With the bidding deadline around the corner, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) wants to bring to your attention an FS-02 IROG position in London that has been the subject of some discussion between AFSA and the Department. In AFSA’s view this position should be available to all eligible bidders now; however, the position has yet to be posted. On October 1, AFSA’s Governing Board met to discuss the Department’s refusal to include the FS-02 Iran Watcher position in London (IROG Position Number 67700008) in this Summer’s Open Assignment Cycle, instead proposing to include it in the pilot Overseas Development Program. The Governing Board passed a unanimous motion strongly objecting to the Department’s decision and instructing its General Counsel to advise AFSA on avenues of redress for this apparent breach of contract. AFSA, the professional association and exclusive representative of the Foreign Service, had previously expressed concern to the Department about including the position in the pilot Overseas Development Program that was created two years ago pursuant to an informal agreement between the Department and AFSA. AFSA’s concerns center around the position’s uniqueness, Farsi language designation, and the significant number of interested, qualified Foreign Service bidders for the position. The position is the only one in London and the only Iran Watcher position in an English speaking country.
The Foreign Service needs to build up its Iran expertise including language capability. The best known Persian speaker at State is probably the State Department Farsi spox, Alan Eyre, who since 2011 has been the public face of the United States to many Iranians and Persian speakers. In 2013, when State/OIG looked into the process of establishing “language designated positions,” we learned that State had established 23 LDPs for Persian-Iranian. Those are jobs where the selectees will be required to have official language training and reach a certain level of proficiency prior to assuming the position. That’s the number for the entire agency, by the way. In 2012, 8 students studied Farsi at the Foreign Service Institute. We have no idea how many Farsi speakers have attained the 3/3 level at State but we know that studying a hard language does not come cheap.
The OIG team estimates training students to the 3/3 level in easier world languages such as Spanish can cost $105,000; training in hard languages such as Russian can cost $180,000; and training in super hard languages such as Chinese and Arabic can cost up to $480,000 per student. Students learning super hard languages to the 3/3 level generally spend one year domestically at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) and then a second year at an overseas training facility.
So — what’s the deal about this Iran Watcher London position?
Rumor has it that a staffer at the Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman‘s office, the Department’s fourth-ranking official allegedly wants this position.
If the State Department is not listing this position in the Open Assignment Cycle bidlist, that means this job is not/not up for grabs for Foreign Service officers. One less FSO studying Farsi next year!
If State includes this position in the Open Assignment Cycle bidlist then only FS employees can bid and a CS employee cannot be assigned to London unless there are no qualified FS bidders (we’re told that’s not going to be the case here).
If State is listing this position under the Overseas Development Program, it means this is potentially for a two-year London assignment, open to Civil Service employees only, and requires a 44-week language training for presumably an S-3/R-3 proficiency in Farsi.
And if this position goes to a Civil Service employee, the chance of that employee serving overseas is a one-time fill. He/She goes to London for two years then return to the State Department. Unless the State Department moves to a unitary personnel system, CS employees typically do not serve on multiple tours overseas. Which means that State could be spending between $180,000 – $480,000 to teach — whoever is selected for this London position — Persian language to an employee who can be assigned overseas just once.
Now, perhaps the more important question is, in light of AFSA’s protest — if State gives in and list this London position in this Summer’s Open Assignment Cycle, would that really make a difference? Sure FSOs can bid on it, but will anyone of the qualified bidders be …. um…the right fit?
And you’re wondering why watching bureaucratic life and backstage machinations can make one jaded? If indeed this job is going to go, as rumored, to a “P’ staffer, all job-related announcements would just be bureaucratic theater.
But don’t worry, everything will fit in the end. Just like a puzzle box.
The twin-embassy bombings cost the lives of over 220 persons and wounded more than 4,000 others. Twelve American USG employees and family members, and 32 Kenyan and 8 Tanzanian USG employees, were among those killed.
U.S. Embassy Nairobi employees joined Charge d’Affaires Isiah Parnell for a wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the victims of the 1998 Embassy bombing in Nairobi. August 7, 2014
In December 2011, U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled (PDF via Legal Times) that the governments of Sudan and Iran will be liable for monetary damages to victims of suicide bombings at U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1998. According to Judge Bates’ 2011 order (PDF via Legal Times) , a special master was appointed to figure how much in damages the plaintiffs will receive. The Court previously ruled that the foreign-national U.S.-government-employee victims have a federal cause of action, while their foreign-national family members have a cause of action under D.C. law.
