Nobody should expect the movies, or novels, or monographs by political scientists, to be the last or only word on the past. The Longest Day (1962), Saving Private Ryan (1998), and Pearl Harbor (2001) offer at best a partial view of the Second World War while telling us more about the times and places in which they were made.
In this light, the accuracy of the depiction of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis in Argo (2012), the Ben Affleck film that has been well received by critics, may not matter much. But Canadians who are irked by the film will be gratified by the opinion of an American who was at the centre of events at that time. Jimmy Carter, whose presidency may have been fatally wounded by the crisis, was in Kingston, Ont. to receive an honorary degree from Queen’s University on Nov. 21. The Kingston Whig-Standard reported that:
He praised former Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor, who was in the audience, and the “heroic efforts” of [Taylor’s] embassy staff for their role in helping hide six U.S. officials who had escaped the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran.
He said the Canadian government had helped “orchestrate one of the most remarkable rescue operations in history” by the unique act of issuing passports and visas to the Americans being hidden by the Canadians.
He said he had seen the movie Argo, which details the whole caper, and said it was a “distortion of what happened” since “everything that was heroic or courageous or innovative was done by Canada and not by the United States.”
Of course Carter’s view is only partial too, but the Canadians who worked in the shadows to bring their American house guests to safety can only be pleased.