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Kennedy: Benghazi and Cairo Recall Tehran in 1979

We should remember that, over the years, the United States had supported a corrupt ruler whom Amnesty International had characterized as the world's most serious violator of human rights. Strong American support for the shah, reiterated by Carter, whose foreign policy was declared to have human rights as its centerpiece, had reduced our moral authority.

And regarding Benghazi/Cairo, what great crimes might we have committed that could provide the perpetrators with some excuse, however tenuous, for these assaults? No crimes. But we cannot ignore the ill-informed lack of respect, for beliefs, institutions and cultures in the Middle East on the part of too many Americans who should know better, and the anger that it generates.

At the same time, that anger is no excuse for violence. Official American willingness over 30 years to ignore the violation of international law and inherent moral principle in the takeover of the Tehran embassy, with violence against its public servants, only encourages others to think that they can get away with more of the same.

Hopefully, H.R. 5796, the Justice for the American Diplomats Held Hostage in Tehran Act, now awaiting action in the House and a Senate counterpart bill soon to be introduced will help to provide a needed reminder and deterrent to such conduct in the future.

Moorhead Kennedy is a retired foreign service officer who was held hostage in Iran from 1979 to 1981.

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