On July 25, 2014, the Court entered final judgment on liability under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) on several related cases—brought by victims of the bombings and their families—against the Republic of Sudan, the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Sudan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security (collectively “defendants”) for their roles in supporting, funding, and otherwise carrying out the attacks. The combined cases involve over 600 plaintiffs. The awards range from $1.5 million for severe emotional injuries to $7.5 million for severe injuries and permanent impairment. The total award is reportedly $8 billion.
[T]heir personal stories reveals that, even more than fifteen years later, they each still feel the horrific effects of that awful day. Damages awards cannot fully compensate people whose lives have been torn apart; instead, they offer only a helping hand. But that is the very least that these plaintiffs are owed. Hence, it is what this Court will facilitate.
Below are some of the embassy employees and their injuries cited in court documents:
Many plaintiffs suffered little physical injury—or none at all—but have claims based on severe emotional injuries because they were at the scene during the bombings or because they were involved in the extensive recovery efforts immediately thereafter. Those plaintiffs will be awarded $1.5 million. See id. Typical of this category is Edward Mwae Muthama, who was working at the offsite warehouse for the United States Embassy in Kenya when the bombings occurred. Report of Special Master John Aldock Concerning Edward Muthama [ECF No. 93] at 4. Shortly after the attack, Muthama headed to the blast site and spent days assisting with the gruesome recovery efforts; to this day he suffers from emotional distress resulting from his time administering aid to survivors and handling the dead bodies (and body parts) of his murdered colleagues. Id.
Other plaintiffs suffered minor injuries (such as lacerations and contusions caused by shrapnel), accompanied by severe emotional injuries. They will be awarded $2 million. Typical is Emily Minayo, who was on the first floor of the United States Embassy in Nairobi at the time of the bombing. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Emily Minayo [ECF No. 162] at 4. She was thrown to the floor by the force of the blast, but she was lucky enough to escape with only lacerations that were later sewn up during a brief hospital stay. Id. She continues, however, to suffer from severe emotional damage resulting from her experience. Id.
To those who suffered more serious physical injuries, such as broken bones, head trauma, some hearing or vision impairment, or impotence, the Court will award $2.5 million. Typical is Francis Maina Ndibui, who was in the United States Embassy in Nairobi during the bombing. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Francis Maina Ndibui [ECF No. 152] at 4. Ndibui became temporarily trapped under debris that fell from the ceiling, and he suffered minor lacerations similar to Minayo’s. Id. Also as a result of the bombing, he continues to suffer from partial vision impairment, which has persisted even through reparative surgery. Id. He also suffers from severe emotional damage resulting from his experience. Id.
Plaintiffs with even more serious injuries—including spinal injuries not resulting in paralysis, more serious shrapnel injuries, head trauma, or serious hearing impairment—will be awarded $3 million. Typical is Victor Mpoto, who was at the United States Embassy in Dar es Salaam on the day of the bombing. Report of Special Master Jackson Williams Concerning Victor Mpoto [ECF No. 136] at 3. The blast knocked him to the ground and covered him in debris, causing minor physical injuries. Id. Because he was only about fifteen meters away from the blast, he suffered severe hearing loss in both ears that continues to this day and for which he continues to receive treatment. Id. He also suffers from severe emotional damage resulting from his experience. Id. at 4.
Those who suffered from injuries similar to those plaintiffs who are generally awarded the “baseline” award of $5 million (involving some mix of serious hearing or vision impairment, many broken bones, severe shrapnel wounds or burns, lengthy hospital stays, serious spinal or head trauma, and permanent injuries) will also be awarded that baseline. See Valore, 700 F. Supp. 2d at 84. Typical is Pauline Abdallah, who was injured in the bombing of the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Stephen Saltzburg Concerning Pauline Abdallah [ECF No. 117] at 3. She was knocked unconscious by the blast, and later spent about a month in the hospital. Id. She suffered severe shrapnel wounds requiring skin grafts, third-degree burns, and two of her fingers were amputated. Id. Shrapnel still erupts from her skin. Id. She also suffered severe hearing loss. Id. Like other plaintiffs who were injured in the bombing, she suffers from severe emotional damage. Id. at 3-4.
And for a few plaintiffs, who suffered even more grievous wounds such as lost eyes, extreme burns, severe skull fractures, brain damage, ruptured lungs, or endured months of recovery in hospitals, upward departures to $7.5 million are in order. Livingstone Busera Madahana was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Kenneth Adams Concerning Livingstone Busera Madahana [ECF No. 175] at 4. Shrapnel from the blast completely destroyed his right eye and permanently damaged his left. Id. He suffered a skull fracture and spent months in a coma; his head trauma caused problems with his memory and cognition. Id. “He endured multiple surgeries, skin grafts, physical therapy, vocational rehabilitation, speech and cognitive therapy, and psychotherapy for depression.” Id.
