jury. While North became the scapegoat for the scandal and was portrayed as having acted on his own, he maintained in a book about the subject that President Reagan had full knowledge of the plan and approved it.
The contra scandal, ironically, provided an unusual link for North to the September 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon. It was widely reported that in North's testimony to Congress, he referred to Osama bin Laden as the terrorist who was trying to kill him. How that myth sprung up is unclear, but it is simply not true. Nonetheless, North did testify that Abu Nidal, the bin Laden of his time, had tried to kill him and his family. Perhaps most importantly, North's actual job in the Reagan White House was coordinator of an antiterror campaign in the National Security Council. From there, he had an early vantage point on the world of global terrorism and insights into how the larger terrorist network was linked, as well as how it was supported and somewhat controlled by the former Soviet Union. But North also had an early view of how terrorism began to change in the 1980s with the first hints of Islamic fundamentalism, and then how the movement was transformed into largely self-funded, self-directed terrorist armies.
In a wide-ranging interview with Cigar Aficionado Executive Editor Gordon Mott, North provided some of his own observations about the war on terrorism and Osama bin Laden.
Q: Let's get right to a difficult point. Given what we know today about Osama bin Laden's search to acquire weapons of mass destruction, did al Qaeda do us a favor in a twisted way by attacking when it did, given the relatively unsophisticated weapons bin Laden had at his disposal on September 11?
A: Were we fortunate that he pulled this attack when he did instead of waiting two years until they had a weapon of mass destruction? Well, granted, a 757 is a pretty effective weapon, but it doesn't take out a city.
But the World Trade Center is a casebook attack, a perfectly executed terrorist plan, although it wasn't particularly sophisticated. It's not high tech, even though it's using airplanes as missiles to take down two buildings. As we now know from Osama bin Laden's own videotape, he didn't expect the whole building to come down. He thought a few floors might collapse, but that was it.
What they did was they took advantage of very lax immigration controls, very lax airplane and aircraft security procedures. They took the time to plan it—probably three, four, maybe five years to plan it. And, in a very, very simple process, using a courier who carries the instruction to at least four, perhaps as many as ten different cells, they get instructions to carry it out. And as Osama himself says, some of those people aboard those planes didn't even know they were suicide terrorists. They didn't even know they were on a suicide mission.
Q: Do you think he believed it was a success?
A: He expected the casualties to be much greater. If al Qaeda really knew America, instead of attacking at 8:45 in the morning, the time to attack would have been 10:45 in the morning. Then, instead of 2,800 to 2,900 dead, you might have had 30,000 dead! But remember something about what I just said. This was a classic terrorist attack. The Irish Republican Army has done it. This kind of attack happens all the time in the Middle East. You set off the bomb. You wait twenty minutes for all the first responders to show up and then you set off the second one. That's what the World Trade Center was. That's why I say the World Trade Center was the perfect model. One airplane, twenty minutes later the other airplane.
There are a lot of folks who've looked at the attack that are convinced Flight 93, that went into the field in Pennsylvania, would probably have hit the White House twenty minutes after the plane that hit the Pentagon. The guy that hit the Pentagon just wasn't high enough when he made that turn, and basically wasn't in control when he hit it. He just didn't have quite enough flight training.
Q: Where do you think bin Laden is hiding?
A: I think bin Laden's dead. The guys on the ground are convinced that he's dead and they give two reasons. One, he hasn't been heard from since December; two, the guy is such a megalomaniac that there are hundreds of miles of videotape of this guy. It's not just the stuff we've seen. This guy was giving interviews for years to Al-Jazeera, which we all in the television business call Jihad TV. He had his own favorite news crew that he dealt with. He had his own favorite reporters with Al-Jazeera and a number of other Pakistani, Saudi Arabian and Yemeni and Egyptian newspapers. And we've not seen or heard from him since mid-December.
Q: Do you believe that he has been surprised by the U.S. response to the attacks?
