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Analysis Last Updated: Sep 22nd, 2006 - 01:55:42

Iran: the media, the empires, and the destruction of democracy
By Luciana Bohne
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Sep 22, 2006, 01:53

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Wolf Blitzer was astonished by the claim made by Retired Air Force General Sam Gardiner that the US has been conducting military operations in Iran for 18 months. "The evidence is overwhelming," said the general, to which Blitzer responded by suggesting that this may be a US propaganda campaign to intimidate Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

Not so, said the general.

The order for the ongoing intelligence and dissident-herding operations in Iran issued from the White House, bypassing Congress and the Pentagon, just as similar military operations in Iraq in the summer of 2002 predated congressional debate over the wisdom of funding the invasion of Iraq. In other words, Bush was waging war in Iraq behind Congress' back as early as the summer of 2002, before asking Congress for funding in October 2002.

Iran, the general suggests, is subjected today to a similar, secretive, US executive-driven war, intended to "soften-up" the country together with the projected sanctions for the full-scale illegal bombing that the willing, patsy, collaborationist Congress will no doubt fund if so ordered by the ruling executive branch.

The media is incredulous. How can this be? Blitzer has no knowledge of this!

So what can't be true, isn't true.

Well, done, Blitz: you have served your corporate/military masters well. You have "revealed" the rumors no doubt echoing Pentagon dissidents and dismissed them at the same time. Propaganda accomplished: your public is in a terminal state of skeptical confusion. Chalk it up to one more propaganda victory for US imperialism by the mythical "liberal media," actually a fief of the war party.

Quite coincidentally, Tuesday night I listened to a BBC Radio 4 program on the role of the BBC in the 1953 Anglo-American coup in Iran against the secular, constitutional, elected government of Premier Mohammad Mossadeq.

It may come in handy for American readers to get a little background on this very elegant (speaking from the point of view of the CIA) coup. The rest of the world knows its details full well, so international readers can skip the part that follows.

Prime Minister Mossadeq was a liberal aristocrat and avowed secular constitutionalist. He believed in civil liberties, separation of powers, pluralism and electoral democracy, and separation of church and state. He was supported by Iran's modern, professional middle classes, progressive elements of the clergy (including the impressively liberal cleric, Ayatollah Mahmud Taleqani), the very popular and energetic Tudeh (communist) Party, the socialists, reformist liberals of all stripes, and the university and national intelligentsia (rushanfekhran). In other words, Mossadeq represented the combined social forces of modern, democratic Iran.

To the democracy-addicted (at least in words) West -- ever eager to promote popular freedom on the planet as tyrannically oppressed people all over the world can attest -- he was a dream come true. Imagine: democracy was breaking out in the Middle East. And it looked exactly the way it looked in the West. Who would dare to say, looking at Iran in 1953 that the "Muslims" were not capable of engineering democracy?

But there was one catch: Mossadeq also represented the liberal bourgeoisie's desire to own their own natural resources and to use them for national development. In short, Mossadeq intended to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian (later British Petroleum) oil industry.

In a jiffy, the British government moved to protect the interests of the British oil corporation and democracy be damned in uppity, cheeky Iran and the Middle East. In a choice between profits and people, Western democracies have never hesitated to stand for the moneybags.

Britain had a problem, however. It did not have diplomatic relations with Iran, so any British seditious or spying movements in Iran could not operate under the traditional cover of "embassy business." At last, British officials hit upon the genial idea that their American cousins, lately embarked on a crusade to save the world from international communism and make it safe for American multinationals, might be called upon to help. Cleverly, the Americans were told what they wanted to hear: the USSR had design over Iran; Mossadeq was their agent; if Iran "fell," the rest of the Middle East would follow.

Ah, said Eisenhower in so many words, that is exactly what our "Domino Theory" for fighting communism says. We will help you with the coup. After all, why not crush democracy in the Middle East if it is in the service of saving the people of Iran and the world from the Great Satan, communism. America has always had such a noble and far-reaching vision -- wise beyond its years! And never wiser, more good, and more self-sacrificing (of its own people and their resources) than where oil is concerned.

