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Reply #28: About the hostage crisis: I heard Carter speak in the early 1990s, and [View All]

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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-25-08 05:28 PM
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28. About the hostage crisis: I heard Carter speak in the early 1990s, and
someone asked him why he hadn't "done more" about the hostages.

His answer was that his advisors on Iranian culture had warned him that the macho "honor" ethos over there requires a person to defy a direct public threat from an adversary or else lose face. So if Carter had said publicly, "Release the hostages or we'll bomb Tehran," the Iranians would have felt that they had no choice but to kill the hostages.

The culturally appropriate way to deal with an Iranian adversary is to negotiate privately on the side through intermediaries. That's what Carter was doing the whole time. (You'll recall that the hostages were finally handed over to the Algerians to be released.) He sent word through back channels, the diplomatic missions of seven foreign countries, that he would order the bombing of Tehran if any of the hostages were harmed. He said it was extremely frustrating to know that the media pundits and much of the public were blaming him for "not doing anything," but he felt that publicizing what he was doing would endanger the hostages.

He noted that all the hostages came home alive.

Carter didn't mention this, but I recalled that one hostage was released early because he started developing strange neurological symptoms. (He turned out to have multiple sclerosis.) I bet the Iranians looked at his symptoms and thought, "What if he has a brain tumor and dies on us?"
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