Oliver North: Hero or Blowhard?

Oliver North

"What has the author who wrote the remarks about Oliver North done lately besides positing his or her own left-wing ideals about how things 'should have been done?'"

Date: Tue, 30 Jun 1998 19:22:43 GMT
To: cybrgbl@deltanet.com
From: DeltaNet Form Processor (formpro@www.deltanet.com)
Subject: Guest Book Signature

The field values for the form received were:

Name="Lt. Jeff G. Bryant"
City?="Ft. Benning"
Findout="A friend told me about it"
How is life treating you?="Very well. Thankful for the freedom Oliver North, with all of his mistakes, was willing to fight for and even die for!"
comments="The writer who made bespattering remarks about Lt.Col. Oliver North is a cowardice individual who thinks of nothing more than his or her own personal safety without giving thought to the freedom he or she has! Oliver North, with all of his mistakes, was willing to fight for the very freedom that allows the "lesser man than he" who bespattered and questioned his charater to be able to pontificate about that which he has no understanding. I pose the question, "What has the author who wrote the remarks about Oliver North done lately besides positing his or her own left-wing ideals about how things "should have been done?" He or she is at best an "armchair quarterback" who is unwilling to recognize the sacrifices made for his or her freedom. It is so easy to point the finger at ones' mistakes while glossing over ones' own. Oliver North is a greater individual than the author will and can ever be insofar as he had the courage to do what the lesser man or woman (author) was afraid to do. It would serve this unknown author well to ruminate prior to pontificate about which he or she has no earthly idea about--war, freedom, and the character of one that served his country so that such bombastic and ironic discourse could be made possible by the author! The author who wrote these negative things about Col. North does not merit a response and clearly does not warrent the freedom he or she so ungratefully enjoys.
Lt. Jeff G. Bryant (U.S. Army) Great site!"

      Dear Jeff,

      I am the author of that site on Oliver North and stand by my remarks. I would not belittle North's honorable military service in Vietnam nor his career until the early 1980s. I would, however, severely criticize the wisdom of his actions in the Iran-Contra affair. I will explain why in more detail, and then I will reply to your comments about my person.

      Plato tells us that the ideal state is one where each citizen serves the commonweal in the capacity which best suits their natural talents and tastes; and Oliver North, a man of much fortitude and personal courage, should never have been serving in a position where he was required to use his mind abstractly and prudently. It is not enough to serve your country with passion and loyalty - one must do so wisely and intelligently. The role he ineptly played as partial shaper and executor of public policy is one which has been ably carried out in the past by such military figures as George C. Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, and Colin Powell, much to the profit of our nation. But North's talents are tactical and physical, not strategic or mental; he is the kind of soldier you want leading a heliborne assault, not orchestrating overall military strategy. A Marine Crops Lt. Col. in deeply over his head, he never should have been serving in such a high position with the Reagan Administration's National Security Council. This seems clear, in retrospect.

      I do not doubt that many a soldier in Honduras or India or Nigeria loves his country and, like Ollie North, would gladly die for their flag. But the only American nationalism I ultimately respect is that which can be tied to the Constitution and the rule of law; in the lethal power of the modern soldier's assault rifle or in a supersonic fighter-bomber, I honor only that part which is animated by the spirit of the American democratic ethic as it has evolved since its genesis in the messages of Jefferson and Hamilton - all else is superfluous, a loose canon almost as dangerous to itself as to any enemy. There is an element of zealotry and wide-eyed fanaticism in North's anti-communism, the germ of which is entirely absent from more soberly judicious men like Lincoln or Washington - persons having no little amount to do with the successful development of the "freedoms" we presently enjoy in America. Competent enough to carry out orders, I strongly suspect a man like North when he writes them up. The product of that is likely to be some harebrained scheme to lie to Congress and supposedly do good by selling weapons to the Iranians, of all people! But let me explain further what I mean.

      Ollie North, a "true believer" in the crusades of anti-communism, reminds me of the character William Roper in Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons. Roper, a hotheaded young man eager to fight evil, is gently remonstrated by Sir Thomas More:

MORE: What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

MORE: And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned on you -- where would you hide Roper, the laws all being flat?

This to me encapsulates what is wrong with the philosophy of North and other Cold Warriors who would go too far - men who would burn down the village to save it. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis has said, "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding." North reminds me why we insist that cadets in the military academies - those who supposedly will go on to serve at the highest levels of the armed forces - study not only science and math and engineering but literature, law, religion, art, philosophy; the liberal as well as the military arts. But let posterity examine and judge the career of Lt. Col. Oliver North.

      For the record, I am hardly a "left wing" author who has done nothing but "pontificate" my whole life. Although I am only 31 years of age (one year younger than yourself), I have professionally done the following: worked my way through the last two years of college trying to keep order for the UCLA Police Department in the chaos and trauma of a major urban emergency room; worked briefly as a volunteer Reserve Deputy for the Orange County Sheriff; worked for three long years, in what has been the most difficult and humbling experience of my life, as a public school teacher in one of the most violent and impoverished area of Los Angeles, doing what I could - groaning and suffering daily under the weight of the job; and work full-time still as a teacher, and would like to think I have littered parts of the world with former students who, partly through my efforts, have gone on to become thoughtful and decent adults in their own times. Teaching teenagers is the most tedious, important, frustrating, exhilaratingly difficult job I have ever done - and I have done other jobs. And teachers are just as important to a nation as soldiers, rock stars, or athletes - even as they garner little in the way of respect or wages in the United States.

      I am just a working stiff trying to make my way through life -- this admittedly is not the stuff of heroism; but if I am no hero, neither have I sat on my hands nor suffered the earth as a burden to it. I have not lived to chase money nor to merely take advantage of that which others have given me, as you suggest. I might rant against Oliver North, but the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and then the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 have been the happiest public moments of my life. As a more than cursory exploration of my website would bear out, I am neither unpatriotic nor unappreciative of the great sacrifices borne by my countrymen and women who serve or have served in the armed forces.

      As for whether North is a "greater individual" than I will ever will be, the story is not yet over as we both yet live. But I think one can only take the true measure of a man's life several decades after his death, and so I say again in response to your question: Let posterity judge.


      Richard Geib

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