In this city where almost anything is obtainable, I am looking at the book published by the radical Iranian students from documents taken from the American embassy in Tehran. The cover of the book says "secret" and the title is "Israel Foreign Intelligence and Security Services." It tells, among many other things, about a man named Wolfgang Lotz. He was an Israeli spy.
Lotz was recruited by the Israeli espionage service to fill a vacancy in Cairo. So thorough was his cover that he posed as a former Nazi, took riding lessons so he could open a riding academy in Cairo, and even married a German woman. He was already married.
I bring up Lotz (who was later caught by the Egyptians) in the context of the Iranian documents because it seems to me that (if you happen to be on his side) the man is a hero. And it seems to me that the people who allowed the documents about Lotz to fall into the hands of the Iranian students, the employes of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, were not. Yet they have been treated as if they were.
It is the same with Gen. James Dozier, who spent 42 awful days as a prisoner of the Red Brigades in Italy. The general suffered and his imprisonment couldn't have been pleasant, but he has been treated as something he is not, or has not had the opportunity to be: a hero.
With both the Iranian hostages and Dozier, the notion of heroism has been stood on its head. They are not heroes, but instead victims.
In fact, words sometimes lose all meaning with some. When Dozier was first abducted, President Reagan called the kidnapers "cowards." That they were not. They might be reprehensible or crazy or politically stupid or many other things. But you cannot call people who plan and execute the kidnaping of an American general "cowards."
With Reagan and others, it seems that cowards are people you disagree with and heroes are people you agree with. Thus, the victims of the "cowards" become "heroes" when they are nothing of the sort. Both the hostages and Dozier just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In fact, there is some reason to believe that both did some things they should not have done. Dozier, for instance, is the first to admit that he should have taken seriously the warnings that he might be kidnaped.
As for the Iranian hostages, the captured CIA documents and State Department cable traffic makes clear that the embassy in Tehran had ample warning that it might be seized by radical mobs. Just why, after all that, the embassy was a virtual library of material, ranging from secret to just plain embarrassing, is something no one has yet explained.
It is, however, easier to explain why some victims become heroes and others become villains. It would be hard to imagine Ronald Reagan holding a Rose Garden ceremony for some welfare mother, born in poverty, raised the same way who managed not only to survive, but to have children herself. She is no less a victim than the Iranian hostage or Dozier, but she does embody attributes that either the president or most Americans would consider praiseworthy.
There is something weird at work here. People who become victims through no fault of their own, get talked about as if they were villains. People who become victims through some fault of their own or, at the very least, in the pursuit of some job, get talked about as if they were heroes. The upshot is that we tend to blame some people for their own misfortune and not hold others accountable for what might be their own mistakes. After all, someone ought to have to explain why we all know about Wolfgang Lotz, the Israeli spy.
And someone ought to have to account for why we know of so much more--all the material that fell into the hands of the Iranian militants. To a degree, we can thank the Iranians, because the seized documents add to our knowledge of a critical period and fill in some gaps.
But there is no accounting. Instead, the nation is asked to rejoice in a succession of reversals and mistakes in which victims become heroes and all mistakes are papered over. The truth is often otherwise. I am looking at a book supplied by Iranian students that says many interesting things. One of them, if only by inference, is that not all victims are heroes.