CIA Overthrow of Iranian President Mossadegh

CIA Overthrow of Iranian President Mossadegh - 5 Bespotism...

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Unformatted text preview: 5 Bespotism and Godless Terrorism On the Austin campus of the University of Texas, a great library houses a collection of objects that have set off shattering revolutions. Among them are the world’s first photograph, which was printed on a pewter plate in 1826,- a Gutenberg Bible, one of five in the United States; and a copy of the first book printed in English. Waves of history radiate from these objects. They inspire awe, set off complex emotions, and tug at the mystic chords of memory. \ One of the most extraordinary objects in this collection does not seem to belong in a library at all. It is a reconstruction of the home office that John Foster Dulles used during his term as secretary of state, horn 1953 to 1958. His family donated the entire office, complete with furni- ture, wall panels, carpets, bookcases, and books. Visitors may view the framed photos Dulles kept on his desk, his silver tea set, his collection of fine jade, and a display of gifts he received from foreign dignitaries. The library considers this room to be a historical artifact. So it is. On most days, Dulles worked at the State Department until late after- noon. At about six o’clock he was driven to the White House, where he and President Dwight Eisenhower would, in Eisenhower’s words, ”try to analyze the broader aspects of the world drama we saw unfolding.” Then, if he had no pressing diplomatic engagement, Dulles came home to this room. He would pour himself a glass of Old Overholt rye, sit down in his favorite armchair, and peer into the fireplace. Often he absentmindedly stirred his drink with his index finger. Sometimes he would read a detective novel. At other times, he reflected silently on the challenges of power. Although the precise topics Dulles thought about as he- sat in this room are unrecorded, the experience of seeing it is strongly evocative. 112 - OVERTHROW Quite probably, Dulles considered the overthrow of foreign govern— ments. In this armchair, before this fireplace, with these curtains behind him, he shaped the fate of millions around the world, including genera tions yet unborn. If ever a man was born to international privilege, it was John Foster Dulles. His family traced its ancestry to Charlemagne. As a boy he thrived under the special encouragement of his grandfather and namesake, the lawyer-diplomat John Watson Foster, who had been a treaty negotiator, minister to Russia and Spain, and secretary of state under President Ben- jamin Harrison. (In this last capacity, he worked with Lorrin Thurston in 1893 on the unsuccessful campaign to annex Hawaii.) Young Dulles often stayed at his grandfather’s manse in Washington. Foster took him to dinner parties at the White House, and allowed him to join in long conversations with distinguished guests who called at his home, among them President William Howard Taft, former president Grover Cleve- land, and future president Woodrow Wilson. Besides being a diplomat, Foster was one of the first high—level inter- national lawyers in Washington. He negotiated loans to foreign govern- ments, served as counsel to the Mexican and Chinese legations, and undertook diplomatic missions for Presidents Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt. Perhaps most important, he influ— enced his grandson to follow in his footsteps. In order to spend as much time as possible with his grandfather, Dulles attended law school at George Washington University. That made it dif- ficult for him to find a job at any of the major New York firms, which preferred to hire Ivy League graduates. His doting grandfather stepped in to help. As a young man in Indiana, Foster had worked with a lawyer named Algernon Sullivan, who later moved to New York and formed a _ partnership with William Nelson Cromwell, the silver—haired legal genius who persuaded Congress to build the Central American canal across Panama instead of Nicaragua. Sullivan was no longer living, so Foster approached his surviving partner. ' ”Isn’t the memory of an old association enough to give this young man a chance?” he asked Cromwell. Few power brokers would refuse such an appeal from a former secretary of state. Dulles was hired as a clerk at the firm of Sullivan 8: Cromwell, with a monthly salary of $50. Unlike other clerks, he was able to live well, since his grandfather allowed him to draw on the $20,000 that had been set aside as the young man’s inheritance. He needed that help E DESPOTISM AND GODLESS TERRORISM ' 113 only for a short time. Propelled by his sharp legal mind and network of connections, Dulles rose through the firm more quickly than anyone ever had. By 1927, sixteen years after being hired, he was its sole man— aging partner and one of the highest-paid lawyers in the world. Dulles ’3 web of international contacts grew spectacularly during this period. In the spring of 1915, President Wilson named Dulles’s