DATE July 28, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Stephen Kinzer discusses his new book, "All the Shah's
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
The Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 was the first clue most Americans had that
we were despised in part of the Middle East. My guest, Stephen Kinzer, has
written a new book about the event that created the anti-Americanism that led
to the Iranian hostage crisis. Kinzer's book, "All The Shah's Men," is about
the 1953 coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Iranian
Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and reinstalled the shah. The coup was
orchestrated by British and American intelligence under Winston Churchill and
Dwight Eisenhower. It was the first time the US overthrew a foreign
government and, Kinzer says, it set a pattern for other covert actions in the
years to come.
Stephen Kinzer is a New York Times correspondent who has reported from more
than 50 countries. He's also the author of books about Turkey and the
American coup in Guatemala. I asked him to explain how the anti-American
sentiments behind the Iranian hostage crisis connects to 1953 when America
covertly overthrew the Iranian prime minister.
Mr. STEPHEN KINZER (Author, "All The Shah's Men"): The epigram for my book is
a line from Harry Truman, who turns out to be one of the heroes in the book.
He said, `The only thing new in this world is the history you do not know.'
That certainly applies in the case of Iran. When the Iranian militants who
led the Islamic revolution of 1979 seized American diplomats as hostages at
the US Embassy in Tehran, many Americans were shocked. We didn't know what we
had done to become the object of such intense hatred by Iranians. The reason
we were so shocked is that we didn't know the history of 1953, and that
history plays directly into the history of the hostage episode of 1979, 1980,
What happened was that the United States organized a coup in which the shah
of Iran, who had fled the country, was brought back in and reinstalled into
power. The coup was organized by intelligence operatives working inside the
US Embassy building in Tehran. So if we flash forward 25 years, once again,
the shah has fled and, in fact, he has been admitted into the United States.
So, of course, the immediate impulse of many of the young Iranian militants is
to think the same thing is happening again. It's 1953 all over. `We get the
shah, finally, out of the country. Then the Americans conspire to bring him
back by using an intelligence operation, the headquarters of which will be at
the US Embassy. How do we stop this? We must storm the embassy to prevent
1953 from happening all over again.' But that episode, which burns so
intensely in the minds of Iranians, is something most Americans are completely
unaware of. That's why we were so shocked both by the hostage episode and by
the intense anti-Americanism that came to characterize the Islamic regime in
GROSS: Well, the 1953 coup was staged by the Americans and the British.
Let's start with the British relationship with the Iranians and get some of
the history leading up to the coup. In 1919, the British imposed the
Anglo-Persian Agreement(ph) on Iran. What was that agreement?
Mr. KINZER: Essentially, the British imposed an agreement that allowed the
British full control over the important levers of power in Iran. This merely
formalized an agreement or a system that had been in place for some time by
which Britain exercised informal authority through its control over the court
of the Qajar Dynasty kings. Britain had been the power that dominated Iran.
Iran, because of its geography, has always been in the eye of outside powers.
And by the time the 20th century dawned, Russia and Britain were the two
countries that dominated Iran.
GROSS: Before World War I, the British took over Iran's oil, and they created
the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which later became known as British Petroleum.
The British created the world's largest oil refinery in Iran. Why did the
British think that they had the right to Iranian oil?
Mr. KINZER: That's a question that really goes to the heart of the ideology
of colonialism. Why do big powers think they have a right to the resources of
smaller powers? I think the reason was that Britain, in the early 20th
century, was a small island still that required outside injections of profit.
And at the beginning of the New Age, particularly through the visionary
predictions of young Winston Churchill, who was then a rising military and
political figure, the British realized that a revolution was about to change
the whole way international politics was conducted, and that was the
revolution of the internal combustion engine and oil. Suddenly oil was going
to become the resource that was going to shape world power. The British
realized that they didn't have any oil on the British Isles, nor did any of
their existing colonies produce oil.
Needless to say, the idea that this oil actually belonged to Iran and that if
it could not be exploited by Iranians, it might as well just be left in the
ground, which was a view that many Iranians held, seemed completely absurd to
the British. They went ahead and established an enormous oil company with, as
you say, the world's largest refinery that wound up extracting hundreds of
millions of dollars' worth of oil from Iran and giving the Iranians just a
pittance in return.
