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The Price of Lies

Argo and the Stolen Truth About Iran

by MAHMOOD DELKHASTEH

This year’s Oscar-winning movie ‘Argo’ recently spurred Iran’s former president, Abolhassan Banisadr to write an article about the ‘October Surprise’. In it, he discusses the secret deal between Ronald Reagan and Ayatollah Khomeini which, by delaying the release of the hostages being held in the US embassy in Tehran, swayed the results of the 1980 US presidential election to favour Reagan over the incumbent Jimmy Carter. Banisadr argues that through ‘falsifying, misrepresenting and taking critical facts out of context,’ the film ‘delivers a pro-CIA message,’ and that by portraying Iranians as irrational and aggressive people it prepares the US public to support a war should the current nuclear negotiations fail.

The day after Banisadr’s article was published, Robert Parry, who had written previously about the ‘short-sighted history of Argo’, wrote a second article supporting these arguments. He added that ‘the House Task Force which was examining this so-called October Surprise controversy in 1992 had come to the conclusion that they had found “no credible evidence” of a Republican-Iranian deal had reached such a conclusion only by ignoring important facts and burying a letter from Banisadr letter detailing his behind-the-scenes struggle with Khomeini and Khomeini’s son Ahmad over their secret dealing with the Reagan campaign.

Soon after, Barbara Honneger, a former White House Domestic Policy Advisor who had played a major role in exposing this secret deal, wrote an extended comment on Parry’s article. Her article illuminates how the report by the Task Force, which was chaired by Rep. Lee Hamilton, was nothing but a ‘white wash and cover up.’ One of its members, Dymally, drafted a Minority Report, but Hamilton prevented him from publishing it through bullying and threatening to fire his entire Congressional Staff. Honneger reveals how Banisadr’s letter was coordinated with a two-hour press conference where she presented reporters at the National Press Club with reams of incriminating evidence on the October Surprise cover up (she is now planning to release a videotape of this two-hour press conference). As she writes, this ‘flood of last-minute’ evidence on that historic day implicated the Reagan-Bush campaign in plans in delaying the release of the hostages, and led the Task Force Chief Council Lawrence Barcella to ask Lee Hamilton to extend the enquiry for a further three months. Hamilton refused.

This may seem puzzling at first. Why would Hamilton prefer to produce a ‘white wash and cover up’ report rather than extend the enquiry? The answer could lie in a conversation he had with Banisadr before the Task Force was established. In a personal interview, Banisadr revealed that Hamilton told him if there had been a clandestine deal between Reagan and Khomeini, all governments in the last twelve years would be considered illegal, and that this would be extremely harmful for the political system. Banisadr told him that the price of lying would be even higher, as the American people would lose trust not only in politicians but the entire political system if they became aware of this lie, which soon or late they would.

Here, we can see that Hamilton had already decided to produce his report even before setting up the Task Force, as he had calculated that the price of telling the truth would be extremely high. Had had he told the truth, it is nearly certain that many of the political decisions which have had disastrous global consequences, such as the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, would not have taken place.

This brings me to my main point. It is that it is doubtful that Ben Affleck intentionally produced a movie to serve the interests of warmongers in Washington, and more likely that the script is over-reliant on CIA documents. However, reactions to the movie provide us with an opportunity to introduce what Robert Parry calls ‘America’s Stolen Narrative’ so that Americans realize the price that they and the world have paid and are still paying as a result of being lied to.

Oliver Stone once considered making a movie about the October Surprise. If he again considered producing one based on facts rather than fiction, he could make a major contribution to returning this stolen truth to the historical record in the public mind. Recovering this may ultimately thwart the advance of future wars that are already being planned by the very people who helped bring Reagan to power.

Mahmood Delkhasteh is a political sociologist, expert in Iranian revolution and a human rights activist.  He is currently working on a new book based on his doctoral dissertation, Islamic Discourses of Power and Freedom in the Iranian Revolution, 1979-81.