Video: 30-year anniversary of Iran hostages release

posted at 4:00 pm on January 23, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

On Thursday, while some celebrated the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy and lamented the two-year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s, one anniversary slid quietly past most Americans — but not Barry Rosen. Rosen spent 444 days as a hostage in Iran, and NBC spoke with him on the 30th anniversary of his release:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

One of the lasting changes from the hostage crisis was ABC’s Nightline, which started as a late-night news program to track the progress of efforts to end the standoff. Its host, Ted Koppel, writes today that we’re still fighting “Reagan’s war,” even though as Glenn Reynolds points out, the hostages got taken on Jimmy Carter’s watch:

Um, wasn’t Jimmy Carter President when the Hostage Crisis began? And if he’d taken decisive action instead of dithering, we probably wouldn’t still be fighting this war, and doing badly enough that supporters of the current Democratic President are trying to blame Reagan. Instead, Carter temporized, much as Obama has been doing on numerous fronts. I don’t remember Koppel sounding bellicose back then, but of course I was young and might have missed it.

Bellicose? Indeed, one might think that Koppel might be singing harmony to John McCain’s “Bomb, Bomb Iran”:

That last point probably was a part of Iran’s strategic calculus. Iran was not then, and is not now, any military match for the United States. Without the American hostages in Tehran, Iran was plainly vulnerable to U.S. power.

Further complicating its position, since September 1980, Iran had been fighting a massive invasion by the Iraqi forces of Saddam Hussein, the beginnings of a bloody war that would last most of the decade. The United States officially proclaimed neutrality – Henry Kissinger famously observed that it was a shame both nations couldn’t lose – but Washington considered Iran the greater threat and covertly assisted Hussein.

Once the hostages were released, however, no reprisal came, and the Iranian leadership offered no evidence of wanting to reconcile.

In their approach to the United States in the decade that followed, the mullahs provided chilling evidence of how closely they had studied the influence of the media and public opinion on U.S. foreign policy. During the hostage crisis, they learned how obsessively engaged our news media becomes when U.S. prisoners are taken. What Americans consider one of our greatest national virtues – concern for the individual – the Iranians recognized as a vulnerability.

Well, they probably also watched Superman II and followed General Zod’s strategy.  Seriously, though, Koppel leaves out an important difference between the 1979 sacking of the embassy and hostaging, and the kidnappings of Americans in Lebanon in the 1980s, which is that Iran used a terrorist group as a proxy in the latter.  Very early in the 1979 crisis, the revolutionary Khomeini government dropped the pretense that the hostages were being held by “students” and admitted that they ran the show.  The invasion of a recognized embassy and the capture of its staff is an overt act of war, one which never generated the proper response by the Carter administration.  Very obviously, Iran understood that Reagan would have reacted quite differently and decided to pursue asymmetrical warfare in the years and decades that followed.

That’s not to say that Reagan didn’t make mistakes in handling Iran.  Instead of trying to negotiate with Iran, he should have confronted them militarily during the Lebanon crises and squelched their terrorist sponsorships.  But this war began under Carter, who should have wiped Khomeini and his goons off the map in 1979 when given the opportunity to do so, and calling this “Reagan’s war” is as accurate as calling Afghanistan “Obama’s war” or Vietnam “Nixon’s war.”


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Also the 30th anniversary of another important event. A little swearing in ceremony that I remember….

conservnut on January 23, 2011 at 4:03 PM

Thank God for Reagan. We need more like him.

OmahaConservative on January 23, 2011 at 4:06 PM

When our Iranian embassy was taken over, that was an invasion. An embassy is sovereign territory of the visiting country. And Carter didn’t respond as if we were invaded. He was weak. And that led to Hezbollah and Hamas and the rise of IslamoFascism and 30 years of terror in the Mideast. Thanks President Carter.

Paul-Cincy on January 23, 2011 at 4:24 PM

Koppel is an ass.

slickwillie2001 on January 23, 2011 at 4:28 PM

Recall how Carter lost his grin in office?

Schadenfreude on January 23, 2011 at 4:28 PM

That the Ayatollah was allowed back to Iran, alive, is the travesty of them all.