GROSS: Now it was after World War II that things started to shift politically
in Iran, and there was a movement to get rid of the British, to nationalize
the Iranian oil. In 1951, the relationship between Britain and Iran really
changed when Mohammad Mossadegh became the prime minister of Iran, and he
actually nationalized the oil company. What did Mossadegh stand for
Mr. KINZER: Mossadegh came from an aristocratic family, was European
educated, spoke fluent French, which as the language he conducted his
diplomacy in. And he became not just a fervent nationalist but the leader of
the growing group in Iran that focused not only on the British but on the
Anglo-Iranian Oil Company as the source for all of Iran's problems.
Iran had this huge and enormously valuable natural resource. Mossadegh and
his supporters believed that the money that came from the sale of that
resource should naturally be the motor for the development of Iran. It
couldn't be that because of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Most of the money
was going to England. Therefore, Mossadegh emerged as the prime minister of
Iran at the crest of a movement, the principal aim of which was to expel the
Anglo-Iranian Oil Company from Iran. Mossadegh went on to do that, and that
was the beginning of all his trouble.
GROSS: What was the British reaction to Mossadegh's attempt to nationalize
the oil industry?
Mr. KINZER: First of all, Mossadegh offered to accept international
arbitration on this question of who owed how much money to whom after the
nationalization. In fact, he offered to conduct the nationalization according
to British law. The British were, at that time, nationalizing their own coal
industry and several of their other important domestic industries. So it
wasn't just an expropriation. It was to be a negotiated nationalization.
Now after the nationalization was announced, the British were, at first, very
dubious and skeptical. They couldn't believe that this was happening, even as
it was well under way. They couldn't believe that some little country out in
the middle of nowhere, which was their stereotype of Iran, would stand up to
Britain and rob the British people of a resource that the British considered
essential to their stability and development and prosperity.
Slowly it became clear that Mossadegh was indeed in deadly earnest. The
British decided, and this was a reasonable impulse based on their history in
Iran, that they would overthrow him. They assigned their intelligence agents
at the British Embassy in Tehran to begin organizing a coup against Mossadegh.
He got wind of this and did the one thing that he could have done to save
himself. He closed the British Embassy, and he sent all the British diplomats
home. Among those diplomats were the intelligence operatives who had been
assigned to overthrow Mossadegh. Therefore, the British suddenly find
themselves with their oil company being nationalized and no agents on the
ground to carry out what they considered to be the logical response, which was
overthrowing the nationalizing government.
The British then appealed to the United States. Harry Truman was president,
and the British came to him and said, `First of all, we want to launch an
invasion of Iran. We're going to have a military action.' Truman and Dean
Acheson, who was his secretary of State, went nuts when they heard that, and
they made it very clear to the British that they could never support a British
invasion of Iran to seize the oil fields and the refinery back.
Then the British had a second proposal. `Why don't you send some of your CIA
agents over to Iran and overthrow Mossadegh for us?' Truman wouldn't hear any
of that either. The United States at this point had never overthrown a
government. Truman was very reluctant to break that precedent. He believed
that overthrowing regimes can have very complicated, long-term effects, and it
was just not something the United States should get involved in doing.
GROSS: So President Truman did not want to go along with the British in
overthrowing the government of Iran. But then Dwight Eisenhower was elected
president, and he and his administration were more open to the idea. What was
their interests? What was the Eisenhower administration's interest in working
with the British to overthrow the Mossadegh government in Iran?
Mr. KINZER: The British saw immediately that there was a change in tone as
the new Republican administration was coming into office. Even before
Eisenhower had been inaugurated, the British sent one of their senior
intelligence operatives to Washington to meet with the incoming team. And the
head of this delegation, who had been the former director of the British
intelligence in Iran, wrote later in a memoir that as he was preparing his
presentation to the Eisenhower administration, he realized, `We can't ask the
Americans, "Go to Iran and overthrow Mossadegh because he has taken our oil
company."' This just was not an argument that was going to excite many people
So he said, `I had to come up with another argument. And knowing the tenor of
the administration and the people who were coming into positions of power, I
decided to make the argument that Mossadegh was opening Iran to the
possibility of a Communist takeover.' That was the argument that he did,
indeed, make, and that was the argument that the Americans embraced when,
under the Eisenhower administration, they agreed to collaborate with the
British, send their own agents into Iran and carry out the overthrow.
