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Reaction to Disclosure on Carter Hostage Crisis

This article in the New York Times describes the reactions of surviving American embassy hostages to the disclosure of the Reagan administration’s negotiations to hold the hostages captive until Reagan was elected. Some doubt that it happened or that it make no difference; others are upset that it happened. I joined the Foreign Service at the same time as one of those quoted, John Limbert. The article says:

The account stirred anger among some of the former hostages, while others dismissed his story of election sabotage as not credible. They are a diverse group that includes former diplomats, retired military officers and academics, and members of both major political parties.

That Mr. Connally could have been engaged in political skulduggery was hardly shocking after Watergate, said John W. Limbert, 80, who was a political officer at the embassy when he was taken hostage.

“It’s basically just confirmation of what we strongly suspected all along,” Mr. Limbert said. “We should not be surprised about this in American politics — people willing to stoop to anything.”

He credited Mr. Carter with showing patience during the crisis, even if voters blamed him for mishandling the showdown with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Iranian leader whose followers stormed the embassy after the Carter administration admitted Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the deposed shah of Iran, to the United States for medical treatment.

“He basically sacrificed his presidency to get us out alive,” Mr. Limbert said.

The hostages were released on Jan. 20, 1981, minutes after Mr. Reagan took office.

It was the end of an anguished chapter. Network news anchors had kept nightly counts of how long the hostages had been in captivity, accompanied by martial music and “America Held Hostage” graphics. People across the country tied yellow ribbons around trees in a show of support for the hostages.

After months of fruitless negotiations, Mr. Carter had authorized a rescue mission in April 1980 that ended in disaster when a helicopter crashed into a plane in the Iranian desert. Eight service members were killed, and their charred bodies were displayed by Iranian officials.

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