uncle, Robert Lansing, to succeed William Jennings Bryan as secretary of state. Lansing arranged for the young lawyer to receive a suing of diplomatic assignments. By the time he reached his mid-thirties, Dulles was on easy terms with some of the world’s richest and most powerful men. From them he absorbed what one of his biographers, the historian Ronald Pruessen, called a ”rather simplistic” view of the world. Dulles may have been a world watcher, but his thoughts always demon~ strated the angular vision that came with a perch in a Wall Street tower. . . . The way he saw the world, in particular—the kinds of problems he iden— tified and the kinds of concerns that led him to identify them-what} been shaped by a lifetime of experiences. . . . Day-to-day work with [corporate] clients, spread out over forty years, strongly affected his perspective on international affairs and helped shape the frame of reference from which he operated long before he was secretary of state. It helped him develop a particular interest in the commercial and financial facets of international relations and a particular attentiveness to what he thought were the eco~ nomic imperatives of American fOreign policy. . . . Economic preoccupa- tions were often a dominant and initiating force in his world view and thought. The list of Dulles’s clients at Sullivan 8t Cromwell is nothing less than a guide to the biggest multinational corporations of early-twentieth» century America. Some were companies that Cromwell had brought to the firm years before, like the Cuban Cane Sugar Corporation and Inter- national Railways of Central America. Others were American banking houses, among them Brown Brothers and J. and W. Seligman, which were then effectively governing Nicaragua, and foreign houses like Credit Lyonnais and Dresdner Bank. Dulles arranged loans to governments across Latin America, Eumpe, and the Middle East; sued the Soviet Union on behalf of American insurance companies; organized a world- wide takeover campaign for the American Bank Note Company, which had printed the fateful Nicaraguan stamp showing a volcano in fictitious 114 - OVERTHROW eruption; and negotiated utility concessions in Mexico and Panama for the American St Foreign Power Company. His clients built ports in Brazil, dug mines in Peru, and drilled for oil in Colombia. They ranged from International Nickel Company, one of the world’s largest resource can tels, to the National Railroad Company of Haiti, which owned a single sixty—five-mile stretch of track north of Port—awPrince. Dulles was especially interested in Germany, which he visited reguu larly during the 19205 and 19305. According to the most exhaustive book about Sullivan Sr Cromwell, the firm ”thrived on its cartels and col« lusion with the new Nazi regime,” and Dulles spent much of 1934 ”pub— licly supporting Hitler," leaving his partners ”shocked that he could so easily disregard law and international treaties to justify Nazi repression.” When asked during this period how he dealt with German clients who were Jewish, he replied that he had simply decided ”to keep away from them.” Finally, facing a revolt by his partners, he agreed in 1935 to close the firm’s Berlin office, later backdating the decision to a year earlier. Soon after World War II ended, Dulles found in Communism the evil he had been so slow to find in Nazism. His epiphany came when he read Stalin’s Problems of Leninism, which he found gripping. Several times he compared it to Hitler’s Mein Kampf as a blueprint for world domination. In the spring of 1949, Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York appointed Dulles to fill a vacant seat in the United States Senate. When Dulles ran for a full term that November, he decked his campaign car with a banner proclaiming him "Enemy of the Reds!” His patrician style and evident unfamiliarity with the lives of ordinary people, however, made him an unappealing candidate, and he lost to Herbert Lehman, a liberal Democrat. This experience convinced him that if he wished to exert political influence, he should pursue appointive rather than elec- tive office. Law and politics were not Dulles’s only passions. Throughout his life he was also moved by deep Christian faith. It was an integral part of his character, and from it grew the intensity of his anti—Communist zeal. He cannot be understood apart from it. Dulles’s paternal grandfather was a missionary who spent years preaching in India. The young man’s father was pastor of the First Pres~ byterian Church in Watertown, New York, on the shore of Lake Ontario. As a child, Dulles attended three church services on Sunday and several others on weekdays. Every week he was expected to memorize two verses from a hymn and ten verses from Psalms or the New Testament. ‘E DESPOTISM AND GODLESS TERRORISM ' 115 His mother wanted him to follow the family tradition by becoming a clergyman, and not until arriving at Princeton did he consider other options. In later life he was an elder of the Presbyterian Church and a member of Union Theological