Taken Hostage

Taken Hostage: The Iran Hostage Crisis and America's First Encounter with Radical Islam

Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 224
Stable URL: http:/stable/j.ctt7sts9
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  • Book Info
    Taken Hostage
    Book Description:

    On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran and took sixty-six Americans captive. Thus began the Iran Hostage Crisis, an affair that captivated the American public for 444 days and marked America's first confrontation with the forces of radical Islam. Using hundreds of recently declassified government documents, historian David Farber takes the first in-depth look at the hostage crisis, examining its lessons for America's contemporary War on Terrorism.

    Unlike other histories of the subject, Farber's vivid and fast-paced narrative looks beyond the day-to-day circumstances of the crisis, using the events leading up to the ordeal as a means for understanding it. The book paints a portrait of the 1970s in the United States as an era of failed expectations in a nation plagued by uncertainty and anxiety. It reveals an American government ill prepared for the fall of the Shah of Iran and unable to reckon with the Ayatollah Khomeini and his militant Islamic followers.

    Farber's account is filled with fresh insights regarding the central players in the crisis: Khomeini emerges as an astute strategist, single-mindedly dedicated to creating an Islamic state. The Americans' student-captors appear as less-than-organized youths, having prepared for only a symbolic sit-in with just a three-day supply of food. ABC news chief Roone Arledge, newly installed and eager for ratings, is cited as a critical catalyst in elevating the hostages to cause célèbre status.

    Throughout the book there emerge eerie parallels to the current terrorism crisis. Then as now, Farber demonstrates, politicians failed to grasp the depth of anger that Islamic fundamentalists harbored toward the United States, and Americans dismissed threats from terrorist groups as the crusades of ineffectual madmen.

    Taken Hostageis a timely and revealing history of America's first engagement with terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, one that provides a chilling reminder that the past is only prologue.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2620-9
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The rustic philosopher Calvin Coolidge observed that if you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will turn off before they reach you. In the 1970s, though, the troubles all kept on coming. It was a game of chicken no one seemed to know how to escape and the head-on crash was not a pretty sight. The American people survived the wreckage (politically, the era’s presidents were not so lucky) but not without scars and not without bitter memories.

    The Iran hostage crisis, which lasted from November 4, 1979, until January 20, 1981, was...

    (pp. 9-34)

    To burn or not to burn, that was the question. For several months, the CIA station in the U.S. embassy in Iran had been under a strict “read-and-burn” order. No cables or other materials were to be kept in drawers, filed away, or even locked in secure vaults. But by the early summer the high anxiety produced by the revolution and by the brief February takeover of the embassy had cooled. A “three-month-retain” status order had been instituted. There was a caveat. The total retained material could not exceed that amount which could be burned in thirty minutes.

    The CIA...

    (pp. 35-72)

    When David Rockefeller, grandson of John D. Rockefeller and president of Chase Manhattan Bank, arrived in Tehran in May 1970, he barely knew Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Shahs. The two men had met briefly in Tehran in 1965 and then again in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at a dinner in 1968 when the regents of Harvard University, for reasons of their own, had chosen to present the Shah with an honorary degree. The Chase Bank had strong links with the fabulously wealthy Pahlavi regime, and bank business took Rockefeller to Iran.

    Rockefeller was in Tehran as co-convener of the Tehran...

  7. Chapter Three TAKEOVER IN TEHRAN
    (pp. 73-101)

    After the 1953 coup, when Muhammad Mossadegh was thrown out of power, his nephew (and supporter) Prince Mozaffar Firouz had ended up in Paris. Iranians from all the anti-Shah factions turned up in Paris. They opened shops or lived on the money they had been able to take with them. They plotted. Firouz, often enough, found a role in such intrigues; in the mid-1960s he had acted as middleman between Saddam Hussein and the Ayatollah Khomeini, using one of his ubiquitous cousins to carry messages. In the late 1970s, the prince was still in Paris and still pursuing intrigues against...

    (pp. 102-136)

    On November 4, 1979, Robert Ode was on special short-term assignment at the U.S. embassy in Iran. He’d only been there for a couple of months. He was part of the skeleton crew operating themuch-reduced U.S. Mission Tehran while the Iranian revolution sorted itself out. Sixty-five years old, he had retired from the foreign service in 1976. He’d put in thirty years all over the world. A steady, sure hand, he looked a decade younger than his age.

    Ode’s work at the embassy was routine. Mostly, he processed visa applications. Because of the chaos and anti-American hysteria, the U.S. government...

  9. Chapter Five 444 DAYS
    (pp. 137-180)

    In November 1979, Roone Arledge was the president of both ABC Sports and ABC News. He’d made his mark in the television business by inventingABC’s Wide World of Sports and Monday Night Football. One show featured oddities like Irish hurling and pulled in viewers by hyping, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” The other turned football into a circus with the part of the ringmaster played by the pompous blowhard Howard Cosell, the announcer Americans loved to hate. Arledge had, as he said, added “show business to sports!”¹ While allowing for certain unstated differences, he believed...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 181-190)

    The hostages finally were freed on January 20, 1981. Fifty-two of them had been in Iranian hands for 444 days. Just before the hostages were to fly out of Tehran, Bruce German, who had been the embassy budget officer, insisted that they take a count to make sure that all were present and accounted for. They counted again, and again. German remembers: “We wanted to make sure that everybody was on that plane. We weren’t about to leave anyone behind.”¹

    The route home was circuitous. At their first stop, in Algeria, the Americans were amazed and unsettled by the media...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 191-204)
  12. Index
    (pp. 205-212)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-214)