tv The Coming of Militant Islam CSPAN January 23, 2016 4:00pm-5:18pm EST
television for serious readers. >> this january marks the 35th anniversary of the release of american hostages that were held in the u.s. embassy in iran. up next, david harris, author of "the crisis: the coming of militant islam" discusses politics in iran. he talks about ayatollah khomheini and steps taken by the carter administration to handle the crisis. the capitola book cafe hosted this event in 2004. mr. harris: ok. it is a pleasure to be back at the capitola book cafe. i have had a number of pleasant experiences here before. i am glad to be back for my book. this is my ninth book.
-- whoops. is the microphone on? >> you can turn up the volume. mr. harris: is that better? ok, thank you. -- as youget this know i am here for "the crisis: -- coming of militant islam" 1979 and the coming of militant islam. i chose this subject because of my own private theory of how the operates.ic i think when we as a people has an experience, that experience as shocking as the one i chronicle, it is absorbed
by us and particularly in our culture with a 32nd attention ond attentionc thank him it changes our posture towards subjects. a very quickly we lose track of where that posture came from. and that it was once an experience, instead it becomes a kind of given that we proceed onward with it without ever any kind of full understanding about what brought us to this point and the way that we see the world. oneainly, in that context of the great contributions that certainlyve to make, to the operations of democracy, by revisiting these moments and these experiences in our body politics. additionally, we get to reexperience them and it gives us the only possibility to shift
those postures. if we cannot understand the experience that led us to these postures, we are stuck with them and they become permanent aspects of our culture. certainly today in the world we are living in after september 11, it is a time when trying to understand ourselves in that part of the world is at the top of our agendas and it ought to be. the first requirements if we are going to understand ourselves, is to at least know our own history. in that history between the u.s. and islam, there is no more central event than those events of 1978, 1979, and 1980 that i have chronicled here. this was the place or the template for the modern present tense. this is the first head on collision between the u.s. and
islam. a this is -- and this is an episode at the end of which both countries were left with governments they may not have had otherwise. the u.s. was put onto a course far more belligerent than when it had started this episode. this was the moment when suddenly iran and its clergy became identified with each other. this was the introduction of islamic politics to the rest of the world. all of those games -- themes that swirl around us today began at that point. and if we are going to look at her position today, we are going to have to look back at this and understand at least what happened to us in the process. if we do not, i think that we are stuck with a kind of antagonism that will only get worse. mind, i decided
to revisit that episode and to make this book, i used first a whole set of interviews conducted all around the united states with emphasis on the carter administration. interviews with a number of iranian players who are currently in exile in paris, then a visit to iran itself where i interviewed students who were involved in seizing that u.s. embassy, that was a part of the crisis. and a number of players inside iran and i visited the old and -- old american embassy. i was told i was the first american to visit the embassy since it was seized, i am not sure that i believed it, but it was nice when they told it to me. those first-person accounts were
interwoven with a huge pile of documentation that is now available, including most of the files of the united states embassy when it was captured, including the internal correspondence between the embassy and the state department and the internal deliberations during the course of the crisis itself. on top of that, i used a legion of contemporary accounts available, remember this was the number one news story in the world for the entire 144 days that a hostages and the embassy were held by the islamic students following the line of iman, the group then. it was a huge group of contemporary reporting. on top of that, in equally large number of memoirs written by participants in this and other accounts that came out of the
media. togethert all of those in a story. i do not write analysis, i write stories and i think it is in the process of the story that we really can find the roots we are looking for. tryinging conclusions -- to draw conclusions, but going back to the story itself. that story is a compelling one. let me remind you of it. telling in thein fall of 1978, at that point the shawnment of iran is the -- shah, a royalty that was a leader. the most absolute power in the world to be vested in one single person. industry,n, the oil
the second largest oil producer in the world. in the fall of 1978, he was facing in uprising that had never been seen in iran before, perhaps the world. this was in uprising that used the power of numbers of people going into the streets, making their objection known, ultimately to cut the legs under the shah's rule. the response of the shah and the united states, he was considered the best friend we had in the persian gulf in those days, the shah himself could not figure out how to respond to the uprising. he was going between wanting to use the iron fist and wanting to be beloved by his people and therefore unable to bring himself to have them shot down
industry as a matter of policy. the united states's indecision was largely because of the complex any of the carter administration, the state onartment could not agree how to respond. at the state department wanted the shah to liberalize his , and there was also a want of crackdown. in any case, despite the ambivalence the uprising continued. let me just radio one short -- just read you one short excerpt of what i uprising -- what the lookedg look like -- like. this is about a demonstration that happened on the holiest day
of the year, according to the shiite religion, this was 10 fastingo the month of and it is usually celebrate a by whppings of being -- oneself and expressions of extreme grief. this was a demonstration in 1978, the high point of the uprising against the shah, involving more than one million people in the streets. "at 2:00 in the afternoon, the line stretched for almost four miles. both of that day and the next day was estimated by the embassy of several hundred thousand, other estimates were over one million. altogether, throughout the country on those two days, the margin crowds were estimated at large as 8 million. iran has never -- had never seen
