Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Fear and War and Slight of Hand

or how our leaders use stage magic to take away our freedoms...

Pen and Teller do a bit... they do tricks facing the audience, then from another perspective, to show how magic works... simply call attention to one thing so the folks don't see you do another.

Several Quaker blogs have written about the horror of the times in which we live here in the west. Hmmm. Let me think about that. I reacted... well, with some worry. Yes, there have been a few, very few horrible crimes here in the States and England. But, criminal acts such as happened to us are not the sudden out bursts of barbarians or madmen, as our leaders and the news media would have us believe. They are the reaction to a century of killing we have brought to the homes of those who commit these crimes. Our criminals made their criminals. It does not matter who started it, but we should look at this in order to figure out how to stop it. Figure it out to see where the diversion lies.

A few facts. the US and Britain began the tensions between Iraq and Iran with the overthrow of Muhammad Mossadeq, by the CIA. A few quotes from an obituary for Kermit Roosevelt... here is the site.

"'I OWE my throne to God, my people, my army - and to you,' sobbed a grateful Shah of Iran to Kermit Roosevelt in August 1953, after the CIA-backed coup which overthrew the country's independently-minded Prime Minister, Muhammad Mossadeq, and restored the Shah to the Peacock Throne. ... When British Intelligence approached the CIA about the possibility of toppling him, it found a ready ear, and a plan - Operation Ajax - was formulated with remarkably little discussion of the ethics of removing the legitimate government of a foreign country. It was the precursor of several such infamous actions by the CIA.

Roosevelt, grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt and the head of the CIA's Middle East division, was the man for the job. A man of languid coolness, he was dispatched to Iran where, on August 3, 1953, he confronted the Shah and bluntly told him that there would have to be an insurrectionary solution to the Mossadeq problem, with the support of the army absolutely vital to success.

But the frightened monarch havered, and it was for Roosevelt to "help" key members of the armed forces to realize where their loyalties lay and physically to assist them to carry out their "duties". In particular he arranged for the influential army commander, General Fazlolah Zahedi, to make an address to the country over the radio, which was to prove important to the Shah's cause.

In spite of all these precautions, the success of the coup was in its early days far from a foregone conclusion. There was widespread rioting from crowds who remained loyal to Mossadeq, and for several days it was difficult to tell whether Roosevelt's tactics were succeeding or not. The Shah himself so doubted the outcome that on August 16 he fled the country and took refuge in Baghdad.

But CIA money was lavished on officials and police. Mossadeq supporters were quietly done away with. Roosevelt gradually persuaded the wavering commanders of army units to show themselves on the streets at the head of their units and to face down the pro-Mossadeq mobs. Mossadeq and ministers and officers loyal to him were arrested, and on August 19, just three days after his flight, the Shah was able to return in triumph to his capital, where he later expressed his heartfelt gratitude to his savior.

Mossadeq was more fortunate than many of his officers and his Foreign Minister, who were shot. He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment.

As the years rolled by, and the oppressive rule of the Shah gave way in 1979 to the even more iron grip of Ayatollah Khomeini, it became difficult to recall why this relatively moderate secular nationalist should have been seen as such a bogeyman by the West. For many Iranians suffering under the Islamic fundamentalist state, Mossadeq became the symbol of all that Iran might have been without American intervention: a modern, progressive state, yet one independent of the West. "

So there we are, with Khomenini in power we build up Saddam, give him poison gas to use on the Iranians, look the other way while he uses it on the Kurds... all about control of oil in the region, sometimes to bring it to England and the US, now to keep it from going to China. I can't even guess at the death toll, as the US takes part in war after war in the region, bombarding Lebanon from the sea, one of the few times in history this is done, as it is the most likely way of killing civilians... missiles, bombs... assignations, and we in the west listen with straight faces as politicians and newsmen tell us "they hate us for our way of life..."

No... They hate us because we have taken part in killing them for generations.

Now Mr. Blair tells his people, yesterday, that this is a war against those who support terror by making speeches and disseminating information. Remember the Butler Laws in Canada? They were laws against porn that were immediately used to curtail speech about the rights of gay people, close down leftist free speech... look over here as I take your freedoms over there...

Many, most will, in their fear applaud Blair, saying "Yes... shut those Imams up!" And then, when those of us who say... stop spending 900 billion on war, when 30% of it will solve all the reasons for war and save humanity from extinction by neglect of the environment... we will be shut up, shut down... and locked away...

