UMass-Boston Mass Media
November 20, 1979
Iran — Another Voice
By Michael Letwin
The situation in Iran has frightening results, but they aren’t the ones mentioned by the government or media. The real dangers are that the American ruling class has managed to whip up assaults on Iranian students and support for economic and military action against Iran.
At the same time, attention has been successfully diverted from the tact that Iranian demands are completely justified, that the American ruling class created the current crisis, and that it is cynically manipulating Both the hostages and the phony issue of oil.
The Iranian people have every right to demand that the Shah and his vast stolen fortune be returned to Iran, for the Shah is a criminal. Despite the immense oil riches of Iran, the vast majority of Iranians under the Shah in grinding poverty while he and his cronies practiced wholesale corruption and lived in splendid comfort.
All this was made possible by one of the most repressive societies in the world. There were no trade unions, democratic or civil rights. The army and dreaded SAVAK (Gestapo-style secret police) maintained “order” through the massacre, torture and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of political prisoners. Thousands of Iranians died in the revolution alone on orders from the Shah and his ministers.
What does the U.S. have to do with this? Everything. A coup saved the Shah from popular revolt in 1953. From then on, he was backed with the most advanced weaponry the U.S. had, $10.4 billion worth between 1972-6 alone, His SAVAK was created and trained by the FBI, CIA and Israeli Mossad. The very embassy which is now in Iranian hands served as the nerve center for real power in Iran for most of the Shah’s rule.
In short, the U.S. stood behind the Shah and his regime until the day he was thrown out by the Iranian revolution, all the while praising him as a “great humanitarian.” Now, not surprisingly, he has arrived in that old age home for wornout U.S. backed butchers — the U.S. itself.
The American capitalist class supported the Shah, because most of the time, he served it well. He made huge profits available to the major oil companies as well as other American investors and contractors.
He turned Iran into its cop on the Persian Gulf, keeping an eye on Russians, but most importantly, keeping the Iranians and other peoples of the region from disrupting the adventures of American imperialism. Even today, American capitalists hope to win the Iranian ruling class over to cooperating with them.
These facts should help bring us to an understanding of the Iranian demands. Khomeini is obviously trying to focus attention on the Shah in order to divert growing challenges from Iranians against his own repressive rule. However, millions of Iranians are demanding the Shah’s return and denouncing American imperialism because they know what has happened, and that, if American capitalists have their way, it will happen again.
That Iranians feel this way has been so obvious that the U.S. government knew that by granting the Shah entry to the U.S., it was inviting Iranian retaliation. A State Department memo written by Cyrus Vance and made public by the Iranians occupying the Tehran embassy states clearly that the U.S. has long been trying to find an excuse to let the Shah into the country, and not because he was ill.
As early as July 26th, Vance wrote to the American embassy asking when they thought the Shah should be allowed in. A short time later he noted that the Shah’s arrival would mean that “the danger of hostages being taken will persist.” (Boston Globe 11/13/79.)
How then, given the American role in Iran and the conscious provocation that led to the taking of hostages, can we account for the self-righteous nationalism of so many Americans? The “injustice” of taking hostages? The “uncivilized” behavior of the Iranians?
Well, we know that Americans aren’t beating up on Iranian students from of any deepseated commitment to justice. lf that were the issue, would they have tolerated their ruling class’ support for one of the most brutal regimes known to the Shah’s Iran? Would they have any problem returning the Shah to Iran to stand trial?
American lives at stake? Funny, there are plenty of American lives at stake right here at home, but the media doesn’t rant and rave, the government doesn’t step in, and most people don’t feel compelled to do much about it.
Take the 51 workers who fell off that scaffold in West Virginia last year because the company they worked for wanted to make a few more bucks. There was no outrage when the company was fined all of $150,000 as “punishment.” Then there are the victims of Three Mile Island and the Love Canal, the five victims of the KKK in North Carolina last week, the hundreds of old folks who will die this winter because they can’t pay the heating bills and the needless cancer deaths of 1,000 Americans every day.
The list of “American lives at stake” goes on and on because American capitalism, in its drive to make and protect its profits, causes more avoidable deaths of far more Americans than the Iranians could ever dream of.
The explanation for this selective concern is that, unlike anger directed toward American capitalism, good old-fashioned imperialist-style hysteria about hostages in Tehran is officially approved and encouraged. This kind of anger has been created and manipulated by the government and media.
If they so chose, they could explain why Iranians are so adamant about the U.S. and the Shah, that the U.S. knew the Shah’s arrival would cause a major reaction in Iran, and that all it takes to free the hostages, even now, is the delivery of the Shah to Iran. If this had happened, American anger might be directed elsewhere.
Instead, they have chosen to portray the U.S. as a helpless, innocent victim of insane Muslims who deserve to be blown away.
Americans were stirred up in this way because the situation was too good for the American ruling class to pass up. it took a beating in Vietnam, Angola, Iran and Nicaragua. It hasn’t been able to reinstate the draft or fight another war because Americans wouldn’t allow it. And ever since, it has whined about those days when it could pound its bloody fist around the world without fear of opposition at home,
Now, using the specter of another phony oil shortage created by American oil companies (note that Carter admits that his of Iranian oil won’t cause shortages, just higher prices) and the cynical manipulation of hostages in Iran, the American ruling class hopes to whip up enough support for itself by convincing us that their defeats are ours. That their honor and power is ours. That we should help them control the world.
It will mean tragedy if the American working class supports them. It not only puts us on the wrong side and threatens to see a whole lot of us killed in another Vietnam (or WW III), but it also diverts our attention to anything but the real issue that demands our attention — that “our” ruling class is holding all of us hostage to a system which cares so little for life that it is destroying some of us every day.
We would do much better to follow the example of our brothers and sisters in Iran who had the sense and courage to overthrow their Shah and who continue to fight Khomeini to achieve the goals of the revolution.