There's a great argument, which I don't think we can ever answer today, as to
how seriously Russia was looking at Iran as a target for a possible takeover.
We'll probably never know that. But I do think we can say this: The world
looked very ominous from the eyes of the Eisenhower administration. Then, as
now, the United States saw itself facing a vicious global enemy. The
Eisenhower administration came in with a sense that the previous
administration, the Democrats under Truman, had not done enough to fight
Communism and to pull America out of what Richard Nixon called `the Dean
Acheson College of Cowardly Communist Containment.'
The secretary of State, Dulles, and his brother, the CIA director, felt that
they needed to strike out somewhere quickly to show the world that the United
States was on the offensive, that we weren't going to sit back and watch more
Communist expansion. It wasn't possible for the United States to turn the
tide of revolution in China, for example, or to roll back Communist takeovers
in Eastern Europe. Iran seemed to them like a good stage on which they could
mount an action that would show the world that the United States was taking an
active, offensive role against what it saw as a great threat.
GROSS: My guest is Stephen Kinzer, author of the new book "All The Shah's
Men." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is New York Times reporter Stephen
Kinzer. His new book, "All The Shah's Men," is about how the United States
and Britain collaborated to overthrow the prime minister of Iran in 1953,
Mohammad Mossadegh, and what the repercussions of that event were.
One of the leading figures in the American efforts to overthrow Mossadegh was
Norman Schwarzkopf's father, H. Norman Schwarzkopf. So the father of the
commander of Gulf War I played a key role in the overthrow of the Iranian
government in 1953. What was his role?
Mr. KINZER: The cast of characters in this story is quite remarkable, and
General Schwarzkopf is just one of them. General Schwarzkopf had left the US
Army and become the commander of the New Jersey State Police, and he become a
nationally famous figure for directing the investigation into the Lindbergh
kidnapping. He then parlayed that celebrity into radio stardom. He became
the radio voice of "Gangbusters," which was a very famous crime show back in
Now General Schwarzkopf re-enlisted in the Army, or returned to active duty,
during World War II, and he was sent to Iran to transform a ragtag Royal Guard
into a crack military unit; this he did with great success and gusto. The
unit that he commanded, which was a kind of police/military unit, was the
scourge of dissidents and bandits also all over Iran and was also a great
symbol of the rising American power there. Up until this point, the United
States had had very little to do with Iran. But Schwarzkopf was, really, the
first flamboyant American to become a great figure in Iran.
Later on, in 1953, when the United States decided it wanted to do the bidding
of the British and carry out the coup against Mossadegh, one of the first
challenges that American agents faced was the challenge of recruiting the
young Mohammed Reza Shah. Now we think back on the shah of Iran, those of us
who are old enough to remember him, as a very strong and harsh figure, but
actually, as a young man, he was very timid, very indecisive and very
frightened. He didn't want to get involved with this project. And the United
States had to use several levers to persuade him.
One of the things they did was they called General Schwarzkopf and set up a
cover mission for him of visiting countries in the Middle East and Central
Asia. The true center of his mission was to go to Iran, carry a lot of cash
for the coup plotters and then go to visit the shah, who would, of course,
have remembered General Schwarzkopf as a huge figure in the court when he was
a young boy, and essentially strong-arm him, tell him, `You have no choice.
The United States is going to go ahead with this coup, and you must get on
GROSS: Let's talk about the strategy for the coup. First, there was a
disinformation campaign in the press and in the mosques to turn the public
against Prime Minister Mossadegh. What were some of the things that were
printed? What were some of the disinformation that was disseminated? And how
did the CIA do it?