Gideon Maritim was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Jackson Williams Concerning Gideon Maritim [ECF No. 222] at 3. The second explosion knocked him unconscious for several hours. Id. at 4 The blast ruptured his eardrums, knocked out several teeth, and embedded metal fragments into his eyes. Id. He also suffered deep shrapnel wounds to his legs and stomach, and his lungs were ruptured. Id. His hearing is permanently impaired, as is his lung function. Id. at 5. And he suffers from chronic back and shoulder pain. Id.
Charles Mwaka Mulwa was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Jackson Williams Concerning Charles Mwaka Mulwa [ECF No. 132] at 3. The bomb blast permanently disfigured his skull, ruptured both his eardrums, and embedded glass in his eyes. Id. He continues to suffer from nearly total hearing loss, and his eyesight is permanently diminished. Id. And he suffered from other shrapnel injuries to his head, arms, and legs. Id.
Tobias Oyanda Otieno was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Tobias Oyanda Otieno [ECF No. 181] at 4. The blast caused permanent blindness in his left eye, and substantial blindness in his right. Id. He suffered severe shrapnel injuries all over his body, including a particularly severe injury to his hand, which resulted in permanent impairment. Id. His lower back was also permanently damaged, causing continuous pain to this day. Id. He spent nearly a year recovering in hospitals. Id.
Moses Kinyua was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Deborah Greenspan Concerning Moses Kinyua [ECF No. 202] at 4. The blast knocked him into a coma for three weeks. Id. His skull was crushed, his jaw was fractured in four places, and he lost his left eye. Id. The head trauma resulted in brain damage. Id. In addition, he suffered from a ruptured eardrum, a detached retina in his right eye, a dislocated shoulder, broken fingers, and serious shrapnel injuries. Id. He was ultimately hospitalized for over six months. Id.
Joash Okindo was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Joash Okindo [ECF No. 163] at 4. He spent about eight months in hospitals, and was in a coma for the first month because he suffered a skull fracture. Id. at 4-5. He suffered from severe shrapnel injuries to his head, back, legs, and hands, and the blast fractured bones in both of his legs. Id. at 4.
Each of these plaintiffs also suffered severe emotional injuries. The injuries suffered by these plaintiffs are comparable to those suffered by plaintiffs who were awarded $7–$8 million in Peterson II. See 515 F. Supp. 2d at 55-57 (e.g., Michael Toma, who suffered “various cuts from shrapnel, internal bleeding in his urinary system, a deflated left lung, and a permanently damaged right ear drum”). Hence, the Court will award each of these plaintiffs $7.5 million for pain and suffering. The Court adopts the recommendations by special masters of awards consistent with the adjusted guidelines described above, and will adjust inconsistent awards accordingly.
An attorney for hundreds of the East African victims cited the “need to have patience and determination” in collecting approximately $8 billion from Iran and Sudan, acknowledging it is unlikely that the two governments would make voluntarily payments for the award ordered by the U.S. court. The lawyers are reportedly looking at Iranian and Sudanese assets seized in the United States or other countries as a source for the court-ordered payments.
Related documents ( all pdfs):
07/25/2014 Civil Action No. 2008-1380 ONSONGO et al v. REPUBLIC OF SUDAN et al
Doc No. 233 (memorandum opinion) by Judge John D. Bates
07/25/2014 Civil Action No. 2008-1361 AMDUSO et al v. REPUBLIC OF SUDAN et al
Doc No. 255 (memorandum opinion) by Judge John D. Bates
07/25/2014 Civil Action No. 2008-1349 WAMAI et al v. REPUBLIC OF SUDAN et al
Doc No. 246 (memorandum opinion) by Judge John D. Bates
(L to R) British Foreign Secretary William Hague, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, EU’s Catherine Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister (Photo via US Mission Geneva)
Of course, now folks will start wondering what’s real in the public schedule posted on state.gov.
But please — a toast to the diplomats and the support staff! For every foreign minister present in the photo above, there were numerous nameless individuals who made the work in Geneva possible. Bravissimo for a win that did not involved a drone, a gun, or a deadly karate chop! Diplomacy still works and it did not wear combat boots this time.
Also, yesterday, Reuters reported that former hostage Bruce Laingen, the US chargé d’affaires in Tehran in 1979 favors diplomacy, “despite humiliation, solitary confinement and having a gun held to his head during the U.S. Embassy crisis in Iran three decades ago.” The report notes that “Former hostages who were diplomats appear more in favor of rebuilding a relationship with Iran than those who were military personnel at the time.” See Former Iran hostages: amid rapprochement they still want apologies.
