Excerpt: 'Guests of the Ayatollah' by Mark Bowden

"You're asking the wrong man," said Scott. "I have had no contact with either my government or the American people since I became a hostage. I've been kept in the dark by your people. …"

"But you have served in your army for many years; what do you think? How long would it take?"

"Frankly, my guess is that it will be a long time before you get any cooperation on spare parts from America, after what you have done and continue to do to us."

Khamenei insisted that neither Scott nor any of the other hostages had been harmed; they were being "protected," he said, and then explained how the Unites States had just sent commandos to Iran in a failed attempt to assassinate them. Scott quickly scrutinized this remark through a well-honed rhetorical filter – what Iran called an "assassination squad" would have to have been … yes, a rescue force! So there had been a rescue attempt! Scott now understood why they had all been so suddenly moved. He told the ayatollah that he doubted American troops would have been sent to kill him and the others. If Carter was that cavalier about their fate, he would have leveled Tehran months ago. Khamenei insisted.

"You are lucky to be alive, don't you know that?" he said, annoyed. When the ayatollah departed he left instructions that the prisoners' diets be improved, but despite this concern all three men fell ill with dysentery. On July 12th, still weak from the illness, Scott, Don Sharer, and CIA communicator Sam Gillette were driven back to Tehran and locked in Komiteh prison. A single light bulb dangled from the ceiling of a room about fifteen foot square, furnished with three Styrofoam mattresses, three wooden chairs, and a table. Their guard turned out to be Ahmad, the squat, balding man who in the Mushroom Inn had taken such pleasure in tormenting them. He told them that they were being placed in prison for their own safety.

"You know about the mission that was sent to kill you?" Ahmad asked. They said they had heard the whole bullshit story, and then complained about being locked in a prison, reminding the guard of the repeated assurances that they were not "prisoners," but "guests."

"This is not a prison," said Ahmad. "It is only a place to keep hostages."

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