anything like it. it was punctuated everywhere by shes held savages -- sa overhead. there were rumors that the shah was going to attack the marchers, but they came anyway. there were rumors that the shop -- shah would use poison gas, but they brought their entire families. they believed that the shah killed demonstrators last january. but they fell into line anyway. they chanted that the imperial majesty's sister was a poor, that he and his father were pastors, that they would never be free until he was run out. and extraordinary demonstration of discipline -- when they reached the columns of the toument, built by the shah
commemorate 2500 years of the persian monarchy, the crowd spread into the open spaces around it. then all one million chanted, death to the american kerr, and we will kill the traitor. that is the uprising. and it succeeds by january of 1979. " under the fig leaf of the shah taking a vacation, he leaves iran for the last time and spend the rest of his life index out. in the meantime, iran was in chaos, there was no central authority. there is a revolution going on with most justices being dispensed on street corners. there is a provisional government established, but it struggles to maintain order. there is a public referendum early that spring in which the 98% of iranian eligible voters
voted and about 97% of them voting to install a government that was an islamic republic. , theyd -- and afterwards write a constitution that would set up a government. in the meantime, the chaos continued and the shah was in exile. the shah left first to egypt. he was first invited to the u.s., but decided to stay in the region and hopes that the state could be reversed and he might be called back to iran as it happened once 25 years earlier when he had taken absolute power in the first place. that did not happen. first, he stayed in egypt, then he moved to morocco until the king of morocco asked him if he would leave because he was becoming a political problem for the king. at that point, he announced to
the americans he wanted to come to the united states. he was ready to come now. the american government looking at the disorder in iran and looking at possible response of the iranians, should they take the shah, said it would be better if you do not come into the country. and basically withdrew the invitation at that point. the shah was left looking for a place to go and he eventually in bahamasds up in the with a temporary visa, but then they refuse to renew it. then he goes to mexico. mexico, a secret he has been keeping for the previous five years suddenly begins to emerge, which is that he is a very sick man.
since 1974, he had discovered lymphoma and it had caused and heg in his spleen was secretly trading it with chemotherapy. he refused to go to a hospital, because if he did, the word would get out. even when he was in and out, he refused to be hospitalized fair but by the time -- hospitalized. but by the time he got to mexico it was getting worse and he asked the united states to admit him for medical treatment for his illness and that decision, that request was immediately forwarded to the embassy and tehran to ask what the embassy thought would be the decision and the embassy responded if the shah was admitted, there was no way they could guarantee the safety of the embassy.
beingssibility of it overrun and taken was a large one and it had already in fact happened once, which most of us did not pay attention to when it happened. but on valentine's day of that year, a group of gorillas assaulted the embassy with automatic weapons and invaded the chance early -- chancery building and captured all the american diplomats there. after about two hours, they were of the by forces provisional government, but that possibility had been hanging over their heads ever since. well most of us who experienced that, it was not a surprise in policy, this was a possibility out there for a long time. the meeting where the decision to actually admit the shah to the u.s. was taken,
it was raised by president carter himself. this is an account of that meeting, an excerpt. "vance, who was the secretary of state, was completely convinced and switch sides on the question for the foreign policy. the secretary of state's defection left jimmy carter the only member of the administration who still do not want the shah in the united states. the president's frustration grew steadily as the breakfast progressed. finally he told vance to double check via medical information -- check the medical information and to inform the government that they were going to admit the shah and get their reaction. he would make the final decision. for the moment, jimmy carter looked around at advisors and he did not like being ganged up on
and it showed. what are you guys going to advise me to do if they overrun the embassy and take people hostage, he asked. no one made a response. after noting the silence, jimmy carter spoke up again. on that day, he predicted, we will all sit here with long faces and realize we have been had." of course, within two weeks of making the decision that is exactly what happened. at first, for those two weeks it seemed like the worst was not going to happen and they expected a great response and the iranian response was mild and more diffused. they thought that it would get off free. and they ran into the islamic students following the line e of emon, a- line of the
group of students who had been active during the revolution. they never expected that the offis that they would set would have the dimensions it did. they assumed they would be able to hold the embassy for 48 hours, maybe 72 hours, but after that they expected they would be evicted and they would use that 72 hours to make a point about the united states. their point was they thought the united states was preparing to reinstall the shah, which is why the shah went to the united states in the first place. the reason they felt that way because in 1953 the shah had gone into exile and then returned with a military coup that had been organized by the american central intelligence agency and overthrew the kids, the people who are challenging him in the government and
assumed absolute rule. they assumed a replay and they are going to take this action to alert the rest of the people. thishappened instead was imagination of iran, the same way it seized the imagination of the united states, overwhelming interest in this, to say the least. within a week of the takeover of the american embassy and seizure of hostages, americans were telling the pollsters that they knew what was happening and they were cast-off -- pissed off. view,n, much out of our the same response was happening. people came out of the countryside to surround the embassy, at times the crowds were more than 100,000 people.