Oh, dear Friends. I feel like my great grandmother, a great preacher, but... well, just a little beyond frustration as she would point to the heavens and shout... " I told ye about the Kaiser, and did ye listen to me? NO! Now, I am telling ye about Mr. Hitler! He is cut from the same cloth!" God did not listen to my great granny. I don't expect the people of the US and Britain will listen to me either. I don't relish the times granny and I got to say, "I told you so..." But we did. I warned my poly sci teacher, a friend and fan of Katherine McKinnon, about the dangers of the Butler laws, and she told me I was a guy. After I pointed out to her, a year latter, the loss of freedom of speech for gay people in Canada, she told me I was talking like a lawyer. Well, I don't think I will have to say I told you so... because if Blair and Bush have their way with us... I wont get to talk much at all... so, as Phil Ochs sang, "I'll just have to say while I'm here... "

Further reading ... ( and do follow the link and read the whole thing... )

One day, quite a few years ago, I was having lunch with my Iranian friend, Rudy Alam, who was attending the University of Pennsylvania, and who was the daughter of the then Prime Minster of Iran. It was a student hangout, and a waitress recognized her.

"Well, I guess you’ll be going home to Iraq for summer vacation," she said amiably.

"Iran," Rudy said.

To which the waitress replied: "Oh well, whatever."

Oh well, indeed. Rudy’s father was prime minister of Iran because the Shah was on the Peacock throne thanks to Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA station chief in Teheran, who engineered the coup that deposed Prime Minister Mohamed Mossadegh, who had headed a secular, fledgling democracy that had the temerity to nationalize the oil fields that, up to that point, had been exploited by BP. Having sued in the World Court and lost, the UK turned to its ally, Uncle Sam, to get the oil fields back. Rent-a-Mobs appeared, the CIA paid off the military, and Mossadegh fled in his pajamas. Once in power, the Shah stifled all dissent, using the notorious SAVAK, his intelligence service, to torture his political opponents, all under the watchful and approving eye of the United States government.

This was the first great "regime change," which ultimately begat the fundamentalist Islamic revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who promptly re-nationalized the oil fields and took a whole bunch of Americans hostage. To free them, Jimmy Carter sent in troops in a stupid action that failed and which led Cyrus Vance to resign as Secretary of State, one of the few noble acts by an American cabinet member in the nation’s history.
Meanwhile, over in Afghanistan (I used to have dinner, when the Afghan royal family still ruled, at the Afghan embassy in London, with the son of the ambassador and an Englishman who was a descendant of Lord North, the first architect of stupid colonial escapades), where the Evil Empire had installed a secular puppet regime that let girls go to school. The US of A unleashed the fundamentalist Moslem mujahadeen from Pakistan to drive out the infidels, after a pep talk by Zbignew Brezinski, who, with a towel wrapped around his head, yelled at them to launch a "Jihad," a term Moslems had not used for centuries. But, boy, do they remember how to use it now.

A young, enormously wealthy religious zealot from Saudi Arabia, who is inspired by the Iranian fundamentalist revolution, funds a good part of this operation with his own money. (The CIA under Allen Dulles and William Casey always found private money for their covert operations.) He arms the volunteer fighters and takes down their names, addresses, phone numbers, and if available, e-mail addresses, and writes them in a schoolboy’s notebook, calling the whole business "Al Queda," or "The Base." Which is what it is, just over the border in Pakistan. His name is Osama bin Laden (Oh well, whatever.)

And after we win and allow the Taliban to take power because they approve of the big pipeline project, Sheik Omar welcomes bin Laden and his army as honored guests in Afghanistan. When the US of A decides to keep its troops in Saudi Arabia, the Moslem Holy Land, he declares war on the United States from a cave in Afghanistan. (Oh well, whatever.) Asleep at the switch, the CIA and FBI, at constant war with each other over bureaucratic turf, allow the worse to happen, 9/11. Bush declares war back. The Taliban are toast. He argues for a preemptive strike against Iraq, which must certainly be called "Dessert Storm."

So now, eminent Arabist, Bernard Lewis, says the problem with Islam is a lack of democracy. His solution? A regime change in Iraq and Iran. Iran? That’s where it all started, with a regime change by the CIA that set off the entire chain of events. And oh, yes, do remember that it was that regime change that overthrew a democracy and installed a dictator. I guess you can say that this bunch is like the Bourbons of France, of whom it was said, "They learned nothing and they forgot nothing." Oh, well, whatever.

Richard Cummings taught international law at the Haile Selassie I University and before that, was Attorney-Advisor with the Office of General Counsel of the Near East South Asia region of U.S.A.I.D, where he was responsible for the legal work pertaining to the aid program in Israel, Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is the author The Pied Piper – Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream, the comedy, Soccer Moms From Hell, and the forthcoming novel, The Immortalists. He holds a PhD in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University and is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.


At 3:11 AM, Blogger Martin said...