Schadenfreude on January 23, 2011 at 4:29 PM

The invasion of a recognized embassy and the capture of its staff is an overt act of war

Yep, much like the bombing of the USS Cole. Both are an overt act of war yet as we have seen neither of the two democrate presidents (Carter and Clinton) at the time had the fortitude to defend our great nation when our freedom and liberties were attacked by those that seek to destroy our great nation.

Peace and appeasement at any cost doesn’t work and only serves to make us look weak to our enemies thus embolding our enemies and placing us in greater peril.

Liberty or Death on January 23, 2011 at 4:30 PM

But this war began under Carter, who should have wiped Khomeini and his goons off the map in 1979 when given the opportunity to do so, and calling this “Reagan’s war” is as accurate as calling Afghanistan “Obama’s war” or Vietnam “Nixon’s war.”

Thomas Jeffersons War?

Jan Sobieskis War?

John of Austrias War?

Charles Martels War?

Same sh1t, different days.

BL@KBIRD on January 23, 2011 at 4:33 PM

Yeah, thirty years, and where’s the USA payback? It’s a disgusting display of why the Muslim world is emboldened!

GFW on January 23, 2011 at 4:36 PM

All were warned of the danger and told to leave. They ignored the advice and refused. Draw your own conclusions. I know what I would have done with them!!!!

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on January 23, 2011 at 4:48 PM

“Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” was being played over and over and over that day..

I was working in an electronics store and every television was showing it.

GoodBoy on January 23, 2011 at 5:06 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13xx1J5FdNE

http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1986/41486g.htm

We Americans are slow to anger. We always seek peaceful avenues before resorting to the use of force — and we did. We tried quiet diplomacy, public condemnation, economic sanctions, and demonstrations of military force. None succeeded. Despite our repeated warnings, Qadhafi continued his reckless policy of intimidation, his relentless pursuit of terror. He counted on America to be passive. He counted wrong. I warned that there should be no place on Earth where terrorists can rest and train and practice their deadly skills. I meant it. I said that we would act with others, if possible, and alone if necessary to ensure that terrorists have no sanctuary anywhere. Tonight, we have.

William Amos on January 23, 2011 at 5:11 PM

Blame Reagan for Iran?…….WELL OF COURSE!!

With Progressives writing History anything is possible.

Nixon had JFK knocked off, John Wilkes Booth read Conservative newspapers of the day, Madison and other Founders were just tools of the Big Tobacco plantations (called BIG SMOKE by Libs back then).

The Mayflower trip paid for by English robber barons hoping to gain land grants from the British crown. It’s all there if you just get over that right wing bigotry and history hate.

PappyD61 on January 23, 2011 at 5:17 PM

That’s not to say that Reagan didn’t make mistakes in handling Iran. Instead of trying to negotiate with Iran, he should have confronted them militarily during the Lebanon crises and squelched their terrorist sponsorships

Reagan always tried to keep Iran down. He had US battleships shell Lebanon right after the Marine barracks bombing and then when it looked like Iran would win against Saddam hegave him assistance then sold Missiles to the Ayatollah to kill Iraqis and used the money to fund the Contras.

William Amos on January 23, 2011 at 5:18 PM

calling this “Reagan’s war” is as accurate as calling Afghanistan “Obama’s war” or Vietnam “Nixon’s war.”

Ummm… Ed. You realize most liberals do think of Vietnam as Nixon’s war, right?

Kennedy and LBJ get a pass while Nixon is the bad guy.

ButterflyDragon on January 23, 2011 at 5:47 PM

Evidently they don’t think any of us living then have any memory of this event. Geez.

Also, Diane Savitch spotting!

di butler on January 23, 2011 at 6:20 PM

Also, Diane Savitch spotting!

I think ya mean Jessica Savitch.

UncleOlaf on January 23, 2011 at 7:02 PM

I$lamists have a one thousand four hundred year track record of exploiting and intimidating cowards.

bannedbyhuffpo on January 23, 2011 at 7:31 PM

GoodBoy on January 23, 2011 at 5:06 PM

I remember it as well. And the huge ribbon they had on the Superdome in LA for the Superbowl a couple days later.

Raiders!

