Thursday, January 05, 2006

You tell 'em Ollie!

Perhaps you've had the dubious distinction of recieving this fabled post 9-11 E-mail:
It was 1987! At a lecture the other day they were playing an old news video of Lt.Col. Oliver North testifying at the Iran-Contra hearings during the Reagan Administration. There was Ollie in front of God and country getting the third degree, but what he said was stunning! He was being drilled by a senator;
"Did you not recently spend close to $60,000 for a home security system?" Ollie replied,
"Yes, I did, Sir." The senator continued, trying to get a laugh out of the audience,
"Isn't that just a little excessive?"
"No, sir," continued Ollie.
"No? And why not?" the senator asked.
"Because the lives of my family and I were threatened, sir."
"Threatened? By whom?" the senator questioned.
"By a terrorist, sir" Ollie answered.
"Terrorist? What terrorist could possibly scare you that much?"
"His name is Osama bin Laden, sir" Ollie replied. At this point the senator tried to repeat the name, but couldn't pronounce it, which most people back then probably couldn't. A couple of people laughed at the attempt. Then the senator continued.
"Why are you so afraid of this man?" the senator asked.
"Because, sir, he is the most evil person alive that I know of" Ollie answered.
"And what do you recommend we do about him?" asked the senator.
"Well, sir, if it was up to me, I would recommend that an assassin team be formed to eliminate him and his men from the face of the earth."
The senator disagreed with this approach, and that was all that was shown of the clip.
By the way, that senator was Al Gore!
Would it suprise you to learn that most of this E-mail is an exageration of the truth and some portions are plain wrong? When I first recieved a copy of this E-mail in early 2002 I looked on it as dubious at best. I was quite proud of myself for quickly recognizing the illegitimate nature of a spoof photo featuring a NYC tourist atop a soon to be devestated World Trade Center 2, a copy of which I had recieved by E-mail in late September 2001. I could smell something fishy in this E-mail too, but could not definatly dispute it's authenticity.

The E-mail pressured me to forward the message, a request that by it's self motivates me to click the delte button. Couple that with my doubts about the E-mail and there was no way I was going to pass this E-mail along. A lot of people did however and I can't say I really blame the american public as a whole for doing so. It seemed real enough and the story was so sensational that many wanted all thier friends and aquaintences to hear the spectacular things they had heard and forwarded the message. In this, there is not malice.

The true nature of the reported transaction came to me more than a year later by way of a book writen by talk show host, Sean Hannity, whom I had previously become enamored with. He prints a clarification of the incident by Oliver North himself:
Ollie quickly put out a satement correcting the story: It wasn't a senator but the committee counsel, John Nields, who did the questioning. The security system installed in Ollie's home cost $16,000, not $60,000. The terrorist who threatened to kill Ollie in 1986 wasn't Osama bin Laden. It was another major international terrorist, the Libyan mastermind Abu Nidal.

"I never said I was afraid of anybody," Ollie points out. "I did say that I would be glad to meet Abu Nidal on equal terms anywhere in the world, but that I was unwilling to have him or his operatives meet my wife and children on his terms. I did say that the terrorists intercepted by the FBI on the way to my house in Frebruary 1987 to kill my wife, children, and me were Libyans, dispatched from the People's Committee for Libyan Students in McLean, Virginia. And I did say that the federal government had moved my family out of our home to a military base [Camp Lejeune, North Carolina] until they could dispatch more than thirty agents to protect my family from those terrorists (becasue a liberal federal judge had allowed the Libyan assassins to post bond and they fled)."

In the end, the government spent more than $2 Million protecting the North family, and the terrorists sent to kill them were never reapprehended. (Let Freedom Ring, HarperCollins 2002, p. 41, 42)
I recently recieved a copy of this message again. I am at least the 8th generation recipiant from the original forwarded message that I can track down. I was floored to see that this myth still hadn't been put in it's place. Additionaly, many of the people in the forwarding chain had added comments like "All I can say is, Wow" and "Thought you might enjoy this little reminder." So I got on my high horse in most humble way I could and penned this reply preceeded by the text cited above:
The events of September 11, 2001 and the threat of terrorist attacks from any front or organization are terrible enough to not need the "embellishment" that someone saw fit to add to the story, and we have an obligation not to distort the seriousness of the threat by propagating these embelishments. It sounds real, and thus we trust it as real and want everyone to hear the amazing things we have heard. In this there is no malice. I hope that everyone who receives the incorrect report on this congressional hearing will pass along the factual information and thus strengthen the American people through the truth. After all, will not "the truth make us free?"

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