Stephen Kinzer, author of the book "All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror" was on Democracy Now back on March 3, 2008 and gave a really fascinating interview. I'm a huge history junkie, though I tend to get bored of the traditional way history is retold. You know, all about how great the Founding Fathers were, despite them being slave owners, not letting women vote and so on.

I like recounts of history that are a bit more balanced or even biased against the winners. Hey, the truth is the truth, regardless of how you package it, so why package it in a way that lets the guy with the most power get off easy? That's just what Kinzer's book does. Here is a great example of this from the interview he gave Amy Goodman a couple weeks back:

"I was recently on a panel in the National Cathedral in Washington, and one of the other panelists—we were talking about Iran—was Bruce Laingen, who had been the chief American diplomat in Iran and was the most prominent figure among the hostages that were held there for 444 days. And I knew that Laingen had become an advocate of reconciliation with Iran, which I consider quite remarkable, considering the ordeal that he suffered, so I wanted to talk to him. I hadn’t met him before. And we exchanged some emails after that.

He told me an amazing story. He said, “I had been sitting in my solitary cell as a hostage for about a year, when one day the cell door opens, and there is standing one of the hostage takers, one of my jailers. And all of my rage and my fury built up over one year sitting in that cell just burst out, and I started screaming at him, and I was telling him, ‘You have no right to do this! This is cruel, this is inhumane! These people have done nothing! This is a violation of every law of god and man! You cannot take innocent people hostage!’” He said, “I went on like this for several minutes. When I was finally out of breath, the hostage taker paused for a moment, and then he leaned into my cell and said, in very good English, ‘You have no right to complain, because you took our whole country hostage in 1953.’” "

See, because America (and the UK before us) has been mucking about over there for much longer than a lot of folks these days want to admit, the world is a much messier place and there are reasonable reasons for people to hate us over there.

The basic gist of Kinzer's book is this:

In 1951, the Iranian PM (Mosaddeq, Time's man of the year) nationalized BP's oil monopoly in Iran. The UK tried embargoes, blockades, and more to stop them from successfully taking advantage of their own oil. They couldn't get the PM out, so eventually the US sent in Kermit Roosevelt (that was his name!), a super spy, to go in and organize a coup to put the Shah (who had been voted out in 1951) back into power. The Shah would play our game and was cool with western oil companies running the show.

It's this one event that bites us on the ass today. Here's how Kinzer explains it:

"The Shah ruled with increasing repression for twenty-five years. His repression set off the explosion of the late 1970s, what we call the Islamic Revolution. That revolution brought to power a clique of fanatically anti-American mullahs. That revolution also inspired radicals in other countries, like next-door Afghanistan, where the Taliban came to power and gave shelter to al-Qaeda with results we all know. That instability in Iran that followed that revolution also led Iran’s great enemy next door, Saddam Hussein, to invade Iran. That not only set off an eight-year war between Iran and Iraq, but it also brought the United States into its death embrace with Saddam. We were the military allies of Saddam during the Iran-Iraq War, and we were supplying Saddam with military intelligence, with Bell helicopters that he used to spray gas on Iranian positions. President Reagan sent a special envoy twice to Baghdad to negotiate with Saddam and ask him how we could help him. And, of course, that envoy was Donald Rumsfeld. So that instability set off by that revolution also led the United States into the spiral in Iraq that brought us to the point where we are now."

I don't know why the USG had to go so gonzo for oil--imagine if we had started looking for alternatives back in the 1950s or even before? Why did everyone think it was OK to put all of our energy eggs in one basket? It's also a shame our leaders couldn't just play fair with the leader of Iran.

See, that's what I think the USG has missed all these years--if we play fair with others and the favor isn't returned, we then have the right to be pissy about it. But being pissy about it now just makes us look like dicks.

Remember that old joke about the *original* name for the current Iraq war?

Operation Iraqi Liberation or O.I.L.

Wow, sorry for the heavy reading! Thanks for hanging in there!

If you want to learn more about this, check out the transcript of Kinzer's interview on DN here:…us_iranian

Watch or listen to the entire episode that this interview is from here:…3/3/stream

Or buy his book from Amazon here: (I'll get a cut!)

As a scifi writer I think it's interesting how I'm attracted to history books like this. I like to think it makes my work well-rounded. Then again, some of this stuff is so outlandish--even for science fiction.
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