A: Absolutely. He's shell-shocked, if he's still alive. I think he was shell-shocked the moment that that Penetrator landed on top of his bunker. He never imagined that an American president had the leadership ability or the guts to respond the way we have. I think he really did believe his own propaganda. Look at the things he's been saying about us, not only that we're 'the Satan,' but that we're hollow, we've no core, we've no courage. He believed it.
Q: If he is dead, as you believe, how do you assess the remaining capabilities of al Qaeda? A: There's an old Texas expression: when you fall into a snakepit, what snake do you kill first? That's the snake that last bit you! You grab it and you kill it. The organization without him as its visible leader is badly damaged. It's still dangerous. But he fired his best shot on 9/11. He took nineteen of his most effective terrorists and killed them. He had built a system. The president touched on this a couple of days after in the State of the Union. I won't try to paraphrase him, but look at what transpired in building up to 9/11. What bin Laden and his organization did is they took young men many times away from their families, put them into a tutoring system where he taught them to hate, taught them to kill, and taught them to kill themselves. That's all being broken up now.
So the long-range prognosis for al Qaeda's continued operations, and as a serious threat, is not good. Not just in Pakistan or even in Saudi Arabia, but in Indonesia, the Philippines. In much of the Islamic world there is a new awareness about how dangerous bin Laden's kind of philosophy is, or if you will, theology. It's a very twisted perspective on life. Therefore, as a viable entity, its long-range prognosis is not good. In the short range, I think we have to assume that security alerts like today [February 13] are going to continue. There are very likely dozens of other al Qaeda terrorists in the United States.
Q: When you were dealing with terrorism in your role in President Reagan's White House, there wasn't much doubt about where the terrorist groups were getting their support. It was a Cold War phenomenon that was being supported by the Soviet Union. In those days, was any thought given to this other version of terrorism, the Islamic fundamentalist group, and did anyone think then that it would transform into what it's become today?
A: I don't think anybody was looking at it back then, except maybe at Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad as kind of the blueprint for al Qaeda. Surely the guy who drove his truck bomb into the Marine barracks in 1983 and some of the terrorist bombings that we saw in Beirut from '83 onwards were suicide bombers. So, yes, people were looking at it in the context of the Middle East. We created the CIA counterterrorism center in those days, because William Casey was very concerned about where this was heading and it was a new dimension. Up till that point you didn't worry about attacks against U.S. targets inside America. Yeah, you had the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and you had the Black September organization and a bunch of organizations like that, but you didn't have it aimed specifically at the United States. There wasn't this kind of rampant, a-bombing-a-day kind of thing. All of the sudden in the '80s, there's this explosion of it.
Q: Hadn't there been terrorist attacks for years before that?
A: Sure. The British have dealt with it for years in Cyprus and in the Middle East; they'd had a lot of those kind of attacks addressed against them. Abu Nidal worked against them. But that's nothing compared to what happened to King Hussein. I think it was forty-one times they tried to kill him. Why? Because he was willing to sit down and talk to the Israelis. People looked at him and said, "Look. Our relationship with Israel is going to be a problem."
Islamic radical terrorism the likes of which we are now seeing was never on the table as big a threat as it is now. I don't think that anybody ever anticipated that the Wahabi movement in places like Saudi Arabia would get to be as big and as dangerous as it's been. I mean, if the financial backing, and if you will, the general guidance for terrorism in the '70s and early '80s was coming out of the Soviet Union, the financial and, if you will, the philosophical guidance today is coming from places like Saudi Arabia. There's a lot of money there, but there's probably less control over the organizations.
There's probably less ability for somebody in Saudi Arabia to say stop to Hamas, because that organization has got money in the bank. We started tracking financial transactions back in the '80s. We were all over the Libyan movement of money, for example: from Tripoli and Benghazi to the Peoples Committee for Libyan Students in Germany and in McLean, Virginia. We watched it. When the FBI detected the attack on my family on February 11, 1987, it was because we'd been watching those guys. But nobody was watching the growth of al Qaeda and its type of organization in mosques and in college campuses around the country.
