Page 51 - Foreign Service Journal - October, 2012b

This is a SEO version of Foreign Service Journal - October, 2012b. Click here to view full version

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
OCTOBER 2012
51
Some 30 years later, I
had the opportunity to take
part in what I call a history-
faking exercise concerning
those dramatic events, as a
consultant for production
of the new flm “Argo.” Te
movie tells the story of how
the Central Intelligence
Agency masterminded our
exit during that crisis. It’s a
fne story, no doubt.
But, while in 1980 the CIA used Hollywood to help fool the
Iranians during our escape, this time around the ways of Holly-
wood fooled me. In the end, I have no hard feelings because the
people I worked with and the project itself were both impressive.
“Argo” is wonderful entertainment, if less than accurate history.
Here’s what happened.
Letting the Cat Out of the Bag
When we landed safely in the United States in January 1980,
the media called our escape the “Canadian Caper” because we
had been hidden for almost three months by Canadian embassy
staf and exited Iran using Canadian passports. Te details of our
departure from Iran were kept purposely vague for nearly two
decades.
Suddenly, in 1997, the Central Intelligence Agency
announced that our escape had been planned and implemented
by Antonio (Tony) Mendez, who had recently retired from a
senior position in the Ofce of Technical Services. Te publicity
was part of the CIA’s 50th-anniversary celebration, and Mendez
was one of 50 recipients of awards for pioneering work. Te
recognition was deserved and overdue, but no one had thought
to tell the Canadians it was coming.
For nearly 20 years before that, the Canadian ambassador to
Tehran at the time, Ken-
neth Taylor, had worn the
hero’s mantle. When we left
Iran, there was justifed fear
that the slightest hint of CIA
involvement would com-
plicate eforts to negotiate a
release of the remaining 53
U.S. hostages. So the Ameri-
can and Canadian govern-
ments asked Ambassador
Taylor to take full credit for
the “exfltration.”
Taylor quickly became a symbol of pride for Canadians and
was feted all across the United States. As the years passed and
the event faded frommemory, he was able to lead a more nor-
Mark Lijek, a Foreign Service ofcer from 1978 to 1996, was serving in
Tehran when militants took over the U.S. embassy. Subsequent posts
include Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Warsaw and Frankfurt, as well as
State Department assignments. After leaving the Foreign Service, he
and his wife, Cora, traded roles, with Mark becoming a stay-at-home
dad while Cora worked. He is active in civic and community afairs,
and has recently completed an e-book about his Iran experience,
Te
Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery
(see
marklijek.com). He and Cora served as consultants on the flm “Argo,”
which comes to theaters on Oct. 12.
In January 1980,
the media called our escape
the “Canadian Caper” because
we had been hidden for almost
three months by Canadian
embassy staf and exited Iran
using Canadian passports.
This facsimile of the fake Canadian passport used by the author
was created by his son.