Monday, October 22, 2012

We rue the day

Ben Affleck directed and starred in 'Argo'
Having just seen "Argo," the entertaining movie of the astounding rescue of six Americans from Iran in 1980, it's time to look back at those emasculating times and wonder what it means today.

There are no direct comparisons with the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979 when 52 Americans were held captive for 444 days until the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, to anything today.

Six diplomats escaped during the embassy takeover on Nov. 4, 1979.

They hid at the home of the Canadian ambassador for a couple of months before they were rescued by Tony Mendez, a CIA agent, on a ruse that they were scouting locations for a sci-fi movie called "Argo."

It was nice to be at the theater to hear almost a full house erupt in applause as the Americans, against rapidly diminishing odds, got out on a Swiss Air flight.

I'm sure there are a few who would equate the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya last month to the Iran-hostage situation.

Well, they aren't that similar at all. The murders of our ambassador and three others were tragic. The Iran-hostage crisis was one prolonged nightmare that still haunts us today with our continuing problems with Iran.

But, there are definite parallels to our invasion of Iraq.

In "Argo," the American embassy workers are portrayed as wimpy nerds. With their oversized glasses, ridiculous haircuts and elitist attitudes, they don't appear worthy of saving at all.

The CIA operatives, as portrayed in the film, are clueless, having been completely wrong about the Iranian revolution.

And the military, well, the few defenders at the embassy in "Argo" are simply ill-prepared and overwhelmed.

In our 2003 invasion of Iraq, the CIA found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, on which the invasion was premised.

The military was ill-prepared to deal with improvised-explosive devices and scores of Americans were blown to bits.

And, the diplomats? Well, let's just say their attire and grooming improved, but they were as elitist, condescending and clueless as their counterparts were in 1979.

Yeah, let's disband the Iraqi military and ban former Baathist party members from having any say in the new American-imposed government.

That didn't work out too well.

What is also impressive about "Argo" is how it deals with the uncomfortable facts about how America laid the groundwork for the Islamic revolution, that's still sweeping the world today, by deposing a democratically elected leader and installing the Shah in 1953. We still rue that day.

Dictatorships don't work out too well, particularly when you torture and imprison thousands of your countrymen and women. But, that's what the Shah did, to our nodding approval.

Afterall, we got oil out of the deal. That's all we ever wanted.

We invaded Iraq for the same reason.

And, look what that has done to the Middle East. It's less stable now than any time in history.

The Arab Spring will do what it should: Allow self-determination of each country, from Libya to Syria.

They may choose Islamic governance, which is not good, but in the long run, it simplifies the potential conflicts. Instead of fighting a word like "terrorism," we would be fighting a country like Egypt or Syria or Libya.

It would be nation against nation and it's a battle we can win decisively and swiftly.

As President Obama debates Mitt Romney tonight, we should think of "Argo" and Iraq.

The president was handed a devastated economy and, for good measure, a complete mess on the international front. It will take years to undue the harm.

President Obama is on the right track. Mitt would takes us backwards to the Bush era.

We must move forward with President Obama.

If not, we'll rue the day.

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