Republicans Bemoan Obama’s Iran Hostage Deal. But Republican presidents fared FAR worse
January 18, 2016


Last week, after two American navy patrol boats accidentally wandered into Iranian waters in the Persian gulf (far from Iranian mainland but close to Farsi Island, an island under Iranian control), they were captured and detained by Iran, but because The Obama Administration had already opened up diplomatic channels with Iran, the soldiers were quickly released only a few hours later. Yesterday morning, reports emerged that Iran was also releasing four more American political prisoners (and one American college student) in advance of the International easing of sanctions this week. To the Republicans (especially the GOP presidential candidates), this was a humiliating show of weakness and a direct result of Obama’s “failed foreign policy.” It is difficult (if not impossible) to see how things could have turned out better, but one thing is for sure, being an arrogant war-mongering bully didn’t prevent Americans from being taken hostage and held FAR longer during the Reagan or both Bush presidencies.


In 1978 under President Carter, the collapse of the Iranian government with the “Islamic Revolution” led to them storming the American Embassy and holding all those inside hostage for 444 days. The hostages were not soldiers and we were not at war with Iran, so one can’t argue they were taken hostage due to any perceived “weakness” by the United States (unless you’re a Right-Wing nut who thinks Carter’s unwillingness to start any wars was a sign of “weakness”.) Those diplomats were held for over a year… not because Carter was weak but because… as we now know… Team Reagan made a backroom deal with Iran to hold them until Reagan’s inauguration (see: this report) in exchange for weapons & parts. Carter did secure the release of 14 American hostages (not including the six whom Canada helped evade capture and recovered with CIA assistance), but an additional 52 were detained until Reagan was sworn in on January 20th, 1981. Four years later, we again saw Reagan’s willingness to trade “arms for hostages” with Iran/Contra in 1985.

Also in 1985, TWA Flight 847 en route from Cairo to San Diego was taken hostage by Islamic Jihad seeking the release of 700 Muslim prisoners in Israeli custody. The fact The Mighty Gipper was in charge of a military flexing its muscle in every corner of the globe at the time didn’t stop terrorists from holding 138 passengers & 8 crew (including 78 Americans) hostage. Reagan himself did not intervene for SIXTEEN days.

In 1983, 299 American & French servicemen were killed when the U.S. Army barracks in Beirut was bombed by Lebanese militants. Reagan’s response? Attack? No, retreat from Lebanon.

In 1986, American hostage David Jacobsen was released after 17 months of being held hostage in Lebanon. One might wonder if Americans were are greater risk in Lebanon because Reagan “cut & ran” in 1983.

And lest we forget, the bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103 by Libya over Lockerbee, Scotland in 1988. Tell me again how a “strong” Republican president kept Americans safer?

For an additional history of Americans either taken hostage or executed while Saint Ronnie was president, I refer you to this list from PBS’s Frontline.


In December of 1989, “[a]t least one American, and possibly several more [actual number: 5] [were] held hostage in Panama by gunmen loyal to Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega” for three days. But they were not released out of fear or in response to threats of military force, the hostages were abandoned in a schoolhouse and had to plead with American forces to come and rescue them “before their captors returned.”

In April of 1990, “over one hundred” Americans were held hostage in our embassy in Kuwait City by Iraqi solders (a number that would grow in the months to come) and held as “human shields” across numerous “strategic sites” throughout Iraq. An estimated 2,000 more Americans were “in hiding” in Kuwait City evading capture.

Following extensive diplomatic missions via MidEast Ambassador Joe Wilson, 80 American hostages were released in September by Saddam Hussein. However, “thousands of others continued to be detained in Iraq”, prohibited from leaving, including the spouses of some of those who were released.

By December, Hussein declared Iraq was now “strong enough to fend off an American invasion” and released the remaining 120 American prisoners. It would be nearly a month before allied forces would launch an attack on Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait. 23 Americans would be taken prisoner during The Persian Gulf War.

Arguably, of the three Republican presidents, George HW Bush (41) has the most successful record of recovering (preventing?) Americans from being taken hostage.


The (s)election of George W. Bush in 2000 likewise did not strike fear in the hearts of our enemies. Randomly, two Americans were among 20 tourists taken hostage in the Philippines, and in another event, one American was killed and a half-dozen others were released following payment of ransom by owners of an American-owned oil field in Ecuador. That hostage negotiation took several months and without the assistance from the Bush Administration.

Then came 9/11. Osama bin Laden continued to mock & ridicule the Bush administration for years as he evaded capture and al Qaeda forces crowed over their ability to successfully hold American forces at bay. Bin Laden declared that the reason for the attacks was in retribution for American troops occupying the “Holy land” in Saudi Arabia. Bush’s response? The removal of all U.S. forces from our bases in Saudi Arabia on April 29, 2003.

Then came the invasion of Iraq. Negotiations had convinced Hussein to allow inspectors back into his country to prove he had been disarmed, yet the Bush Administration did anyway. The lesson our enemies learned from that was not to negotiate/disarm with a Republican president as they can not be trusted.

President Bush (43) continued to saber-rattle threats to strike Iran if they did not refrain from interfering with the war in Iraq. Iran’s response was to construct new nuclear facilities and to enrich Plutonium. And with Saddam Hussein gone and a Shi’ite government installed in Iraq, Iran now had a new ally in the Middle East thanks to George W. Bush.

The wars in Iraq & Afghanistan continued to rage out of control, reaching a hot boil in 2006 with roughly 100 American troops being killed each & every week. It took an outraged public voting en masse to elect a Democratic majority, switching control of BOTH houses of Congress, in order to get the Bush Administration to replace Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and change our strategy in Iraq.

In December of 2008 just before leaving office, Bush tried to renegotiate an agreement to hand local control of Iraq back over to the Iraqis, seeking to keep U.S. troops in that country beyond the agreed upon exit date… but only on the condition they would be free from prosecution for past crimes. But the Iraqi’s were so eager to see us go, they refused and Bush was forced to sign the “Status of Forces Agreement” stating that said ALL U.S. troops would be out of Iraq by the following October (on Obama’s watch.)

The wars continued to rage. G.W.Bush’s final year in office, 2008, was his deadliest year for coalition troops in Afghanistan with nearly 300 U.S. & coalition troops deaths. 314 American troops also died in Iraq that same year (which columnist Bill Kristol described as “at peace” when handed over to Obama), for a seven year total of nearly 5600 dead American troops.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz (et al) have been blustering all week about how Iran took Americans prisoner and we responded by “lifting sanctions and apologizing”, giving Iran (and others) encouragement to do the same without fear of reprisal. If that’s the case, explain how “strong” Republican presidents failed to strike fear in the hearts of our enemies, suffering huge loses, FAR longer delays and in several cases, even rewarded our enemies with troop removals and financial gain?

Tell me again how Republicans have kept us safe and how our enemies are more fearful of a Republican Commander in Chief?

FOLLOW-UP: Same day as this Op/Ed, The Rachel Maddow Show also did a story on President Reagan’s true legacy on Iran:

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January 18, 2016 · Admin Mugsy · No Comments - Add
Posted in: myth busting, National Security, Partisanship, Politics, rewriting history, Terrorism

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