delegator's from the countryside sent groups to meet with students, they were the politics of iranian overnight and at that point the notion that they were only going to stay 72 hours was abandoned and they decided to stay for the long haul and decided to use this as leverage to maintain the peer it he of the revolution that they were waiting. --. see -- purity of the revolution that they were waiting -- waging. the u.s. was trying to find somebody to talk to to get back the embassy. and iran was in chaos, the constitution was almost written, but not approved. the provisional government was failing. so the americans, having refused to talk to the iranians previously, a year earlier when they had the opportunity, now
they could find nobody to talk to. -- in the course of the 100 in the course of the 44 days, there were only two direct meetings between a representative of the u.s. government and the iranian government. those two meetings where between hamilton jordan, who you may remember was the presidential, chief presidential aide and political genius who had been --ribed the architectural and in iranian, the foreign minister of iraq in the provisional government -- i mean iran in the provisional government. he had been initiated as the contact between two frenchmen, one attorney and a businessman who were friends of his from his days of exile in paris and he
used them as intermediaries to contact the u.s. and set up meeting. let me just read to you the first encounter between jirden and him. "the american arrived on saturday morning. kit with a false mustache and hat and a wig and stuff provided by the cia, said the fascist and nobody would know he was there -- so nobody would know he was there. the meeting was set up at a luxurious apartment. the american waited for two hours before the iranian arrived. the iranian foreign minister was there on a junket and he was ushered into a dining room where place settings faced each other. the room was candlelit. -- they then shared
what was described as a leisurely dinner. the talk lasted 3.5 hours. jirden expressed his appreciation for the contact and he knew how risky it was, because direct contact with americans was for bid in by the ayatollah. you how risky it was, but he could not resist asking what would happen if the meeting was known back in iran. the iranian smiled, he would lose his job, at least. maybe his head, also. both men left -- laughed." those negotiations, after numerous and turns, finally collapsed in april of 1980. at that point, the u.s. attempted the one military action of the crisis. it had been for the previous four months training a group of
to takerce commandos part in a mission in which they would be ferried into iran, hidden inside iran overnight and on the following day they would assault the embassy, get the american hostages back and fly them out in a rescue mission they hoped would look like the is really that and heavy -- isrealies at intebi. instead, they only got through the first stage of the mission, which was to fly the troopers into the iranian desert where they would meet up with some c-130s which would be hauling fuel tehran and fly to -- fuel, and fly to tehran. the meeting place in the eastern part of iran, the mission
quickly came apart there. they had had to fly eight helicopters from the persian gulf, because they could not get closer than that and along the way, three helicopters malfunctioned and they were left without enough helicopters, said they had to abort. turning around, they had an accident in the refueling process and one of the tankers and one of the helicopters went up in flames and eight americans were burnt to death and the rest of the mission flew home. theof that, totally out of awareness of the iranians. they never knew about it until the americans came back and announced they had done this. what ensued after that was four months of no contact whatsoever. cardg played it to trump
-- the trump card and loss, the americans that back until the fall of the year and at that point we are in the throes of an election campaign when ronald reagan was the challenger and jimmy carter was the democratic incumbent. in that september, finally they got a contact from iran, from an emissary who had no official fideion, but had been bona . he made contact through the german and it started --otiations with war and warren christopher appeared in the middle of negotiations, when they felt like they were days away from getting hostages released, iraq under the leadership of saddam hussein invaded iran and all bets were off. suddenly iran was defending itself against the iraqis and
they blamed the americans for the assault and negotiations fell apart. it resumed about a month after that. some three days before the american election, when the iranian parliament passed a series of four points, which they said would be the basis for finally returning the hostages to the u.s. all of the basic points were to get the u.s. to pledge not to attack iran, to return iranian assets in exchange for the releasing of the prisoners they had been holding. that, the release of that document was the last hope for the carter campaign that they might be able to solve this or announce the solution to this before the election. this hostage crisis was the
determining factor in this election and the race to get it done before the election was the norm us -- enormous. i will read to you about the moment it came in. carter had been campaigning in chicago and got word the iranians had passed this and he flew back to washington to deal with it. came from the helicopter that landed on the south lawn. on thee waiting for him grass and they handed him the full translated text of the resolution, the first time he had seen it. news cameras caught him striding with a serious face across the lawn for the white house, preoccupied with reading the document as he walked. chief, walking.'
