On a national broadcast this week, Ted Cruz remarked: The President has abandoned four Americans in Iran in advance of the 2016 election just as the President abandoned 52 hostages in Iran in advance of the 1980 election.
He meant that the American public would be as roused against President Obama as it was against Jimmy Carter.
This was Ted Cruz (polling at 6.2% among Republican voters) hoping to spike his popularity by trying to be Donald Trump.
Trump is making wild remarks — “I’ll build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and make THEM pay for it” — and gaining numbers each time. Cruz must have thought, “What the heck — I’ll give it a try.”
Taking a swing like everybody else at the Obama piñata wasn’t enough; Cruz reached back three decades and found the Jimmy Carter piñata. Cruz took a swipe at someone who has been out of office for 34 years.
Cruz repeated the old chestnut about Carter being unable to bring home the 52 hostages of 1979-81.
Trump himself couldn’t have said it more inaccurately.
In 1979 and 1980, President Carter employed diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions against Iran. Military options like the dashing, Israeli rescue of hostages at the Entebbe airport in Uganda were called for. But the comparison was unfair. The Israelis were granted fly-over permission by Kenya in order to reach Kenya’s neighbor, Uganda. The United States did not have an option like that for reaching Iran. The hostages were isolated in the north-center of a country that is larger than the combined size of Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Arizona; furthermore, in the inner city of the capital — not in an airport like Entebbe located all by itself in an open area; and in a country surrounded by nations whose governments were not friendly to the United States.
Still, after months of not seeing any results, President Carter went with a military option. Operation Eagle Claw took place on April 24, 1980. It was launched off the carrier Nimitz. Eight Navy helicopters combined with other support aircraft to reach a staging area in the Iranian desert. Included in the arsenal were Marines and Army Rangers — in fact, this was one of the first missions of Delta Force.
The plan was for eight helicopters to arrive at the staging area, and then proceed into the city of Teheran. The plan included the “abort” guideline that if fewer than six choppers could proceed from the desert, the operation would be called off.
On the way to the desert, three of the helicopters were scratched by mechanical problems. With only five helicopters — one below the minimum needed for the rescue — the commanders on the scene asked President Carter for permission to abort the mission. Permission was granted. In trying to leave the desert, one helicopter — in total darkness — crashed into a troop transport. The collision resulted in an explosion. Eight servicemen were killed. President Carter announced the tragedy the next morning.
For these service members to lose their lives trying to pull off a rescue isn’t what I could call “abandoning the hostages.”
Furthermore, diplomatic efforts resumed — and indeed worked. The hostages WERE released. All 52 returned to the states alive. The Iranians, however, wanted to spite President Carter, and so they did not release the hostages until the very moment when Ronald Reagan was taking the oath of office as the newly elected President. The effort by the Iranians was to make it seem that President Carter had failed to bring home the hostages. With Carter no longer in office, the Iranians let them be flown out of the country. Jimmy Carter — immediately after Reagan’s swearing-in — flew to West Germany in order to meet the 52 personally. They would fly to West Germany after going from Iran to Algeria.
For someone who gave as much personal attention as any President could to a hostage situation, President Carter was characterized by this Senator from Texas as “abandoning” the Americans. Cruz as Trump — we’ll watch the numbers.