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
(continued from page 6)
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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