In response to a Slashdot article

Just so you know. This is a pet peeve of mine -- ever since I realized (with shock and dismay) that the US press was far from being balanced fair and open about the Iran Hostage Taking. I spent weeks researching the various views on what was going on there from as many sources as I could possibly hunt down, and kept it up on a lower level for months beyond that.

The embassy kidnappings in Tehran were done by a highly radicalized group of religious students active in the Islamic Revolution. Khomeini called the US embassy in Tehran a "US den of espionage" and ordered it kidnapped, and these students did it.

wrong. That's part of the public misconception. There were actually two invasions of the US embassy by radicals. The First one was in June, if I remember correctly. Khomeini talked them out after the first embassy taking and told them not to do that again. After the second taking, he sent his own son in to talk them out again, but he failed.

The reason why he failed on the second time was public sentiment. Iranians at the time still remembered that the US had caused a counter-revolution in the early 60's that had returned the Shaw to power (and marked the beginning of serious brutality on the Shah's part). All along, they had simply been asking for an apology¹ from the US for the (illegal) interference in Iranian government affairs and a promise not to do it again. (the later alone probably would have been sufficient).

When The Shah entered the US ostensibly (OK, and actually, too, but try and tell that to fearful Iranians) for medical treatment, radicals in Iran claimed that it was really to organize a second counter-revolution. The Iranians were too scared of a repeat of that fate to think straight (sound familiar?). The irony is that it was the US's unwillingness to verify it's compliance with international law that resulted in this most serious violation of the US's international law rights. (sound familiar?).

Khomeini made a number of attempts at moderating the hostage situation. Every time he did so, the US ignored his actions and undercut his intentions. The portrayal of Khomeini as able to get the hostages out with a snap of his fingers is entirely contrary to the effort that he had to take in the face of public sentiment and fears. Khomeini was in power by dint of public support only..

A couple of samples:

This is part of the reason why (I think) Khomeini arranged to get the hostages out the same day that Regan was sworn into office. He had wanted to get rid of them all along and the changing of leadership allowed the opportunity to do that (and I don't think he wanted to give this new president any opportunity to stick his foot in his mouth).

I actually think that Khomeini had just cause for suing all sorts of people in the US for slander and libel -- but there was no way that he could get a fair trial. His public image was so badly sabotaged that any Jury that decided on his behalf risked being lynched.

If (and that's a big if) the US were to invade Iran to avoid the government acquiring the A-bomb, the outcome depends on how quickly the US would be able to restore/provide peace, stability, prosperity and individual freedom so that the Iranian people would come to judge America by the former aspect rather than the latter.

Given what's happened in Iraq, I'd say it's (hopefully) a big iff for the former proposition, but it's a snowball's chance in hell for the latter. -- at least under Bush who seems entirely too much the bully to treat any foreign nationals like they deserve respect and/or (gag) civil rights.

¹ An apology is little more than an admission that what you did was wrong, with an implicit promise not to do it again.   (back)

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Stephen Samuel (

Edited: Feb22, 2006