Seminary’s board of directors. After his death he was described as "the only religious leader, lay or clerical, ever to become Secretary of State.” Dulles believed that the heritage of the United States, which he described as "in its essentials a religious heritage,” placed Americans under a special obligation. He felt what he called ”a deep sense of mis- sion,” a conviction that ”those who found a good way of life had a duty to help others to find the same way.” Like his father, he was a born preacher; like his grandfather, a missionary. When the 19505 dawned, he was looking for a way to channel his ”Christian insight and Christian inspiration” into the fight against “the evil methods and designs of Soviet Communism.” The best way to do that, Dulles quite reasonably concluded, was to become secretary of state. He thought he had the job in 1948, when his old friend Thomas Dewey seemed poised to take the presidency from Harry Truman, but voters frustrated his ambition by giving Truman an upset victory. Determined to try again, he spent the next several years expanding his network of Republican contacts and publishing articles about Communism and the Soviet threat. In the spring of 1952, Eisenhower declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. He had spent his adult life in the army, far from the refined circles in which Dulles moved. A mutual friend, General Lucius Clay, suggested that Dulles fly to Paris to meet Eisenhower, who was then serving as supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Dulles found this a fine idea, and arranged to give a speech in Paris as a way of disguising the true purpose of his trip. He and Eisenhower met for two long conversations. The general was much impressed. He relied on Dulles throughout his presidential campaign and soon after the election named him secretary of state. Dulles was then sixty—five years old. He had been shaped by three powerful influences: a uniquely privileged upbringing, a long career advising the world’s richest corporations, and a profound religious faith. His deepest values, beliefs, and instincts were those of the international elite in which he had spent his life. One of his biographers wrote that he was ”out of touch with the rough and tumble of humanity” because ”his whole background was superior, sheltered, successful, safe.” 116 - OVERTHROW At the State Department, as at Sullivan 8r Cromwell, Dulles was famous for his solitary style of decision making. It was said that he carried the department in his hat, and that even his assistant secretaries did not know what he was planning. He shaped important policies without consulting anyone inside or outside the State Department. The diplo- mat and historian Townsend Hoopes called him ”a compulsive over- simplifier" whose “mind was fundamentally shrewd and practical, but quite narrow in range, seeking always immediate and tangible reSults.” Dulles was an intellectual loner—-—a man who relied not merely in the last resort, but almost exclusively, in large matters and small, on his own counsel. His views on important matters were developed by an appar— ently elaborate, structured and wholly internalized process. . . . The resulting conclusion thus stood at the end of a long chain of logic and, when finally arrived at, was not easily reversed. By nature Dulles was stiff and confrontational. He conveyed an absolute certainty about his course that many took for arrogance. One biographer wrote that he “scarcely knew the meaning of compromise, and insofar as he understood it, he despised it.” He believed that a secre~ tary of state should not be a conciliator but rather, in Eisenhower’s words, “a sort of international prosecuting attorney.” in the take-no~prisoners style he had honed at Sullivan & Cromwell, Dulles wished neither to meet, accommodate, or negotiate with the enemy. He resolutely opposed the idea of cultural exchanges between the United States and any country under Communist rule. For years he sought to prevent American newspapers from sending correspondents to China. He steadfastly counseled Eisenhower against holding summit meetings with Soviet leaders. ”Indeed,” one biographer has written, “evidence of America-Soviet agreement on any issue troubled him, for he judged it could only be a ruse designed to cause the free world to ‘let down its guard!” Dulles, as a lawyer, had been trained in adversarial terms; interests, for him, could at times appear to be whatever was necessary to overwhelm the opponent. Moreover, he had been much impressed by Arnold Toyn— bee’s suggestion that without some kind of external challenge, civiliza— lions withered and died. It was not too difficult, then, for threats and interests to merge in Dulles’s mind: to conclude that the United States a DESPOTISM AND GODLESS TERRORISM - 117 might actually have an interest in being threatened, if through that process Americans could be goaded into doing what was necessary to preserve their way of life. When Eisenhower and Dulles took office, at the beginning of 1953, the main fact of international political life was the spread of Commu- nism. The Soviet Union had imposed its rule on much of Eastern Europe, successfully tested an atomic bomb, and attempted to starve West Berlin into submission with a sixteen-month blockade. A Communist army had seized power in China, and another had tried to do so in Greece. Communist parties in France and Italy were strong and grow- ing. Thousands of Americans had been killed fighting Communist forces in Korea. