White House Protest Corps

Assessment as control: a teacher’s experience of the pecking order in schools.
May 31, 2010, 3:01 am
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A London teacher speaks about their own experience of the use of assessment as a form of social control in schools. From the spring 2010 issue of The Leveller.

Assessment is a normal and sometimes valuable part of education. There’s nothing wrong with checking whether some sort of training or education has achieved its goal of helping someone learn a new skill or a piece or knowledge. Indeed it is a necessary and vital part of many aspects of education. This article however, centres on the reactionary uses of assessment in schools. It effectively has dual-purpose – a) establish a pecking order from the early years onwards, and for pupils to ‘know their place’ throughout their educational life, and b) monitor worker performance. The examples refer specifically to experiences in England but may be of relevance to education workers elsewhere.

Monitoring students
The language is encouraging; ‘getting the most out of our learners’, ‘levels in the air’ and ‘adding value’. The rhetoric within many schools now is that in order to achieve such goals, we need to be quantifying the learning every step of the way, checking that those incremental gains in ‘knowledge’ are being maintained. In effect what this means is pupils, learners, students, whatever terms is in-vogue now, being overtly conscious of their place in the school pecking order at all times. Not only being aware of their own place, but that of every other pupil they share a class with, and the pecking order of each class.

Labelling pupils from the earliest years of school is now common practice. By the end of primary school, pupils are expected to have a firm grasp of what ‘level’ they are in core subjects (maths, science, English), and those levels are increasingly used to ‘stream’ or, as has been common practice in core subjects for a long time, at least ‘set’ pupils depending on ability. Streaming is a more divisive version of setting where pupils are not just set within an individual subject, but effectively separated for the whole of the school lesson time into different ability classes. This effectively creates schools within schools, enabling the establishment of hierarchies within supposedly comprehensive schools.

What does ‘levelling’ mean? In England, the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA), sets out the levels within subjects, from level 1-8 in most subjects. These levels map onto what’s known as Bloom’s Taxonomy – a classification of learning objectives, which is supposed to progress through basic skills and sounds a bit like this – recall, describe, explain, analyse, evaluate, synthesise. They roughly translate to levels 3-8 of the QCDA’s descriptors.

If this all sounds boring, it’s because it is. It relates little to the content of the subjects kids are learning, and is more a process of quantification that suits micromanagers who want to easily monitor performance of staff and students. The effect on pupils in the classroom is tangible. In the days when tests were measured in As, Bs, Cs etc in early secondary education, pupils of course had awareness of who was a the ‘smart kid’ and who wasn’t. But they didn’t wear that label for every minute of every lesson, of every day of every term. The new ‘levelling’ in its most extreme forms means that pupils must be labelled at intervals throughout the lesson, and may even be divided within lessons in ‘level 3 tables’ and ‘level 6 table’ and so on. Thus the hierarchy is a constant, throughout all lessons.

Depressingly, the overt and pervasive form of academic labelling is internalised by many students, who will refer to themselves and their own abilities negatively. Many underestimate the degree to which pupils internalise the labels we assign them, and unfortunately some don’t care, because they’re genuinely only interested in generating graphs to show their departments are ‘performing’.

The impact on students is very real, and should be of deep concern to anyone genuinely interested in education.

Monitoring the staff monitoring the students.
Beyond labelling individual students, the overtly quantitative forms of assessment that now exist in most schools are used directly, and openly, to monitor staff performance. Most schools have a computerised record system that monitors everything from attendance, to test scores, to behaviour management. But the scope of these systems, and the uses to which they are put, may vary from school to school.

In its most pervasive guise, these systems are a tightly quantified form of both pupil and staff monitoring. The data from these systems can be used explicitly in ‘performance management’. Performance management amounts to bosses monitoring staff to check they are doing the job. In some instances, provided your line manager isn’t a jobsworth and simply is in their position for a bit of extra money, it can be supportive – it can identify areas for improvement, and suggest ways to move forward and make teaching and learning better.

However, increasingly, the data is used to identify ‘underperforming’ staff. Performance management does not apply to trainee teachers or NQTs (Newly Qualified Teachers i.e. those in their probation period) – it applies only to teachers in their second year in the profession and onwards. I have seen instances where data from pupil monitoring has been used to build cases against so-called underperforming staff. In those that I have witnessed, it has been where a line-manager is an ‘aspiring leader’ – someone who wants to get out of the classroom and into school management. They will use the data to openly criticise colleagues and show quantitatively how they ‘aren’t dong their jobs well’.

