Friday, December 02, 2005

The Captivity Pageant

Tigerhawk has a post on Mark Bowden's article in the Atlantic describing how American hostages spent the Christmas of 1979 in Teheran. An excerpt:

The Iranians had arranged for a "Christmas service" for the hostages, complete with all the trimmings and "Islamic" Christmas decorations, and flew in three American clergymen with impeccable "anti-imperialist" credentials, including the famously blowhardish William Sloane Coffin. The point of the service, and Coffin's visit, was superficially to promote the allegedly generous circumstances of the Americans' captivity, but practically to promote the benificence of Ayatollah Khomeini's regime. Bowden calls it the "captivity pageant." Frankly, Bowden's article brings back the depressing, famous "malaise" of that era, and makes me rage at the weakness of the Carter presidency all over again.

The story of the "captivity pageant" is a sad one, for it reveals the American hostages in all their frailty. There are collaborators, victims, and -- in the case of Coffin, at least -- posuers of the worst sort. The visiting clergy seemed most concerned with not offending their Iranian hosts. Coffin exhorted the hostages to hold hands with their captors while they sang songs. Imagine how demoralizing -- even degrading -- that must have been to these proud Americans. ...

Forbidden to talk about politics or the hostages' situation, Colonel Chuck Scott, the embassy's military liaison, a ramrod career Army officer with a square jaw and a defiant demeanor, asked [the Rev. William] Howard intently, "What's the price of gas in America today?" Scott had thought long and hard about what question to ask if he got the chance, and had decided that the current price of oil would help him gauge how events in Iran were playing around the world. Howard looked at the gallery of armed guards and asked them, "I don't suppose I should answer that question, do you?" Scott was annoyed. Why couldn't he just have blurted out an answer? Why was he bending over so far to be helpful to these bastards? (emphasis in the original)

Read the whole thing.


Reading Scott-Howard exchange, I couldn't help but wonder who the real prisoner was. Richard Lovelace wrote these words in jail nearly half a millenium ago.

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.

I wonder if Howard ever got out.


Blogger neuroconservative said...

Your post coincides with the announcement that Iraq-based terrorists are threatening to execute four Western hostages from the "Christian Peacemaker Teams." The CPT members have participated in blogging at a website called "Voices in the Wilderness," which headlines a petition calling for the release of the hostages.

The "petition" includes these words:

"Each of the four C.P.T. members being held in Iraq... made the difficult decision to go to Iraq, knowing that the climate of mistrust created by foreign occupation meant that they could be mistaken for spies or missionaries. They went there with a simple purpose: to bear witness to injustice and to embody a different kind of relationship between cultures and faiths."

Unfortunately, they have achieved their first purpose, and may be on the verge of achieving their second. I pray for them, and for the release of their imprisoned bodies and souls.

12/02/2005 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

The apostle Paul, while in prison, converted a Roman jailer, was undeterred from what he saw as his call and died there knowing he "fought the good fight".

Freedom can be elusive depending upon one's state of mind.

12/02/2005 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/02/2005 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

I must say I have mixed feelings about the captives. They are Westerners, however much they have strayed, and I do not wish them harm. On the other hand, they are adults and responsible for their decisions. They bought the ticket, and now they must take the ride, sad as that may be.

It is never a happy moment when a person's carefully cultivated universe is raped by reality.

It is too bad that for many of us experience is the only teacher. For pacifists such as this, the lesson always comes too late.

12/02/2005 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

William Sloane Coffin is an interesting enough character. He became weary of the role of the CIA in the ousting of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh who enforced the Oil Nationalization Act, foes of this act were assassinated incidentally, but it was Dr. Mossadegh’s own purge of the military that led to the plot to overthrow him. For all the colonial hubris that might be attributed to the CIA and MI-6, it was after all an internal power struggle for the heart and soul of Iran, monarchists verses republicans, that led to the overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadegh. There were many inside of the CIA that railed against US support for the coup including Coffin. These social vigilantes made a break with such means and methods and decidedly sided with any Iranian regime, including the Mullahs, for their violent opposition to US interventions.

Coffin was an early Vietnam activist, preached against nuclear arms, and travelled to Nicaragua to protest US involvement there… that involvement that sucessfully dismantled a Marxist regime and led to democracy. He has been on the wrong side of history too many times.

Coffin Quote:
(After 9/11): The U.S. government should have vowed "to see justice done, but by the force of law only, never by the law of force."

