Desert One

Two time Academy Award winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple makes a film and you know that it is going to have several elements to it – excellence, education and entertainment. She just knows how to present an event, person or place. How to make others understand a story.

Here she tackles an interesting, yet largely unknown, event in American history. Unknown that most of it was kept secret. What truly went on was hidden from Americans and the world. Shining light on the secret mission at the heart of the story.

In 1979 the United States was not a very popular country in Iran. Actually, Americans were hated by a large part of the population in the Gulf country. Relations deteriorated with plenty of protests being held which saw Iranians burning the American flag and yelling anti-American slogans.

It got very bad. So bad it was dangerous to be an American in Iran. Especially those at the U.S. Embassy. In the United States President Jimmy Carter was preparing for his reelection campaign. This is put on the back burner when student revolutionaries storm the American Embassy taking 52 Americans hostage. The hostages were a mixture of citizens, soldiers and diplomats.

Carter was over a barrel with this one. He believed if he went in guns a blazing that the hostages would be killed. So he attempted negotiating. Publicly he said that diplomacy was the only option, but behind closed doors he launched the development of a rescue mission.

This meant serious training by a group of U.S. special forces. Though brave and highly trained the soldiers all know they are going in blind as they don’t know the territory they will be dealing with. Plus the group had been thrown together from several different military branches.

In the United States the hostages were all over the news. They had been held for months at this point. Americans were getting impatient with what they saw as Carter’s weakness and his opponent Ronald Reagan really fanned those flames.

Finally in April of 1980 the rescue mission was ready. It landed in a desert meeting with unexpected things and it was decided to abort the mission. Several soldiers died in the retreat. Tragic ending for these heroes.

Even here in Canada as a young person I remember the Iran hostage crisis. Such was the amount of coverage it got worldwide. It was the really beginning of the brainwashing of the West of how dangerous the countries of the Gulf and Middle East were. It has not let up since.

The amount of footage Kopple was able to get her hands on which has never been seen before is amazing. Plus there are wonderful and intimate interviews with the soldiers involved and President Carter, VP Walter Mondale, several Iranians who were involved in hostage taking either directly or indirectly, and television reporter Ted Koppel. All tell flush out the story from their own perspective. As such, the entire story is fleshed out. The diplomacy, politics, military, and international relations behind it all.

Kopple acknowledges that this is not only an American story, but an Iranian one as well. Attempting to show both sides. What I really like about the doc is that it does not point fingers. Not making the Iranians out to the bad guys. Really shows how both sides really just did what they thought they had to.

What I found what really came through for me was the presidency of Carter. We really got to see the man behind the title. What he believed in and what he was truly about. Soon this humanist became my favourite U.S. president. A man in which peace was always his first choice and tried to do things the right way.

This documentary should be a must see for history buffs and those who are determined not to allow history to repeat itself.

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