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.