Historical myths abound in our day. Stretching historical truth, or chopping off its legs to make it fit this or that religious, political or ideological Procrustean bed has become a commonplace. One stands little chance of approaching the truth unless one personally consults the source material.
An interesting example that has been popping up in the news lately is the wonderful yarn about how the CIA single-handedly took down Iran’s Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, back in 1953. New embellishments keep cropping up at an exponential rate, so that in its current incarnation the yarn has assumed truly psychedelic proportions. Ken Kesey would surely have called it “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Coup,” and Saddam, of course, “The Mother of All Coups). A common version is supplied by one Sasan Fayazmanesh, an assimilated Iranian (assimilated in the sense of being able to give a perfect impression of the holier-than-thou preening of an ostentatiously pious leftist ideologue). In company with many others with similarly vivid imaginations, Ms. Fayazmanesh cites a declassified CIA history of the event as “proof” of what, on examination, turns out to be a host of more or less egregious fabrications.
According to Ms. Fayazmanesh, the document purportedly shows, “how, by spending a meager sum of $1 million, the CIA ‘stirred up considerable unrest in Iran, giving Iranians a clear choice between instability and supporting the shah’; how it brought ‘the largest mobs’ into the street; how it ‘began disseminating ‘gray propaganda’ passing out anti-Mossadegh cartoons in the streets and planting unflattering articles in local press’; how the CIA’s ‘Iranian operatives pretending to be Communists threatened Muslim leaders with ‘savage punishment if they opposed Mossadegh”; how the ‘house of at least one prominent Muslim was bombed by CIA agents posing as Communists’; how the CIA tried to ‘orchestrate a call for a holy war against Communism’; how on August 19 ‘a journalist who was one of the agency’s most important Iranian agents led a crowd toward Parliament, inciting people to set fire to the offices of a newspaper owned by Dr. Mossadegh’s foreign minister’; how American agents swung ‘security forces to the side of the demonstrators’; how the shah’s disbanded ‘Imperial Guard seized trucks and drove through the street’; how by ’10:15 there were pro-shah truckloads of military personnel at all main squares’; how the “pro-shah speakers went on the air, broadcasting the coups’ success and reading royal decrees’; how at the US embassy, ‘CIA officers were elated, and Mr. Roosevelt got General Zahedi out of hiding’ and found him a tank that ‘drove him to the radio station, where he spoke to the nation’; and, finally, how ‘Dr. Mossadegh and other government officials were rounded up, while officers supporting General Zahedi placed ‘unknown supports of TP-Ajax’ in command of all units of Tehran garrison.’ ‘It was a day that should have never ended,’ Risen quotes Wilber as saying, for ‘it carried with it such a sense of excitement, of satisfaction and of jubilation that it is doubtful whether any other can come up to it.'”
Except that it doesn’t. Some of the above statements are accurate, and some are not. Taken together, they paint a completely dishonest and bogus version of what really happened. Ms. Fayazmanesh is able to get away with foisting her disinformation on a gullible public, accompanied by all the usual faux virtuous indignation, because she’s well aware virtually no one will bother to fact check her. Americans seldom bother to look at historical source material. It’s time they got in the habit. It will save them a lot of embarrassment down the road. In fact, if you take the time to actually read the CIA document Ms. Fayazmanesh cites as her “proof,” you will find that it completely demolishes the whole fairy tale.
Let’s take a look at how her version agrees with what’s she claims is in Wilber’s document, as cited above:
“how, by spending a meager sum of $1 million, the CIA ‘stirred up considerable unrest in Iran, giving Iranians a clear choice between instability and supporting the shah’; ”
This $1 million is a sum Roosevelt had stashed in a safe in the form of Iranian currency. In fact, as you can see here, only $100,000 of the $1 million were ever spent on the coup. In other words, we’re to believe that the incredibly, miraculously talented CIA agents were able suborn all those thousands and thousands of demonstrators, clerics, military officers, politicians, etc., etc., according to the mythologists’ own claims with a mere $100K. Of course, the story is poppycock, but, tell me, how does it reflect on the Iranian people? I mean, we’re talking a nation that stood toe to toe with the Roman Empire for centuries, trading blow for blow. Is it really even credible that this great nation sank so low in our own time that it could be bought for $1 million? It shows you just how desperate these people are to blacken the reputation of the United States, a nation that many of them are even now exploiting as a safe haven. They’re quite willing to humiliate and slander their own country to do it. Proceeding with our fisking:
“how it brought ‘the largest mobs’ into the street;”
Except the document makes no such claim. Read it, and you’ll see that Wilber and his pals, skulking away from the action, were surprised by the decisive demonstrations, deemed them spontaneous, and had a miniscule role, if any, in provoking them.
