The way our government behaved in this situation will be recorded
as one of the black pages of American history.
— Richard Nixon, thirty-seventh
President of the United States
The seizure of the U.S. hostages in Teheran ushered in a clash between the United States and Iran and ever since has poisoned relations between them. For fourteen months, the television brought Iranian mobs into America’s living rooms, setting fire to the Stars and Stripes, yelling abuse, intensifying fears for the lives of the fiftyfour hostages, the most senior of them being Bruce Laingen, the author of the preface of this book. These pictures wrote the London Sunday Times “served as a daily turn of the thumb screw for an America inchoate with rage and impotence.”
I several times visited Washington while the fate of the hostages was making front page news. The administration’s response was a preview of the U.S. reaction, a quarter century later, to reports that Iran was building nuclear weapons. Carter’s cabinet split wide open. Zbigniew Brzezinski urged military action. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance argued for patience and diplomacy. President Carter tried—and failed—to do a deal with the Islamic regime’s first puppet prime minister, Bani Sadr.
The most sordid option contemplated by the United States was to swap the dying Shah for release of the American hostages. I found it hard to believe that Jimmy Carter would stoop so low—and he did not. Others in the White House did, and U.S. senators like Edward Kennedy urged them on. The evidence is compelling. It accumulated