Memories That Still Hold US Hostage: Reflections On A Visit To The Former Embattled US Embassy in Tehran
The latest massive Wikileaks revelations released Sunday show how the US and its allies have been covertly discussing military attacks and covert actions against Iran. If history is any judge, this doesn't always work out the way Washington wants as Danny Schechter recounts in this report on a recent visit to the former US Embassy in Tehran, Iran, known locally then as a "spy nest."
By Danny Schechter, Author of The Crime Of Our Time
Tehran, Iran: The building was smaller than I remembered. The fading images in my mind were grainy: angry crowds, students marching, flags burning, chants of "Death to America," and Americans diplomats in blindfolds, It became a soap opera: Ted Koppel started his rise in TV News with ABC's nightly "America Held Hostage" series, the forerunner to "Nightline."
Back then, I was in radio news, just transitioning into TV. I remember publicly debating about what we should do with a DJ friend who had turned from a Vietnam War peacenik into a bomb Iran hawk.
In Iran, the takeover of the US Embassy--what students called its "conquering"-- was justified as a blow against imperialism, the seizure of a "spy nest." It was, at the time, the most globally covered aspect of the Iranian Revolution, an audacious confrontation between people power and a foreign power.
The events that followed may have been considered revolutionary in Iran, but for progressive Americans they became the nail in President Jimmy Carter's political coffin. He angered Iranians first when he toasted the Shah calling him a beloved figure. He then tried and failed to negotiate through third parties and later sent in a military "rescue" operation that crashed and burned leading to his own downfall.
The Iranians held him responsible for sheltering the ailing Shah; he in turn was being pressured by the likes of David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger to shelter the fleeing Monarch.
These events also helped bring on the turn to the right with the elevation of the actor we called "Ronnie Raygun." The hostages were released in a tacit agreement after 444 days in the very hour of his inauguration.
We are still living with the consequences, when wages declined, unions were broken, and military spending escalated. Reagan invaded Grenada and Beirut where the killings of hundreds of US soldiers sparked what we now label a War on Terror and which Iranians see as a "Clash of Civilizations."
The despotic Shah, our faithful servant for so many years, was driven from power by a popular revolt with the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini soon becoming the man we loved to hate.
Now, thirty plus years later, I am standing in front of what was once our Embassy surrounded today by well-kept lawns as it was then.
It is as if the past is never past, with so many ghosts still around.
The tragedy is that polarization between our two countries remains symbolized by what is now a very politicized museum with photos of the activists who crawled through a basement window and tunnel to take it over. They were demanding the return of the Shah to stand trial. They were protesting US interference in their internal affairs.
I didn't remember that eight hostages -women and black employees -- were released by Khomeini as a gesture. He urged the black men to return home and carry on the work of our most famous Muslim martyr, Malcolm X.
Malcolm was one of the Americans they admired.