they immediately assembled in the cabinet room and by that point the president had made up his mind. he remembered, i had hoped we could reach an agreement in principle, with details to work out later. that would have permitted the hostage release before november 4, but that was realistic -- unrealistic or do much of the language was over the top. it called for the president to a and to grantsions them immunity from legal action, public or private. and to seize the assets of the which wereh, all of out of the question. carter told the group in the cabinet room, that there was a basis for settlement in the document, but there was still significant differences to be worked out, to meter to allow them to resolve the crisis today, or tomorrow, or the next
day. nobody said anything. but everything the person knew at that moment that the hostages would not be free by election day." certainly they were not and carter was a swept away in a defeat. that did not stop the issue, it continued to play itself out and carter still continued desperately as the lame-duck president to try to negotiate an end. negotiations resumed using all jerry and as intermediaries -- algerians as intermediaries and a solution was found and hostages were released on the day that jimmy carter left and ronald reagan assumed the presidency. it is a testament to the antagonism that the iranians felt and still feel toward jimmy carter, that they do not want to release anybody while they were
still on his watch. it was the last, in-your-face, for somebody they had a great distaste for. say, they wereo released. let me just read you a little bit about that accident -- exit. "at that time, all hostages had been moved from where they were held in one of the presence over to -- prisons over to a former palace. they were kept together except for six who were at the embassy and they were all loaded on buses and a driven to the airport. trip wasts' ' eerie, all buildings and the streetlamps were blacked out, so
the ride was like sailing through ink. at the bus never stopped on its way to the airport. once there, it was given to the far end of the tarmac. we sat there at the airport motionless for what must have an officerutes, recalled, maybe more. i do not know how long for sure, but it seemed like a long time. noon in washington. it would've been 8:30 p.m. at night in iran, said they were waiting for the word that reagan had been sworn in before they said, let's move. several people could see the student guards standing there, looking at watches. when the word to disembark came, it was sudden and one by one, they were guided to the door of wereus where blindfolds
pulled off and they were shoved into the glare of movie lights. they were being filmed one last time. the hostages ran a goblet of shouting.tudents, all this was no ritual, but an expression of fury. i had never heard these chance nom.hants with more than ve they were spit upon. they were flipping the bird. they were shouting back and swinging. in that was how the episode -- ends." we continue to live at this today, and lots of various forms. it certainly -- and it certainly as we sit in 2004 and see the
american government looking at the iranian government and vice versa and both of them locked in antagonism and both of them still with no direct communication. the -- was executed years ago and still they are not talking to each other. i think perhaps it is time for all of us to figure out what happened said that maybe we can talk about it. in that front, it is never too late. so let me at this point take your questions or answers if you have them. peopler, we are asking to share a microphone. perception was that the october surprise consisted of
the republicans making a better than thehe iranians carter administration, am i correct about that? and what about the timing of the iraq invasion of iran, to what extent did the carter administration have to do with that? questions: both those are up in the air, those answers. on the first one, the issue of whether republicans cut a separate deal with iranians to ensure hostages would not be released until carter was defeated, it certainly has been out there. there are books from the early 1980's, the late 1980's, two of which were called "october surprise" and were all about this possibility. those charges made during that.
