Sunday, September 22, 2013


Historical Cherry Picking

Finally saw Argo on HBO and it was pretty good. Affleck is turning out to be a better director than an actor. But I have a problem with the narration before and after the movie.

Yes the Persian Empire had a good run but Alexander crushed it 350 years before Christ. The barbarian remnants were a thorn in the Roman Empire's side for a while. Then the Mongols crushed everyone in the region and it never really mattered again until oil was discovered there by the British. They're not Arabs there, but they are Muslims and 90% Shia. Ancient history complete.

It is important to consider American actions during the Cold War with this frame of reference: We would do nearly anything to prevent a Communist take over of a non-Communist country. If our actions to stop Communism's spread were evil in the purest sense, they were much less evil than the imposition of Communism and the political murder spree and general suffering that always entailed. During this time, we did support despots who were non-Communist and we sought to get out of office despots who were pro-Communist. And if you don't think that was the right thing to do, then you don't know enough 20th Century history.

The communist party in Iran (the Tudeh party) tried to kill the Shah (Mohammed Reza Pahlavi) in 1949, which failed assassination ultimately caused the Shah to take more interest and then control of the Iranian government. There was a socialist group primarily interested in nationalizing the huge oil fields the British had developed called the National Front and its leader was Mohammad Mossaddegh. By '51 the National Front had the most seats in parliament and Mossaddegh became Prime Minister (picked by the Shah). The parliament voted to nationalize the British oil companies in Iran.

The Brits imposed a economic boycott of Iranian products (mainly oil) and sought with the US to get a more friendly government into power. It helped the cause a lot that Mossaddegh formally united with the Iranian communists and sought and obtained a popular vote to give him dictatorial powers. We bribed Iranians to foment revolution and they succeeded in ousting Mossadegh who was tried for treason and given house arrest. The unrest we caused resulted in from 300 to 800 deaths in riots and political murder. The Shah returned to the Peacock Throne with crowds shouting their approval.

The Shah then ruled as a despot and used not so secret police (the SAVAK) to prevent a counter-coup. But under the Shah, the country flourished, women made great strides in emancipation and equality, and Iran was a modern country in almost every sense of the word. They did not go Communist. The people most decidedly did not starve as the narration in Argo lies/states.

Then in 1979, as is their wont, the Democrats stabbed our Cold War Ally in the back and enabled the long threatened counter-coup to depose the Shah. An extremist Moslem cleric, the Ayatollah Khomeini, took power and set about ruining modern Iran. Women went back under the burkha; Khomeini's supporters made the SAVAK look like boy scouts; and the numbers of political arrests, political murder and torture soared. The economy fell into the sort of L shaped recession and no recovery we've been seeing lately.

Iran violated the well established civilized nation norm of not attacking other nation's embassies. We did nothing in response.

Iran fought an 8 year war with Iraq and suffered more casualties than we did during WWII.
Iran became a supporter of Islamic terrorism. It is the greatest source of backwards turning political/religious thinking in the Middle East. It has interfered with the internal politics of several nations nearby. It is developing nuclear weapons. It is a horrible place. Well done, Pres. Carter.

Iran let the hostages go only because it feared, rightly, what President Reagan would do in response if they didn't take the bribes.

I have no idea how accurate the rest of Argo was (I doubt there was a race of truck against airliner at the airport--in fact I think the rescue of the 6 was about as exciting as boarding a plane), but its narration failed miserably to give either an accurate or complete picture.

Here is a brief, shortened point by point from other fact checkers:

1. The voiceover narration says, "In 1950, the people of Iran elected Mohammad Mossadegh, the secular democrat, Prime Minister. He nationalized British and U.S. petroleum holdings, returning Iran’s oil to its people."

Mossadegh was elected to the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) in 1944. He did not become Prime Minister until April 1951 and was not "elected by the people of Iran." Rather, he was appointed to the position by the representatives of the Majlis.

Also, the United States did not have petroleum interests in Iran at the time.

2. After briefly describing the 1953 coup, the narrator says Britain and the United States "installed Reza Pahlavi as Shah."

Wow. First, the Shah's name was not Reza Pahlavi. That is his father's (and son's) name. Furthermore, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was not installed as Shah since had already been Shah of Iran since September 1941, after Britain and the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Iran and forced the abdication of his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi.

During the coup in 1953, the Shah fled to Baghdad, then Rome. After Mossadegh had been forced out, the Shah returned to the Peacock Throne.

This is not difficult information to come by, and yet the screenwriter and director of "Argo" didn't bother looking it up. And guess what? Ben Affleck actually majored in Middle East Studies in college. Unsurprisingly, he didn't graduate.
Oh, and Argo won Best Picture of the Year at the 2013 Oscars.



The last people in the world to have standing to complain about the 1953 coup are the mullahs. The mullahs, including Khomeini's predecessor Ayatollah Kashani, strongly supported the coup; in fact, Kashani tried to have Mossadegh murdered earlier that year - without the help or involvement of the CIA.
Is Afleck a fool or a propagandist?
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