12/02/2005 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

These Social Vigilantes think they are heros. The following is a quote by Howard Zinn;

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves…(and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”

I think that the Jihadi’s will spare them because they are on the same side. I confess, without shame, that I hope they have their heads slowly sawed off with a rusty knife. They deserve no less.

12/02/2005 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

The hostages are actually a throwback to another 1960's phenomenon: 'groupies'.

Groupies were rarely well treated by their idols, who used them and discarded them equally casually.

12/02/2005 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Mr Howard may never have even know he was imprisoned.

Iranians are now buying 29 ground to air missles systems

" ... MOSCOW (Reuters) - Iran has signed a deal to buy Russian tactical surface-to-air missile systems, a Russian newspaper reported on Friday.
Iran is to buy 29 TOR-M1 systems, designed to bring down aircraft and guided missiles at low altitudes, said the Vedomosti daily, citing Russian defense sources close the deal.

The deal is the biggest sale of Russian defense hardware to Iran for about 5 years, the newspaper said. It did not say how much the order was worth. ... "

12/02/2005 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger Fred K said...

If Iran or similar country where to attempt to reenact the famous Carter hostage fiasco today I think the response from GWB would be quite different than what we saw in 1980.

One is left to wonder if any would be hostage takers in 2005 are detered by the current US gov't policies. There have been a number of hostage takings in Iraq and else where, and yet based upon the current infrequency of hostage taking one could conclude that there is a deterent effect.

12/02/2005 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger The Mad Fiddler said...

The missionaries kidnapped last week are, I believe, more in the nature of the type who have historically ventured into territory they knew was hostile. Proselytizing among people hostile to your faith has always risked martyrdom that by itself might serve as a magnet for converts. I don’t think the choice deserves comparison to either leftist delusion or liberal appeasement. There are people of many faiths who willingly do as these missionaries have done. I guess the question really is whether the response of our “side” should vary depending upon the type of person the other side have kidnaped.

I had the experience of spending five years in New Haven on the campus where Coffin reigned. He certainly seemed to have a grand sense of his own mission. If your problems or challenges did not immediately coincide with his preoccupation with Opposing the War and its supporters, my experience was that he didn’t have much interest. I’m not sure what Yale had intended the role of University Chaplain to be, but there were other chaplains who were much more accessible, and concerned with the students and their day to day problems. Coffin always seemed to be chasing the NETWORK camera crews.

12/02/2005 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

annoy mouse; who stole the hole from your doughnut?

You speak as if these people were doing someone harm.

12/02/2005 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

...Proselytizing among people hostile to your faith ...

Am I misremembering? I thought they were there checking for "human rights abuses". In other words, they're looking for stories to bring back home that show American soldiers as abusers and Iraqi's as the ones whose "human rights" were trampled.

I do NOT think they are in Iraq merely to preach Christianity or Buddism or Hinduism.

And given what they were there for, I like the rusty knife scenario. I just hope whoever's doing the sawing gets to talk to them about "human rights" as their head is leaving their body.

12/02/2005 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger trangbang68 said...

While not hoping their heads are hacked off,its hard to feel a great deal of sympathy for the captives.Actually they've long been captives of their own dreadful naivity.If they are bearing witness to anything it is that they are insufferable jackasses who like Coffin and fellow sixties travelers always manage to be on the wrong side of history.

12/02/2005 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger Sparks fly said...

It was for freedom that Christ set us free. That's the only way it happens.

It has long seemed to me that Jimmy Carter has conflated Liberalism with Christianity. I am not judging his salvation just inspecting his fruit.

So it is not surprising that someone like Coffin (Whenever I see a name like that I take a heads-up.) shows up wearing a Christian pastor's outfit. It is just one of Satan's little dark jokes.

America's victory in Iraq is a victory for the soul of mankind. Why does Saddam continue to even consume fresh air?


12/02/2005 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger Voltimand said...

The Willilam Sloane Coffins of the world are people who are most afraid of being morally soiled by their own fellow citizens. This is why they feel it imperative to treat Americans or westeners as the real culprits, because in their eyes, they are the real culprits. Since no one in their right mind would rebel against American imperialism unless it really were American imperialism, the real enemies are Americans. But that's not what galls them. What galls them is they have the misfortune to have to be fellow-citizens with these imperialists, and that makes them look dirty, and it's looking dirty and feeling dirty that they cannot stand. Don't forget that attacks on Bush are really attacks on the people who voted for him and support him. Make no mistake: lefties hate the people who voted for him and support him. As I've had occasion to say on this blog more than once, Americans are already in the suburbs of civil war. One sees the same need to separate oneself from the pariahs and publicans in the literature coming out some years ago which lashed out at white Americans in behalf of "native americans" whom the former so brutalized. Well, they did in many instances brutalize them. But the secret slime in the business, as in much "social conscience" and "social justice" agitation is that the object of the rage is not the state of the downtrodden, but the perps in the case. What leftists just can't stand is sinners. The reason why is because they are so holy.

