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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I save a woman’s life, on the worst night of my life

Republican Party Presidential Candidate and conservative columnist Andy Martin says reports of the attack on Lara Logan reopened memories of a similar incident in Iran 32 years ago. Martin took time off from preparing for his upcoming trip to New Hampshire to reflect on an event that reshaped his life. Here is his flashback.



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Republican Presidential Candidate Andy Martin offers a highly personal reaction to the attack on CBS News’ Lara Logan

The Logan incident reopens painful memories for Andy

(NEW YORK)(February 17, 2011) Once in a blue moon a news report hits me in the heart. I have been exposed to so many experiences that sometimes experience just bounces back and smacks me in the face. Memory is a difficult quality to discard. I had an eerie remembrance reading reports of the attack on CBS News’ Lara Logan in Cairo. Logan thought she was in a celebratory environment and thus was probably surprised when she was attacked.

I saved a woman’s life on the worst night of my life.

In 1979 I was in Iran during the hostage crisis. I was tipped off that something had happened in Tabriz, a remote city in Azerbaijan Province. Together with a reporter from Associated Press, Alex Efty, and a Miami Herald scribe, Guy Gugliotta, we decided to travel as a group to Tabriz.

Flying to Tabriz I sat in the cockpit jump seat with the Iran Air crew. It was a scary insight. The co-pilot said that Iran was training suicide bombers. If Iran was threatened they would strike back at America. I didn’t know what to say. Because I had trained briefly as a military pilot, we spoke as pilots and not as people discussing politics. But it was still uncomfortable being in that cockpit. Finally we landed in Tabriz. Alex, Guy and I headed for a hotel.

Just beyond the hotel, a mini-revolt was in progress about half a mile away. Anti-Ayatollah Khomeini forces had taken over the local TV station which sat on a hilltop. While we cased the station thousands of pro-Khomeini demonstrators stormed the facility and retook it. We were engulfed with people who wanted to know why we were there.

That night I received a tip that something was brewing at the Government House. I think the term “Government House” is best described as a local municipal building, perhaps a county courthouse or office building.

Little did I know that the worst night of my life was about to unfold.

When we got to the facility a source led Alex and me into the building. I still remember the screaming and the cries coming from the second floor to the angry crowd in the front yard. Perhaps five hundred people were outside in front of the building, armed with rifles, pistols and automatic weapons. They were chanting. They were whipping themselves into a frenzy to counterattack the TV station. Over a dozen men were to die that night in firefights on the hill.

Finally my guy came back and said the building was about to explode, and we had to get out. The crowd was being herded up to the TV station. Alex and I moved out on to the front steps of the building to watch. The steps were about six feet high and gave us an overview of the ground where the crowd was still yelling and screaming. We hesitated and looked out at the mob. The men were getting increasingly agitated as they prepared to launch their counterattack.

Out of the corner of my right eye I saw a woman. I recognized her visually but didn’t know her name. I had seen her earlier in the day at the hotel. She had a camera crew. As I remember she had three men with her, rather smallish types. She had a pale complexion, reddish hair and was wearing a white coat. The white coat sticks out in my memory. She walked on the periphery of the mob trying to find an opening into the crowd for an angle shot.

Suddenly the men in the mob discovered her. They grabbed her and she started screaming. The screaming was piercing.

In a moment, Alex’s eyes and mine met. His look said, “I’m too small to rescue her. It' you.” Somehow I made a flying leap off the steps into the crowd. I don’t remember that second.

I remember swimming in a sea of humanity, using my arms push forward towards the screaming woman. If you are familiar with the Lara Logan episode last week you can see why her incident triggered these memories.

Finally I pushed my way through the crowd and grabbed the woman in a bear hug, face-to face. I said something, probably “Don’t worry, I’m here.” She kept screaming.

I was scared she might think I was one of her attackers. Seconds became years. I drifted a few feet away, as though floating in violent river rapids. She kept screaming. Each second was like a lifetime. My mind snapped to. I realized she had lost control and was in a breakdown state. The more she screamed the more agitated the crowd became. I swam back to her and grabbed her a second time.

She kept screaming. Slowly I maneuvered her to the side of the mob. Her crew was on the side, outside the crowd, as though on a bank trying to reel her in from the raging river. We got her out. I was alone with the woman and her crew, in the middle of a smaller mob that was still following us.

We started to walk through what appeared to be a garden, towards a car NBC News had rented. Somewhere along the line someone told me she was with NBC News. The woman was Hillary Brown.

Alex and I were separated.

As we approached her car, her men got in and I helped her in. She had stopped screaming as we walked through the garden.

But the car was now surrounded by a potentially hostile mob. Again I looked inside myself. What to do?

In an instant, I started screaming at the top of my voice: “Death to the Shah! Death to Carter.” The crowd was flummoxed. Then they joined in. “Death to the Shah! Death to Carter!” In the confusion the driver saw an opening and drove off to the hotel where all of us were staying.

I think my guy drove me back to the hotel; I don’t remember how I got there or when I reunited with Alex. The night had become totally insane.

But the terror was only beginning.

There was relentless small arms fire. From the hotel windows you could see tracers going towards the TV hill, and tracers coming back from the station.

The street outside the hotel was filled with trucks, packed with people driving to the TV hill. They had more rifles, more pistols, more automatic weapons. I looked at myself and said truly this is madness.

Alex wandered towards the gunfire at the entrance to the TV hill. After hesitating, I went after him to be sure he could get out.

By the time we got back to the hotel the gates were locked and we had to climb the fence to get in.

