Iran, papal terminology, fiction


I had just finished reading Mark Bowden's 2006 book Guests of the Ayatollah when I picked up Commonweal and read William Pfaff's column on Iran, “The Enemy Within” (July 17), which is rife with errors concerning the 1979 hostage crisis.

Pfaff writes: “Instead of recognizing the seizure of the embassy as an implicit act of war, and detaining Iranian officials, businessmen, and students in the United States for exchange...the Carter administration frantically forced all the Iranians in the United States to leave the country as fast as possible.” According to Bowden, Jimmy Carter-in December 1979-called for a review of the 50,000 visas held by Iranians in the United States, only to have that action challenged and halted by a federal judge. The Carter administration expelled Iranians across the United States only in early April 1980, shortly before the attempted rescue action, and some 160 days into the crisis.

Pfaff calls the rescue attempt “ill-conceived.” Bowden devotes some ninety-four pages to the meticulous planning that preceded the attempt: the training of the elite Delta force; deploying agents in Iran disguised as German businessmen to purchase trucks to be used as getaway vehicles; leasing a warehouse in which to conceal those vehicles; hiding eight helicopters for months in the belly of the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier; and the multiple and minute mission rehearsals. Bowden writes: “...

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