Mr. KINZER: First of all, most of the newspapers in Tehran were on the
payroll of either the British or American intelligence agencies. That
included editors, reporters and columnists. So there was not only no
difficulty in inserting false material into the Iranian press, but there was
an eagerness and a willingness on the part of editors, who were on the British
and American payroll, to print this stuff. In fact, there was so much demand
for it and so much space for it that the Iranians, who were churning this
stuff out, couldn't churn out enough of it. There were also agents working
overtime in Washington writing articles saying that Mossadegh was a secret
Communist, that he was making deals with the Soviet Union, that he was
plotting to destroy the monarchy, that he wanted to make himself the king.
Even that he...
GROSS: That is parents were Jewish. That's one of them you mentioned.
Mr. KINZER: And he was a homosexual...
Mr. KINZER: ...both of which were crimes that could lead to death penalty
under certain legal codes in Iran. So it was a very intense political
campaign that was carried out not just in the press but, as you said, also in
the mosques, since there were a number of mullahs who were also on the payroll
of these intelligence agencies.
GROSS: Now another part of the pre-coup campaign was the CIA paid thugs to
form mobs and take over the street, and some of them were supposed to shout
their allegiance to Communism and to Mossadegh. What was the logic behind
Mr. KINZER: The American agent that was sent to Iran to carry out this coup
carried with him a fairly thick and well-elaborated plan that the British and
the Americans had put together jointly. One of the things they wanted to do
was to convey the sense that Iran was slipping into chaos, that there was no
law and order anymore. An important way that they did this was to pay mobs
that ran through the streets smashing shop windows, tearing down statues of
the shah, shooting into mosques and then shouting, `We love Mossadegh and
Communism.' This was a way to alarm people and make people think that
Mossadegh's partisans were wildly violent fanatics. In fact, those were
people that were being paid by the CIA.
GROSS: Now while the CIA was paying thugs to create social and political
disorder in the streets through these unruly, sometimes violent
demonstrations, you say that Prime Minister Mossadegh naively ordered the
police not to interfere with the demonstrations because he wanted to ensure
that the Iranian people had the right to protest and to demonstrate.
Mr. KINZER: Mossadegh was a real committed democrat. Even some of his own
supporters urged him to try to crack down on some of the newspapers that were
obviously printing CIA propaganda, to close down radio stations or political
groups that were spreading lies or sending out thugs onto the street. But I
say naively; he believed that democracy was finally flowering in Iran, and it
was his responsibility to allow it to flower.
Bear in mind, of course, he had no idea that the Americans had actually sent
people into Iran, who were living in Tehran at that moment, with the sole goal
of overthrowing his government. He didn't realize what was happening around
him. And his refusal to crack down on even the most irresponsible opposition
groups played right into the hands of the people that were trying to overthrow
GROSS: Stephen Kinzer is the author of "All The Shah's Men; An American Coup
and the Roots of Middle East Terror." He'll be back in the second half of the
show. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: Coming up, we continue our interview with Stephen Kinzer about the
CIA-backed coup that overthrew Iran's democratically elected prime minister in
1953. We'll hear about the thugs the CIA paid to demonstrate and create havoc
in the streets. And Kevin Whitehead reviews "New Beginnings," the latest CD
by trumpeter Terrell Stafford.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with New York Times
correspondent Stephen Kinzer, author of the new book "All the Shah's Men: An
American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror." The book is about how
American and British intelligence, under Dwight Eisenhower and Winston
Churchill, staged a 1953 coup in Iran that overthrew the democratically
elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, and re-installed the shah. Kinzer
says the coup resulted in anti-American sentiments that set the stage for the
Iranian revolution of 1979 and anti-American terrorism.
One of the key players in the coup on the Iranian side was General Zahedi, who
was told that he'd be the new prime minister after Mossadegh was deposed.
What did the American and the British want from him in return?
Mr. KINZER: The most important thing that the outside world expected was a
resolution of the oil problem. Despite the fact that the Americans were very
concerned about what they saw--somewhat legitimately, somewhat with
exaggeration--as rising Communist influence, the crucial basis for this coup
was oil. Without oil, there never would have been a coup there.
So the first thing that the Western powers wanted was a restoration of the
Anglo-Iranian Oil Company to its previous position of absolute power in Iran.
