many conservative Americans, Oliver North's covert involvement in
the selling of arms to Iran to support anti-Communist guerrillas
in Nicaragua was a heroic act in support of democracy.
Others saw North as someone who lied to Congress to support an illegal
war, which cost the lives of over 30,000 Nicaraguan people.
Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, praised Oliver
North as "a genuine American hero" at the 10th anniversary celebration
of North's testimony before Congress in the Iran-Contra hearings.
America's involvement in Nicaragua violated the Boland Amendment,
which cut off aid to the contras in 1984. Conservatives saw North's
covert actions as a brave act that helped to loosen communism's
grip on the world.
"The Boland Amendment, which was passed by the liberals in Congress,
was just another obstacle and obstruction to the fight against the
communists," Representative Dan Burton said at the anniversary celebration.
"Ollie North found innovative ways to help, and I congratulate him
When the scandal was exposed, Oliver North took the fall for the
entire Reagan administration. North testified before Congress in
the Iran-Contra hearing on July 8, 1987. Accused of violating international
law and the U.S. Constitution, North was convicted in 1989 of three
federal crimes: aiding in the obstruction of Congress, accepting
illegal gratuities and destroying documents related to arms sales
to Iran to finance the contra war. He was fined $150,000 and sentenced
to 1,200 hours of community service.
A year later the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that, because North
testified under immunity, the conviction would have to be reviewed
to ensure that none of the witnesses were influenced by North's
testimony. After key witnesses said that they had been influenced
by testimony North gave before Congress, independent counsel Lawrence
Walsh dropped all charges.
"You have to figure out relatively soon in life what's worth dying
for," North said in a promotional film screened at the anniversary
celebration. "You also have to figure out what's worth living for.
I've figured out this country is worth living and dying for."