BierManVA on January 23, 2011 at 8:18 PM

In fairness to Carter, I don’t think a robust military response was really much of an option. We’d withdrawn our combat presence in Vietnam just a few years before, that war ended badly with the fall of Saigon (precipitated most likely by the Democrats gutting aid to the South Vietnamese gov’t), the Church Commission had pretty much destroyed the CIA so we were flying blind when it came to events on the ground pretty much anywhere in the world, the Soviets started rolling into Afghanistan just a few weeks after the hostages were taken which if we’d gone in really strong militarily into Iran, who knows where that would have lead with the Russians right over the border, etc., etc.

As to Reagan responding differently and so much more effectively than Carter? Iran/Contra, people. Remember Iran/Contra.

Bennett on January 23, 2011 at 8:24 PM

I was in eighth grade at the start of the hostage taking.

In my history class for the day my teacher brought an AM radio in and turned it on.

That’s all we listened to for the entire class.

I’ve not had much good will towards islam ever since.

BowHuntingTexas on January 23, 2011 at 8:44 PM

//Indeed, one might think that Koppel might be singing harmony to John McCain’s “Bomb, Bomb Iran”://

McCain had the FBI write a report on the MEK which said that they were “intimately involved” with the hostage taking in 1979. Now, the Repbulicans are trying to get the MEK taken off the terrorist list. Why do Republicans want to take a group off the terrorist list that was “intimately involved” with the taking of US hostages? Are the Republicans getting soft on terror?

dave742 on January 23, 2011 at 9:04 PM

I was involved with the hostages from almost the start. We were inport at Subic Bay on USS Jouett. We’d completed our deployment schedule and were making preps to return to San Diego. We’d recently been in S. Korea and I had seen the picture in Stars & Stripes, of the embassy personnel being marched blindfolded through the streets. I hadn’t paid that much attention to what was the reason.

It was just before Thanksgiving 79 when we were tasked to escort USS Kitty Hawk to take station in the Arabian Sea for contingency ops. There were no other ships available for tasking due to maintenance issues. Congress had gutted DoD budgets after Vietnam and it wasn’t out of the norm.

We made the transit in relative “silence”, but once on station had a seemingly endless array of Soviet ships and aircraft to see what we were doing. Within a week or so we were joined by some assets from Yokosuka. We stayed on station for 78 days until relieved by USS Nimitz and USS Midway.

We had to take on fuel about every 3rd day. Our fueling stations were connected by a phone line, and being sailors out to sea, had to try to find out what was really going on. We knew something was about to happen when the H-53 helos showed up. That wasn’t a normal part of a carrier’s inventory. The ill fated Desert One mission was launched shortly after we were heading back to the States.

Even though we got a daily news bulletin from the guys in Radio, the details behind the embassy attack were sketchy. I had written my mom for a run down of events. Her letter arrived after about 5 weeks. Our supply pipeline to that area was basically non-existent until then. She explained it better than anything I’d read up to that point.

I followed the progress of the embassy staff when I got back. I was very pi**ed off about the lack of support for the rescue mission. I couldn’t believe that with 2 carriers off shore, we couldn’t cut a path for the helos.

TugboatPhil on January 23, 2011 at 10:53 PM

The 1980 release of hostages was the final insult to Carter’s open hand and diplomacy, and a foreshadowing of the price we would pay for his feckless and inexperienced handling of international affairs. The two current wars are a direct result, and Iran’s boldness in using terror as a national tool has only been staunched by these mighty efforts. Many Presidents can share the blame, certainly Clinton’s withdrawal from Somalia was parallel with Reagan’s withdrawal from Lebanon, both showed we would not pay the price in blood our policies demanded. The price has now been paid, in blood, and we have Iran surrounded- just in time for the current administration to surrender all gains and quit the field. Will we have to pay the price again, another generation of blood plus interest? Or will we have the courage of our convictions, the will to follow through, and defeat our sworn enemies? We will pay a price either way, but how much more interest in blood will accrue if we fail to act yet again? A nuclear equipped Iran can extract a price we may not be able to pay, even if we were willing, as they could easily destroy our economy through blackmail or actual use of radiological weapons on nearby energy producers such as Saudi Arabia.

