Ivan's Place
In honor of the greatest moralist who never lived
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Becker

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Warriors Who Hate War — Can They Be Trusted?

Speaking to the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles recently, presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain hinted that "100 years in Iraq" is out, and diplomacy is in. "He said the struggle against terrorism was not primarily about military force, but instead about winning over moderate Muslims through development aid, diplomacy and trade," wrote the Los Angeles Times. (McCain tempers his war message, Thursday, March 27, 2008.)

McCain also said "I detest war ... it is wretched beyond all description." As sound bites go, this one is near the top of the list. I'm sure that an audible murmur of sympathy went through the audience. I'll bet that tears welled up in more than a few eyes, and neighbors nodded to each other in sage agreement that indeed, the Republican Party now has a candidate for president wise enough to lead the country out of the tar pit that is Iraq. And, if things don't quite work out that way, McCain is still the warrior — thank God.

With these comments, McCain is certainly trying to win the independent and potential cross-over Democrat vote. Can we expect a happy outcome if he wins the presidency in November? The track record of another warrior who hated war does not inspire much hope in this observer.

At some point in his illustrious military and political career I don't know when Dwight D. Eisenhower famously declared "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity." But, as president, Eisenhower turned his hatred of war in very much the wrong direction, and launched a truly murderous foreign policy strategy. Ike was the first real covert action president.

In 1952, Mohammed Mossadegh, Iran's democratically elected and extremely popular Prime Minister, nationalized the seriously exploitative Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Even though Anglo-Iranian had reneged on its promises that Iranian oil would be used to benefit Iranians as well as the British Empire, hyper-imperialist British Prime Minister Winston Churchill felt seriously wronged. He secretly sent a representative to Washington, with instructions to persuade President Truman and Secretary of State Dean Acheson that it was necessary to stage a coup against this upstart. In a spirit of brotherhood, and because Britain was strapped for resources to carry out the coup alone, Churchill thought it would be nice if America signed on to the plan. Sadly for the Brits, Truman and Acheson liked Mossadegh, and disliked British imperialist policies. They effectively laughed the poor spook out of the office.

Truman decided not to run for re-election in 1952, and after Eisenhower trounced Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, Churchill knew he had his coup. The word was out that Eisenhower would appoint the pathologically anti-communist Dulles brothers to high positions: John Foster as Secretary of State, and his younger brother Alan as head of the CIA. So, even before Eisenhower took office in January, 1953, Churchill's covert operatives were working with soon-to-be CIA chief Alan Dulles to plan the overthrow of Mossadegh.

The incorruptible, impeccably nationalistic, and highly eccentric Mossadegh was by no means a communist, and Eisenhower liked him too. "I'd like to give the guy a million bucks," he told British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden. But, the Dulles brothers worked their magic on him, and convinced him that any national leader who tried to use national resources to benefit his or her people was by definition a communist. Ike approved the planned coup, code-named Operation Ajax. It would of course be managed by the CIA. The coup succeeded, and Mossadegh was removed from power on August 19, 1953. The king of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, had fled to Paris during the CIA-inspired violence. He returned to the Peacock Throne, and the CIA trained a domestic security force for him SAVAK.

Except for Mossadegh's popularity, the Shah would have executed him; instead he sentenced him to life-long internal exile. Washington loved the Shah, and never lifted a finger to help Mossadegh achieve his freedom.

SAVAK became one of the most brutal secret police forces the world has seen, and made significant progress in eliminating those who even breathed disagreement with the Shah. The most charismatic and fiercest Muslim clerics went into exile, from whence they organized secret opposition to the modernizing king. The shah came to be thoroughly hated within Iran, and revolutionary activity grew. Finally, in 1979 the Shah was forced to leave Iran for cancer treatment, and the revolution erupted. The Ayatollahs returned, and the rest is history. That history includes hundreds of subsequent CIA covert operations against other nationalist leaders. (See note below.)

"What goes around, comes around," goes the old saw. In his masterful book All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer is entirely correct, and not alone, in his observation that "it is not farfetched to draw a line from Operation Ajax through the Shah's repressive regime and the Islamic Revolution to the fireballs that engulfed the World Trade Center in New York." It's called blowback, a term coined by the CIA itself to refer to the unintended and unforseen consequences of U.S. foreign policy.

So, Ike hated war, and McCain detests war. That's nice. But, the next president will need more than a hatred of war. He or she will need great courage to work the fields of diplomacy and, especially, fair economic policy. It will take great courage to stand up to the neocons and corporate imperialists who got us into the Iraq quagmire in the first place. I don't think I'll give McCain the benefit of the doubt.


After the coup, the U.S. and Britain conferred as to how the spoils would be divvied up, and what might be offered to other friendly nations. That agreement came sometime in the summer of 1954. The New York Times was ecstatic. In THE IRANIAN ACCORD (Aug 6,1954), it exulted over the pure act of winning against a decent and defenseless adversary.

"Costly as the dispute over Iranian oil has been to all concerned, the affair may yet be proved worth-while if lessons are learned from it. Underdeveloped countries with rich resources now have an object lesson in the heavy cost that must be paid by one of their number which goes berserk with fanatical nationalism. It is perhaps too much to hope that Iran's experience will prevent the rise of Mossadeghs in other countries, but that experience may at least strengthen the hands of more reasonable and more far-seeing leaders."

It was not "too much to hope." A long series of "more reasonable and more far-seeing," and very brutal, dictators accepted this advice, and everyone in Washington and Wall Street was happy for many years.

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