Forwarded from Robert Touraine (antidote to Bernard Lewis)
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 14 11:57:02 MDT 2003
WHEN MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRIES TRY TO WESTERNIZE
The publication of "All the Shah's Men" is a welcome antidote to Bernard
Lewis's main theme that Middle Eastern societies have only themselves to
blame for their "failure to modernize" in the modern era.
In fact, all serious attempts to adopt "democratic" social, political
and economic ideas have been undermined or destroyed by imperialist
policies of the West, particularly Great Britain and the United States.
The fanatic religious parties and regimes that they helped create serve
both to check the radical impulses of the oppressed people of the middle
east and as a convenient whipping boy when their actions spill over into
violent anti-Western actions.
AFGHANISTAN A few months after 9/11, in an interview on National Public
Radio, a former CIA official casually remarked that the Russian-backed
government of Afghanistan had a program of "Westernization." Of course,
since that Westernization was being put into effect by a pro-soviet
government, it had to be overthrown.
Here again is part of the now famous interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski,
Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998: "Yes. According to the
official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during
1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec
1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely
otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979, [6 months before Soviet
intervention] that President Carter signed the first directive for
secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that
very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him
that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military
IRAQ Here is a contemporary U.S. government official's view of the
February 1963 Baath Party's overthrow of the Kassem government (which
included the massacre of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Communist Party
members and began Saddam Hussein's rise to power) presented only one
month after the coup:
"The February revolution in Iraq is basically a fulfillment of the 1958
revolution which overthrew the country's Hashemite monarchy, Dr. J.
Russell Andrus, U.S. rep. in Baghdad for the Agency for International
Development, told Pomona [College] students today. ... The people, he
said, were dissatisfied before the 1958 revolution with King Feisall II
and his prime minister, Nuri Said. Both regimes, the people felt, failed
to carry out the reforms they wanted. Nuri Said, who ran the Iraqi
government until his assassination in 1958, was intelligent and
well-meaning. However, his advances in hydro-electricity and similar
projects failed to have an impact on the people. Kassem's rule, which
followed, was marked by bloodbaths and by the infiltration of Communist
'technicians' and equipment, Dr. Andrus continued. "He finds the current
trends hopeful, saying that 'the Iraqi people are intelligent and there
is no reason why they cannot build for themselves a nation they can be
Here's an analysis of the February 1963 coup by NY Times writer Roger
Morris written this past March:
Forty years ago, the Central Intelligence Agency, under PRESIDENT JOHN
F. KENNEDY [my emphasis], conducted its own regime change in Baghdad,
carried out in collaboration with Saddam Hussein.
The Iraqi leader seen as a grave threat in 1963 was Abdel Karim Kassem,
a general who five years earlier had deposed the Western-allied Iraqi
monarchy. ... America's anti-Kassem intrigue has been widely
substantiated, however, in disclosures by the Senate Committee on
Intelligence and in the work of journalists and historians like David
Wise, an authority on the C.I.A.
By 1961, the Kassem regime had grown more assertive. Seeking new arms
rivaling Israel's arsenal, threatening Western oil interests, resuming
his country's old quarrel with Kuwait, talking openly of challenging the
dominance of America in the Middle East ‹ all steps Saddam Hussein was
to repeat in some form ‹ Kassem was regarded by Washington as a
dangerous leader who must be removed.
In 1963 Britain and Israel backed American intervention in Iraq. ...
[W]ithout significant opposition within the government, Kennedy, like
President Bush today, pressed on. In Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and
Baghdad, American agents marshaled opponents of the Iraqi regime.
Washington set up a base of operations in Kuwait, intercepting Iraqi
communications and radioing orders to rebels. [O]n Feb. 8, 1963, the
conspirators staged a coup in Baghdad. For a time the government held
out, but eventually Kassem gave up, and after a swift trial was shot;
his body was later shown on Baghdad television. Washington immediately
befriended the successor regime. "Almost certainly a gain for our side,"
Robert Komer, a National Security Council aide, wrote to Kennedy the day
of the takeover.
As its instrument the C.I.A. had chosen the authoritarian and
anti-Communist Baath Party, in 1963 still a relatively small political
faction influential in the Iraqi Army.... [T]he 1963 coup was
accompanied by a bloodbath. Using lists of suspected Communists and
other leftists provided by the C.I.A., the Baathists systematically
murdered untold numbers of Iraq's educated elite ‹ killings in which
Saddam Hussein himself is said to have participated.... The United
States also sent arms to the new regime, weapons later used against the
same Kurdish insurgents the United States had backed against Kassem and
then abandoned. Soon, Western corporations like Mobil, Bechtel and
British Petroleum were doing business with Baghdad ‹ for American firms,
their first major involvement in Iraq.
THE NEW BOOK ON IRAN
Fifty years ago, the CIA overthrew Mohammad Mossadegh, the popular,
democratically elected prime minister of Iran, and reinstalled the
country's exiled monarch, Mohammad Reza Shah. In "All the Shah's Men,"
Stephen Kinzer, a longtime New York Times correspondent, covers this
event in an exciting narrative. He questions whether Americans are well
served by interventions for regime change abroad, and he reminds us of
the long history of Iranian resistance to great power interventions, as
well as the unanticipated consequences of intervention.
Mossadegh's overthrow in 1953 undermined Iran's progress toward
democracy and independence, shored up a dictatorial monarchy backed by
the United States and ultimately strengthened the only opposition the
shah could not suppress ‹ the Islamic opposition. Although Mossadegh's
government was more popular than today's Iranian regime, it was depicted
in the U.S. media as unpopular, and the coup against it was portrayed as
a popular victory.
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