Books: The First Strike

How the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran prefigured Sept. 11

The 1979 student takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran was Sept. 11 in slow motion. Over 15 endless months, 52 American hostages were imprisoned, interrogated and humiliated by the radical Islamic students who seized the embassy compound. Back home, night after night, a lugubrious Walter Cronkite played the role of national town crier, counting off the days of captivity. Is it any surprise that all these years later the hostage taking is an episode that refuses to subside into mere history? The mullahs who exploited it to consolidate their power still rule. The hatreds it set loose still poison relations...

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