Argo: Jimmy Carter sets the record straight, claims Canada deserves 90% of credit for rescue of US hostages from Iran

Ken Taylor receiving a medal from President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Torstar file photo

It’s Academy Awards time yet again, that annual Hollywood display of hype and egotism that draws millions of viewers worldwide. One of this year’s leading films, some would say the odds on favorite to take Best Movie is Ben Affleck’s Argo.

Canadian viewers must keep in mind this is not a documentary. The film recounts in a fictitious manner the Canadian rescue of US hostages from Iran in the 1970s. It is fictitious in that the Canadian role is downplayed and the CIA is the big hero.

In a recent interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, the man who was President at the time of the hostage crisis, Jimmy Carter claimed a full 90% of the credit should go to Canada.

“Ninety percent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian,” Carter said. “The movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA. And with that exception, the movie’s very good.”

Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor, the man who oversaw the rescue had this to say:

“In reality, Canada was responsible for the six and the CIA was a junior partner. But I realize this is a movie and you have to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.”

In the film Taylor is also shown threatening to close the Canadian embassy; in reality, this never happened.

To his credit Affleck did address the issue:

“Because we say it’s based on a true story, rather than this is a true story, we’re allowed to take some dramatic license. There’s a spirit of truth”, and that, “the kinds of things that are really important to be true are—for example, the relationship between the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. stood up collectively as a nation and said, ‘We like you, we appreciate you, we respect you, and we’re in your debt.’…There were folks who didn’t want to stick their necks out and the Canadians did. They said, ‘We’ll risk our diplomatic standing, our lives, by harbouring six Americans because it’s the right thing to do.’ Because of that, their lives were saved.”

So by all means go to see Argo and root for it to win Oscars if you will, but just remember it is a Hollywood retelling of what really happened. At one time the makers of Argo may have “gotten away with it”, but in this age of instant communications via Internet the truth will out!

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