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November 4th 1979: The Beginning of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and a New World

Tonight Judy and I went and saw the movie Argo. I saw it the day it opened here but Judy had not seen it. When the movie began with the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran on November 4th 1979 I looked at Judy and said, “it is the anniversary.” It is hard to believe that 33 years ago was when that event happened. At the time Judy and I were still in the early stages of our courtship and it was then that I decided that I would enter the military.

I enlisted in the Army National Guard and entered Army ROTC after the hostages were released. I had been accepted into the Air Force ROTC program in early 1980 but waited a year and did the Army because I needed the money provided by a summer job that could not be made up in a 4 week Air Force Summer camp before the school year began in 1980. Such is life when you didn’t get any academic scholarships and chose to attend college in a high cost of living area.

The hostage crisis was an event that changed my life and watching the film Argo was a very emotional experience the first time that I saw it and brought tears to my eyes again tonight. It was so well done and having travelled in much of the Middle East and been surrounded by crushing crowds in Bazaars, thankfully without being accosted for taking pictures and going through various Middle Eastern nation airport security checkpoints, as well as numerous other countries in Europe and Asia I could feel a bit of the anxiety rise in me as the film showed the American fugitives from the embassy as they went through the motions of being Canadians. There have been a number of times when traveling alone on official Navy business to countries after 9-11 that I relied on my skills in German to pass a German when accosted in public for being an American in a foreign country rife with anti-American sentiments.  Thank God for bad grammar and a Bavarian accent.

So now 33 years later I am still in the military and the United States and Iran are still mortal enemies and if some politicians, pundits and preachers have their way will be at war with each other, for some the sooner the better.  I personally don’t understand the mentality of people that have never, or will ever serve in the military who preach a Gospel of war, of pre-emptive war under the guise of “protecting America.” Having seen the effects of the war-mongers that preach “pre-emptive” war in Iraq, both on the people of that unfortunate country and our own troops I cannot fathom yet another pre-emptive war. But there are plenty of politicians, pundits and preachers, the Unholy Trinity of war and pestilence who seek such a war with Iran. Of course should Iran ever attack us that is another matter, but to launch another war after we destroyed the military potential and power of Iran’s natural and traditional enemy Iraq which kept the Iranians at bay is altogether one of the most stupid ideas ever dreamed about, especially when the American military is stretched thin with close to 70,000 troops exposed to disaster in Afghanistan if supply lines are cut and Iran becomes more actively involved.

In January 1980 Jimmy Carter gave final approval to CIA operative Bob Mendez’s operation to bring those 6 Americans out of Iran. Since the publicity could have caused harm or death to the other American hostages held by the Iranians Carter gave the credit to the Canadians. He ordered a military operation to free those hostages which ended in disaster and would go on to lose his re-election to Ronald Reagan in 1980. Back then I did not appreciate anything that Jimmy Carter did but I have to respect the fact that he was willing not to claim credit for something that could have helped his re-election campaign in order to protect the lives of Americans.

Afghanistan is something else that hasn’t changed that much. In December 1979 the Soviets invaded that country and the United States would supply and support the Afghan Mujahideen. Some of these became the nucleus of the Taliban who along with their Arab “foreign fighter” allies under Osama Bin Laden became Al Qaeda. The Reagan administration began a program in 1985 to trade arms to Iran for American hostages with monetary proceeds being used to fund Nicaraguan rebels which resulted in the Iran-Contra affair. Both of funding of the Mujahideen and the Iran-Contra affair have come to cause the United States much grief in both the Middle East and Central and South America.

Both were short term expedient operations conducted without long term though to the results of both for American prestige as well as foreign policy, politics, economics and military operations since.

Hindsight is not a bad thing, but foresight is much better. Perhaps we can learn not to repeat the follies of those that helped create the world that we now live.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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