” how it ‘began disseminating ‘gray propaganda’ passing out anti-Mossadegh cartoons in the streets and planting unflattering articles in local press’;”
According to the document, “It was, however, agreed that the station should begin at once with its new policy of attacking the government of Mossadeq through grey propaganda. The station relayed this line to its own agents and passed it on to the Rashidian brothers of SIS. The CIA Art Group, a section of the PP Staff Advisory Panel, was asked to prepare a considerable number of anti-Mossadeq cartoons.” It later mentions that these cartoons later appeared in 20 anti-Mossadegh papers, among the 273 published in Tehran at the time. Are we to believe that a few cartoons published in already anti-Mossadegh papers bamboozled the entire population of Tehran into pouring out on the streets and staging a coup? Just asking.
“how the CIA’s ‘Iranian operatives pretending to be Communists threatened Muslim leaders with ‘savage punishment if they opposed Mossadegh’;”
Here’s the section referred to from the document: “At this time the psychological campaign against Mossadeq was reaching its climax. The controllable press was going all out against Mossadeq, while [Blacked-Out] [Blacked-Out] under station direction was printing material which the station considered to be helpful. CIA agents gave serious attention to alarming the religious leaders at Tehran by issuing black propaganda in the name of the Tudeh Party, threatening these leaders with savage punishment if they opposed Mossadeq. Threatening phone calls were made to some of them, in the name of the Tudeh, and one of several planned sham bombings of the houses of these leaders was carried out.”
Not mentioned here is that the Tudeh didn’t need any help “scaring religious leaders.” The party faithful staged massive demonstrations on August 17, following the initial botched CIA coup attempt, smashing statues of the Shah and the property of his supporters, as well as taking over government buildings in Enzeli and Rasht in the north of the country.
“how the ‘house of at least one prominent Muslim was bombed by CIA agents posing as Communists’; ”
As one can see by looking at the actual excerpt from the document above, Ms. Fayasmanesh seems to have left out a rather important word here; SHAM bombing. Go figure…
“how the CIA tried to ‘orchestrate a call for a holy war against Communism’;”
I would be very interested in hearing Ms. Fayasmanesh elaborate on why it was a bad thing to “orchestrate a holy war against Communism.”
“how on August 19 ‘a journalist who was one of the agency’s most important Iranian agents led a crowd toward Parliament, inciting people to set fire to the offices of a newspaper owned by Dr. Mossadegh’s foreign minister’;”
The claim that any CIA agent among the demonstrators was acting directly on its orders, or had somehow provoked or was leading the demonstrations is a complete fabrication, utterly unsupported by Wilber’s history. Again, Fayasmanesh is relying on the ignorance of her audience and the assumption they will be too lazy to read the actual document to put over her lies.
“how American agents swung ‘security forces to the side of the demonstrators’;”
Again, if you will take the time to read the document, you will see that Wilber makes no claim whatsoever that American agents played any decisive role in “swinging security forces to the side of the demonstrators,” on the day of the successful coup. To the extent that it claims to be based on the document, this is another lie made up of whole cloth.
“how the shah’s disbanded ‘Imperial Guard seized trucks and drove through the street’; how by ’10:15 there were pro-shah truckloads of military personnel at all main squares’; how the “pro-shah speakers went on the air, broadcasting the coups’ success and reading royal decrees’;”
…and your point is, Ms. Fayasmanesh? There is no basis in the document whatsoever for the claim that any of this was done at the behest of the CIA.
“how at the US embassy, ‘CIA officers were elated, and Mr. Roosevelt got General Zahedi out of hiding’ and found him a tank that ‘drove him to the radio station, where he spoke to the nation’;”
In other words, the CIA “leaders” of the coup were finally brought out after it was all over. No surprise here.
and, finally, how ‘Dr. Mossadegh and other government officials were rounded up, while officers supporting General Zahedi placed ‘unknown supports of TP-Ajax’ in command of all units of Tehran garrison.’
Here’s the excerpt she’s referring to from the actual document: “Colonel [Farzanegan] following Zahedi’s instruction, and Carroll now closed up the operation. While [Batmangelich] had [been named Chief of Staff, Farzanegan]-at that office- kept in touch by phone and placed known supporters of TPAJAX in command of all units of the Tehran garrison, seized key military targets, and executed the arrest lists.”
In other words, she has, apparently deliberately, replaced “known supports” with “unknown supports.” Since she’s only directly quoting four words, it seems highly unlikely that the misquote by this university associate professor was a mere “mistake.” The implication that the CIA was somehow directing appointments to the commands of the Tehran garrisons is, of course, also absurd. “Supporters of TPAJAX” are merely those who supported the coup, and were, therefore, on the same side as the CIA. They were by no means its agents.