Apparently, some pols are livid about this Iran deal, lining up before microphones, furiously writing op-eds, plotting the next moves and …..
Oh, hey, accuweather says the East Coast winter storm will snark Thanksgiving travel. Safe travel peeps!
Thirty four years ago today, the US Embassy in Tehran was taken over by a mob of Iranian students supporting the Iranian Revolution. 52 embassy employees were held hostage for 1 year, 2 months, 2 weeks and 2 days until their release on January 20, 1981.
Below are some excerpts from ADST’s Oral History project’s interviews with Ambassador Bruce Laingen, the chargé d’affaires at that time, Ambassador John W. Limbert who was assigned as Political Officer at the US Embassy in Tehran from 1979-1981, and Penelope Laingen, the wife of Ambassador Laingen.
“Their real intent was not to get the Shah back, despite the slogans that were so useful to them in that sense to get passions in the streets aroused. Their intent was to use that device to destabilize and undermine the provisional government of the revolution and to facilitate a greater role for the more radical elements.
At any rate, it did not seem that the situation was all that bad at the outset. In retrospect we should have begun destruction earlier. I, obviously as chief of mission, had that responsibility and today bear that responsibility for the way in which not enough of our classified documentation was destroyed. We had too much, we started too late, and we had equipment that was not the best….
Of course, a lot of the paper that did not seem to have that urgency of destruction, including unclassified biographical material, would also in time prove to be a very damaging element of the situation, because lots of that stuff has Central Intelligence Agency logo stamped on it even if it is unclassified. That was enough to fire the fury of the more radical elements of the revolution, even though it was material of an unclassified, descriptive nature. That was sufficient to cause a great deal of pain and hurt to a lot of Iranians.
And that is the real pain that I have felt since. Not that our security was threatened, our strategic interests, or political interests in Iran and the region. They were not seriously affected by what was leaked. It was clear in any event at that point that our relationship with the Iranians was not going to be reestablished very soon. But the human hurt for a lot of people in Iran because of the way we were not able to destroy incriminating documentation, that is the legacy that hurts me very much today.”
John Limbert | Read more here or his interview here.
“I did probably one of the most stupid things I’ve ever done in my Foreign Service career. I volunteered to go out and talk to these guys. I’m a Persian speaker, so perhaps I can go out and see if we can defuse this someway, or delay it, defuse it, divert it. We did not see these guys being armed or anybody getting hurt. So that’s what I did. I went out, they opened the door, I went out the door and started talking to these guys. And at first they were shocked, because they thought I was an Iranian. I kept reassuring them, “No, no, no, I’m not an Iranian, I’m an American employee of the embassy, you should get out of here.” I took my most professorial tone with them and was as overbearing as I could be and saying, “You are where you should not be. You have no business here. You should get out as soon as you can. You are causing trouble. Who do you think you are?” So forth and so on. And they weren’t having any of it.
I’ll tell you a little story about this. About 1991 or ’92 there was a made-for-TV movie about the hostage taking. It wasn’t a great bit of moviemaking but it was not bad. And part of the movie shows this particular incident, where the actor playing me goes out to talk to these guys and gets taken. I was showing this at one point to an audience, using this as an example and one of the people in the audience, perhaps he didn’t realize this character was supposed to be me and in this stage whisper said, “God, what an idiot!” although he didn’t use the word “idiot.” He used a more anatomical descriptor. True, I must admit he had a point. I’ve always called this the low point of my Foreign Service career and my least successful negotiation.”
“In my whole history of being connected to the Foreign Service, whenever I’d started a project, for instance — I am a writer and I had three chapters written in a novel and my teacher said “You have a real winner here and should get an agent now” — then, Bruce was taken hostage, so I put that away and I’ve not gotten back to it. I will someday, I hope. I had also upholstered a chair and I had everything but the back done when we went to Malta, (so I had to put that away, too). I mean, it’s just been a history of deferring or putting aside something. So when he was taken hostage, I just had to put everything else out of my mind and concentrate on that. I also called all my training in the Foreign Service to bear, even though I felt I had been “dismissed” by the Foreign Service.
So, here we come to the hostage crisis, a terribly public, international crisis, where you are on television. I think most people recognize and say, okay, this is the wife of the Chief of Mission (and how she behaves reflects not only on her husband, but perhaps on the whole Foreign Service or on Americans on the world scene). If I had gone on television and cried nightly, if I’d flown off to Iran and called the President stupid or the Government’s policy stupid, I think I would have heard in two minutes just how private a person I was! (I would have been reprimanded by the very Department of State which had proclaimed me to be a private person with no responsibility to my husband’s career). I mean, I’m being sarcastic and I realized I wasn’t a private person. You can’t be a private person. You are a part of the Foreign Service and particularly when you are on the public stage like that. It’s a public life. How can you be a private person in a public life? See, this is what Sandra Gotlieb found out. You cannot be a private person in a public arena. There’s no way.