12/02/2005 09:03:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The Mystery Pollster makes the pretty convincing argument that a majority of Americans disapprove of the way the war in Iraq is being conducted. Whether that opinion is justified or not, it's a key measure of how the political account stands. Interestingly enough, while there is some consensus that things might have handled better in the past, there is far more openness about where things should go from here.

The important step the antiwar lobby is now trying to make -- and you can see them painfully straining at it -- is to connect the meme 'Bush lied, people died', which they think is already anchored solidly, with the next one: 'bring the boys home'. In that respect the unremitting focus will be on setbacks, futility, the lack of improvement in the new Iraqi government over Saddam. The idea is simple: all this effort has bought us nothing, therefore it was useless to fight at all.

The Captivity Pageant had a different goal. It was intended to humanize the face of the enemy, to show he was not so bad after all. Better to negotiate; give peace a chance. It's goal was to induce America to do nothing. And it succeeded for a very long time.

I don't think the Internet, for all of its achievements, has really completely broken the memetic manufacturing capacity of the MSM. That will remain unchanged until the Internet provides a way to supply direct news or experience to the living room; and that capability is still to come. It's important to see the face of the enemy, not just in his Bowdlerized, pomaded and face-powdered form, ready for a close up, but in his natural state. And it's a glimpse the MSM will never afford ... unless the face they want to show is our own.

12/02/2005 09:31:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

Although not well covered by the press, the Iran hostage crisis included Beatings and Torture. Here is a little bit it from realwest:

[from lgf post #105 and #112 by realwest]:

...20 Years ago, I was priviliged to be chosen, along with 7 other Vietnam combat vets to meet with someone whom I'll call, cleverly enough, Mr. X. I only refer to him that way because he was one of the hostages in the US embassay in Teheran when it was overrun by Iranian students and, like the rest, held prisoner by the Iranians for 444 days and nights. The 8 of us were chosen through an unusual manner, we had to meet Mr. X's requirement for understanding, LISTENING, and loyalty to our country and most of all, an ability to keep the meeting "quiet"... We went through a security check that not only brought our Top Secret/Eyes Only obtained during the war up to date, we each, individually, met with guys that work for one of those three letter acronyms and which are associted with intelligence gathering. Mr. X had in fact been employed by that agency when he was taken hostage... it seemed like every day, unbeliveagle tortures of the American Hostages, while the Iranian government, under Khomeni (sp?)said they could do nothing to free the hostages or give them better treatment. The IIRC, AI and Human Rights Watch (whcih I think was called something else at the time, were ALL DENIED ACCESS TO THE AMERICANS. Every night these hosages (I believe 54 in all) were paraded in fornt of TV cameras with their hands tied or cuffed behind their backs and blindfolds over their eyes. The bruises and cuts on the faces, necks and in some cases chests and backs were nauseating. President Peanut said, within 48 hours of the takeover of the embassy that he would never use military force to free them (thereby taking the one significant and serious option the US had off the table, the dumb mf... Mr. X sat across from us and we recognized him instantly... Mr. X's whole body was visibly shaking. We all tried to do or say SOMETHING, ANYTHING to get him to relax. He was about an inch taller than I but when he stood up at the meeting, his head barely reached my chest height - he was permanently stooped over from being beaten, BEATEN, with whips and in some cases tubular aluminium bars...

[post by realwest 112]

...around 3 or 4 in the morning this one particular captor would come into his cell and whack him across the legs with one of these tubular bars to "wake him up" (btw all the hostages had blindfolds on, Mr. X told us, 24/7 for 444 days and nights]then would put a gun barrell against his head and said "so, is today the day you die and pulled the trigger, on an empty chamber. Mr. X told us that after about three months, Mr. X actively prayed that the answer would be yes... he said "If Rafsangani(sp) had to worry about dealing with you guys [Military guys], we'd have been home in month at the most, then he started crying... It was one of the most moving days of my life. I've hated Jimmy Carter from the depths of my soul every day since then and vowed that this nation, America, The United States of America should never, ever again give in to terrorists...