I tried to get on the telex machine but Pranay Gupte of the New York Times was monopolizing the telex. I waited.

And then disaster struck.

Two men approached me. One said I was under arrest as a spy. The other one had an M-16. With his rifle he pointed for me to go outside. I hesitated, but politely. The men spoke no English and I spoke no Farsi. I asked the hotel clerk to tell them we should stay inside where he could interpret. Amazingly, they agreed. The senior of the two said he was a komiteh, a sort of neighborhood vigilante. He said he had witnessed me orchestrating the battle. Utter nonsense. Very politely I told him he was incorrect. But there was no way to reason with him.

He wanted to take me somewhere, outside the hotel compound. I resisted. Again very politely. I knew if I left the hotel I was dead. I realized that with all the gun fire and automatic weapons relentlessly punctuating the darkness people were dying. This man was trying to blame me. I was in dire danger.

Because Gupte was monopolizing the telex I kept stalling the men and asking the desk clerk to tell them to wait because I had to send a telex to let people know I was under arrest. I don’t know how long the komiteh waited. Every second took forever to pass.

Finally, the men got irritated, then tired of waiting. They grabbed my identification and said I had a forged ID. They promised to return in the morning.

I spent the entire night terrified of what would happen the next day. Should I run? Of course not I said to myself. There was no way to escape Tabriz. The city was isolated. I was trapped.

Pranay and his lady friend eventually helped calm me down.

Next morning the komiteh returned and tried to take me away again. Alex, who was not under arrest, started yelling at the man. The komiteh opened his coat and showed a pistol. He told the desk clerk to tell us that unless Alex shut up, the komiteh would shoot both of us. I thanked Alex and said “Please let me handle this.”

The episode then took on an Alec Guinness air. I told the komiteh, “I’m happy to go with you, but if you are a policeman, you need to have a police car. So I can leave with you in the police car.” He looked puzzled for a moment; he made a call. Shortly a police car arrived and took us to the local police station.

The police profusely thanked the komiteh and said they would take it from there. The komiteh left.

After calling Tehran, the police handed back my identification and said I could leave. They drove me back to the hotel. Alex told me he wanted to do a story on the daring rescue he had witnessed but Hillary Brown killed the idea because it would damage her career. I found out they were friends and both lived in Cyprus.

Hillary had no idea she had cracked in the crowd. She had no idea of the risks she had created for herself or her crew. She had no idea how close she had come to being killed by the mob. And she was angry at me for rescuing her and saving her life.

I learned over a dozen men had died the night before.

Word of the massacre spread to Tehran. People started streaming in to witness the aftermath. My life-threatening night of terror slowly became something of a lighthearted matter. Friends joked, “We don’t care if you are a spy; we still like you.” Gee, thanks.

A Japanese cameraman, Mr. Nagasaki, came up and said “You Jamesu Bondu.” “Thank you,” I said, not knowing what to say to that encomium.

The hotel staff told me I was booked on a flight to Tehran. I headed for the airport. Faster, faster I said silently.

I had no idea yet that the night had changed my life in ways I could not yet anticipate. I would be coming back to Iran. My escape from Tabriz would lead to new dangers in the days ahead.

A few weeks later I returned to Iran, alone, still during the hostage crisis, and linked up with the mujahideen in Afghanistan who were fighting the Soviet army. Maybe I was in as much danger in Afghanistan, or even more danger, but I was never in as much fear as that night in Tabriz. That night has stayed with me.

I have had horrible experiences since them. But never in my life have I felt so vulnerable, so afraid of being close, too close, to death. And yet, if I hadn’t been in that place, the woman might have died. Thankfully, she didn’t.

That night has made a difference in my life. More about the incident later, someday. Maybe.

Postscript. Years after the Tabriz rescue, I was at a dinner in New York with a date. We were seated next to CBS' Mike Wallace and his wife. My date thought of me as being kind of quiet, maybe too cautious. As the dinner was ending a woman came up to me and threw a glass of wine in my face. It was Hillary Brown. She was still angry that her rescue had precipitated an incident. I suppose Hillary will go to her grave angry at me, because she has no idea what happened on a fateful night when she could have died.

Thankfully, I was there to save her.

It was the worst night of my life.


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LINKS TO THIS STORY (cut and paste the entire link below and not just the underlined portion):


LISTEN TO ANDY’S TALK RADIO INTERVIEWS (cut and paste the entire link below and not just the underlined portion):

[See December 29th entry, for two-part podcast]

To hear Andy in Denver go to http://www.khow/, click on Peter Boyles show, go to left margin for “Past Shows” and look for February 14, January 21 and 7, 2011 and December 31, 2010 Andy Martin audio (you can download) (Boyles can also be heard on EinhornPress link below)


ABOUT ANDY: Chicago Public Radio calls Andy Martin a “boisterous Internet activist.” Andy is the legendary New York and Chicago-based muckraker, author, Internet columnist, radio talk show host, broadcaster and media critic. He has over forty years of background in radio and television and is the dean of Illinois media and communications. He promotes his best-selling book, “Obama: The Man Behind The Mask” [] and his Internet movie "Obama: The Hawaii’ Years” []. Martin has been a leading corruption fighter in Illinois for over forty years. He is currently sponsoring See also

Andy is the Executive Editor and publisher of the “Internet Powerhouse,” He comments on regional, national and world events with more than four decades of investigative and analytical experience. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law and is a former adjunct professor of law at the City University of New York (LaGuardia CC, Bronx CC).



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