‘It was a day that should have never ended,’ Risen quotes Wilber as saying, for ‘it carried with it such a sense of excitement, of satisfaction and of jubilation that it is doubtful whether any other can come up to it.'”
As can be clearly seen from actually reading the document, it was also a day on which the CIA itself, convinced that the coup had failed, sat meekly on the sidelines, taking no significant role in directing events whatsoever.
Don’t take my word for it. I’m not trying to sell you an alternate point of view. I’m trying to get you to read the Wilber document, and, if you can manage it, Roosevelt’s book and some of the other source material, and then think for yourself. I know at the outset that I’m wasting my breath with Ms. Fayasmanesh and her ilk. They live in little ideological boxes, caged in with intellectual bars. One of those bars is the Great Coup fairy tale. If they break that bar, they’ll have to leave the box, and that’s something only a rare ideologue can ever bear to do. I hope, dear reader, that you’re capable of thinking for yourself.
Let’s move on to another version. You’ll find it in the Wikipedia article about Mossadegh linked above, complete with embellishments never imagined by Ms. Fayazmanesh. For example, we are fed such fanciful fabrications as, “Soon Pro-Mosaddeq supporters, who were actually paid plants of the U.S. operation, threatened Muslim leaders with savage punishment if they opposed Mosaddeq’, giving the impression that Mosaddeq was cracking down on dissent, and stirring anti-Mosaddeq sentiments within the religious community.” “(The Shah) actually signed two decrees, one dismissing Mosaddeq and the other nominating the CIA’s choice, General Fazlollah Zahedi, as Prime Minister.These decrees, or Farmāns as they are called, were specifically written as dictated by Donald Wilber the CIA architect of the plan, which were designed as a major part of Wilber’s strategy to give the impression of legitimacy to the secret coup, as can be read in the declassified plan itself which bears his name.”
This is a complete fabrication. Read the document and you will see Wilber claims nothing of the sort. According to the document itself, “After discussion between Roosevelt and Rashidian, they reverted to a decision closer to the original London draft of TPAJAX, deciding that there should be two firmans (royal decrees), one dismissing Mossadeq and one naming Zahedi as Prime Minister. Rashidian and [Behbudi] , the Shah’s [palace] [head] and an established UK agent, prepared the documents, and on the evening of 12 August [Colonel Nematollah Nasiri], [Commander of the Imperial Guard] took them by plane to Ramsar.”).
Quoting again from the Wikipedia article, “Soon, massive protests, engineered by Roosevelt’s team, took place across the city and elsewhere with tribesmen paid to be at the ready to assist the coup. Fake anti- and pro-monarchy protesters, both paid by Roosevelt (as he reports in his book, cited), violently clashed in the streets, looting and burning mosques and newspapers, leaving almost 300 dead. The pro-monarchy leadership, chosen, hidden and finally unleashed at the right moment by the CIA team, led by retired army General and former Minister of Interior in Mosaddeq’s cabinet, Fazlollah Zahedi joined with underworld figures such as the Rashidian brothers and local strongman Shaban Jafari to gain the upper hand on 19 August 1953 (28 Mordad). The military joined on cue: pro-Shah tank regiments stormed the capital and bombarded the prime minister’s official residence, on Roosevelt’s cue, according to his book.”
This is a complete pack of lies. Roosevelt didn’t “engineer” any of it. The part taken in the protests by people working directly for the CIA was limited to the independent acts of two – !! Count ’em, two, the total of the CIA’s actual “assets” claimed by Wilber in all of Tehran – agents, acting on their own, with guidance from no one, as stated repeatedly by Wilber in the document. Roosevelt makes no claim whatsoever in his book that any significant number of the demonstrators who played a role in the coup were “fake anti- and pro-monarchy protesters” he had paid. (Again, read the source material, in this case, Roosevelt’s book), the “pro-monarchy leadership, chosen, hidden and finally unleashed at the right moment by the CIA team” in fact played no role in the successful execution of the coup, which was a fait accompli before they ever left their CIA safe houses, and no “cue” to the military units that were decisive in the struggle to seize power is mentioned, either in Roosevelt’s book, as suggested by the lying author of the Wikipedia article, or in Wilber’s CIA history.
In a word, the authors of these fanciful tall tales about the Great Coup are either lying through their teeth, or haven’t bothered to actually read the documents they claim as “proof” of their assertions themselves. Meanwhile, our brilliant leaders, including Madeleine Albright, John Kerry, and President Obama himself, simply swallow these impostures whole, humiliating their country by apologizing for crimes it never committed.
There’s a lot more about the “Great CIA Masterstroke” that may interest you. I’ll continue the story tomorrow.