period and virtually all the evidence was a secondhand and third hand, it was pretty much undercut. there still remains no solid evidence that a deal was supposedly happening. i can't tell you -- can tell you that the iranians believed it happened. i interviewed a man in paris who is the first elected president of the islamic republic of iran says that in the summer by a80, he was approached relative who said they had just met with the american republican and that theid republicans wanted to cut a deal
and did he want to be part of it? and he did not want to be part of it and it was never included and he never heard any more about it. but that was enough to convince in that the republican party iranian politics and the american republican party had cut a deal. when -- resigned from the foreign ministry in 1980, committed a public letter in which one of the things he claimed was that the islamic republican party had cut a deal with the american republican party and, which he denounced, neither of them have documents to prove it. so ill be something that sets -- sit out there as a possibility. certainly we -- there is a kind of circumstantial case, the republican campaign was managed
by bill casey who became the all thethe cia and scandals that ensued, so it was a man used to playing outside of rules.es -- and there was a concrete example caseym doing that, kc -- paid someone who had stolen books that carter was going to use and they used those to help reagan prepare for the debate. republicans knew everything that carter was going to say ahead of time and they used it against him. that is what we know about that aspect of it. in terms of the iraq and iranian war, the iranians believe the americans were behind it. i had several sources in iran
tell me that there was a meeting between the national security director of america and saddam hussein before the invasion. this was supposed to have happened in the middle east, some versions said it happened in jordan, some in iraq. deniesurity director that completely. and the american government confirmed his story, there is no evidence that he was out of the country when supposedly that would have happened. that said, none of that convinced the iranians who are sure that the americans must have at least winked at this possibility. even though carter announced it -- denounced it immediately. what we have is an ongoing mystery. the subject continues, at least on the iranian side, it plays a
significant role. >> part of your story was how much they hated carter, why do they hate him so much? mr. harris: first, there was a generalized antagonism toward the americans from 1953 when we installed at the shah in power. been to 1952, the shah had holding the throne since 1941, but for most of that iran was occupied by the british army and he was a figurehead. then after the british withdrew, they set up a kind of patchwork government had the shah having certain powers and a parliament having certain powers and an elected prime minister having power and it was a fledgling democracy. named most the
lead in the iranian parliament to nationalize the oil industry and at that point the americans decided he was a communist and he had to be dealt with and they arranged a coup in which the ayatollah khomheini -- in which the shah was installed. that was the first thing. during that time, they were there to help this figure police -- secret police, which later tortured iranians and enforced the iron rule of the shah. said there was resentment. the american government had the most to do with the shah and was closest to him was the nixon, kissinger regime when they made the decision to use the shah at the -- as the american military
surrogate on the persian gulf, because in the last stages of the vietnam war, america did not have the military power that they wanted. , the onlyve the shah such government they gave these rights to, they gave him the right to buy anything in the american arsenal short of an atomic weapon. they first looked at this document, they were they wantedked and the iranians to voluntary withdraw from this arrangement. those terms, this was billions of dollars that the shah was spending on american weaponry. carter inherited that and he immediately adopted human rights as a foreign-policy and almost
immediately made the shah as an exception to that, because he was helping keep down oil prices, they thought. and because he was the military servants, he was on the border with the soviet union -- carter himself was for the first year of his presidency looked on by iranians as a potential help. because of his talk about human rights, he could be the guy that that the leverage on the shah and forced him to get off people's next -- necks. then carter bought into it, which was a mistake. the shah visited the u.s. in 1977, a white house visit that was greeted by demonstrators across the street who ended up in a riot and tear gas was fired and all happened outside the white house.
that was their first contact. after that, carter decided that he was ready to travel abroad, his first travels as president. together anput itinerary which had him going around the middle east and they found on the schedule that they had about 24 free hours on new year's day when they were between, i think poland and saudi arabia, so they had to figure some place to stop and they asked carter where to stop and he asked the first lady. and she had liked the shah and his wife when they had visited in november, so she says, let's visit the shah. so on new year's eve of 1977, carter flies into tehran and his
me read you that carter blows it. [laughter] , um, what sabotaged it for carter was his natural liquidity -- proclivity for exaggeration. he could not say, we are good friends. it was always, we are great friends or the greatest of friends, he was that -- he had a knack for exaggeration. it was a rhetorical device for him, but in tehran where every
it was a is parsed, risky proposition. jordan in fact had told carter on several occasions to hold this impulse in check, instead carter goes to a state dinner that night on new year's eve and makes a toast to the shah. "when the time came for a toast, remarks, it short is believed the first guest of the new year is an omen for the year to come. " we will set the scene outside, eight days after carter leaves the iranian revolution begins, the demonstrations of the revolution. days after.ys -- 8
" then carter got up and cut loose. he said he would say a few words, but it ended up longer. iran, he said, because of the great leadership of the shah is an island of stability and one of the more troubled areas of the world. this is a tribute to you, your majesty, and to the respect and admiration which your people give to you. as we sat together this afternoon, i was impressed with your wisdom and judgment and sensitivity, but also with the -- we found between us. and he added, there is no leader with whom i have a deeper sense ." personal friendship when what he had said reached the streets, it's done -- stunne d some and enraged others.
