So, by 1979, it was safe to say that because of Carters’ policies, the CIA had limited covert capabilities and limited human assets in Iran or anywhere else. The British, French, and Israelis were engaged in trying to recruit from our decapitated networks, but how successful they were is largely unknown. There is, however, hardly any chance that whatever intelligence their networks could have gathered would have been shared with the highly disdained Carter-era CIA or that they would have used their intelligence assets to come to our aid.
The real story of Argo is that six members of the State Department escaped initially to the summer residence of Sir John Graham, the British ambassador, before going to the residence of the Canadian ambassador and his first secretary. Contrary to Affleck, the Brits did not turn away our people.
Since people will think Affleck’s movie is more reality-based than it is, we should cut away from the glitz of the Oscars and acknowledge the role of the Brits, and the risks that they took in coming to the aid of our diplomats. America does not have enough friends in the world to squander the ones we do have. That’s something Barack Obama was too immature to understand when he pointedly returned the bust of Churchill that was a gift from Britain not to him but to the American people.
The people who got the real short end of the stick in Argo were the Canadians. It was First Secretary John Sheardown who took the call from the fleeing Americans and without hesitation granted them a place to hide. Some were hidden in his home. Sheardown died recently, and his wife found the movie disappointing for characterizing him as an observer to an historical event in which he played a fundamental role.
If Affleck wanted to take the high ground, he would run a series of adverts stating that Argo is fiction and the real heroes of the movie were the Canadians, who put their lives on the line for their American cousins and got scarce acknowledgement in return. It wasn’t Tony Mendez or the bashed CIA that got the Americans out, but the Canadians who arranged the vital Canadian passports and the airline tickets through Swiss Air and two other airlines. The Argo cover was unnecessary, and the cliff-hanger scene at the airport was pure invention. The Americans armed with their Canadian papers and with reservations made by Canadian diplomats walked out of Iran without challenge and on to the safety of airplanes.
Of course, that doesn’t make for an exciting movie. I’m not against license. I’m against leaving the impression you didn’t take it while creating a story, in the process, that millions will assume is factual and denies the heroism of real people.