By Mark Tooley
“Argo,” the movie, features Ben Affleck as the CIA “exfiltrator” who sneaks U.S. embassy personnel out of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran under the guise of a Canadian science fiction movie production crew. The six Americans had escaped the U.S. embassy compound in Tehran as it was overrun by radical protesters ultimately supported by their new, post-Shah regime. They sought refuge with the Canadian ambassador. At the time in 1980, the Canadians were accorded full credit for the escape, while the CIA role was only revealed in 1997.
Of course, 50 other Americans remained trapped as hostages for over a year at the U.S. Embassy, with the feckless Jimmy Carter Administration unable fully to respond. The humiliation was compounded by the failed U.S. rescue operation in which American helicopters crashed in the Iranian desert. Iranian Islamists routinely paraded the hostages before international cameras to humiliate the Great Satan. Concurrently, the Soviet Union invaded neighboring Afghanistan, which perhaps would have been less likely if the pro-U.S. Shah had retained his throne. The nightmarish years 1979-1980 seemed to embody American malaise and decline amid a world pivoting towards disorder and tyranny.
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