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Conservative Blindness on Iran


In a standard conservative screed against Iran, Los Angeles Times columnist Jonah Goldberg begins by stating, “It has been an Iranian tradition since 1979 to end Friday prayers with chants of ‘Death to America.’ In a purely rational world, that would be all one needed to know that Iran is not a reliable negotiating partner.”

Goldberg is wrong. In a purely rational world, we would want to know why we should begin this history with the year 1979.

Not surprisingly, Goldberg does not inhabit that rational world, which is precisely why he doesn’t ask that question. For him, as with all conservatives, It is considered impolitic to ask about events prior to 1979.

Why impolitic? Because to do so would lead to a critical examination of the U.S. national-security state, which conservatives consider to be one of their gods, one whose actions should never be examined, questioned, or criticized. In fact, that’s one of the big ways that conservatives define patriotism — by the unswerving allegiance that a citizen displays to the U.S. military establishment, the CIA, and the NSA.

Of course, such principles don’t apply to libertarians. Not only are we not reluctant to acknowledge that the national-security state has engaged in horrific wrongdoing since its inception, we would dismantle this Cold War dinosaur and restore a constitutionally limited republic to our land. For us patriotism means a devotion to principles of liberty, not blind allegiance to the military-industrial complex and nefarious totalitarian-like agencies like the CIA and the NSA.

But before we examine pre-1979 events between the U.S. national-security state and Iran, permit me to pose the following hypothetical.

Suppose that in 1963, Iran’s secret intelligence agency, the Savak, covertly removed President Kennedy from office and then installed a brutal unelected American dictator who ruled over the United States for the next 26 years. To enforce his vicious tyranny, the dictator used the U.S. military, the CIA, and the NSA, all of which were trained by the Savak. Finally in 1989, the American people violently revolted and ousted the dictator from power, but unfortunately ended up with another tyrannical regime, one that was just as powerful as that of the American dictator.

If that actually happened, would Americans have forgotten about it and moved on? I don’t think so. I think that Americans living today would continue to be angry over what Iran had done to President Kennedy and to our democratic system. I think that Jonah Goldberg especially would be screaming like a banshee about the event.

Well, that’s what the U.S. national-security state did to Iran in 1953. In an attempt to restore oil rights to the British, the CIA covertly engineered a coup in which the democratically appointed prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, who had been selected Time magazine’s Man of the Year, was ousted from power and replaced with the shah of Iran, an unelected brutal dictator who ruled over Iran for the next 26 years.

The shah used his secretive and much-feared intelligence-police force, the Savak, to maintain his oppressive regime. Arbitrary arrests, indefinite detention, torture, and extra-judicial executions were all part of the shah’s tyrannical rule.

And guess who trained the Savak. Yes, the CIA, which didn’t consider the shah’s rule to be tyrannical at all because he was pro-U.S. He had made Iran a member of the U.S. Empire. And in return, the Empire ensured that he could remain tyrant in Iran for life.

But the Iranian people put the quietus to that plan in 1979, when they violently revolted against the shah’s and the CIA’s tyranny, something that Thomas Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence that people have a right to do.

By this time the Iranian people had discovered what the U.S. national-security state had done. And they weren’t very happy about it, anymore than Americans would have been happy if Iran had done the same thing to the United States.

This is what conservatives just don’t get. In their blind allegiance to the military establishment, the CIA, and the NSA, they cannot put themselves in the shoes of those who have been victimized by the wrongdoing of the U.S. national-security state. Indeed, conservatives cannot even bring themselves to recognize that the national-security state is capable of wrongdoing. That’s because they have elevated it to god-like status.

Not surprisingly, in his article Goldberg also failed to mention the partnership entered into between the U.S. national-security state and Iraq’s tyrant Saddam Hussein during the 1980s. Pursuant to that partnership, the United States delivered WMDs to Saddam — yes, those infamous WMDs that were used to garner support for the invasion of Iraq many years later — so that he could use them to kill Iranians in the Iraq-Iran war.

Why did the U.S. national-security state want Saddam to use its WMDs to kill Iranians? Because U.S. officials were still angry over the decision by the Iranian people to oust from power the dictator that U.S. officials had selected for them in 1953,

Too bad conservatives can’t see any of this. Their blind allegiance to the national-security state prevents them from recognizing the critical importance of moral principles. There are few better examples of this phenomenon than how conservatives view Iran.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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