I just finished watching the Oscar winning film Argo. I gave it five out of five stars on Netflix because it was a great movie if you leave aside the fact that it, like most Hollywood films that are “based on a true story”, contained massive amounts of bullshit.
The Americans never resisted the idea of playing a film crew, which is the source of much agitation in the movie. (In fact, the “house guests” chose that cover story themselves, from a group of three options the CIA had prepared.) They were not almost lynched by a mob of crazy Iranians in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, because they never went there. There was no last-minute cancellation, and then un-cancellation, of the group’s tickets by the Carter administration. (The wife of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor had personally gone to the airport and purchased tickets ahead of time, for three different outbound flights.) The group underwent no interrogation at the airport about their imaginary movie, nor were they detained at the gate while a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard telephoned their phony office back in Burbank. There was no last-second chase on the runway of Mehrabad Airport, with wild-eyed, bearded militants with Kalashnikovs trying to shoot out the tires of a Swissair jet.
That seems to constitute a pretty complete list of every suspenseful scene in the movie. And, from Nima Shirazi in Policymic:
One of the actual diplomats, Mark Lijek, noted that the CIA’s fake movie “cover story was never tested and in some ways proved irrelevant to the escape.” The departure of the six Americans from Tehran was actually mundane and uneventful. “If asked, we were going to say we were leaving Iran to return when it was safer,” Lijek recalled, “But no one ever asked!…The truth is the immigration officers barely looked at us and we were processed out in the regular way. We got on the flight to Zurich and then we were taken to the US ambassador’s residence in Berne. It was that straightforward.”
Furthermore, Jimmy Carter has even acknowledged that “90% of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian [while] the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA…Ben Affleck’s character in the film was only in Tehran a day and a half and the real hero in my opinion was Ken Taylor, who was the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process.”
At the end of the movie, there’s a statement that says that Tony Mendez was chosen as one of the CIA’s top fifty most important operatives. It didn’t say whether that list also included any of the CIA agents who helped engineer the coup that ousted Iran’s democratically elected prime minister and restored to power U.S. puppet, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a corrupt brutal tyrant ultimately culminating in an intense hatred by Iranians of the U.S. (especially the CIA). Nope. Nothing was said about those CIA operatives. Nothing was said about how the CIA sent U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr. (father of the well known Desert Storm commander) to train the Shah’s security forces that would become the dreaded Gestapo-like organization known as SAVAK.
I guess they just didn’t have enough space between the fabricated dramatic scenes to fit any of those details in there.
Slate has a great article written by Mark Lijek, one of the six rescued diplomats, about the real life events.