So, the hypocrisy of this official policy has just gnawed no end at me. And I got no support from the Department in that role. I got sort of superficial support. Well, not even that, not even that.
One thing that made it difficult was the lack of esprit de corps among the families. I mean, we had never served together, so that was one of the drawbacks. And there were all different services involved. There’s a study done of fourteen hostage wives. Those of us who had served the longest in the Foreign Service expected the most, yet felt we had received the least support. Those foreign-born spouses in the group expected nothing and were deeply grateful for whatever they received in the way of support. They had no great expectations of the Department, which was perhaps a cultural difference. And the military wives felt they received the greatest support, which they did, and in return kept their allegiance to those services in tact. I believe Sheldon Krys and other Department managers did the best they could under the circumstances, but they had much to learn from the Iran crisis in the management of families during a crisis. It was always a source of great disappointment to me, for instance, that not once during the crisis did any of my husband’s colleagues offer to take our youngest son to a basketball game or call to inquire about the house or other personal matters. It was up to us unite ourselves and support one another in that personal way.”
According to the CRS report dated September 2013, “the former hostages and their families did receive a number of benefits under various civil service laws, and each hostage received from the U.S. government a cash payment of $50 for each day held hostage. The hostages have never received any compensation from Iran through court actions, all efforts having failed due to foreign sovereign immunity and an executive agreement known as the Algiers Accords, which bars such lawsuits.” Also see this Brief from USDOJ before SCOTUS dated April 2012. See Roder, et.al v. Iran to catch up on the litigation history.
So 444 days by $50 is exactly $22,200.00.
Currently in Congress, is Senate bill S. 559, the Justice for Former American Hostages in Iran Act of 2013, which would establish a fund to compensate the former hostages. The American Hostages in Iran Compensation Fund would pay to each former hostage or estate of a former hostage $150,000 plus $5,000 per each day of captivity ($2.37 million total per former hostage). Over at the House, the Justice for the American Diplomats Held Hostage in Tehran Act, H.R. 904, was introduced and referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. Each former hostage or estate of a former hostage would receive $10,000 for each day of captivity ($4.44 million each); each spouse or child of a former hostage would receive half that amount.
In both bills, the funds would come from fines and penalties imposed for violations related to Iran. Both cases also include a provision that recipients waive and release all existing claims against Iran and the United States arising out of the hostage crisis.
John Sheardown, a Canadian diplomat in Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis who sheltered four of the six Americans who evaded capture during the US Embassy takeover in 1979, died Sunday, December 30 at The Ottawa Hospital. He was 88.
John Sheardown. 1980. Photo via screen capture from YouTube
The six Americans escaped out of Iran in what was originally known as the Canadian Caper in January 1980. Click the video hereof the PBS piece made in 1980 describing their escape from Iran. That escape, recently dramatized in the 2012 Ben Affleck movie Argo would not have been possible without the help of Canadian friends like John Sheardown who took care of their American “house guests” at great personal peril.
John Sheardown was a World War II bomber pilot and an Order of Canada recipient. The order recognizes the achievement of outstanding merit or distinguished service by Canadians who made a major difference to Canada through lifelong contributions in every field of endeavour, as well as the efforts made by non-Canadians who have made the world better by their actions. According to The Star, Mr. Sheardown was offered the keys to New York by then mayor Edward Koch but he apparently declined, saying Ambassador Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador to Tehran during the crisis had received them on behalf of all who were involved. His home city of Windsor, Ontario honored him this year by declaring November 10 the John Sheardown Day.
In 1980, PBS aired a 54:02 video about the escape from Iran by 6 Americans who were United States Embassy employees. The “Canadian Caper” as it is known is the rescue effort by the Canadian Government and the Central Intelligence Agency of six American diplomats who evaded capture during the seizure and hostage taking of the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran on November 4, 1979. If you watch the video below, you will note that there is no mention of the CIA. The closely guarded secret of the CIA’s role was only revealed in 1997 as part of the Agency’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Two years later, in the Studies in Intelligence (Winter 1999-2000), the CIA’s former chief of disguise, Tony J. Mendez (played by Ben Affleck in Argo) wrote A Classic Case of Deception: CIA Goes Hollywood. You can read it online here.