That didn't happen. One of the reasons it didn't happen was that the
Americans gently turned to the British and said, `Look, we did the dirty work.
We overthrew that government for you. So we and our oil companies should also
have a piece of that Iranian pie.' As a result of that argument, a new
consortium was developed in which 60 percent of the new Iran oil company was
to belong to the British and the rest was to be distributed among the
Americans and European companies. So although the Zahedi government did not
return to the status quo, it did annul the nationalization of the oil company
effectively and return control of the oil industry to foreigners.
GROSS: I guess you could say the coup officially started when a colonel who
was the commander of the Imperial Guard carried a decree from the shah
dismissing Mossadegh from office. Tell us a little bit about what happened at
Mr. KINZER: The Americans who were arranging the coup had decided that the
way to do it was to get a letter from the shah firing Mossadegh as prime
minister. This was a mechanism of quite dubious legality since only the
parliament was allowed to hire and fire prime ministers. Nonetheless, the
shah and the institution of the monarchy had some credibility in Iran, so this
document was a crucial part of the coup planning.
The shah was at first reluctant to sign it, which is why General Schwarzkopf
and others were sent in to twist his arm, but he finally did. And on the
night of August 16th, 1953, the Iranian officer who the Americans had selected
for this task showed up at Mossadegh's house with this decree dismissing him
Unfortunately, the coup had been betrayed. Some other officers and other
soldiers were waiting for this officer, and they arrested him. As a result,
all the planning that had gone on for months was suddenly worthless. The coup
plotters were arrested, Zahedi had to flee into hiding, the shah immediately
left the country and the CIA leaders in Washington were sending urgent
telegrams to their chief of station in Tehran telling him, `You better get out
of there before they find you and kill you.' So it looked at that moment as
though the entire operation had failed.
GROSS: But it hadn't. How did it turn around again in favor of the Americans
and the British?
Mr. KINZER: This was an era when CIA agents operated really by their own
wits. There was no instantaneous communication between field officers and the
headquarters back in Washington. So Kermit Roosevelt, who was the CIA agent
in charge on the ground, decided the next morning, `I think I can still do
this. The old plan didn't work, but I came here to overthrow a government and
I don't want to leave until I've got the job done.' So in the period of just a
few hours, he reactivated his mobs, he figured out which of his plotters were
still out of jail and he announced to his own CIA staff, `We're going to do
this again three days from now,' and that's what they did.
Mossadegh, thinking the danger was over since an attempted coup had been
crushed, took all the pressure off and didn't even talk about a crackdown on
those people he knew had been involved in the coup. He thought that with the
shah gone all the danger was passed. He had no idea that there was a coterie
of very intense intelligence agents working out of the US Embassy that were
not going to stop working until he was overthrown.
GROSS: And we should mention that Kermit Roosevelt, who you were talking
about, was the grandson of Teddy Roosevelt, is it?
Mr. KINZER: Yes. Yes. Talk about colorful characters.
GROSS: Do you have any idea what the crowd must have looked like on the day
of the actual coup, when, you know, the crowd, mostly of thugs, were paid off
by the CIA?
Mr. KINZER: You had a quite mixed crowd. First of all, I'd say it was quite
large, and it grew in size as the day passed. That's the day of August 19th,
1953, the day when the coup finally succeeded. It started out with a certain
core, and that core consisted of thugs from the bazaar and members of
mobs-for-hire groups, let's say, and then, finally...
GROSS: Mobs "R" Us.
Mr. KINZER: ...very--actually, that phrase has been used by some of the
historians of the coup.
In addition, the coup plotters recruited one very bizarre and extraordinary
group. Iran has a tradition of physical culture that has allowed the growth
of a number of very exotic athletic societies in which men not only build up
their muscles very, very intensely, but learn skills like juggling and knife
throwing. They really are quite fearsome, and they would turn out for parades
of various sorts. The CIA group that was organizing this coup hired these
And so in addition to these thugs and then, I think, lots of ordinary people
who gathered them as the day went on and the air became kind of festive and
celebratory, you had these very barrel-chested men with enormous biceps, many
of them wearing just loincloths and carrying knives, sticks and heavy clubs
and some of them juggling heavy objects. So, you know, you had, really, a
mixed crowd, a very unusual, very large one, which towards the end of the day
was joined by police and military units who had been paid off by CIA agents to
do just that.
