Iran and imperialism

“We had a democracy once, but you crushed it”

On foreign policy, Democrats would have you believe that Bush is the most reckless President and that he has ripped the United States away from a tradition of cooperative diplomacy by violently overthrowing governments.

But as former New York Times reporter Steven Kinzer points out, the opposite is true.

Bush is actually following and escalating a long-established tradition.

Beginning with the ouster of Hawaii’s monarchy in 1893, the United States government has not hesitated to overthrow governments â┚¬â€œ fourteen by Kinzer’s count â┚¬â€œ that stood in the way of its political and economic goals.

One example from the fourteen: Fifty-three years ago, the United States launched Operation Ajax to overthrow the democratically elected leader of Iran â┚¬â€œ Mohammed Mossadegh.

Now it looks like Bush is preparing for Iran again.

In 1953, Mossadegh was fed up with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company â┚¬â€œ now BP â┚¬â€œ pumping Iran’s oil and shipping the profits back home to the United Kingdom.

Mossadegh said — hey, this is our oil, I think we’ll keep it.

Bad idea.

For the United States government, close to the Big Oil Companies, decided to overthrow Mossadegh’s government.

Kinzer, who has written a number of books documenting a century of regime change overseas, puts it this way:

“Imagine today what it must sound like to Iranians to hear American leaders tell them — ‘We want you to have a democracy in Iran, we disapprove of your present government, we wish to help you bring democracy to your country.’ Naturally, they roll their eyes and say — ‘We had a democracy once, but you crushed it.'”.

Is Bush insane enough to invade Iran and use nukes too? Sure. But with his popularity so abysmal and some of the generals now in near open revolt, this may act to stop him. However, the important point to realize is Bush is not an aberration, but an extreme example of the continuing policy of imperialism that has governed the US for decades. That he is greedier, more bloodthirsty, and markedly less competent than his predecessors simply helps make it all the more clear.

“The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today [is] my own government.” — Rev. Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967.


  1. The problem with the imperialism argument that the Democrats are no different from the Republicans is rhetorically pleasing but, for the most part, not supported by the facts. Taking just a few the items mentioned, the 1893 attempt to overthrow the Hawai’ian monorachy was not, in fact, supported by the Democratic Cleveland administration, which postponed the imperial expansion of American power until the Republican realignment of 1896 (Hawai’i was annexed after the War of 1898). Even then, Thomas Reed, the very Republican Speaker of the House, was adamantly opposed to annexation plans.

    One of Harry Truman’s better moment was refusing the request of Winston Churchill to intervene in Iraq after the Iranian government nationalized the Anglo-Persian Oil Company’s holdings. It took a change of administration and the rise of John Foster Dulles to get the US involved in overthrowing the Mossedegh government, and the subsequent overthrow of the Guatemalan government at the behest of United Fruit in 1954. In fact, of the interventions that Kinzer discussed, the only one I recall that happened on a Democratic watch was the overthrown of Diem in South Korean just before Kennedy was assassinated.

    None of this means that the Democrats have promoted wise or intelligent policies in foreign affairs, or that they don’t share some elements of the mindset with the Republicans, particularly for the period 1948 through 1973. But the facts simply don’t support the conclusion that there’s no difference between the parties, or that the difference is minor, and it seriously weakens your central argument–which I take to be that the US is too addicted to military force as a method of diplomacy.

  2. If the US isn’t addicted to it, why do they keep doing it?

    As for complicity, the Democrats agreed, with few exceptions, with the Republicans on the bogus reasons for invading Iraq, a country that posed no threat. Now they’re doing the same with Iran.

    A party that was in genuine opposition would have moved to block the invasion of Iraq, would be moving now to stop an Iran War – and would have tried to stop the destruction of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
    Your analysis is always carefully reasoned. Yet it always leads the same place. To taking no action.

    Not to decide is to decide.

    PS. Note to readers: Joe and I have been friends for 20 years!

  3. Bob,

    Excellent post. Sadly most Americans are ignorant of our history, but we’ve been an exapanding empire since the beginning.


  4. The White House recently reported that it was not aware of any letter that was sent from the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    Tony Blair stated that ruling out an invasion of Iran and declaring a nuclear strike is weird. He said that Iran is a strong country but that would not lead the U.S. Intelligence to rule out an invasion. Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani warned the West his country would not prove a pushover like Iraq.

    Whenever the White House is asked whether the United States is planning on a tactical nuclear strike on Iran, Bush would always reply that all options are on the table.


  5. Iran Promises Support for Syria

    State television reported Monday the message was carried to Damascus during the day by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written to his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad of the Islamic republic’s “support” if Syria comes under attack. Iranian President Ahmadinejad declared the Islamic republic of Iran’s support for the people and government of Syria in the event of any probable attack.

    In recent days Iran has stepped up its warnings against Israel not to widen the conflict. On Sunday the Iranian foreign ministry said Israel faced “unimaginable losses” if it chose to attack Syria.


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