The six rescued American are as follows:
Robert Anders, 34 – Consular Officer
Mark J. Lijek, 29 – Consular Officer
Cora A. Lijek, 25 – Consular Assistant
Henry L. Schatz, 31 – Agriculture Attaché
Joseph D. Stafford, 29 – Consular Officer
Kathleen F. Stafford, 28 – Consular Assistant
The Ben Affleck film, Argo reportedly borrows from the memoir of Tony Mendez, “The Master of Disguise,” which originally details how he devised an incredible escape from Tehran for American diplomats posing as a Canadian film crew. According to Mendez’s website, http://www.themasterofdisguise.com/ Warner Brothers and George Clooney optioned the rights to his book “The Master of Disguise” following a May 2007 “Wired Magazine” article on Tony’s rescue operation during the Iranian hostage crisis. The script was written by Chris Terrio who reportedly also drew on that 2007 Wired Magazine article and calledthe movie “a fictionalized version of real events.”
In any case, Argo had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 7, and who was not invited? For godsakes this is Toronto as in Canada! Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran who sheltered the six Americans, that’s who, and our next door neighbors were not too pleased.
Friends of Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran, are shocked and upset by the way he was portrayed in Argo …. The ultimate put-down comes with a postscript that appears on the screen just before the final credits, savouring the irony that Taylor has received 112 citations. The obvious implication is that he didn’t deserve them.
A separate piece had this quote from the former ambassador:
“The movie’s fun, it’s thrilling, it’s pertinent, it’s timely,” he said. “But look, Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place. The CIA was a junior partner.”
Ambassador Taylor was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal in 1980. In his remarks on presenting the medal, then President Reagan described not only “Ambassador Taylor’s courage but also the contribution of all the Canadian Embassy personnel in Tehran and the Canadian Government in Ottawa.”
According to Reuters, both Affleck and writer Chris Terrio maintain that the broad thesis of the film is based on actual events, although traditional Hollywood dramatic license includes a climax scene where Iranian police chase a jumbo jet down a runway. In his presscon after the TIFF premier, Affleck was quoted saying: “Because we say it’s based on a true story, rather than this is a true story,” he said, “we’re allowed to take some dramatic licence. There’s a spirit of truth.”
Things could still have gotten messy but did not. Affleck apparently changed the offending postscript at the end of the movie, which Taylor’s friends regarded as an insult both to him and to Canada, was removed and replaced by a new postscript: “The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments.”
Ambassador Taylor and his wife were invited by Affleck to Los Angeles and attended a private screening of Argo on the Warner Bros. lot. They were also invited to the Washington DC premiere during a private screening at the Regal Gallery cinemas in downtown Washington on October 10, 2012. Click here for a video of Affleck addressing a packed auditorium during the screening that included embassy staff, lawmakers, former CIA and former hostages.
Ambassador Taylor and his wife have reportedly taped a commentary for the extra features on the DVD version of Argo, but this will not be released until 2013.
Meanwhile, the film has now also upset the British diplomats who helped our diplomats in Iran.
I should note that among the six Americans featured in Agro, one is still in the Foreign Service. Joseph D. Stafford, III is currently assigned as Charge’ d’ affaires at the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan. Except for a brief mention that he joined the FS in 1978 and that he had earlier assignments in Algiers, Kuwait, Cairo, Palermo, and Tehran, there’s no mention of that daring scape from Tehran in his official bio.
After Tehran, Mark J. Lijek went on to assignments in Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Warsaw, Frankfurt and several tours in Foggy Bottom. On his website, he writes that the Iran experience remained a constant in his life but that while media interest came and went, he never forgot the selfless help provided by Canadian Embassy personnel during the crucial months following the takeover. He writes that remained in touch with several of the Canadians and served as the US-side coordinator for the periodic reunions hosted by the Canadian side. He and his wife, Cora, apparently also continued their friendship with Tony Mendez who masterminded their rescue. Both have been involved on the margins with the film which he calls “a dramatized version of Tony’s escape plan.”
Click here for Mark’s photos in FB from his Escape From Iran Album and the Argo Six Hollywood experience.
If you want to have a rounded view of what happened behind the Argo rescue and the hostage crisis, you may also want to read a couple more books:
The NYT reports that one person was killed and dozens of people were injured when anti-American protesters tried to storm the US Consulate General in the southern port city of Karachi. Protesters reportedly clashed for several hours with the police and paramilitary troops on Sunday evening (September 16).
Al Jazeera says that the Karachi police have created a high-security zone around the US consulate and that they have been firing rubber bullets and tear gas to hold back protesters. See video report below via YouTube. (Dear Comcast, how is it that you still do not carry the station that covers the most volatile part of the world?)