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin shocked many Ameri- cans with charges that Communists had even infiltrated the United States Army and State Department. The United States was gripped by a fear of encirclement, a terrible sense that it was losing the postwar battle of ideologies. During the 1952 presidential campaign, Dulles made a series of speeches accusing the Truman administration of‘weakness in the face of Communist advances- He promised that a Republican White House would ”roll back” Communism by securing the “liberation” of nations that had fallen victim to its “despofism'and godless terrorism.” As soon as the election was won, he began searching for a place where the United States could strike a blow against this scourge- Before he had even taken office, like a messenger from heaven, a senior British intelli~ gence officer arrived in Washington carrying a proposal that perfectly fit Dulles’s needs. BRITAIN was AT THAT MOMENT FACING A GRAVE CHALLENGE. ITS ABILlC'I'Y To project military power, fuel its industries, and give its citizens a high standard of living depended largely on the oil it extracted from Iran. Since 1901 a single corporation, the AngloJranian Oil Company, prin— cipally owned by the British government, had held a monopoly on the extraction, refining, and sale of Iranian oil. Anglo—Iranian’s grossly unequal contract, negotiated with a corrupt monarch, required it to pay Iran just 16 percent of the money it earned from selling the country’s oil. It probably paid even less than that, but the truth was never known, since no outsider was permitted to audit its books. Anglo-Iranian made 118 ' OVERTHROW more profit in 1950 alone than it had paid Iran in royalties over the pre- vious half century. In the years after World War II, the currents of nationalism and and colonialism surged across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. They carried an outspokenly idealistic Iranian, Mohammad Mossadegh, to power in the spring of 195 1. Prime Minister Mossadegh embodied the cause that had become his country’s obsession. He was determined to expel the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, nationalize the oil industry, and use the money it generated to develop Iran. Mossadegh, a European-educated aristocrat who was sixty-nine years old when he came to power, believed passionately in two causes: nation- alism and democracy. In Iran, nationalism meant taking control of the country’s oil resources. Democracy meant concentrating political power in the elected parliament and prime minister, rather than in the monarch, Mohammad Reza Shah. With the former project, Mossadegh turned Britain into an enemy, and with the latter he alienated the shah. In the spring of 1951, both houses of the Iranian parliament voted unanimously to nationalize the oil industry. It was an epochal moment, and the entire nation celebrated. “All of Iran’s misery, wretchedness, lawlessness and corruption over the last fifty years has been caused by oil and the extortions of the oil company,” one radio commentator declared. Under the nationalization law, Iran agreed to compensate Britain for the money it had spent building its wells and refinery, although any impartial arbitrator would probably have concluded that given the amount of profit the British had made in Iran over the years, Iran's debt would be less than nil. Mossadegh loved to point out that the British had themselves recently nationalized their coal and steel industries. He insisted that he was only trying to do what the British had done: turn their nation’s wealth to its own benefit, and make reforms in order to prevent people from resorting to revolution. British diplomats in the Middle East were, of course, unmoved by this argument. ”We English have had hundreds of years of. experience on how to treat the natives,” one of them scoffed. "Socialism is all right back home, but out here you have to be the master." Mossadegh’s rise to power and parliament’s vote to nafionalize the oil industry thrilled Iranians but outraged British leaders. The idea that a backward country like Iran could rise up and deal them such a blow was so stunning as to be incomprehensible. They scornfully rejected DESPOTISM AND GODLESS TERRORISM - 119 suggesn‘ons that they offer to split their profits with Iran on a fifty-fifty basis, as American companies were doing in nearby countries. Instead they vowed to resist. “Persian oil is of vital importance to our economy, " Foreign Secretary Herbert Morrison declared....
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