So the coup was on. Three weeks before 19 August, the day of the coup, the CIA shipped its agent Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of Theodore, to Tehran with some money. Roosevelt promptly hired Tehran's criminal elements and mafia chief to provoke street clashes, false-flag incidents blamed on Mossadeq's loyalists, and to invent "dissidents," scandalously victimized by the police under provocation, against the regime.

On 19 August 1953, the Anglo-American coupsters' monarchical candidate returned to power. He was the reviled, democracy-allergic, militarist dictator Muhammed Reza Shah Pahlavi. Over the next 26 years, the Iranian democracy of the constitutional reformists died -- its exponents persecuted, arrested, and tortured or killed. An immense political vacuum followed where pluralism had once thrived.

But anti-imperialism failed to be eradicated because it was an idea, and ideas cannot be arrested, tortured, and killed. The Ayatollah Khomeini, who along with conservative clerics had supported the coup against Mossadeq, seized the political stage in 1963 during the bloody uprising of June 15 (15 Khordad Uprising). His fiery anti-Shah, anti-imperialist stance caught the imagination of a new generation of militant youth, who combined democracy fervor with religious commitment. These became the fabled party of the Mojahedin whose ideology is best described as a combination of Islam and Marxism. Seeing that, as in 15 Khordad, the people could not "fight tanks with their bare fists," they declared an "armed struggle" against the Shah's pro-imperialist regime. They were joined by the secularist Marxists and Feday'an and by Mossadeq's loyalists. They would be at the forefront of the battle against the Shah for 16 years, which would prevail in an eventually national, popular, non-fundamentalist revolution that triumphed on 11 February 1979. On that day, at 6 pm, Radio Tehran came on the air and said:

"This is the voice of Iran, of true Iran, the voice of the Islamic Revolution."

Then, the revolution swallowed its children as the conservative clerics, with a social base in the traditional, merchant and bazaari middle class, took over and moved to crush first Mossadeq-style liberal, constitutional reformists and then the mighty Mojahedin, who wanted a radical transformation of the state into a non-capitalist institution. Khomeini's populism was anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist in public and conservative behind the scenes. He refused to nationalize the oil industry, shelved revolutionary provisions for land redistribution, and abandoned progressive labor laws initiated in the first days of the revolution. The clerics' regime, in effect, proclaimed the right of private property as practically a "divine right," willed by God and Islam.

And that's the tragic and complex story of the Iranian people's struggle for democracy and social justice -- none of which our media, our scholars, our diplomats, our schools allow us to know. With typical amnesia, the US and Britain take no responsibility for today's clerical regime in Tehran. On the contrary, it threatens to nuke the very people they have helped to bring to their knees by denying them the democracy they so indefatigably fought for throughout the 20th century. What we are allowed to know is that Iran is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a fellow who does not wear a tie, denies the Holocaust, and is planning (against all evidence) to build an "Islamic" atomic bomb -- the Holocaust-denial a claim of possible national interest to Israel, no doubt, but one that should have little to do with our own foreign policy toward Iran. As for the bomb threat, pure piffle, like Saddam's evanescent, protoplasmic WMD. Wearing a tie, on the other hand, is no proof that the person is a torture-hating, peace-loving, magnanimous spirit. I point to the obvious suspect.

Ah, yes. The BBC. Well, the BBC, like our media today, was a willing and assiduous participant in the British assault on Iranian democracy. It broadcast disinformation through BBC-Iran. It demonized Mossadeq. And it carried the code word to the Shah that signified the coup was on. On midnight between 18 and 19 August 1953, the BBC announced the hour with a variation no one noticed -- except the Shah. The BBC announcer said: "It is EXACTLY midnight" The code word was "exactly." The Shah moved.

The rest is history and history in the making, as the bloody legacy of that nefarious Anglo-American 1953 coup against Iranian democracy continues to affect the lives of Iranians, even if Blitzer refuses to believe it. When "we" bomb Iran, let us perhaps remember that "we" bomb what "we" have created -- along with living, breathing people whose freedom "we" had first crushed.

Luciana Bohne teaches film and literature at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She can be reached at

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