Via Al Jazeera English
On September 12, 2012, the Consulate issued the following message:
This security message informs U.S. citizens that the U.S. Consulate General is temporarily suspending public services while assessing our security posture due to ongoing preparations for a September 13 strike against the recently signed Sindh Local Governance Ordinance. The strike has the potential to continue for several days and cause disruption. As a precautionary measure, all routine consular services have been cancelled through Friday, September 14. In addition, the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi has restricted travel of mission personnel.
On September 13, 2012, another message:
This security message alerts U.S. citizens to recent violent protests in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. U.S. citizens in Pakistan should maintain extra vigilance. There have not yet been similar protests in Pakistan. Historically, it is not uncommon for demonstrations and protests to occur after Friday prayers. Friday prayers are generally conducted from 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Today, September 16, 2012, this message:
This security message informs U.S. citizens that public services at the U.S. Consulate General remain temporarily suspended because of the continuing potential for demonstrations in the vicinity of the Consulate.
Later the US Embassy in Islamabad tweeted that all personnel are safe and that it appreciate the work of the Pakistani police:
@usembislamabad:All American personnel are safe and accounted for at #USConsulate Karachi. #Pakistan
@usembislamabad:We appreciate the efforts of the Pakistani police to protect the #USConsulate in Karachi and our personnel.
In the aftermath of the murder of our diplomats in Benghazi and the burning of the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, the attempted storming of our Consulate General in Karachi fills us with trepidation. This has happened before. In Pakistan under similar circumstances.
“A mob of perhaps 5,000 marched to the American Center, burned it and then marched to the consulate and attacked us. Battled by 300 Pakistani policemen, they burned our cars and tried, unsuccessfully, to burn down the consulate itself — with us inside. There were enough police to keep the crowd at bay, but not enough to disperse them quickly. After several hours, the crowd left and the police took us out in an armed convoy.”
[…] There are eerie resemblances between that day in Pakistan and this week’s attacks in Libya and Egypt — rumors of anti-Islamic acts and groups that exploited those rumors to stir up crowds. This is the normal pattern for riots. They are not usually “spontaneous.” Instead they are instigated by opportunists. In both Pakistan and Libya, individuals tried to defend the U.S. diplomats, but the governments reacted slowly and with insufficient force.
He was talking about Nov. 21, 1979. In a day of orchestrated anti-American outrage, Pakistanis attacked several U.S. facilities across the country. Why? Because some Saudi Arabian religious zealot had taken over the Grand Mosque at Mecca. Iran’s Ayatollah suggested that Americans were behind the attack on Islam’s holiest place. This was passed on in media reports and lighted the fuse that burned down the US Embassy in Islamabad and killed four people.
In November 27, 2004, WaPo writer, Cameron W. Barr, wrote A Day of Terror Recalled (1979 Embassy Siege In Islamabad Still Haunts Survivors). Excerpt below:
By 1:40 p.m., nearly 140 people — U.S. diplomats, Pakistani staff members, a visiting Time magazine correspondent — had assembled in the vault, a suite of rooms on the top floor of the three-story embassy building. Marines had covered their retreat upstairs by tossing tear gas canisters as protesters broke their way into the embassy, shattering windows and setting fires in offices.
Smoke started seeping into the vault. The people inside sat quietly, most of them on the floor, crowded into a space intended to hold far fewer occupants. The temperature rose, and the air, tainted by tear gas and smoke, grew hard to breathe. They took off extra clothing and passed around wet paper towels to use as filters.
They had with them in the vault, US Marine Cpl. Steven J. Crowley bleeding from a bullet wound above his left ear (he later died). When it was over, they also found the burned corpse of Army Warrant Officer Bryan Ellis, 30, who died at his apartment in the compound and two Pakistani staff members who died of asphyxiation. Ellis who left behind a wife and a 6 year old son was a veteran US pilot with 11 years of military experience.
Fourteen years ago today, between 10:30 am and 10:40 am local time (3:30–3:40 am Washington time), suicide bombers in trucks laden with explosives parked outside our embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya and almost simultaneously detonated themselves. In Nairobi, approximately 218 people were killed, and an estimated 5,000 wounded; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 (including 7 FSNs) and wounded 72. Twelve Americans were killed. (see our post R E M E M B E R – August 7, 1998; also Courting Remembrance).
