Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Iranian History - the Milani Remix

NPR put history in the blender again - this time regarding Iran. On Sunday, Dec. 27th's ATC NPR's Guy Raz interviewed Abbas Milani in order to obscure and minimize the destructive, anti-democratic role the US has played in Iranian history:
[Raz] : "Let's go back for a moment and talk about, specifically, about the US' role. I mean, the basic narrative is that the United States has always played a key role in Iranian politics. This is the narrative widely accepted among the leadership in Iran and, to some extent, by the foreign policy establishment here in Washington, D.C. What is this information based on? Why is this view so widely accepted?"

[Milani] : "I think it is accepted because, like many myths, it has some base in reality and some base in ignorance. If you, in fact, look at U.S. involvement in Iran, U.S. begins to get involved in Iran after World War II. And the first attempt by FDR, the Roosevelt administration, is, in fact, to create what they call a democratic experiment in Iran. And from Roosevelt to Carter, every administration, with the exception of the Nixon administration, pushed behind the scenes, the shah towards a more democratic, a more open society."
The NPR report is essentially a reprise of Milani's Dec. 8th article in The New Republic. In the article and on NPR Milani points out the truth that Iran's clerics were involved in the 1953 coup against Mossadegh that installed the Shah. He uses this fact to pretend that the US role was minimal and that the US role in the Shah's Iran was to push for democracy. I asked an Iranian friend and scholar - Niloofar Shambayati - if she had any insights into Milani's NPR remarks and she noted that
"The fact is that those of us who have read scholarly works on the subject of 1953 military coup, including Ervand Abrahamian’s books, have known for decades about the controversial role of the clerics in that episode of Iranian politics. We have also known that, without the U.S. planning and full force backing, the idea of a military coup could not have materialized. The fact that occasionally American officials nudged the Shah to loosen his grip on the society and politics in order to ensure the continuation of his rule and U.S. hegemony not only adds nothing to the historical narrative of this period and but confirms the pursuance of imperialist agenda by successive Administrations. "
Arash Norouzi echos this analysis as he dismantles the lies and distortions of Milani in a fine point by point rebuttal. Norouzi writes:
"Milani has chosen to counter the Islamic Republic's disengenuous, hypocritical narrative with his own equally deceptive, revisionist narrative. It's a logically bankrupt essay permeated with misleading, feel-good innuendo, signifying much but saying nothing. Repeatedly, Milani tampers with facts, contradicts his own conclusions, and even betrays his own recent statements."
Needless to add, poor Guy Raz is completely inadequate in challenging Milani. Raz asks one challenging [though qualified] question:
"...declassified documents show that the United States helped the Shah create his feared and hated secret police as well. So the U.S. did have a role that could, I think, fairly be described as a meddlesome one at certain points."
Milani simply co-opts the truth and turns it into a bald lie,
"Oh, absolutely. I don't quarrel over that at all. And the gist of the article is that the notion that the U.S. has been only propping up despots in Iran and that the only purpose Iran served for the U.S. was to buy its weaponry and sell its cheap oil does not get to the core of a much more complicated, much more nuanced relationship."

At this point the hapless Raz simply folds and joins in the narrative that Milani is spinning,

"...in your article, you write: This is a seductive narrative, but what's strange is the group that it has seduced, the very meddlers themselves in Washington. What do you mean by that?"

So there it is. The US, the prime engineer of the Shah's installation and supporter of his dictatorship actually was working for freedom and democracy all along. And the proof of this lie? Simply the fact that the corrupt clerical regime in Iran was also complicit in the overthrow of Mossadegh.

2 comments:

goopDoggy said...

The following comment left by reader CAM2 in response to the New Republic article, The Great Sata Myth, by Milani, is well worth noting, I think:

"So maybe the article actually aims at the few Americans who have studied and followed US/Iranian relations since 1950 (foreign policy fellow travelers like myself) or heard bits and pieces of events - outside an American classroom.

"Even here, however, the article fails. Mr. Milani makes the case that the US/Iran relationship was much more complex than what the Ayatollah propaganda slogan, ‘Great Satan’, implies. He elaborates that, behind the scene, American officials were, from 1953 to 1979, urging the Shah to democratize, and therefore a positive or ‘good’ channel in US relations with Iran was pursued.

"Mr. Milani underestimates us. First, anyone with a passing knowledge of the Iran/Contra arms deal can reason the relationship was very complex indeed! More to the point, we can assume that diplomatic and security officials pressed Babtista in Cuba, the Afrikaan government in South Africa and a dozen other despotic rulers, supported by the US in the name of the Cold War, in the same way it pressed the Shah. You needn’t be a bleeding heart to cringe whenever a fresh atrocity committed by one of these ‘allies” hit the front page of the New York Times. Second, the article itself details how its several examples of an American clampdown on the Shah failed miserably. The Cold War dictated relations with foreign governments. Calls for democratizing were secondary at best, a political ‘fig leaf’ at worst.

"I thought that perhaps Mr. Milani thinks the Obama Administration has been cowed by the ‘great satan‘ myth. But he gives no facts or policy-based evidence of this, nor does he single out the Obama Administration as the object of his argument.

"Nothing in Mr. Milani’s article seems to contradict the reality of US/Iranian relations. It just posits a false claim either the American people or American policy-makers and pundits ‘buy-in‘ to the “Great Satan” myth. On the one hand, this is insulting. On the other, it raises the question of why-this-article-at-this-time. This question looms larger with its citation today (12/13/2009) in the NYT “Week in Review.” Does the article set up a situation in which anyone critical of US involvement in Iraq is accused of buying into the Ayatollah’s “Great Satan” myth? Is it aimed at defeating diplomatic recognition as part of a ‘grand’ settlement? Will it help justify future US (even ‘soft’) intervention?

"Only ‘the shadow’ knows for sure."

larry, dfh said...

Any history of Iran in the 1950's which does not include BP is a fairy tale.