Repentance and Reconciliation
Jan. 7, 1980 — Herald Statesman (Letter to Editor)
This well-articulated letter to The Herald Statesman newspaper in Yonkers, NY, reacted to their editorial critical of Rev. William Sloane Coffin (1924-2006).
A former CIA agent, Coffin was a progressive preacher at the time for Riverside Church in NYC. In December 1979, he had flown to Iran to conduct Christmas services for the U.S. hostages, deliver messages from their families, and make a plea for the two countries for reconciliation.
U.S. must make amends
The Christmas editorial castigating the Rev. William Sloane Coffin for criticizing American impatience in the Iranian crisis is itself intemperate in lauding what it chooses to see as forebearance almost to a fault on the part of the American people.
Granting that two wrongs do not make a right and that the taking of hostages is an act of terrorism no less intolerable than where the instrument of terror is a strategic air force and that hostages are an entire people, the fact remains that the invasion of our embassy in Teheran followed upon more than 25 years of criminal misconduct on our part, starting with the overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953. It was the grossest hypocrisy for our attorney general [Griffin Bell] to appear before the World Court and plead the principles of international law five years after our then-chief executive, President Ford, [Gerald Ford] repudiated that law when confronted with the criminality of our conduct in Chile, [CIA coup against Allende in favor of murderous dictator Pinochet] after our outlawry in the Mayaguez incident [final skirmish of Vietnam War in 1975, after Cambodian army captured U.S. ship and crew, 41 Americans died in failed rescue mission] and in southeast Asia had been exposed and after a quarter-century of depravity in Iran itself. [support for the Shah’s military dictatorship]
If the American people are truly interested in seeing the hostages returned unharmed, it is time that we showed genuine concern for the rule of law in the community of nations by trying to determine how we can make amends for the long list of wrongs we have done these people. That, and not maudlin ruminations on the quality of our patience, is the course of true repentance.
The world has been patient with us this past quarter-century only because our overweening swagger has been backed by demonstrated irresponsibility in the management of nuclear power. Obviously its patience is growing short, and with the nuclear monopoly no longer in our favor, we really have no choice but to mend our ways.
Selective Outrage on Iran — Letter to The New York Times, November 25, 1979
American woman: U.S. can’t keep out of Iranian affairs (1980 letter)
Worth listening to — The Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 12, 1980
MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”