Q: But you believe the transformation of radical Islamic fundamentalism had already started at that point?
A: In fact, it starts in 1979 with the Ayotollah Khomeini coming back to Iran. He leaves Iraq, goes to Paris and then comes back to Tehran. That's where it begins and at that point, it's under the control of the religious mullahs. Tehran could say to the Islamic Jihad or to the Hezbollah, "OK, guys, knock it off." But there's separate money for it now and you've got separate leadership. I mean, the Iranians couldn't control somebody like Osama bin Laden if they wanted to. And I don't think the Saudis could, either. Even so, what we've got is something that may ultimately be more easily controlled than the Soviet support for the global terrorist network, because it was so widespread back then. The Soviets just kind of supported it with concrete things. Their questions to the terrorist groups were things like, "You need some more munitions? You need a little training? You need a little refuge? You need medical treatment?"
Q: Would you say giving terrorists refuge, a place to rest and recuperate, may be as important as anything else you can give them?
A: Exactly. And, today, the number of places where these people can go take summer vacation has gotten a whole lot smaller. The commitment of their followers is much more zealous. Case in point, the Mukhabarat, which is the foreign intelligence service of the Iraqi government, have long been sponsors of terrorism. They're just like what Khadafi used to be. I mean, they've got their operatives running around the world bumping off opponents of the regime all over the place. It happens all the time. But the fact of the matter is, that no terrorist was ever willing to die for Saddam Hussein or even Mohamar Khadafi. They were willing to plant a bomb for him, but they didn't want to ride the bomb in. What makes Osama so dangerous, and what makes radical Islam so dangerous today, is that they not only are willing to die, they want to die. So, that's what the Israelis have been up against now for the last fifteen years and what we're now up against in reality for at least the next fifteen years.
Q: In your conversations since September 11, do you have a sense of when the intelligence community realized that Osama was the focal point that they needed to be worried about?
A: This sounds like I'm criticizing the CIA. I'm not. But it's not the responsibility of the CIA to do things that the administration tells them not to do. In 1995, largely due to pressure about bad things the CIA had done in Guatemala, Senator [Robert] Torrecelli goes and convinces the CIA that if you guys even talk to somebody who's got a criminal record or a bad human rights record, I'm going to cut you guys off. We have then what they internally called out at Langley, the Torricelli sanction.
We could already see the growth of radical Islam with the bombings of the Beirut barracks, the bombings of our embassies, repeated bombings in the 1980s with suicide bombers. The Israelis were already going through it. Organizations like Hamas didn't just bloom overnight; the Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah were already doing it. Osama bin Laden himself does not become a visible threat until the early '90s. By the mid-'90s, people are starting to say, "Wait a second. World Trade Center [bombing]?" We've got no ability to even penetrate these guys because of the Torricelli sanctions.
What's happened is that the CIA has been trying to find out information. But I don't care how sophisticated your satellites are, how many guys you've got sitting around with headphones on, or how many miles of tape that you're making out at the National Security Agency or General Command Headquarters or any of the listening sites around the world—you can't get information that way. Unless you can get inside those organizations, you can't forecast where this event's going to take place. So what happens is you get the living daylights surprised out of you, because all of the sudden here's this guy Osama and we don't know anything about him. In large measure that's the consequence of not having human intelligence.
I keep telling people that. You know to the extent that the government every once in a while wants to hear from an old geezer like me. First of all, [bin Laden] fired his best shot on 9/11. If he'd had things like anthrax, botulinum toxin and Hanta virus and all these other kinds of [things like] Sarin gas, suitcase nukes … it's nuts. If he had any of those, he would have used them first.
Q: What kind of methods does an intelligence operation have to use to get that kind of insider's information?