August 1998: The U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the aftermath of the August 7, 1998, al-Qaida suicide bombing. Eleven Tanzanians, including 7 Foreign Service Nationals, died in the blast, and 72 others were wounded. The same day, al-Qaida suicide bombers launched another near-simultaneous attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, which killed 218 and wounded nearly 5,000 others. (Source:Diplomatic Security)
The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reportsthat the victims of the August 1998 bomb blast at the American embassy in Nairobi are still demanding compensation saying the US government has turned a deaf ear to their suffering.
The victims also claimed that Kenya’s leadership has not shown commitment in ensuring that they lead a normal life fourteen years after the explosion that claimed over 200 lives.
Led by the 1998 bomb blast association chair Ali Mwadame, the victims said they will present a memorandum to parliament and the office of the Prime Minister.
Speaking to KBC on phone on Tuesday, Mwadame said a majority of victims who were maimed during the tragedy have died while others cannot even afford medication.
Back here at home, the families of 12 Americans killed in the attack are still fighting for federal compensation that has been granted to other terrorism victims — a struggle that has left many feeling betrayed and forgotten.
The Baltimore Sun reported back in June that the families have turned to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, for help.
The effort by the families, including two from Maryland, has raised difficult questions about who is entitled to federal support when relatives are killed by an act of terrorism directed at the United States, and how much money is fair. Congress has been unwilling to answer those questions.
“Because it happened to our embassy, many people don’t think about it as American soil, but that is American property,” said Edith Bartley, a Prince George’s County resident whose father and brother were killed in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. “Those families, that embassy, our nation were targeted in Kenya. It was the same as 9/11.”
Past legislation would have set aside nearly $1 million for each family. Mikulski’s approach is less direct: Rather than specifying an amount of money, the proposal would require the State Department to develop policies for how to compensate survivors when employees are killed at work. Supporters hope the back-door approach will lead to the same result.
The amendment was added to a bill to fund the State Department. That spending legislation was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 29-1 vote May 24.
Families of Foreign Service workers killed in the line of duty receive up to $10,000 in death gratuity and one year’s salary.
Those who lost kin in the Nairobi bombing say the comparison to the Oklahoma City attack is not analogous; the link to al-Qaida, they say, makes the East Africa bombings more similar to the Sept. 11 attacks. They say the State Department’s current policy unfairly treats Foreign Service workers killed in a car accident, for example, the same as those who died in a major terrorist attack.
That argument has won bipartisan support among some lawmakers. Language similar to Mikulski’s is being carried in the House of Representatives by Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, and Florida Rep. Allen West, who is among the more conservative Republicans in Congress.
Mikulski said objections by the State Department have stymied past efforts.
This is certainly not the first time that somebody in Congress waded in on this issue. Roy Blunt, the chief deputy Republican whip in the House in 2001 introduced legislation to make the families of the Americans killed or injured in two American Embassy bombings in Africa in 1998 eligible for the federal compensation fund set up for victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
Since we’re still talking about this, nothing obviously happened to that effort eleven years ago. At that time, Mr. Blunt in the NYT also said:
”The State Department had been reluctant to approve compensation in any way that involved establishing blame or proving negligence,” he explained. But the new federal fund, he added, is a no-fault fund that does not require any finding of blame.
This is where it does not/not get better. Again. Because who do you think is blocking this effort? Morefrom the Baltimore Sun:
“What we get is not a compassionate response but a lawyer response that if we do this, we’re going to set a precedent,” Mikulski said of her efforts to negotiate with department officials. “But we’re establishing a precedent by not doing anything, even though these people died on American soil, died at their duty stations.”
A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Mikulski’s effort or negotiations. Asked about the issue during a House subcommittee hearing last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who was the first lady at the time of the East Africa attacks — was noncommittal.
“I can’t make any promises,” Clinton told Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., an Illinois Democrat. “But I will certainly work with you on that.”
Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot! So what if it sets a precedent, goddammit! They were KIA in the service of their country! Excuse me for sounding mad, I am growwwling :mad:
Now — since Secretary Clinton has been trying to win a world record as the most -traveled Secretary of State ever, when does she get time to work with him on that? And now that Representative Jackson Jr., is receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for depression and gastrointestinal issues, and she’s sailing out the doors of Foggy Bottom, they obviously will have lots of time to work on this before long.
There is certainly a precedent to this taking care of your people business in the State Department. In May this year, the NYT reported that the Supreme Court rejected the last legal appeal for former American hostages seeking compensation for their captivity in Iran three decades ago, leaving legislation newly introduced in Congress as the last chance to resolve their longstanding grievance. A lower court, acting at the request of the State Department (not/not Iran), previously blocked the hostages’ effort to win compensation from Iran, holding that the agreement under which they were released barred such claims.
Yes, yes, go ahead and stop at the vomitorium, there are tons of buckets there.