"But, criminal acts such as happened to us are not the sudden out bursts of barbarians or madmen, as our leaders and the news media would have us believe. They are the reaction to a century of killing we have brought to the homes of those who commit these crimes"

The reaction? They clearly aren't the only reaction, since they happen so infrequently. I understand the need to get away from the Bush and Blair la-la-la-our-foreign-policy-has-nothing-to-do-with-this argument, but I'm not sure you can set up a direct cause-and-effect relationship like that...

At 6:39 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Sure, Martin...
It is a path. I begins with our involvement in murder in their countries... killing folks to make the governments we want to make. Then the reaction, fundamentalist Muslim madrases gain power and acceptance - teaching that the way to gain God's love is to martyr yourself for his cause, add to it a does of second class feeling for a first generation Muslim Briton facing the assaults of the British right wing thug movements of the seventies and eighties, add a massive invasion of their traditional homeland with huge amounts of senseless slaughter and terror... add to all of that, the history of our CIA teaching terror in Afganistan with Ben Laudin, in Iran with the Shaw's secret police, in Iran with our giving Saddam poison gas, we help to create a culture of violence and then the actions of the anger in these young people are not justified, but one certainly knows where it comes from. It should not be a big mystery.

At 6:43 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

PS ... also, as to the infreqency... the violence is only infreguent in our part of the world, like violence among people who live in poverty in the US, we only notice and take action when it boils over into the middle class community.
A Friend after the events of the World Trade Center gave a message that he was no longer fully convinced of the peace testimony, as the world had changed forever. I pointed out, after meeting, that the world had not changed forever, only had come to New York, and he is now called on to be the Quaker he had expected the rest of the world to be...

At 7:37 AM, Blogger Martin said...

I think this is really what I have trying to ascertain from your earlier comments. Do these actions come from the same place? Does the militant from Leeds who blows himself up in the London Underground have the same motive as the militant in Jakarta or the militant in Nigeria? It may not be a big mystery, but surely there is variation in the knowledge of and motivational power of the factors you raise. Not everyone who hates the devil sees him in the same way, is all I'm thinking.

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Hi Martin:

Well a correction on my part to begin... I should be more careful early in the morning! Shah in my previous comment, not Shaw... he was not very involved, writing nice books rather than torturing folks... and Saddam in Iraq ( not a "whatever" moment, but rather early morning right left confusion! )...

Now... as to motive. I don't know that the precise motive is important. Rather, the environment in which those motive grow IS vital. We prepare the fields of hate with our governments actions and the greed of our apathy, then when a host of poisonous seeds are nurtured in those fields, we think that the kind of seed is important, I think we should instead look to the fields we prepare. And, we do prepare these fields. It is easy to blame our leaders, but the apathy of this generation is staggering. There are not a lot of people who really hate enough to kill in the world, but the degree to which our lack of care waters the fields their hate was rooted in... that is something to which each of us must hark with humility.

At 8:31 PM, Blogger Daithí said...


I posted my comments on my blog...

At 11:01 AM, Blogger ash said...

Lor: I'm very glad you've written this, because you've articulated it far better than I could have.

I read a book last year that I would never have read, had I not joined a reading group (of which I was the only member) called Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. She tells of her childhood growing up in Iran, with her Marxist parents; how her uncle was tortured by CIA and their affiliates inthe coup, and the rise of extremist religious governance.

I'd reccommend it. And, to add a twist of lemon to the mix, it's a graphic novel.

I think it is fairly obvious that Blair and co are rapidly taking away our freedoms here in the UK. (this is why I , for one, will be buying my passport before I need biometrics, and one with extra pages so it lasts 10 years!).

Whether or not Mr. Blair intends to use these powers for evil, or whether he is genuine, we will only be able to educatedly guess at. But whatever may be, it leaves very worrying doors ajar for future administrations to widen easily.

At 4:21 AM, Blogger postliberal said...

I think Martin has a point, to some extent, here.

It's a little too easy to draw immediate links between injustices enacted by the west, and unjust violence enacted within the west. The great ghost himself, Osama Bin Laden, was not turned against the west by the mire of Iraq-Iran activities, but by later involvement of the USA in the region of his own Saudi Arabia. It's very important that the specificity of causes is aknowledged - this is a patchwork of causes that sometimes overlapp, rather than a single front of passionate retribution against an evil west.

At 5:34 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Post Liberal...
Yes and know, it might be the unconscious sense of entitlement in regards our running the world through violence, which is at the root, I notice you say, our injustices and their unjust violence. Our injustices are violent and kill many more then "they" do... we have to face and end our violent actions... On the ground in these places, it is not the policy alone that drives violence, it is the sight of dead neighbors, killed by us or by our proxies.


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