henceforth, they would be treated as two of a kind. carter and the shah drove to the airport and up a side street, out of view, youngsters threw stones at the backs of the soldiers and shouted before being chased away." that was the incident that field sealed carter in the mind of iranians and it is no different. when i visited the american embassy, the old one which is now under the administration of the revolutionary guard corps. and i got into a casual conversation with these guards and this was right after carter had been awarded the nobel peace prize and one of the revolutionary guards says, what
do you think about carter being given the peace prize, try not to say more not than i had to, well, if they can give it to henry kissinger, they can give it to anybody. [laughter] whereas carter has become a beloved figure as the most ex-president,an in iran there are people with hard feelings toward him, all dating from that visit he made on the spur of the moment because his wife wanted to visit the shah. the ayatollahwhen khomheini was interviewed in paris before going to tehran and he was predicting the downfall of the shah. i always wondered why the shah
allowed him to enter iran, do you have a comment on that? allowedis: he never ayatollah khomheini to reenter. he exiled him 14 years earlier and for most of the exile he was in iraq in a town we have all become familiar with over the last few years, where he would be visited regularly from pilgrims and he had a great religious influence there. he was operating out of a shrine domee first --, the gold shrine issued during much of the fighting with american. was set upbeen -- he there for most of his exile. then the shah approached saddam
dispel and asked him to the shah. done in,ey wanted him they would do that too. but the shah said it no, he would be worse as a martyr. he wanted him out of the region so he could not have these pilgrims coming under his influence all the time. was, drive him to the west so that he would become a joke in western eyes and become nothing. in fact, when ayatollah khomheini was kicked out of iraq and had no place to go except paris, he flew to paris on the day that the shah called the american ambassador and told him to watch and see, this guy will disappear from view and amount to nothing now that he is
stripped from the region. he was there at the center of the modern communication system being in touch with what was happening in iran and eventually he returned to iran from there. -- when he returned, he was this was after the shah left and his return was a phenomenal event. at the time,dent who i spent a long interview with in paris, remembers the crowd was, that greeted him at the airport, was he estimated 10 million people, which of course was like having greater chicago and los angeles gathered for a demonstration. it gives you some sense of the
,rithmetic going on inside iran what an extraordinarily popular figure he was. it was one of the things we never quite got, that was a respected figure this guy was. it was extraordinary, he was both the supreme political figure and the religious figure, combined into one. people were not only getting political liberation from him but a personal religious itvation by his presence and is impossible to imagine there being an islamic republic, but himshah -- people went to and said, talk to the french and get them to kick him out of paris. again, the shah could not bring himself to do that, worrying the
option would be worse. it was hard for him to deal with the kind of western sympathy that existed for ayatollah khomheini, simply because he was so western himself as well, it felt like a possibility to him that the sophisticated west could not see through this guy. can you talk about the timing itthe -- and how prejudicial was that the carter administration negotiations that were going on through germany, andt possible that carter rosinski where in the clear and the cia arranged it independently from the carter administers an interview with the head of the cia at that time? mr. harris: turner was the head of the cia at that time and he was very popular within the
agency. he had been cleaning house and kicking people out. i find it highly unlikely that there was a rogue cia operation. they were in the middle of a big back dabble anyway. this was barely several years after the head of the cia was given charges of misleading congress and the institution was in disarray, i doubt they had the capacity. far more likely, saddam hussein simply fox -- simply thought he had easy pickens. chaos for apped in year, the military had disintegrated in many ways and they seemed to be sitting there defenseless. saddam hussein believed within three days of the invasion that
troops would be in tehran and in fact, he paid the airfare of journalists and brought them all to iraq, out to the border and said, hang around and i will see you next week in tehran. of course, they never got further than they got in the first two weeks. it may be a lesson for those who talk about regime change in the region. they greeted the possibility of this regime change at the hands of saddam hussein with fervor. and basically the iranians largely the iraqis by untrained boys chanting religious slogans and caring -- carrying ak-47 and fight a war for almost 10 years on that
basis. each side had casualties close to a million, extraordinary carnage that look like world war i. and the iranians, unlike the iraqis who are a nation basically by virtue of a british overseer who sat down with a map and traced a line and said this will be the nation of iraq, the iranians have been a nation for longer than most americans can count. this is one of the oldest civilizations, the civilization that gave the first declaration of human rights to the world. years the persians have been a culture and they are proud of themselves and they do not like being pushed around or foreigners giving them orders.