So it started out from the bazaar, the poorer neighborhoods of Tehran; it
swelled in size as the day went on, including with the addition of many people
who had no idea that this was an operation being sponsored by a foreign
government. And then it was given decisive firepower by the arrival of
military and police commanders with their men and heavy weapons.
GROSS: Mossadegh was charged with treason for having resisted the shah's
dismissal order and for inciting the people to armed insurrection. He was
given a military trial, sentenced to three years in prison and spent the rest
of his life under house arrest. He died in 1965 at the age of 85. Did he die
knowing the truth that he was overthrown, basically, by the CIA? Did he know
Mr. KINZER: He knew that he had been overthrown with the active cooperation
of foreign intelligence services. I do think that if he could come back to
life and read my book, he'd learn a lot that he didn't know. There was no way
that he or anyone else in Iran could have known all this stuff at that time.
It has been a very slow process for the real story of the 1953 coup to leak
out, and Mossadegh certainly died without knowing some of the most important
chapters in that story.
GROSS: My guest is Stephen Kinzer, author of the new book "All the Shah's
Men." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is New York Times reporter Stephen
Kinzer. His new book, "All the Shah's Men," is about the 1953 coup in Iran
that overthrew the democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh.
The coup was orchestrated by the Americans and the British.
What did the Americans finally get out of the coup? They put their man, you
know, the shah and the military general in power. What did they get?
Mr. KINZER: We got a lot of pain and a lot of trouble over many years. This
was an operation that seemed successful in its immediate aftermath. We had
gotten rid of a guy we didn't like, and we had installed a guy we did like.
The guy we did like, the shah, remained in power for 25 years and consolidated
an increasingly brutal and corrupt dictatorship. That dictatorship led to the
explosion of anger that we call the Islamic revolution of 1979. Actually,
many of the people marching in those protests in that 1979 revolution carried
pictures of Mossadegh. What they were saying with those pictures is, `We
don't want outside intervention anymore. We don't want Americans and British
in here telling us what to do. We want to decide our own destiny.'
So then we began to think, `Maybe we didn't get such a good deal out of this
after all.' As we look back at it from the perspective of today, it looks
even more horrific because the Islamic regime that took power in Iran, coming
to power on the crest of this anti-shah explosion, turned out to be
fanatically anti-American, violent anti-Western. It has been implicated in
some of the most deadly terrorist attacks against American citizens. Not only
that, but the coming to power of this Islamic regime was a real turning point
for many religious fanatics in other Muslim countries. They looked at Iran
and they began to say to themselves, `We don't just have to be a faction on
the margins of society. We don't have to be criticizing the political
establishment from our niches in the mosques. We can take over. We can be
the government. We can be countries.'
This was a lightning bolt that came out of Iran. It led, among other things,
to the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban have no use for the
Iranian Shiites, but they were inspired by this example of religious devotees
coming to power. So their coming to power and the terrorists to whom they
gave shelter in Afghanistan can be counted as a collateral result of what we
did in Iran in 1953.
GROSS: OK. So, in the long term, the results don't look very good. In the
short term, what was the moral of the story that the CIA interpreted?
Mr. KINZER: When Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA agent who had orchestrated this
coup in Iran, came back to Washington to give his briefing to the secretary of
State, the CIA director and the president, he noticed that the people to whom
he was speaking were very excited at what they saw as a new instrument for
American power in the world, and that was the covert replacement of regimes.
Suddenly the culture of covert action seized control of the American body
politic. You can trace that phenomenon right back to the 1953 coup. This was
such a success at such seemingly low cost that the United States went on to do
it again the next year in Guatemala. That was another operation that seemed
successful at the time but, over the decades that followed, resulted in the
massacre of hundreds of thousands of innocent Guatemalan peasants.
At the time these seemed like very low-cost ways of achieving American goals
in the world. It was the Iran coup of 1953 that really got the higher level
of the US government to thinking that coups, covert action, was really a good
way for the United States to shape world politics.