A: You can't recruit a guy who knows what's going on in a terrorist organization from Mother Theresa's sisters of the poor. You can't find them there. You've got to deal with the bad guys. That realization doesn't happen until 9/11. 9/11 changed that forever and hopefully for the good. Now, does that mean that we're going to be dealing with people who are very bad people? Yes it does. We're going to have to deal with people who are inside those organizations, who have already passed the litmus test. The litmus test to being accepted as a member of a terrorist organization is, before I accept you, you're going to have to go out and commit an act of terrorism. You're going to have to hurt or kill somebody.
There's no other way of learning about these organizations, because bin Laden is not picking up his cell phone or his satellite phone and calling in instructions for the next attack. He's calling over a courier and saying, "Come here. You've got a French passport, or an English passport, or even an American passport. I want you to go to Boston, I want you to look up Omar Somebody and tell him at this address and tell him the attack is 9/11. We've all planned this for years in advance. Go, do it." That's why the CIA didn't figure it out. It wasn't that the NSA was asleep at the switch. And you're not going to find it even after they've reviewed all of the miles of audiotapes and videotapes and telemetry and all that stuff. They're not going to find all the instruction being given over the air or through the Internet, because it's a courier who was sent around to give the instruction.
Q: But weren't we aware of Osama and his group long before 1993, especially given the Soviet debacle in Afghanistan?
A: I'd like to clear up another myth about Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden never got a single solitary cent from the CIA back in the '80s. He never fought a battle against the Soviets. He's created this mythology about himself: that he was a great anti-Soviet fighter. He wasn't. He never fired a shot against the Russians [and later anti-Taliban leaders]. He did build some facilities and he built a network. What the guy is, is a consummate opportunist.
He had guys like Ahmed Shah Massoud and Al Huq, both of whom are now dead, either assassinated by bin Laden or the Taliban. These are the guys who fought against the Russians, and Osama had the good sense to have them killed off. He thought that the United States would respond the same way to 9/11 as we did to the bombing of our embassies and thinking that they're trying to sink the USS Cole. The Americans have established a reputation for wasting a bunch of cruise missiles and tent camps in Afghanistan and pharmaceutical plants in Khartoum, Sudan. The Americans aren't going to come, so take care of any opposition.
Q: Say Ollie North gets the phone call tomorrow: We want you in charge of the antiterror campaign. What would you do differently?
A: Well, I've been replaced by a four-star general at the White House. He's doing a great job. Quite honestly, a lot of us, who worked for a great president, looked with some envy on what this president's been able to do. Now, no one would envy what happened to bring it about, but what this president's been able to do is to galvanize the world to cooperate in a manner we were unable to do. That's a sign of real leadership. That's a sign of steadfastness.
Q: Today, the country was given another alert to be ready for another attack (February 13). Do you think those alerts are a wise thing? If you were running the campaign at this point, would you be constantly reissuing alerts?
A: Yes. For two reasons. Look at the Richard Reid shoe bomber case. Richard Reid's flying from Europe to the United States and he tries to detonate his sneakers. An alert passenger alerts the flight attendant, and the flight attendant and the passenger and then several other passengers disable the guy and take him out from maybe blowing a hole in the airplane.
When you send out an alert like today, and this is the fourth one, the chances are that some people will pay more attention. Certainly the 18,000 law enforcement organizations—federal, state and local—are paying more attention. I think what you do is you have to chance that an alert passenger or an alert American driving down the street says, "That's the guy I just saw," and calls 911 or the FBI tip line. John Walsh, who's also a Fox network guy, had to convince the FBI to help out. The FBI did not want to cooperate with John Walsh when he started "America's Most Wanted." Well, there are thousands of people who call in every week; there's millions more who just watch. Scores of criminals have been caught. Lives have been saved because people have said, "Hey. That's the guy down the street." I think there's proof that that kind of thing can pay off. Does it? No, not yet, but I think it's a good chance that some alert American is going to say, "I saw that guy! He delivers my newspaper."
