Guests of the Ayatollah

Dear Mr. President

Good morning, President Carter, I hope you are doing well. I felt compelled to write you this letter in response to your handling of the Iran hostage situation in 1979, 1980, and 1981. Three years. That embarrassment continued through three separate years.  I understand this occurred a very long time ago and perhaps you have moved on from this experience, but I’d urge you and the American people not to. In fact, I wasn’t even alive when the hostage crisis took place and though I’ve heard about it through the years it wasn’t until watching the Golden Globe winning movie, Argo, that I became aware of the details of this dark time in American history. As the movie reached completion and I was met with a screen saying the hostages were held for 444 days my reaction was an audible gasp. I was shocked. And moved to learn more.

I couldn’t understand. This was America. How could we possibly have allowed these hostages to remain captive for so long? GO GET THEM! I didn’t understand. As I read Guests of the Ayatollah, by Mark Bowden (author of Blackhawk Down) I knew I would be writing this letter almost immediately. I want you to know that if the American people have forgotten, they shouldn’t. I wanted you to know that young (er) Americans like myself who weren’t alive at the time or weren’t old enough to know what was happening don’t understand. I wanted you to know that this is a black mark over your presidency that I hope remains for all of eternity. I’ll be honest though, I had to google to see if you were still alive. Sorry. I know we are all getting older but, the 70’s…well, it was quite awhile ago. So I guess, congratulations on your longevity. You must be doing something right in that regard.

As the story unfolded in front of me I started to understand. The circumstances were different. There wasn’t an obvious leader to negotiate with and sending in troops to get the hostages out wasn’t as simple as crafting a plan and executing. But I was angry. As an American, as a human being I was angry that our countrymen were put through this. For Four Hundred and Forty Four Days. One year, 2 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days. I’m still angry.  You failed those Americans and you failed the office of the President.

I understand that the United States does not negotiate with Terrorists…but…we put ourselves in that situation. Our Nation-building put a man back into power that the people of Iran didn’t want. Then we protected him after they overthrew him. I’m not saying Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi wasn’t good for Iran, good for America, or good for the world during World War II or beyond, I don’t know the answer to that, but perhaps it wasn’t our place to make that decision for them? Whether it was the right decision or not, you should have dealt with the consequences of that decision instead of leaving these Americans to deal with it. Do you regret not bringing the Americans back after the embassy was occupied in February of ’79? Do you regret allowing the Shah to receive treatment at the Mayo Clinic? Would you do these things differently now?

While I believe one of our duties as Americans is to question our leaders, when I do so I try to remember that I can’t possibly understand all that goes into decision making or all that the job of the President entails. I attempted to give you the benefit of the doubt but my anger and disappointment remained. When the rescue attempt was finally made I applauded you in my mind for doing SOMETHING, ANYTHING and while that attempt was obviously a failure and resulted in the loss of several American servicemen’s lives I was proud of that decision. I hope that your frustration throughout this time was at least half of what I imagine it must have been although if it was I can’t figure out why you didn’t do more.

While I can’t imagine how this time weighed on you heart and I know you received plenty of criticism at the time I just simply couldn’t keep quiet after learning the details of this crisis. Bowden writes a compelling account from all sides that left me breathless and angry. I came away from it with a greater understanding of our entire history in the middle east and how this situation still affects our relations there. Thank you, Mr. President, for your service to the United States and the American people. While my disappointment at your handling of this situation will remain, so to will my respect for you and the office of the Presidency.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my feedback. God bless you. And God bless America.

 

DS

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