(KEY OFF)(KEYWORD)bout a week before the current flurry of activity concerning the American hostages in Iran got under way, Louisa Kennedy, wife of the State Department official Moorhead C. Kennedy, Jr. -- who is one of the hostages -- and a director of the hostage families association called FLAG, had a conversation with members of the editorial page staff. Here are some of her reflections on the hostage crisis one year later . The Stakes
Let me start with something I have seen as a paradox from the very beginning and which might be lent a bit of power coming from a hostage family. It's something that I suppose had to be in our minds from whatever time we realized how serious all this was. And I don't want to sound overly sentimental or anything, but I think it's a point that's got to be put across to the public from the families themselves.
It is: what do you when the lives and the safety of the hostages begin to conflict with the larger sense of national honor and national interest? Although I have had obviously personal worry -- and distraction, to say the least -- and I desire to see my husband come home safe and sound, in one piece, I have realized that there might come a time when the national interest would conflict with this, and the hostages could be considered expendable.
I don't see how any American could consider otherwise. And then I think I would go further. I mean, I have thought about this -- giving one's life or sacrificing for the country. It is an honor given to reasonably few people. And it's something one can do with pride, provided it's not being done for political or trivial reasons. It has to be done for something that matters, for something that would mean a better life not only for our country but maybe for Western civilization.
I just feel my heart going double time when I think of this. I try not to think about it too much. Nor have I discussed this with any hostage families; just somehow there is never the right time to discuss it. But it is in my mind; I think it must be in a great many other people's. I know that my husband sensed this possibility as early as last December when he wrote his first letter to me and spelled out that he was perfectly serene and calm about things that had to happen.
Up until the Iraq-Iran war, I really had not reached the point where I felt the national interest had in any way been beckoned to. But suddenly with this war and with the Iranians capable of doing something stark raving mad in order to protect their revolution, we cannot, I think, consider only the question of the safety of the hostages at that moment, if there is something else we would do if the hostages weren't there. It's a point I think I must make. The Politics
I speak for myself. I have watched the situation as closely as anybody could without actually being a paid official. I would say, although the government's policy seemingly hasn't gotten us all that far as yet, that I don't see what else could have been done, given the very curious, very volatile, very mysterious set of values working on the other side. Some people say, in hindsight, it should have never gone past three days. We should have issue an ultimatum at that point. Well, we didn't do that, and I think we have to stand by the fact that we didn't.
I think Carter has been pretty good. It doesn't mean I would necessarily vote for him, but it's something I'm quite comfortable with. I think Reagan's initial statements about the conditions set by Ayatollah Khomeini for the release of the hostages last month were meant to be helpful. I really do. They sort of cleared the air so that the campaigns could move along on other issues and not quarrel about conditions for release of the hostages -- because that isn't our political issue: it's Iran's political issue. Media Attention
People say to me all the time: aren't you worried because it's not on the front page of the news, or on the top of the news every night on a major network or something? Well, obviously people don't wake up in the morning and think about hostages. But they react, they respond right away; it's there, it's in the consciousness. And I think if there were any more publicizing than there already is, we, none of us, would be able to take it. So for that reason, I think, it's been pushed down, simply made a part of the national thought. I believe that, rather like the Kennedy assassination in '63, when the hostages come home everybody will know where they were when they heard the news. Family Morale
You ask me when I first realized it was not going to be over in just a few days. I think it was once Christmas went by and they still didn't come out. There had been every reason to believe that a religious leader could have organized himself to do something then that would have been very dignified and proper. And then it dawned on me after Christmas had passed that we were into something that was a good deal more complicated. It was a very bad week, I'll tell you that.
I then mentally put it to April or May, I don't know why. I think I decided six months would be necessary. And then, of course, we began building up to the United Nations, which again seemed a reasonable way of doing all this; and then when that didn't work, that was the moment when the hostage families realized that we had to be a lot more cohesive.
There have been two six-month cycles in all this. One runs from Nov. 4, 1979, to rescue mission day, basically. There was a general amount of chaos in the beginning that moved through a period of relative calm and into a negotiation period -- and then you had the rescue attempt, and it all broke out again. Then we moved out of that chaos into a second six-month period, coming through the rather quieter positions of the summer (where again some negotiations seemed to be building up), and in that period of time you had the Iranian government getting in place -- a parliament, something structured. But we then moved into the Iran-Iraq war -- another period of chaos.
Are we now in for another six-month period? I don't know. I hope not. But we -- the families -- are strong. The formation of the families association (known as FLAG), to my mind, has really been crucial to keeping us all in one piece through this. From the first day, after all, we have been buffeted by the whirlwinds of emotion and terror -- and now by the winds of war. And in these terrible circumstances this organization, in a wonderfully responsive way, has been able to serve at any moment for any or all of the families as a kind of bivouac or shelter. And it is also a forum for letting off steam or seeking reassurance. Look, there are naturally diverse views and diverse meditations, you could say, among the families. Our organization has given us a place to express our feelings to each other, to work things out, to hear each other -- and be heard. And we don't get judgmental about each other. Richard Queen's Return
Shortly after Richard came home, we had a meeting for all the hostage families. It was fascinating how much Richard's actual physical presence meant to every single member of every single family who attended that meeting. We had a lot of families' business to go over, and one of the items on the agenda was meeting with the new secretary of state, which in normal times would have been at the center of our attention. But it became evident very early on that it was just Richard the families wanted to see -- no matter how little or how much he was able to tell them about his own confinement, his own feelings about it and the little bit of information he could give them about others that he had seen.
It was of such emotional value to the families that they -- it was like almost a hypnotism: he had come back with all his senses and was all together and very normal. This was like a ray of sun to people; in no other way could they have gotten this. There was actually physical touching and being close to him. Just feeling his physical presence. Richard handled it all so well and seemed to be Everyman, you know. He's a nice American boy who somehow in his ways is like all the relatives.