Q: Isn't there the danger of the government crying wolf once too often?
A: Politically it's a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't. You don't do what Governor Gray Davis did in California by saying, "Oh my God. Everybody stay off the bridges!" What you do is you say, "We've got a definitive threat. We don't know where it is and here are the people who may well be in the country trying to perpetrate it." Meanwhile, you've got Interpol and every national law enforcement organization in the world alerted to the fact that if this guy's in your country, we want him!
Q: What's your assessment of how the government responded initially to 9/11?
A: Well, we're now looking back 154 days from today. If you consider what took place on 9/11, there are several remarkable things about it. Number one: it is the most serious terrorist event that's ever happened in the history of man. Number two: there were more American casualties than any other terrorist event. Number three: there were more aircraft hijacked than in any other single event. Three was the other record, back in the '70s. Number four: a larger number of terrorists who were involved in it than any other single terrorist event.
Over the course of my time when I was the U.S. government's counterterrorism coordinator, from 1983 to '86, we were concerned generally about the Soviet proxy—supported terrorist organizations that have [now] all disappeared: M-19, Baader-Meinhof, the Red Army Faction, the Red Brigade—all of those groups that somehow disappeared when the wall came down. They were generally very small organizations, not suicidal. The effort was to perpetrate an act of terrorism and survive the experience, because they wanted to crow about it.
As I said earlier, the Israelis have had to confront this kind of suicide terrorism for years. But the idea of suicide terrorists is something new to us, at least here in the homeland. The shock of that experience was remarkable in terms of one, how quickly the government was able to respond, literally in minutes, and two, the ability to forge an international consensus of over seventy nations that were willing to help us and to do it all in twenty-six days; that's all it took between the day of the attack and October 7, when we started to shoot back in Afghanistan.
Q: There was some criticism in those early hours of how the government was handling the crisis, especially of President Bush. Was that justified?
A: Some of the criticism was the result of real misunderstanding. In the immediate aftermath, the president was down in Florida, you may remember. The president turned to a military aide and implemented a program that had been built in the 1980s but never triggered. That plan basically shut down the civil air structure in this country in minutes. That means that every flight control center and every tower in America was to give instruction to every airplane except a military aircraft to "land immediately," and designate airports where they should go. You think about that being done on a nationwide scale. Instantly, within minutes of that attack, the orders were being given. You couldn't have done that before. It was all done because of the programs that were put in place because of President Reagan and thankfully are still in place.
Q: Had you worked on those programs?
A: In fact, that was my real job. The plan was built between 1981 and 1983 to give us the ability to avoid allowing anyone to decapitate the government of the United States. You never want the government of the United States in the hands of a guy who wears a green or blue suit with stars on the shoulders to work every day. You want the government run by a constitutional president; that means the president, the vice president, or one of the Cabinet successors: the speaker of the House, the president pro tem of the Senate, and then it goes to the Cabinet. You want to make sure you've always got that. There are a lot of people who misunderstood: why did the president go off to an Air Force base and then avoid coming back to Washington? Dick Cheney disappears for days? All of that was part of that plan to protect the president.
At the same time he's doing that, you've got a contingency plan being put in place at the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA, the Department of Treasury. From there, you can start focusing the efforts of our intelligence resources, which quite frankly for the last eight years have been allowed to flounder.
Who did this and how do we address preventing the next attack? That's the first step. The ability to do that requires the president willing to make a decision, because it may cost billions of dollars for this country's economy to shut down civil aviation for as long as it was down. Now we're looking at it in 20/20 hindsight and looking at the war in Afghanistan, forgetting what was done here in this country at that point in time. It was extraordinary.
Q: And probably saved some lives?
A: We still don't know, but it's widely believed within the intelligence and military community that there were other terrorists on other airplanes who were waiting to take off to fly their airplanes into other targets.