so their response was obvious during this crisis and it will crisisous in any further that ensues in iran. >> i wanted to ask about the hostage operation in desert one, how was that executed by the military and to what extent was interviewed -- interfered with the carter administration? and basically why they thought it had a chance of succeeding and why they went ahead with it? mr. harris: there was not much white house interference with the operation. in fact, the colonel who was the commander of the operation made a point of praising
so his experience as a military officer helped him greatly. said he never had a better command than the one he had on that. so there was not a lot of political interference. i think they thought it could succeed because they were used to assuming that they would basicd, because i had a picture of the american capacity to extend its power everywhere that did not quite match up to reality. in fact, they were playing a game on the edge of the technical capabilities of the day. to get this operation underway, 8-hourad to make an helicopter flight through two sandstorms at a time when simply -hour helicopter flight was not standard
procedure. none had ever flowed that kind of distance in a helicopter in those circumstances, with the radio silence and flying through two sandstorms along the way. this was out at the very edge. they had miscalculated the number of helicopters, obviously, and they should have flown more than they did, but they also -- there were decisions made along the way int may have been unwise terms of ruling out some of those helicopters in that operation. for example, there was a system that washe raid supposed to give you advance warning of potential cracks in the rotor blade before any cracks show up. ,ow, in the history of this there had been some 40 incidents where that light had gone off, and none of them in the
subsequent examinations, had they ever found a crack in the -- the navyhe army regulations were when the light x amount of have time before you have to abandon the helicopter, so that helicopter was abandoned. another helicopter lost its guidance along the way and turned back, or it was put down and abandoned, and then the crew went on with another helicopter, and unfortunately, that helicopter had all of the hydraulic repair equipment in it, so when they got to the had sixand they helicopters, just enough to go on with the mission, one of the alicopters discovered it had faulty hydraulic pump, and the replacement part was that there in the desert. so in the discussions inside the card or a ministration about whether to do this, vance, of , ande, was the dissenter
he resigned before the mission, secretly, before the mission. his resignation was announced after the mission, but his argument, having been kind of a lifetime public servant, if you will, who had served in the johnson administration, in large part, and complicated operations, lots of things can go wrong, and they will. whether theyase, actually went wrong or not is an open question, because the plan was this. the helicopters would fly through this abandoned area outside of tehran, where everyone with the helicopters would be hidden under camouflage. the delta force troopers would be hidden. they would wait out the day until the next nightfall, having flown in at night, and there was
not enough time to do the whole thing in one fell swoop, so they had to wait out the time, and then the next time, there were trucks. the cia had infiltrated several agents into tehran, and they would come out to the hiding site with trucks. they would load it into the back of the trucks, and the trucks would go into tehran, and they would jump out at the embassy, blow a hole in the wall, kill all of the islamic students that get in their way, grab the students, and go across to where the helicopters would fly in and take everybody and lift them out of an air base that had been abandoned, were supposedly the transports would fly in, and they would go out. there was only one idea of what been, ande would have that was done by the cia, and that was that 60% of the hostages would be killed in the mission. whether it was a failure are
not, if i was one of those hostages, i would feel that that failure was a great success. that understanding of incident was that mr. carter was given the window of opportunity, the conditions of the desert, and the window of opportunity presented by vance had closed by two weeks before he decided to andhead with the operation, the operation when they did they landing, one of the officers, a complete nighttime landing in the desert, no lights, one of the officers mistakenly went to starboard when he was supposed to go to port on takeoff. another one of the planes, and an explosion in suit, and they aboard to the whole mission. in terms of carter having missed the window of no, but the window
of opportunity was shrinking. the problem was the nights were going to start getting shorter, and if the knights got to know much shorter, they would not be able to do it in two nights. nights,ve to take three which was almost impossible, so the pressure to do it when they did it was there because the lunar cycle was changing and was going to make it impossible to pull the mission off, it in terms of what happened to desert was that allpened of the helicopters were there because they had made the flight there, and all of the planes were there. and the first helicopter that , they need to top it off, and they lifted up and miscalculated, and they clipped the side of the airplane and set off a huge fireball.