TxRick on January 23, 2011 at 11:49 PM

Ed, you are correct: Carter should have wiped them off the map. But the sad fact that everyone seems to forget – in 1979, militarily, we didn’t have the capability to do so. Sure there was talk by Carter of building a new “Rapid Deployment Force”, but that came only a month prior to the Embassy being taking, so no real capability existed yet. Our SOF existed at the time, but not in the numbers, or with the support they enjoy today.

The truth was that we had no real idea as to the reaction of Soviet Union to any response we would attempt, and more so, we were afraid we couldn’t respond to the Soviets.

So more indicting than President Carter’s milquetoast response, was the realization that, in practical terms, as a nation, we couldn’t do anything about it. The President didn’t have the will to act, but the nation did. The recent end of the Vietnam War colored Carter’s opinions anyway, just to put a cherry on top. He couldn’t get past the possibility of the imagery of helicopters leaving behind another Embassy in defeat.

As an aside, my older sister was friends with Hostage Donald Hohman’s family here in Sacramento – we had a huge public celebration party in a big hall when we learned about the hostages being released. Since it coincided with President Reagan’s inauguration, it was a dual celebration.

juanito on January 24, 2011 at 12:56 AM

Ed, you are correct: Carter should have wiped them off the map. But the sad fact that everyone seems to forget – in 1979, militarily, we didn’t have the capability to do so. Sure there was talk by Carter of building a new “Rapid Deployment Force”, but that came only a month prior to the Embassy being taking, so no real capability existed yet. Our SOF existed at the time, but not in the numbers, or with the support they enjoy today.

While Spec Ops surely didn’t have the operational capability, the capacity to militarily punish Iran did exist before and after the hostage taking. Operation Eagle Claw was not the only possible military response- in fact it was very high risk and failed for many reasons- the hostages weren’t where we thought they were for example. Carter insured the CIA was incapable of doing it’s job, abandoned our ally the Shah, encouraged the Grand Ayatollah’s return, and left our embassy personnel defenseless and in place. The embassy staff should have evacuated with the families OR the president should have been willing to defend the embassy. He took the risk, they paid the price. Soviet reaction to any US move would be muted by their own recent invasion of Afghanistan and such action would have balanced the equation somewhat. Iraq’s invasion of Iran in Sep. 1980 was in fact supported by the USSR who provided most of Iraq’s arms and technical support at the time.

TxRick on January 24, 2011 at 2:43 AM

TIP

Tea Party House GOP Aiming to Defund the United Nations

http://conservativeblogscentral.blogspot.com/2011/01/tea-party-house-gop-aiming-to-defund.html

Nearly Nobody on January 24, 2011 at 3:14 AM

If someone was a member of a group that was “intimately involved” with the taking of hostages in Iran, should that same person be on the payroll of FOX News?

dave742 on January 24, 2011 at 4:22 AM

Carter may have made a mistake here…but at least we didn’t suffer any energy crisis, or end up with double digit inflation…

right2bright on January 24, 2011 at 7:35 AM

Nearly Nobody on January 24, 2011 at 3:14 AM

ooooh, i hope that comes to fruition…

cmsinaz on January 24, 2011 at 8:27 AM

Henry Kissinger famously observed that it was a shame both nations couldn’t lose

I agree.
I wish there could have been found a way to let these morons annhiliate each other.
It’s what we should be working toward now.

Thomas Jeffersons War?

Jan Sobieskis War?

John of Austrias War?

Charles Martels War?

Same sh1t, different days.

BL@KBIRD on January 23, 2011 at 4:33 PM

Correctly noted. islam is full of totalitarian irrationals.
There is no moderate islam bcs simply by following islam as is written in the koran, you will have nothing but tyranny & despotism.

I$lamists have a one thousand four hundred year track record of exploiting and intimidating cowards.

bannedbyhuffpo on January 23, 2011 at 7:31 PM

They are nothing but a constant source of tyranny. Nothing more.
I say isolate them, play them off of each other & let them weaken themselves.
Keep them in perpetual poverty & despotism. These idiots deserve nothing less.
As I said, there is no moderate islam.
Just when you think you’ve got some moderate islamic leader, someone reads the koran & says hey! We’re not doing the work of the prophet!
So humanist/atheist/agnostic leaders in the middle east routinely fall.

Badger40 on January 24, 2011 at 8:32 AM