So, the ability to stop any further acts was the first step. Number two: the ability to put together in that twenty-six days up to October 7 the worldwide consensus that something has got to be done to address it, and then focus the intelligence resources: What did we know? When did we know it? And who did it? We knew that in the space of forty-eight hours. It went right back to Osama bin Laden, and we know that Afghanistan is the last known place for the guy. Then, you start running through hundreds and hundreds of miles of tape, and hours and hours, days of communications that have been intercepted. It's easy for the people to point the finger at the CIA and say that they didn't do their job. It's not really a fair accusation, and so what you've got is an intelligence agency that for a lot of different reasons had not been able to collect real human intelligence for years. They just didn't have enough human intelligence to be able to finger the attack. Look, you and I are holding this interview on a day in which a threat warning has been issued, saying an attack may well be planned for today. As of this minute, we don't know that anything's actually been carried out. But they linked 13 faces and names with the threat. Things have come a long ways in 154 days.
Q: You emphasized how important President Bush's role has been in forging a coalition and establishing a real presence with the American people. Going forward, doesn't he still have a monumental challenge in continuing to achieve a unified front, both at home and abroad?
A: I've listened carefully to all of the criticisms of Bush and the ongoing conduct of the campaign. That's why I know it's 154 days today. When the president said, "Either you're with us or you're with the terrorists," there were people like General Musharraf in Pakistan who went, "What did he say? Get me the phone to the Oval Office because he really means business." Now, Musharraf had not cooperated with this president's predecessor. In fact, his country was actively supporting al Qaeda and the Taliban.
What brought the change in heart? It's the leadership of this president. And everybody who's involved in the counterterrorism endeavor at this point is grateful to have his backing. For the very first time, we're able to get from the Congress the kinds of resources that, quite frankly, simply weren't there. The American people demand it. Now that's leadership. People can write it off to rhetoric and all the rest, but the fact is that this president has been able to do things as a consequence of 9/11 that we all knew needed to be done, but you simply couldn't get the money. You couldn't get the resources. You couldn't get the attention. You couldn't get the international cooperation, all of which this president's got.
Q: But hasn't the president's portrayal of the "axis of evil" worried some allies that we will go it alone?
A: I don't think he ever meant that the bombs were going to start falling on Baghdad and Tehran and Pyongyang. What this president was saying was, "You're on notice!" It really is an axis, by the way, to the extent that the North Koreans, probably the most of all the rogue states, have the most advanced missile technology of anybody. Where'd they get it? They got it originally from the Russians, some of it maybe even from the Chinese, but they've got the most advanced missile technology. If they continue to share that technology and their nuclear technology with countries like Iran and Iraq, we've got a really serious problem.
Q: Does the rest of the world believe that?
A: What the president's got to be about now is convincing the rest of the world to join us in this effort to bring about a change of regime in all three of those countries, but particularly the two most likely to carry out the terrorism. Back in the Reagan years, to a certain extent it was relatively easy to define and deal with your adversary when it was the "evil empire." It originated in Moscow and its proxies that carried out most of the problems we had in the world from 1948 to 1988. So when the wall comes down and this terrorism starts to build, you've got a much more difficult time convincing the rest of the world that you've got a threat. But then, something like 9/11 happens. The world didn't take us seriously after the USS Cole. They didn't take us seriously after two embassies were blown up in Africa. They didn't take us seriously after the World Trade Center was attacked the first time. Now they're taking us seriously.
Q: How would you define success in this campaign?
A: You know, I asked that question out there and the best answer I got was from an Army special operations guy. I asked the question a lot: do you have to get Osama bin Laden? One of the special ops guys said to me, "I'll tell you what success is, Colonel." This is one of the guys who could be from the movie Black Hawk Down. I know a lot of these guys who went through the real event. I know them well. He said, "I'll tell you what success is, Colonel. You shouldn't base it only on killing Osama bin Laden. Success is six months without seeing the word terrorism on the front page of any American newspaper." Absolutely right. That's success in this war.
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