>> they had a feeling that they could not exceed, and that was the reason -- that was the reason for the limited window of time, because the engine of the helicopters could not handle that much sand that late in the year, and that is why they limited the window itself. that is not mentioned in any of the official reports or any of the informal personal accounts that have been published or that were shared with me. certainly, the sand played a big role because of flying through that sandstorm is what is disrupted all of that and may have been key in burning out some of the helicopters that were used, but i do not think ,ou can put it back on carter and the sand was not what caused
that conflagration, not what caused that mess. of the sandstorms, they were far behind schedule when they got to desert one, so it wasn't open issues they were going to get to their hiding place when it was still dark, which might have led to them being discovered and the whole thing coming apart, but because the sandstorm had dispersed -- but, in fact, on the sandstorms, they had in the weather briefing that they had there was a possibility of sandstorms come but they had never gone through trading procedures about how to fly through such a sandstorm, which was not part of the stallion training. >> brought together from different services. they had been working together for months and
did some practice in arizona, but whether they were trained and is questionable, certainly and that was the big leap, the notion of flying those helicopters as far as they flew them under the conditions that they flew them, and the helicopter flight went off, and first it ran into one sandstorm that was dispersed, and they got back together and hit the second sandstorm and were dispersed again, so when they got to desert one, they were all coming directions att different times. there was more than an hour from when the first one arrived and when the last one did, and the last one arrived with the commander, they went to find the pilot who was taking a piss against the side of his airplane, he went up and andcally said, how was it, he said you have to take everything and turn around and go right now. all of the pilots were exhausted. it was an extraordinary flight.
so i think there was that overestimation that really cost the mission. wife i would really like to take the last question, and if we can, bring it to today, and what lessons you think we should take from the crisis and our u.s. foreign policy towards the region. mr. harris: i think there are a lessons, and you can conclude what you want out of it. i think several things are least that she would reverberate for us in the current moment. first and foremost is that we got ourselves into this mess. even though we look upon it as kind of an assault out of nowhere on the united states, -- thes the low back from our first attempt
at regime change with the shock and our 32nd attention span does not allow us to and this had everything to do with who we had been in the region before this happened. i think a second thing that we ought to remember about it is we had advanced warning. very much reflecting what on 9/11. there was information that this was a possibility. we had been overrun once. the embassy told the president over and over again whenever he inquired about bringing the shah in the united states, if we bring him to the united states, ,e may get the embassy sieged so the problem was we did not
pay attention to the advanced warning. i think the third thing was there are political situations that are beyond military means, that made the things this experience so incredibly frustrating for the mass of .merica was our impotence we were used to thinking of ourselves as people who can project our power wherever we wanted and control events however we wanted to and that there are events that are beyond our control, and establishing weaponry or soldiers is not the end-all be-all of answers. there are an incredible number of issues out there that do not get solved by military means, and this was a case study in one of them, and i think our relations with iran today are the same kind of case study, and another thing to remember is in this incident, both sides were handcuffed by their own domestic politics. i mean, part of why this was so
hard to work out was that both sides were so furious and so us as up, and for americans, it is important to know that we finally got a when our own this frenzy diminished to a certain degree and we stopped trying to press the issue and force it to happen on our own time frame but let it happen on its own time frame, and that is how it got resolved. there was a situation in iran that had to be worked out before this could be worked out in turn, and when we came to accept that and to float with that is when we were finally able to resolve it, so those are kind of generalized things. i think they sound terribly , given the events of the last few years, and i think more so i think specific with
our relations with iran that in when we are making demands of iran after 25 years of not talking to them, it is important for us to remember that we cast an extraordinarily long shadow, particular layout in that part of the world, and that this shadow is a dark one for most people who experienced it, and they do not want to be told for us to go in now and to start rattling sabers around the question of whether the iranians are going to try to enrich uranium at the time we have tolerated the development of nuclear weapons by our allies like pakistan and israel, both of which have their weapons poised throughout the region, to then go to the iranians and say, you cannot develop even enriched uranium is worth re-examining from how likely this is to have
butkind of sympathetic ear a place like iran. you do not get what we want to have accomplished by giving orders and taking control of the situation. the iranians are going to assist that they are independent country and that they have a right to make decisions and that if the israelis get weapons of mass destruction, why can't they have them, as well as to mark we should face up to the fact that every country in the world that is worth its salt is going to be looking for weapons of mass they provide the only leverage to keep a super power off its back, so i think we have a lot to learn, and i think this is a good place to start the learning, so thanks. [applause] mr. harris: buy lots of books.
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bonds a small air station on kaneohe bay on oahu. this story is largely forgotten. coming up next on the anniversary of the attacks, author michael wagner talks about those who fought and died when japanese planes passed over bay on the way to pearl harbor. host: thank you for joining us as we commemorate the 74th anniversary of the pearl harbor attack. i am mark webber, and this is another authors on deck series. we are thrilled to have you all with us. today, we have mike wagner and bob chrisman, the authors of "no one avoided danger." naval air station