Americans are often a people who look to the future and quickly forget what the past has to teach. This book shows the peril of not learning from the history of efforts to overthrow foreign governments.
All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup And The Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer is an enlightening book that I just finished reading. It is a riveting account of how the CIA, led by the grandson of Teddy Roosevelt, orchestrated the 1953 coup in Iran that overthrew the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran and replaced him with the Shah. The policy of deposing leaders that the US doesn’t approve of throughout the years has had aftershocks that are felt even today.
This is a 5 minute video that features author Stephen Kinzer who discusses the folly of attacking Iran. This is particularly relevant today as the US fervently and furiously is beating its drums in anticipation for a war with Iran.
In the beginning of the 20th century, oil was discovered in Iran and the British company Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (today known as British Petroleum or BP) made a deal to pump out the oil and sell it. It held the monopoly of Iran’s oil, which at the time, was the largest oil reserve in the world.
Up until the 1950s the British company was pumping oil and giving the Iranians a mere 16% of the profits, while using the rest to maintain the British Empire’s military machine to oppress its colonies throughout the world. This continued until the 1950s when Iranians finally got sick of the being ripped off. The oil from Iranian soil was being sucked out and sold off by a single British company and leaving nothing for Iran.
In 1951, Mohammad Mossadegh became the first democratically elected Prime Minister and Iran’s parliament unanimously decided to nationalize the oil company. They believed that the profits from oil from Iranian soil should be used to benefit the Iranian nation and its people, and not help in aiding the British Empire’s repression around the globe.
This naturally enraged the British government. How dare anyone challenge the British Empire? They decided to first attack Iran, overthrow the government of Mossadegh and take over the country (I know, it sounds all too familiar) and approached the USA for assistance. But the USA under President Harry Truman wouldn’t support an invasion or overthrow of a democratically elected foreign government. He said that was not the job of the CIA. Then in November 1952 Dwight Eisenhower got elected and policy changed. The British sought his help and he sent Near East Director of the CIA – Kermit Roosevelt (grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the USA) to execute the coup d’etat that overthrew Mossadegh.
Mossadegh was sentenced to three years in prison followed by house arrest for life. In his place the US helped install the pro-American Shah of Iran.
Iran was a democracy in 1953 until the US and UK intelligence orchestrated the coup d’etat that toppled Mohammad Mossadegh. The pro-US Shah of Iran, Raza Shah Pahlavi turned out to be a cruel dictator and a tyrant. His rule was heavily reliant on the scraps that the US threw in the form of foreign aid and arms.
This basically sent a message to the region’s leaders that America doesn’t support democracy in the Middle East and as long as Britain and America get their oil – it doesn’t matter who rules or how the country is ruled. America will support and aid tyrants, oppressors, dictators and ever murderous thugs (i.e. Saddam) as long as they have access to oil. It is evident that this is still the foreign policy of the USA even today. (Look up the 2000 coup of Venezuela that deposed Hugo Chavez for a few days – there’s a reason why he hates Bush).
The Shah’s harsh and oppressive rule brought about an anti-American backlash that led to the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran which toppled the Shah and turned the country into an Islamic Republic.
This is what happens when you wage a war on democracy. Today this policy of attacking nations that pose no threat to us, incinerating their citizens with “daisy cutters” and carpet bombing civilians with depleted uranium, occupying their nations, torturing their citizens who resist, locking them up in Guantanamo Bay (illegally US-occupied part of Cuba) and installing a puppet government has to go – these are not American values.
Iran has made a number of attempts to reach out and engage in a dialogue with the USA and would probably respond better to talks than threats of violence.
Americans, make a note – history has a lot of lessons to offer, it is foolish to ignore them.