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Reflection on recent US-Iranian history

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Message Gabby Hayes

Note: a lot of what I write actually takes the form of letters to my kid, who is serving in Iraq.

He says, I am curious to know what the history books will say about this endeavor which has effectively swallowed years of my life (and coincidentally the lives of over 3000 of my brothers in arms). We take pride in what we do, and I hate the idea that I was part of the biggest blunder of 2002-2010. (but I am sure the history books will not take that into account.) I am unsure whether the idea of having Iran as a political ally, is so much of a good thing. Isn't the leader of Iran a madman? Does Iran openly sponsor terror? The first time I heard of Iran, it involved hostages.

...and I say, You and your brothers served admirably and you should feel nothing but pride for what you did. You followed orders, the Marines are not besmirched by things like torture and war crimes that will dog the state department and the army and the cia for decades to come. Sadly, people will probably make the mistake of painting the whole operation with a broad brush, but that's something the Marines should have prepared you for--it's part of the reason they refer to themselves as a family, band of brothers, devil dogs, and so forth. Take comfort in that and your real family. We will always be on your side and anyone who finds fault with what you've done there is a pinhead. I hope to God we learned from Vietnam. We may not have learned that an idiot from Texas should never be a wartime president or that you don't declare war first and then figure out why later. But I think that the folks who blamed vets and returning soldiers and marines deeply regret what they did. I have heard no one make disparaging comments about the fighters. I'm sure there are a few out there, but they haven't penetrated my awareness.

The president of Iran is not the same as the president of the United States. He's more of a functionary. He manages the government. I don't think he's a madman--his real target is Israel and one of the ways to frighten Israel is to lump us in with Israel.

He has a purpose in mind and his comments are directed at achieving that purpose. He's a politician.

The government of Iran is actually run by an elderly generation of Khomeini supporters, the men the Shah exiled or locked in prison for decades at a time and probably tortured. The Shah was a creation of the United States who was installed so that we could retain our forward listening posts in Iran where we spied very effectively on the Soviet Union.

Having listening posts across Turkey and Iran and the very top of the world in the extreme north of Canada allowed us to triangulate, to know where messages were coming from, to know what base was CIC at any given time and thereby which messages to pay attention to and which to ignore.

The Shah and his family and by extension the US were hated all across Iran. Iranians who had been exiled or who escaped from Iran did engage in terrorism against the US. Their goal was to remove the Shah and, to a lesser extent, to destroy Israel. They supported the men who killed at the Munich Olympics, hijacked aircraft and held them and their passengers for ransom. There's no justification for it except that it kept them alive and in the news.

Terrorism worked so well for them that, once they were in power, the terror continued. Let's not split hairs too thin, but terror is a tactic used in all wars and by all sides. Aerial bombing is designed to terrorize the citizens. "Shock and Awe" is just a synonym for terror. At the instigation of the US, Israel has invaded Lebanon disastrously, partly to drive back the Iranian-backed Syrian troops, partly to terrorize the citizens. Israel has also invaded Gaza disastrously at our instigation. I believe that the only purpose for that was to terrorize the citizens. When a son of a family in the refugee camps outside Israel is discovered to be involved in terrorism, the Israelis back a cement truck up to that family's house and fill it with concrete, which hardens quickly, depriving the family of a home and any papers or mementos or photos inside. What is the purpose of this other than terror?

Before the Shah fell, people feared to fly, particularly to the middle east. This had a huge impact on moderate states like Egypt, where people were perfectly happy to have foreigners and their money come in and ride their camels and visit their historic sites. When tourist dollars began to shrink, so did the power of moderate leaders like Sadat. It became easier for small revolutionary groups to destabilize these countries and drive them into the Islamist camp. Saudi Arabia, our good friend, actually pays tribute to terrorists to leave them alone. There is a terribly corrupt vein in Saudi Arabia that covers up and whitewashes terrorist acts, buys off revolutionaries, and generates people like the 9/11 hijackers (most were Saudi) and al qaeda (Osama bin Laden was born and raised in Saudi Arabia; his dad was King Saud's favorite engineer; his brother was George W. Bush's best friend in college and in the Air National Guard; other members of Osama's family were actually having a meal in a restaurant in Washington DC with George H. W. Bush on 9/11 while the planes crashed into the towers). The connections between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family are very, very close. I won't belabor it, but Prince Bandar is considered a member of the Bush family and the Bushes refer to him as "Bandar Bush."