GROSS: You actually wrote a book a few years ago about the CIA-backed coup in
Guatemala. Were there things that you could say for sure that the CIA
considered lessons from the Iranian coup that they applied to the Guatemala
Mr. KINZER: The first lesson they learned was how easy it can be for a rich,
powerful, developed country with a highly sophisticated intelligence agency to
throw a small country into upheaval. They realized that this was something
that could be done with relative ease, and the way they did it in Guatemala
was the same thing. They stitched together a few hapless exiles and pretended
they were an army and arranged fake radio transmissions and sowed all sorts of
discontent among the population. This is a formula that, with variations,
went on to be used in Chile and Cuba and the Congo and Vietnam and many other
countries. So there really was a template taken from Iran, not so much in the
precise tactics but in the realization that a few determined agents and the
application of what is for the United States a relatively modest amount of
cash can overthrow a government of almost any country in the world and lead to
the installation of one that's reliably pro-American.
GROSS: You mention in your book "All the Shah's Men" that some documents
about the CIA coup in Iran have only recently become available, such as a CIA
history of the coup, which was leaked to The New York Times in the year 2000.
What are some of the details that are actually in that CIA history? I mean,
how explicit is it?
Mr. KINZER: That's quite a sophisticated document. It's almost a hundred
pages long, and it is essentially a recap of exactly what was done. This
tells you how much money was appropriated. It tells you who approved the
appropriation of the money, how it was decided to send Americans into Iran,
where they were to be operating, who they were supposed to meet. It tells a
lot about the different intelligence networks that the British had built in
Iran and that were waiting for the American agents when they arrived and talks
a lot about the process by which military officers in the Iranian army,
Iranian politicians and Iranian religious leaders were bribed into supporting
this coup. So this document, partial though it is--and there are parts of it
that are censored--tells us a lot that we didn't know before about what
happened in 1953. And it's something that I relied on quite a bit when
producing this book.
GROSS: How is the history that you've written about the CIA overthrew the
Iran government in 1953 informing the way you see the American presence in
Mr. KINZER: Not everybody sees us the way we see ourselves. That's true for
us as individuals. It's also true for us as a nation. Americans think of
ourselves as paladins of democracy in the world. Our mission is to liberate
oppressed peoples and give them freedom. We don't seem that way to everybody
in the world, though. Other people think of us as oppressors, and
particularly in Iran, there is a very strong historical basis for this
perception. Iran only had a democracy for one very short period in its
history. Actually, just to use the word `Iran' and `democracy' in the same
sentence seems quite bizarre to us in the modern age, but Iran was once a
democracy. That democracy came to an end because the United States overthrew
it, and for the last 50 years the people of Iran have had to live under
varying forms of tyranny as a result of our coup.
Some of the responses that I'm getting from Iranians to my book now really
reflect this. They say, as one woman wrote to me, `It brought tears to my
eyes to think of what we lost and what we could have had.' Put yourself in
the position of an Iranian seeing now the Americans preaching the value of
democracy, or put yourself in the shoes of anybody who lives in a country near
Iran who knows the history of the United States in that region. Those people
are going to be very dubious when the United States shows up in the guise of a
liberator. We see ourselves that way, but we need to realize that not only
ignorant people but also well-informed people in many parts of the world see
us very differently, and they have a historical reason for doing so.
GROSS: Stephen Kinzer, thank you so much for talking with us.
Mr. KINZER: It was a great pleasure. Thank you, Terry.
GROSS: Stephen Kinzer is the author of "All the Shah's Men: An American Coup
and the Roots of Middle East Terror." He's also a reporter for The New York
Coming up, jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews the new CD by trumpeter Terrell
Stafford. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: Mixed review of "New Beginnings" CD
TERRY GROSS, host:
Jazz trumpeter Terrell Stafford has played with McCoy Tyner, Shirley Scott,
Bobby Watson, Matt Wilson, the Clayton Brothers, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band
and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. He's taught at Juilliard and teaches
at Temple University. So why isn't he famous as jazz trumpeters go? Jazz
critic Kevin Whitehead says, beats him.
