October 14, 2012, - 1:19 pm
Kevin Hermening was the youngest of the 52 Americans taken hostage in 1979 at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held for 444 days by Shi’ite Muslims in Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s revolution. Just 20 years old at the time, he was a Marine Sergeant. assigned to guard the embassy. Kevin was not on duty that day, but he was in the embassy and was taken by the Islamic thugs. (Thirteen women and Blacks were also taken, but they were released early on, because the Iranians said these minorities were “sympathetic” to the Shi’ite revolution. Another hostage was released after he became very sick. But others who got sick weren’t so lucky.)
I’ve been acquainted with Kevin Hermening since I was in college, when he was running as a Republican for the U.S. Congress from his native Wisconsin against liberal Democrat then-Congressman David Obey. I was a summer intern for NCPAC–the National Conservative Political Action Committee–which was then the largest conservative PAC in the U.S. and ran a week-long candidate training school for Kevin and a few other fellow conservative Congressional candidates. Kevin, a tremendous patriot, had all the positive attributes–movie star good looks, a brilliant mind, an articulate speaking style, conservative principles, and the charisma to be a star. And he was and is an all-around mensch. Sadly, the liberal Obey was re-elected. Kevin would have been a great Congressman and probably more. Today, Kevin Hermening is a successful financial adviser and CEO of Hermening Financial Group in Wausau, Wisconsin. I called him after seeing “Argo” (read my review) to get his thoughts and impressions on some of what I saw in the movie (he hasn’t seen the movie yet and has promised to give me his review after he sees it). And he recounted his days in captivity.
Kevin told me that while he was not scheduled to guard the embassy on that fateful day in 1979, he happened to be in the embassy because he was coordinating plans. His apartment, while not on the embassy compound, was right behind it. Had he not been at the embassy, he might have escaped, as the six Americans portrayed in “Argo” did. But he was not so lucky. In the movie, the compound, which contained several buildings including the U.S. Ambassador’s residence, doesn’t appear as large as it was in real life. Kevin said the embassy was a series of buildings on 26 sprawling acres. He said the main building had a large basement, as is depicted in the film. Kevin said that there were never any Marines assigned to guard the outside of the building. They were only on the inside.
There were two U.S. citizens taken hostage who were not diplomats. They just happened to be at the embassy that day. One was a businessman and the other was a teacher, who arrived to pick up records from the American School in Iran, which had been closed. Kevin told me that the teacher, William Keough, Jr., lost 200 pounds while in captivity. He became extremely sick and weak, but the Iranians refused to let him see a physician or be treated in any way. Keough died in November 1985, less than five years after he was released to freedom. And one wonders how much the Iranian captivity shortened his lifespan. Likely by a lot. These things don’t occur in a vacuum.
And the deaths of so many of the former hostages is yet another reason I’m glad Ben Affleck made “Argo,” even if it has his far-left, anti-American politics slapped on at the beginning. Kevin tells me that of the 52 hostages, 15 have passed away. They are getting older, and many Americans have forgotten what happened, even with the recent attacks on U.S. Embassies around the Islamic world and the murders of four, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, at the Benghazi consulate. Kevin tells me that the recent attacks on the embassies make him especially upset because they remind him of what happened to him and he feels like it is happening all over again. And it is. Islamic jihadists don’t just stop. They rest and reload. There is no excuse for not heavily securing our embassies now, especially in the Muslim world. (And as I’ve said previously on this site, I wouldn’t even have embassies in any of these countries, since the only purpose is to pander and offer lucre and visas to America to these savages.) As Kevin noted, prior to his captivity at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran at the hands of Muslim revolutionaries, there was no such televised attack or siege by Muslims against Americans (on which Ted Koppel built a show, “Nightline,” and a decades long career of fame in far-left urinalism, er . . . “journalism”). He wonders what the excuse is now regarding embassy security, since we’ve known better for several decades since the Iranian siege.
I believe that, today, the Iranians would not have allowed the American hostages to survive. They would have murdered them all. And I asked Kevin what he thinks. He agreed that this is the likely scenario, just like what happened with the four men murdered at the Benghazi consulate. There is a very harrowing scene in “Argo,” in which some of the American hostages are taken to a basement room, where they are blindfolded and lined up in front of Iranians with guns. The Iranians begin shooting, and the hostages believe they are being killed. But it was a form of psychological torture, as there were no bullets. Kevin said that scene is very real. He lived it. While the movie shows a few hostages being lined up for this, Kevin said the Iranian Muslims did this to all 52 hostages.
“This was the first time the U.S. was seen as a paper tiger in the Middle East. Neither blood nor treasure has ever been extracted by the Iranians [for taking the Americans hostage],” Kevin told me. And, sadly, we’ve continued to play paper tiger ever since, whether it’s the attacks on our embassy and Marines in Beirut or the 9/11 attacks. We continue to pander to Muslims here and abroad no matter what they do to us.
And there’s another thing that most Americans don’t know about the terms of the release of the American hostages, as negotiated by the Carter Administration. The Algiers Accords, which secured the hostages’ release, was a horribly one-sided agreement. The agreement gave the Iranians about $9.1 billion, most of that in gold bullion. It included a formal U.S. apology to Iran for alleged U.S. involvement in Iran from 1955 to the date the Shah was deposed. It allowed financial claims against Iran only by corporations, but not by American citizens. Kevin’s rights against Iran were illegally signed away by Jimmy Carter and his minions while Kevin was still held in captivity by Shi’ite Muslims. A bill in Congress, HR 5796, seeks to change all of that. But it hasn’t moved much.
And Kevin and many of the other hostages are challenging this in the courts. They are plaintiffs in lawsuits against the Iran. And each time they make any headway in court, lawyers from the State Department from every Presidential administration (whether it’s Obama, Bush, Clinton, and the other Bush) come to court to oppose these men who served America and had over a year of their lives taken from them by Iranian Muslims.
“I have a great life,” Kevin told me. “I have a beautiful wife and two daughters, and I’ve built a successful business. This isn’t about the money. It never was. It’s about principle. It’s about taking Iran to task for what it did to us, what it did to America.”
Sadly, Iran has never paid. And it has the last laugh as the government–the so-called leader of the free world, which Kevin gave a good deal of his life to serve and protect–opposes his right to redress in American courts.
Oh, and one other thing that Jimmy Carter negotiated away: the Algiers Accords included U.S. agreement never again to “interfere” in the affairs of Iran. What does this mean when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons in development?
Frankly, the failing U.S. sanctions against Iran should be evidence that the whole agreement is null and void. The hostages ought to get their due. Now, before they pass away. In his 50s, Kevin Hermening is the youngest of them.
Tags: Algiers Accords, American Hostages in Iran, Argo, Ayatollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, David Obey, Hermening Financial Group, Iran, Jimmy Carter, Kevin Hermening, Shi'ite Muslims, Tehran, U.S. Embassy Hostages, U.S. Hostages in Iran, Wausau, William Keough Jr., Wisconsin