As the Iranian hatred for the US grew, fueled in part by the Soviet Union, but also by muslim fundamentalists, the Shah had to use more and more extreme measures to protect order. Then in the 70s, everything fell to pieces. Vietnam broke us economically. We were nearly as broke then as we are now. We didn't have enough money to keep the Shah standing, and, besides, he was very sick with cancer, and his natural inheritors--his kids--were pampered and untrained in leadership. They weren't even as prepared to lead as Saddam's sons. If the Shah was a puppet, they would have been stick figures. So we rescued the guys in the listening posts, rescued the Shah and his family and a few of their hangers-on, and let Iran fall. I think the state department tried to reach out to the mullahs. But they didn't want to be friends. After they occupied the US embassy, they pieced together huge piles of shredded documents like jigsaw puzzles, revealing the kinds of things the United States had done to Iran. And they were as brutal as the Shah, locking up people who persisted in dressing in western style and teaching in the universities, Ba'hais (a faith that originated in Iran), and anyone else Khomeini didn't like. A good description of what was going on is The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie. He described the descent of Muslim fundamentalism in the book. Although the fatwah was supposedly over his naming prostitutes in the book after the wives of Mohammed, it was probably his very accurate description of the use of power by Khomeini and the mullahs that really got him in trouble.

Iraq wanted to take part of Iran and sensing a weakness (and probably encouraged by the US), Saddam invaded Iran and a bloody war of attrition took place for ten years using the mass and charge techniques common before the first world war. You give guns to a thousand young people, point them in the direction of the enemy, and have them attack. If anyone chickens out and runs in the wrong direction, you kill him. But everyone who charged was mowed down by machine guns. Thousands and thousands and thousands--soldiers at first, and then old men and young men with no training, and then children. It's why the average age in Iran and Iraq is in the 20s. the older generation was wiped out. We armed Saddam in order to contain Iran. Another reason Iran hates us. But the young people who constitute the majority in Iran know very little about the war or the US and hold nothing against Israel, which is a long way away. And besides, the creation of Israel displaced Arabs, not Persians.

The kids in Iran listen to rock and roll on ipods, watch American TV on satellite dishes, speak English fluently, and so on. Inevitably, the mullahs will pass away. Old men die. If we can possibly avoid radicalizing the young in Iran for a few more years, we might have an ally in central asia that would actually help us in managing Iraq and Afghanistan, both of whom will hate us for at least a generation. We'll be dealing with terrorists from Iraq and Afghanistan for a long, long time. It would be nice to have an ally between those countries. (Russia is a potential enemy again, and Iran would be a very strategic ally in a reconstituted cold war.) Also, we might be able to interdict some of the black market opium coming out of Afghanistan.

Iran was actually a pretty good ally as recently as 2002. They expressed solidarity with the US and were willing to assist us in driving the Taliban out of Afghanistan, refusing them a safe haven in Iranian territory and probably assisting in other ways we won't find out about for a long time. The Taliban were Wahabi, a sect of Sunni, and sworn enemies of the Shiia who are the majority in Iran. If you know the information in that sentence, you know more about the Middle East than George W. Bush did in 2003 and more about the Middle East than probably 80% of Americans. Beyond the names of places we blow to smithereens, very little has been done to educate Americans about the war or the Middle East. You never even hear about it in the news anymore. It makes me sick.

You have done nothing wrong. The Marines have performed in an exemplary manner. You should all be very proud of the work you have done. You're all heroes and you've done a great job.

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Adherent to the cowboy way, eschewer of four-letter words and dental care, founder of the hippie movement, and failed prospector, Gabby Hayes can be counted upon to point and say, "They went thataway," and to develop plans to cut them off at the (more...)
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