Okay, so you know by now or should know that I get really irked by people who screw around with the truth in history. Especially Americans! So there is no way I could honestly sit by and be just another polite Canadian with regards to the much touted movie “Argo”!
Why don't we back up history to 1979 and revisit the story of how it all really went down. The Iranian hostage crisis has a lot of intrigue and danger yes but it also has a heart warming basis, that being Canadians being typical Canadians. Standing up for what is right, being supportive and helping make a difference somehow.
Many years after that crisis we were forced to endure President Bubba Bush deliberately ignoring our supportive efforts at 9/11. Remember when he said: ““America will never forget the sounds of our national anthem playing at Buckingham Palace, on the streets of Paris and at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.” Bush singled out South Korea, Egypt, Australia, Africa, Latin America, Pakistan, Israel, India, El Salvador, Iran, Mexico, Japan, and Britain for thanks, commendation or remembrance”. And we sat and watched and wondered what the hell! Egypt? Iran? What about us?
More than 30,000 stranded American travellers found a welcome refuge in Canada after the 9/11 attacks. 7,000 of them wound up in Gander, Newfoundland where schools became emergency shelters and residents invited those lost souls into their homes and fed and sheltered them. But for Bush it was like we didn’t exist. All those acts of spontaneous individual kindness summarily ignored. GWB we are never gonna forget you for this that’s for dam sure.
Where was I? Got carried away I guess. Oh yeah, back to Argo and the Iranian crisis. There was a vastly different response when all was said and done for this event compared to 9/11. When the crisis was over Canadian flags were flown all across America, billboards with Thank you Canada and Ken Taylor were everywhere. A lot of Canadians had drinks bought for them stateside in those days.
So here’s in condensed form is how it all went down. In November of 1979 Islamic militants who had had their fill of American support for the recently deposed Shah stormed the American Embassy in Tehran. Initially it was to be a set-in but it turned into a full scale riot in which the embassy was taken over and 52 American diplomatic personnel were eventually held for 444 days.
The movie Argo focuses on six American diplomats who escaped this initial takeover and eventually found refuge in and were eventually rescued from the Canadian Embassy in Iran. Argo would have you believe that the whole affair was almost solely an American undertaking led by CIA agent Tony Mendez. He may have been a courageous and ingenious character but he was only in Iran for a day and a half at the end of the crisis. There is a huge story behind the ending of this dramatic piece of history, one that has characters like Ken Taylor Canadian Ambassador to Iran and John Sheardown another Canadian Consular Official and his wife Zena who housed four of the six Americans for 79 days.
Sheardown played a crucial role in the whole story but for Affleck it was so sorry, we had to drop him out because of time constraints and plot developments. Plot developments indeed!
John Sheardown received the Order of Canada for his role in the Iran Crisis. So did his wife Zena. John was in World War Two at the age of 18 flying Lancaster bombers and served later in the Korean War. He joined Canada’s Immigration Service in 1962 and served for 27 years in many places with distinction. John passed away last December. I would assume and hope that since he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for four years before his death that he was not aware of Affleck’s indifference to his role in the crisis.
Herald Contributor photo
Ken Taylor 1980 - former Ambassador to Iran
Ambassador Ken Taylor, who housed two of the six escapees and who was a central coordinator in the ex-filtration of the six Americans, took issue, like many of us, with the film which portrayed the Canadians as a minor player in the daring escape. Ken Taylor was in Toronto the night Argo premiered there but was not invited. Taylor said: "After three months of intensive preparation for the operation…I think my role was somewhat more than just opening and closing the front door of the embassy." It was largely the Canadian Embassy that orchestrated the escape!
Hell even Jimmy Carter, the American President at the time of the hostage crisis, weighed in on the film. He was in Kingston recently to receive an honorary degree at Queen’s University. Carter took issue with the film and in his acceptance speech said: "I saw the movie Argo recently. I was taken aback by its distortion of what happened. Because almost everything that was heroic or courageous or innovative was done by Canada, and not the United States."
So if you chose to go see Argo please remember it is not a true depiction of what happened in 1979! Years from now when people look up this film on IMDd or Wikipedia they will find a whole litany of historical errors are listed. Like for instance the following scene thrown in for drama’s sake. The group of six never ventured into the Iranian bazaar as a dress rehearsal of their fake identities. One of the rescued six, Mark Lijek, said in an interview with W5’s Victor Malarek that: “It would have been suicidal to go to the Bazaar at that point.
There was no confrontation at the Tehran airport with officials, no detention and questioning of Mendez there , no nail-biting car chase by armed Iranians pursuing the jetliner as it lifted off for Switzerland and so on. It all went off without a hitch! Famous film critic Leonard Maltin says this film is undoubtedly a thriller but his advice for all of us is quite simply: “don’t get your history from the movies”.