Friday, February 8, 2013

Argo (the book)

The film Argo has been nominated for (and has been winning) all kinds of awards, with a potential Academy Award for Best Picture in a couple of weeks (and the DVD will also be available in February). Having seen the Hollywood version, why not read the book that the movie was based on? Antonio Mendez, the author, was a CIA disguise master.  Disguises of both the human and the document kind.  In his spare time he is an artist.

Mendez was following the news of the embassy take over in Tehran, when the call came for him to help.  With support from a variety of people, a plan started to form.  While there were several "official" plans in the works, the one Mendez decided to push was wholly unbelievable -   get the 6 hostages out by making them part of a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a movie.  While Mendez and his group were putting together an "ex filtration" plan (passports, cover stories, travel documentation, a film company to back up any background checks,  physical disguises, the list is long),  the 6 Americans were in hiding outside the American embassy.

At first the 6 escaped to the apartments of friends. They were in 2 separate apartments and not in any real communication with each other adding to the tension. As the situation in Tehran deteriorated, they began to look for a more secure location to hide in.  Enter the Canadians.

Without hesitating, the Canadian ambassador offered the Americans sanctuary in the embassy, keeping their existence quiet.  The unqualified help from the Canadian government helped ensure the plan would succeed. The 6 Americans waited for nearly 3 months while the plan was put together. 52 other Americans were held in the American embassy for 444 days.

Everyone knows the outcome of this event, but the back story is the real story here. The book is non-fiction and therefore factual, but it reads like a spy novel and there is very little political rhetoric in it. This is a feel good book - read the book and feel good at the end.

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