The movie Argo was fake before it was real. This is the story of the original Argo and of the six Americans who escaped the capture of the American Embassy in Iran in 1979. Lijek, one of the six, explains why they were in Iran, what went wrong and how they managed to escape the embassy compound. As chaos increasingly gripped Iran and its government fell, the Americans survived tension-filled days before reaching sanctuary with the Canadians. Then came an emotional roller-coaster ride, long days of boredom punctuated by nerve-wracking episodes, against the background of concern for their hostage colleagues and fear Washington had forgotten them. Finally the excitement of Argo, the arrival of CIA operative Tony Mendez and his daring scheme to exfiltrate the "houseguests," as they were called in secret communications between Tehran, Ottawa and Washington. Lijek explains how the six reacted to the CIA's "best bad idea" and what it was like to exit the airport with false papers, hoping the plan would work as advertised. He presents an overview of the years that followed, during which they repeatedly lied to hide the CIA's participation. He ends with the controversy that erupted when the CIA announced its role and continues to this day, as what had been the "Canadian Caper" became something else, at least in the eyes of many.
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Mark Lijek is a retired Foreign Service officer. His earliest memories include a fascination with travel, which ultimately led him to a job with the Department of State and a first assignment to Iran in the middle of the 1979 revolution. After the escape from Tehran, he and his wife Cora continued on to postings in Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Warsaw and Frankfurt, interspersed with Washington assignments. He retired in 1996. Lijek is a fan of both the CIA and the Canadians, but has often found himself having to emphasize the Canadian role as the glamor of the CIA rescue plan tended to overshadow the more mundane but tremendously important assistance provided by the Canadians. He wrote The Houseguests in the hope it would record definitively the brave and selfless actions of the Canadians. He and Cora have two grown children and live north of Seattle on a small island in Puget Sound. He serves as treasurer of the Anacortes Sister Cities Association and is active in civic affairs.
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