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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Book review: Guests of the Ayatollah by Mark Bowden

I listened to the abriged audio version of this book, and I think my understanding of the book suffered from the editing. It seemed a little choppy, and it was sometimes difficult to keep the people straight in my mind without being able to refer back to a page in a book. One more disappointment with the audio version was with the enhanced CD features. I expected to see some pictures of the hostages or clips from news features of the time, but all that was included were two PDF maps and a 10-minute clip from a longer documentary that you can buy.

All that said, the book was very interesting and disturbing. It's hard to imagine living through such an ordeal and very sad to realize that the 1979-1980 hostage crisis was both an opening salvo of and small potatoes to the "war on terror" which is ongoing. While being held for over a year in solitary conditions and constant fear would be beyond awful, today's beheadings, kidnappings, and suicide attacks are a terrible escalation.

I was struck by the self-rightousness of the student captors and their worldview. The author made mention that, while many of the students were well-educated in math or science (at least on of them was educated in American, spoke fluent, unaccented English, and went on to become a Vice President of Iran), their knowledge of history and politics was based on the teachings of the religious leaders of the day.

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