I just watched Argo, the American movie about the 1979 Iranian revolution. I remember being told that it gave credit to an American for what was really a Canadian rescue. then I heard that they gave Canadians some credit in the end. That all sounds reasonable: Hollywood makes a movie, takes some liberties with the facts and then gives a nod to the truth at the end, giving a motivated viewer a lead to find the rest of the story.
No. The error is more insidious and has an evil twin.
The Evil Twin Argo begins with a quick overview of Iranian history. A long reign of kings (Shaws) leads finally to a democratic parliament electing Prime Minister Mosaddeq in 1951. Two years later, the CIA deposes Mosaddeq and installs the Shaw, a brutal dictator, who rules brutally until the Ayatollah Khomeini sweeps him away in a revolution.
The problem is, Mosaddeq’s election wasn’t all that democratic. He only took power after the previous prime minister was assassinated. He is part of a movement that nationalized oil fields, backed by communists (the Tudeh party: Mosaddeq was not a member but he benefitted from its support.). He tried to wrest the Shaw’s military power for himself. Domestic conditions deteriorated while he became more popular and more autocratic. As his support in parliament (majlis) dwindled, he dissolved the senate (for re-election, presumably) and engineered the dissolution of parliament.
At this point the sitting King (the Shaw) stepped in. He asked Mosaddeq to step down. Mosaddeq refused, actually arresting the Shaw’s emissary. The Shaw’s response was military. People call it the 1953 coup but it looks more like a counter-coup or a restoration of constitutional order. Had the Shaw not succeeded, Iran’s history might have looked like other soviet border states’.
The Famous Problem Director Ben Affleck twists history to make the CIA appear more involved in Iran than they were. His means of apology: to insert a “cover-story”. You see, the real story is the one he presented in the movie:
That historical record of the Canadian embassy keeping Americans safe? That was just a cover story. The heroism and cunning of Ken Taylor? Cover story. The testimony of former president Carter? Cover story. Where can you go for evidence? You can’t, man. It’s all a CIA conspiracy.
Asserting an unfalsifiable conspiracy theory based on no evidence is Affleck’s idea of apologizing and making nice.