(Soundbite of jazz song)
KEVIN WHITEHEAD reporting:
Playing jazz well is hard work mentally and physically, but it's especially
ridiculous on trumpet, which places a superhuman burden on the lips. Maybe
that's why some of the best trumpeters sound triumphant, like Terrell
Stafford. He gets a fat, beautiful sound all over the horn and subdivides
rhythms all sorts of ways that swing from all angles. He knows where he's
going but listens to the band in case they have a better idea, and he sounds
like he's having fun without overdoing it. He also plays melodies very well.
(Soundbite of "I Don't Wanna Be Kissed By Anyone Else But You")
WHITEHEAD: That's "I Don't Wanna Be Kissed By Anyone Else But You," which you
might know from Miles Davis' version. It's a sign of Stafford's confidence
that he'll play tunes associated with Miles or Chet Baker knowing he's got his
own voice. He's more interested in topping himself than the ancestors.
Terrell Stafford takes "The Touch of Your Lips" at a tempo so brisk, some
musicians would wilt and keeps building steam from one improvised chorus to
(Soundbite of "The Touch of Your Lips")
WHITEHEAD: Terrell Stafford on his CD "New Beginnings" from MaxJazz. That
sterling rhythm section is Mulgrew Miller on piano, Derrick Hodge on bass and
Dana Hall on drums. They're joined here and there by guest saxophonists, the
standout being Steve Wilson. He phrases against the grain, even when the
rhythm section pushes him to go with the flow. On "Berda's Bounce," they let
him wander, then tug on the leash, then mock his odd accents with a couple of
their own before bearing down for the chase.
(Soundbite of "Berda's Bounce")
WHITEHEAD: I only wish Terrell Stafford's whole record was as good as this
stuff. In truth, some other pieces and saxophone solos are sleepier, and
there's an iffy version of the old folk mass favorite "Kum Ba Ya." But all the
snap, crackle and pop makes that stuff easy to forget.
(Soundbite of "Kum Ba Ya")
GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for the Chicago Reader and the Chicago
Sun-Times. He reviewed "New Beginnings" featuring trumpeter Terrell Stafford
on the MaxJazz label.
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
We'll close with a recording by Bob Hope, who has died two months after his
hundredth birthday. He had a great gift for comic timing. His rhythmic
timing as a singer was pretty good, too. Here's a 1938 duet with Shirley Ross
of the Hoagy Carmichael-Frank Loesser song "Two Sleepy People."
(Soundbite of "Two Sleepy People")
Mr. BOB HOPE: (Singing) Here we are out of cigarettes, holding hands and
yawning. Look how late it gets.
Ms. SHIRLEY ROSS: (Singing) Two sleepy people by dawn's early light and too
much in love to say goodnight. Here we are in the cozy chair...
Mr. HOPE: (Singing) ...picking on a wishbone from the Frigidaire, two sleepy
people with nothing to say...
Ms. ROSS: (Singing) ...and too much in love to break away.
Mr. HOPE: (Singing) Do you remember the nights we used to linger in the hall?
Ms. ROSS: Yeah. Father didn't like you at all.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. HOPE: Whatever happened to him?
Ms. ROSS: (Singing) Remember the reason why we married in the fall?
Mr. HOPE: (Singing) To rent this little nest and get a bit of rest.
Ms. ROSS: (Singing) Well, here we are just about the same, foggy little
Mr. HOPE: (Singing) ...drowsy little dame, two sleepy people by dawn's early
light and too much in love to say goodnight.
Ms. ROSS: Here we are. Gee, don't we look a mess?
Mr. HOPE: (Singing) Lipstick on my collar...
Ms. ROSS: (Singing) ...and wrinkles in my dress, two sleepy people by dawn's
early light and too much in love to say goodnight.
Mr. HOPE: (Singing) Here we are crazy in the head. Gee, your eyes are
Ms. ROSS: Yeah?
Mr. HOPE: (Singing) ...even when they're red.
Ms. ROSS: Hm.
Mr. HOPE: (Singing) Two sleepy people who know very well...
Ms. ROSS: (Singing) ...they're too much in love to break the spell.
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