Today, many Americans have come to accept that Iran is an official enemy of the United States. Most people know about the animosity between the Iranian government and the U.S. government. Since many Americans often conflate the Iranian government and the Iranian citizenry, the entire country is usually viewed as an enemy.
Some might say, “But Jacob, the Iranian government is a cruel and brutal dictatorship, one that jails critics of the government, tortures them, and even executes them. Surely it doesn’t surprise you that the U.S. government opposes the Iranian dictatorship, especially given the ardent devotion to freedom and democracy that has long characterized the U.S. government.”
But the U.S. government does sometimes embrace tyrannical dictatorships, even making them its partners and allies. Consider, for example, the shah of Iran, the cruel and brutal dictator who ruled Iran with an iron fist for more than 25 years — from 1953 to 1979, when he was ousted from power and replaced by the extremist Islamic regime now in power.
In principle, there is no difference between the shah’s rule and that of the Iranian dictatorship today. Through his loyal forces, including his secret intelligence force, the Savak, he brutally suppressed criticism of his regime by arbitrarily arresting his opponents, incarcerating them indefinitely without judicial process, torturing them, and even executing them.
When the Iranian people finally revolted against his brutal dictatorship, the revolutionary leaders took American diplomats hostage in the U.S. embassy in Tehran. While that act obviously violated international law, what was interesting is why they did it. That is, what was their motive?
That was the last thing that U.S. officials wanted the American people to focus on. U.S. officials played the innocent, much as they did after 9/11 and, for that matter, after Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. They intimated that the Iranian revolutionaries were just a bunch of bad guys who hated the United States for its freedom and values, which of course was the rationale attributed later both to the 9/11 attackers and to Timothy McVeigh.
Intervention in Iran
U.S. officials didn’t want to talk about what the Iranian people had discovered — that it was the U.S. government, operating through the CIA, that had brought about a regime change in Iran in 1953, one that had succeeded in ousting the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, whom Time magazine had named “Man of the Year,” and replaced him with the shah.
Why had the U.S. government done that? Why had it interfered with the democratic processes of a foreign country in order to install an unelected dictator into power? Mossadegh had nationalized the country’s oil industry, which of course had angered British oil interests because they had acquired large oil concessions in Iran when the British Empire was in control of the country.
Mossadegh had suspected that the British would retaliate by attempting a regime-change operation and, thus, had thrown British diplomats out of the country. British officials turned to the CIA for help. When the matter was presented to Harry Truman, he said no. But when Dwight Eisenhower became president, he granted the CIA’s request to intervene in Iran.
The CIA’s orchestration of the operation was highly secretive and extremely successful. Mossadegh was removed from power and sent packing to his home. The shah, who had fled the country thinking that the CIA’s coup had failed, was returned and installed into power. For the next 25 years, the U.S. government, including the CIA, partnered with him as he and his secret intelligence force terrorized and brutalized the Iranian people in order to maintain indefinitely his iron grip on power.
Permit me to ask you, gentle reader, a question at this point. Suppose you learned that in 1963 the shah, in conjunction with military and intelligence forces within the U.S. government, had concluded that John Kennedy was a no-good womanizer who was betraying his country by secretly negotiating with the Soviet and Cuban communists to end the Cold War. Suppose you learned that the shah had sent his Savak agents into the United States, and that they, in conjunction with officials of the U.S. national-security state, successfully effected a regime-change operation that placed Richard Nixon in the presidency.
Here’s the question: Would you be angry about that? Or would you simply say, “Oh well, politics is politics. Let’s move on”?
I think most Americans would be so angry and outraged that they might even call for bombing Iran today. The fact that a foreign regime had interfered with America’s democratic processes — whether by violence or fraud — would ignite a fireball of rage within most Americans.
That’s understandable, right?
Well, then, here’s another question for you: Why is it that so many Americans are unable to put themselves in the shoes of foreigners when the U.S. government does that sort of thing to them?
That is precisely why the Iranian people were so angry at the time of their 1979 revolution. For more than 25 years they had suffered under a brutal dictatorship, one whose police and intelligence forces had been trained by the dictatorship’s partner and ally, the U.S. government. Even worse, by that time the Iranian people had learned the truth about how the CIA had orchestrated the coup that had ousted Mossadegh from office and installed the shah into power.
The horrible irony of all this is that the shah’s dictatorship was replaced by another brutal dictatorship, this one, naturally, not very friendly toward the United States. Why is that ironic? Because if the U.S. government, which professes to love freedom and democracy, had stayed out of Iran’s political processes and left the democratically elected Mossadegh in power, there is a good possibility that Iran’s government would have developed differently from how it did and that it would look a lot different today.
That’s how Iran went from being a friend and ally to being an official enemy of the United States.
In order to deal with this new enemy, the U.S. government partnered with another dictatorship, this time neighboring Iraq. Who was running that dictatorship? None other than Saddam Hussein himself. Yes, the man who U.S. officials would later claim was a “new Hitler” who had designs to conquer the world and who would later become an official enemy himself, after being a friend, partner, and ally of the U.S. government.
In fact, guess where Saddam got the infamous WMDs that U.S. officials would later claim as one of several alternative justifications for invading Iraq after 9/11. If you guessed that Iraq got them from the United States and other Western powers, you got it right. In fact, the reason that U.S. officials were so certain that U.S. forces would find WMDs in Iraq was that they had the receipts for them!
Have doubts? Go to www.fff.org/comment/com0304p.asp, which is a web page I prepared in 2003. It lists several articles that document that Saddam Hussein acquired his infamous WMDs from the United States and from its allies.
Why would the U.S. government want to place WMDs into the hands of a tyrannical dictator, one who was known for brutalizing his own people? The answer is a simple one: U.S. officials were helping Saddam kill Iranians. Don’t forget that by that time Iran was an official enemy of the United States. Conveniently, Saddam had started a war against Iran, which supplied U.S. officials with the opportunity to help kill Iranians.
Now can you understand why there would be some anti-American fervor in that part of the world, not only among Iranians who had been suffering under a U.S.-supported dictator but also among Iraqis who were suffering under the tyranny of another U.S.-supported dictator.
After the war between Iraq and Iran had ended, Saddam Hussein was no longer of much value to the U.S. empire. When Kuwait was accused of slant drilling into Iraqi territory, the U.S. government signaled to Saddam that it was indifferent toward the Iraq-Kuwait border dispute.
The representation turned out to be a lie. When it seemed that Kuwait failed to stop its slant-drilling operations, Iraq invaded the country. That invasion supplied George H.W. Bush with the opportunity to turn Saddam into a new official enemy of the United States. It was an opportune moment, given that Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait occurred a short time after the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union dismantled, removing the Soviet communists as the premier official enemy of the United States during the entire Cold War, and with them the excuse for ever-increasing expenditures for the U.S. military and military-industrial complex.
This article originally appeared in the September 2011 edition of Freedom Daily.