The Death Of An American Hero

Yesterday NPR reported that Tony Mendez, the man behind the 1980 rescue of six American diplomats trapped in Iran by the Iranian revolution, has died. The six diplomats were hidden by the Canadian Embassy until the CIA was able to smuggle them out of the country. The story was the basis for the movie “Argo.” The full story was not really told until the movie was released in 2012.

The article at NPR reports:

Tony Mendez became a legend inside the CIA with his daring 1980 rescue of six American diplomats who were given shelter by the Canadian Embassy in Tehran after the U.S. Embassy had been stormed by Iranian revolutionaries.

But the “Canadian Caper” remained classified for nearly two decades, and Mendez didn’t receive full acclaim until the Oscar-winning movie Argo, came out in 2012, with Ben Affleck portraying him.

Mendez, who was 78 and had Parkinson’s disease, died Saturday at an assisted living facility in Frederick, Md., outside Washington, according to the International Spy Museum, where Mendez was a founding board member.

“He was a legendary intelligence officer,” said the museum’s Executive Director Chris Costa.

The movie tells the story of how Tony Mendez posed as a film director with a crew scouting locations in Iran for a movie. He then gave the diplomats phony identities as part of his crew and smuggled them out of the country as his film crew. The crew flew out on a commercial airline. It is an amazing movie, and Mr. Mendez deserves a tremendous amount of credit for pulling off the scam. He was a true American hero.

Sued Over Argo

Argo” won the Academy Award for Best Picture this year. The film tells the story of six Americans smuggled out of Iran after the Iranian revolution. The movie is not entirely accurate–it’s a movie–but the basic story follows the history of the events (for some details on what is true and what is not, see

The Associated Press is reporting today that Iran is planning to sue Hollywood, claiming that the movie portrays the country of Iran in an unrealistic way.

The article reports:

The decision on the lawsuit came after a group of Iranian cultural officials and movie critics screened the film in a closed audience in a Tehran theater late Monday.

The gathering, titled “The Hoax of Hollywood,” discussed various legal aspects of filing a lawsuit, media reports said, without providing details. It remains unclear what specific charges Iran could raise and what court Tehran could turn to if the action goes ahead.

Those at the meeting dismissed “Argo” as a “violation of international cultural norms.” A statement issued after the gathering said that “awarding an anti-Iran movie is a propaganda attack against our nation and entire humanity.”

The statement did not clarify how the movie was allegedly unrealistic, but officials have accused “Argo” of depicting Iranians as “too violent.”

I have no way of knowing if the violence depicted in “Argo” is exactly what happened. I do know that there were some areas in the movie that represent the ‘poetic license’ of the filmmakers. I also know that the people who were in Iran during the 1979 revolution and the news photographs from that time indicate that the violence shown was typical of what went on.

The thing to keep in mind here is the effort on the part of the Iranian government to stop any art or speech that portrays them in a negative light. Freedom of speech in Iran died in the revolution of 1979. The violence that was depicted in “Argo” was part of that picture.


Enhanced by Zemanta

It Was A Great Story Even If Some Of It Wasn’t True

Argo was one of my favorite movies this year. I loved seeing the story of how a fake movie had such an impact on world events. However, evidently there was some serious poetic license taken with the story.

Saturday’s U. K. Mail told the story of the seizing of the American Embassy and the taking of hostages from another perspective. Martin Williams wrote the article. He was a  First Secretary at the British Embassy in Iran when militants invaded the US Embassy in November 1979. In the movie, the British were portrayed as refusing the help the Americans who had evaded capture during the storming of the embassy. Mr. Williams tells another story.

The article relates the role Mr. Williams played that day in 1979:

We continued to get regular anonymous threats, for while the Iranians considered America to be enemy No 1, or the Great Satan, Britain was the Little Satan.

So it was not entirely surprising when a mob stormed the American Embassy on November 4. We didn’t know then how long it would last.

But we had no hesitation in helping when, at about 5pm the following day, I was told that several people had evaded capture and I should go and find them. I set off in my dusty orange Austin Maxi, which Sue and I had driven all the way from England in late 1977. It was pretty distinct and the only one in Iran; it also had a prominent GB sticker on the back.

Please follow the link above to read the entire story in the U. K. Mail. It is an amazing story of people helping people in a very difficult time.

Mr. Williams concludes:

So what prompted Ben Affleck and his people, including producer George Clooney, to portray the Brits in such a derogatory way, I don’t know. If the film had portrayed what we did, it might have added even more dramatic tension.

Let me say that, although I was disappointed by the inaccuracies,  I thought Argo was a great piece of entertainment. I can see why it won the Oscar for Best Film, but it is a semi-fictional account only.

Not that I’m surprised by its narrow viewpoint, which was geared to show the CIA as the hero.

It is not the first time that Hollywood has chosen to depict a successful world event as entirely a result of their intervention.

As a boy I can remember one of my schoolmasters commenting on the fact that most war films  gave the impression that the Americans had won the Second World War single-handed.

But this time it’s personal. I was there and I took part, as did others.  So I am concerned that Argo could become accepted as the definitive historical account.

The truth is very different, and I think it only right to get the correct information out to the public.

Now we know the truth.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Science Fiction Land

I generally see about three movies a year. One of the movies I saw this year was ARGO. It was a fantastic movie. There was some poetic license in telling the story, but for the most part the story was as most Americans remember it. The idea of smuggling out the hostages as part of a movie crew was very creative, and it was wonderful to get them out of Iran alive and without having been tortured.

Yesterday the U.K. Mail posted a story about the drawings of the fake movie used to get the Americans out of Iran. The article posted a number of the drawings–they are fantastic.

The article reports:

The ‘Argo’ movie illustrations that the CIA used in 1980 to fool Iranian officials into freeing six American hostages have been made available for the first time in decades. 

The author of the concept illustrations, Jack Kirby, who co-created X-Men, died in 1994 but the man who hired him to draw them lives to tell the true story behind the original ‘Argo.’

Barry Ira Geller was an aspiring producer in 1978 when he purchased the production rights to the science fiction novel ‘Lord of Light‘ by Roger Zelazny, a story set on a faraway planet that was published in 1967.

Chambers and Mendez changed the name of the production from ‘Lord of Light’ to ‘Argo’ and the rest of the story became history, as the plan was successful and all six Americans made it home safely.

Geller said he didn’t learn that his script had been used for the top secret mission until 2001. 

Asked how he feels now about the fact that his script played such an important role in history, Geller said, ‘I feel fantastic about it.’

‘It shows me that we all make a difference in the world,’ he added.

Kirby also would have been thrilled to know that his art had made such an impact, Geller said.. 

‘He would have loved it,’ he said.

Geller’s story, which was omitted from the blockbuster movie ‘Argo,’ is now being told in a upcoming documentary by director Judd Ehrlich called Science Fiction Land.

The documentary is being billed as the ‘true story behind “Argo.”‘

Please follow the link above to the U.K. Daily Mail to see the drawings. They are amazing.

Enhanced by Zemanta