See: realwest's post #104 and #112 50% down page

I would suggest reading the whole post because it indicates how brutal the Iranian "students" and the Revolutionary Guard were (I had to edit most of the posts leaving out the emotional aspects). They were certainly vicious kidnappers with and expertise in manipulation and torture.

12/02/2005 10:23:00 PM  
Blogger Cutler said...

"They are Westerners, however much they have strayed, and I do not wish them harm."

I never entirely bought the notion that everyone born here is automatically an American, and neither do I consider it the same with Westerner. In a way, both are honorific.

These people belonged to an organization that openly supported the resistance. They said nonviolent, but how much non-violent resistance have we seen in Iraq?

I don't believe they deserve any pass for their open support for the insurgency merely because of the privelege of their births. If anything, the fact that they looked at it all and still worked to destroy it is a minus, not a plus, when considered relative to some dumb, stupid Sunni who never knew anything but the brutality he was born into and grew used to.

Sound self-righteous, but I think we've been too generous in treating the fifth collumnists amongst us. I consider the entire episode to be another blue-on-blue within the insurgency.

12/02/2005 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger Das said...

Speaking of the Christian Peacemaker Teams:

Wretchard first got me thinking about the collusion of the far left and the jihadi murderers. We're now seeing, on a world stage, whose finger is on the trigger in this weird relationship. It is not a pretty sight but we are witnessing, after all, a confrontation between two ghouls that has to come to pass.

12/02/2005 10:59:00 PM  
Blogger Cuz said...

To hell with them.

12/03/2005 03:58:00 AM  
Blogger enscout said...

I'm unaware of the hostages' motives.

If they were proselytizing, they are hopelessly naiive but should be prepared to face their fate.

If they were there to dig up more acrimonious anti-Bush dirt, then they have become as combatants.

12/03/2005 05:27:00 AM  
Blogger The Mad Fiddler said...

Readers who have noted my posts over time will know I don't have much charity for terrorist apologists.

Looks like I may have jumped into this comment stream without doing my homework about the so-called "Christian Peacemakers." It would be good to know where to find reliable information about the group.

Meanwhile, it does seem clear that their reasons for being in Iraq are narrowly framed on an agenda that is at best, tangential to the urgent goal of defeating the terrorists. It looks like they may be deliberately working to interfere with that goal. But wherever the CP sympathies lie, the Iraqi terrorists historically have not hesitated to murder even their own people, including pregnant women, schoolchildren and infants in strollers. It serves their purpose in a way that murdering the foreign devils does not, intimidating the people they intend to dominate.

If they’ve bought the delusional Left’s doctrinal definition of “GI’s bad, indigenes good” the CP folks are out of their reckoning, and they may have really stepped in it this time.

12/03/2005 06:34:00 AM  
Blogger Rune said...

ledger: Although not well covered by the press, the Iran hostage crisis included Beatings and Torture.

Here's a quote from Wikipedia:

Though generally treated well, the hostages were often shown blindfolded to local crowds and television cameras. There were some hostages that were beaten after escape attempts and psychological torture was used on others throughout the 444 days. Some spent extended periods in solitary confinement.

Wikipedia is quickly getting to be a widely used online reference. Use as cites in online debates and as basis of blog debates. Also many students use the articles as basis of school work, etc. I always urge people to edit the articles so also our side of the various issues become published. Here we really have an historic opportunity to influence the public debate and break the liberal hold on the truth.

12/03/2005 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Kyda Sylvester said...

Gee, thanks for taking me back to those thrilling days of yesteryear when we had plenty of time to calculate the current misery index while we waited in line for gas on alternate days and a president who advised us to suck it up and expect less (in this case, less really was less). I had managed to forget about the Coffin Christmas celebration in Iran.

The Iranian hostages did a great service to their fellow citizens. It was their captivity and our president's feckless response to it that helped usher in the Reagan era.

12/03/2005 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Red A said...

I also would strongly urge people to edit wikipedia or watch it used to change history.

During a on-line discussion, I noted that the closest thing to a fascist in the USA had been Huey Long, a Democrat. People did not believe he was a Democrat, and wikipedia, amazingly did not note his party affiliation.

I added it in, and then some editors tried to erase that information. Luckily, after a discussion, it was put back in.

It seemed obvious to me that some Democrats had been embarrased that Huey Long was from their party.

See also similar attempts to paint Republicans as those who opposed civil rights legislation in the 60's as opposed to Democrats.

12/04/2005 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger Cutler said...

Same experiences, the old entry for George Kennan described him as the person who started the Cold War.

12/05/2005 08:46:00 AM  

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