The 1979 Iranian Hostage crisis marks one of the lowest points in the history of the United States. It began when a mob of students and thugs scaled the wall of the U.S. Embassy and captured 52 American Embassy personnel, (diplomats and civilians). To be clear, the takeover of an embassy by another country is a declaration of war. As defined, an embassy is a protected building, a piece of one country in another country and an invasion is no different than if one country invades another. There can be no other way to view this. The correct response should have been an immediate declaration of war by President Carter but he was a weak President and virtually did nothing in response other than order a failed rescue attempt.
In 1987, as a graduate student, I had the privilege of interviewing one of the former Iranian hostages, Barry Rosen, for a paper I was writing on the hostage crisis. In the interview, which lasted one hour, he expressed his gratitude that President Carter had handled the crisis as he did because he was alive. But he also understood that another correct response would have been to declare war or to bomb Tehran, ultimately resulting in the death of all of the hostages, including him. He explained that with service overseas, risk or danger is something that all of the embassy personnel understood, particularly in Iran, after the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi received medical treatment in the U.S. Although he was terrified about what was transpiring, once he realized that the embassy gate had been breached, he desperately tried to shred important, classified documents before the hostage takers would ultimately discover him in his office.
While the Iranian hostage crisis is obviously a story that makes for great drama, the one side that we discussed, that received far less attention was the human side; how the hostages re-acclimated to American society after 444 days in captivity. It’s difficult for any of us to understand what it would be like to be locked up 24 hours a day for one year and almost three months, not knowing if you would be released, tortured or killed. The topics we discussed included getting back to married life, children, and everyday, normal life that we take for granted. As the interview ended, I realized that the horror of his captivity would remain with him forever. He had received a life sentence of sorts and yet the hostage takers had never been brought to justice.
Fast forward to the present. The Iranian nomination to the United nations of one of the hostage takers to a U.N. post, thereby granting him access to the very country on which he and his fellow thugs declared war, is nothing short of horrifying. Would the U.S allow Osama Bin Laden to be the U.N. representative for Saudi Arabia? How is this any different? Hamid Aboutalebi is a terrorist. He is a criminal and if the United States and President Obama allows such an action, it will set a horrible precedent, rewarding criminal behavior. President Obama needs to take a stand even if it means threatening the removal of the U.N. from the United States. If he doesn’t and Aboutalebi is permitted to enter this country, it will seal his fate as the weakest foreign policy President in the history of this country. Clearly, Iran is calling out the President and It’s time for him to at last, take a stand.