A great Canadian friend passes on....
The concealment and extrication of the American diplomats by the Canadian government and the Central Intelligence Agency inspired the recent movie “Argo.” Though Mr. Sheardown is not mentioned in it — public recognition always gravitated to Mr. Taylor, who is portrayed in the film as a hero — his role was nevertheless consequential.
“Without his enthusiastic welcome, we might have tried to survive on our own a few more days,” Mark Lijek, a retired Foreign Service officer, wrote in Slate last year. “We would have failed.”
Mr. Sheardown’s avuncular, pipe-puffing manner led his houseguests to call him Big Daddy. He bought groceries at different stores to disguise his household’s suddenly larger appetite. He bribed the garbage collector with money and beer for the same reason. Surveillance, including tanks at the end of the street, was constant. Strangers knocked on the front door, suspicious calls were commonplace, their car was repeatedly searched.
“We were already living in danger,” Mr. Sheardown’s wife, Zena, said in an interview on Wednesday. “And certainly the danger was compounded because we were hiding, literally hiding, fugitives.”
Here is an extraordinary episode from Sheardown's young life, ending with a piquant touch:
John Vernon Sheardown was born on Oct. 11, 1924, in Sandwich, Ontario, a small town absorbed by Windsor in the 1930s. At 18, he joined the Canadian Air Force and flew a bomber in World War II, once crash-landing near an English village after limping back from an attack on Germany. He broke both legs, but was able to crawl to a pub door at 3 a.m. and rouse the owner. He asked for a glass of Scotch, which the owner gave him. The owner then asked for payment while Mr. Sheardown waited for an ambulance — a story Mr. Sheardown relished.
The NYT obit notes that Argo producer & star Ben Affleck expressed regret to Sheardown's family, that he omitted mention of the diplomat in his film. Affleck's plea of "length, drama and cost" rings hollow. It'd have been a simple & hardly expensive matter to pay warm tribute where it truly was due.
For more as to the hostage crisis & Hollywood's latest version, here is what two months ago I posted on LFTC re Argo:
On October 12 Ben Affleck's new film ("Argo") hit theaters. It is based on a real-life CIA/Canada rescue of 6 US diplomats from the roiling revolutionary cauldron that was Tehran during the 1979-1980 hostage crisis.
I saw the Affleck film. It is two hours of well-done entertainment, with much of the suspense coming from the story being based on an actual episode. The picture is mostly accurate, according to an article in Slate--see the video clip of the star CIA agent at the end. But the Canadians deserved far more credit than they got; this Wired article adds telling detail to the true story. A WSJ op-ed explains how the movie graphically shows the cruelty & fanaticism of the Iranian Islamists.
But Affleck & co-producer George Clooney could not resist a wet-kiss postscript valentine to one of America's worst presidents, Jimmy Carter. Just before the credits the producers tell us that Carter brought the hostages home safely and thus preserved America's dignity. They add that the story is an exemplar of cooperation between governments.
Tellingly, their postscript omits the disastrous failed hostage rescue mission of April 1980, during the crisis. That a raid was being planned is mentioned in the film, but not its result, which came after completion of the CIA "exfiltration" depicted in the film. The uninitiated viewer is left believing that the US emerged with enhanced stature around the globe.
Nothing could be further from historical truth. The humiliation America suffered from a 444-day hostage crisis, plus a failed rescue mission, were key factors in Ronald Reagan's defeat of Carter in the 1980 election. In the book, Argo (2012), authored by Antonio Mendez, the CIA agent who exfiltrated the diplomats but does not share the filmmakers' politics, he called the failed raid a disaster that cost Carter the 1980 election.Now one can argue that those who remember those years will not take their views from Hollywood propaganda, and that those who are too young to recall will remember a very entertaining flick, and not the whitewash at the end. But it is another marker in liberal Hollywood's canon of historical revisionism, ably detailed by TAS reviewer James Bowman.
Bottom Line. One of the most famous, enduring foreign policy quotes comes from the 19th century British statesman Lord Palmerston, who declared that nations have neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies, only permanent interests.
The historical refutation of that proposition includes Canada, with whom America has lived at peace for 145 years since its 1867 creation, and former Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor & his deputy, John Sheardown, whose courage & decency a generation ago led them to risk their own lives to spare six American diplomats a lengthy, brutal ordeal.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Foreign Policy, Conservative Politics