Quantifying performance
What does this data involve? Ok, say you give a class an assessment. You mark it, record you marks, and enter it into the computer system. So far, it’s no more than a glorified version of the old fashioned mark-book, those folders you see teachers carrying around (most still carry the old ones too, so effectively work is duplicated, but most of us like to have a paper copy of marks).

But further to that, the mark is then mapped against a pre-determined ‘target’ for each pupil. At key stage 3 (11-14yrs) this target is usually based on the scores they come from primary school with, and mapped across the three years of the curriculum. These projections are often wrong – perhaps the pupil has a ‘good day’ on the assessment day, perhaps they had a ‘bad one’, but for the next three years, every test they take will be matched against that yardstick, and both the pupils performance, and their teachers’ will be judged in that light.

At this stage, each mark can then be flagged as ‘on’, ‘below’ or ‘above’ target. And here is where the managers come in – they have access to this data for every member of staff and can use it in their ‘performance management’. In some schools, such data has been used to ‘get rid of dead wood’.

“Driving Licence for Teachers”
So this overt form of easily-quantifiable assessment can be used as a stick to poke both students and staff with. Teachers have some the highest stress levels in any sector. The already excessive demands of many performance management procedures and Ofsted inspections are potentially to be made worse with the government’s proposed ‘Licence to teach’* being put forward last year. Under the proposed licence, teachers would have to ‘renew’ their ‘teaching licence’ every five years or face the sack. Speaking to experienced classroom teachers, it’s clear that most view the proposal as nothing short of cretinous and an insult to their integrity. Teachers are already subject to an ever-mounting degree of invasion into the professional life and with the prospect of more of this it’s no wonder than retention of workers in the sector has been so difficult.

The prospects
Education is a mess at the minute. Higher education is facing a total collapse, with £900m to be cut from the university budgets and 14,000 jobs to be cut, despite 20,000 more university places being announced – less staff, less money…. but more students – I’m no mathematician but something doesn’t add up. The examples of a fightback in the form university occupations at Sussex, London Met, Westminster, and the London College of Communications, and proposed strikes at Leeds are encouraging, but workers in the secondary and primary sectors need to wake up.
Quantification and the growing meddling in our working lives, both from micromanagers and bureaucrats is just one problem we face. The march of Ofsted, as well as the growth of academies and the increasing involvement of private investors in schools should be of grave concern to us all. Workers in schools need to stand in solidarity with the counterparts in universities, and to learn from their experiences. The attacks facing higher education at the minute are unlikely to stop there, and workers in schools need to be ready to fight back.

By a member of the London Education Workers Group

Further reading:
NUT’s campaign against ‘Licence to Teach’ – http://www.nut.org.uk/notolicencetopractise

* – the License to Teach plans have been dropped since the author wrote this piece

Did an American Mine Sink South Korean Ship?
May 31, 2010, 2:56 am
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New America Media, News Analysis, Yoichi Shimatsu, Posted: May 27, 2010

Did an American Mine Sink South Korean Ship?

Did an American Mine Sink South Korean Ship?

BEIJING – South Korean Prime Minister Lee Myung-bak has claimed “overwhelming evidence” that a North Korean torpedo sank the corvette Cheonan on March 26, killing 46 sailors. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that there’s “overwhelming evidence” in favor of the theory that North Korea sank the South Korean Navy warship Cheonan. But the articles of proof presented so far by military investigators to an official inquiry board have been scanty and inconsistent.

There’s yet another possibility, that a U.S. rising mine sank the Cheonan in a friendly-fire accident.

In the recent U.S.-China strategic talks in Shanghai and Beijing, the Chinese side dismissed the official scenario presented by the Americans and their South Korean allies as not credible. This conclusion was based on an independent technical assessment by the Chinese military, according to a Beijing-based military affairs consultant to the People Liberation Army.

Hardly any of the relevant facts that counter the official verdict have made headline news in either South Korea or its senior ally, the United States.

The first telltale sign of an official smokescreen involves the location of the Choenan sinking – Byeongnyeong Island (pronounced Pyongnang) in the Yellow Sea. On the westernmost fringe of South Korean territory, the island is dominated by a joint U.S.-Korean base for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations. The sea channel between Byeongnyeong and the North Korean coast is narrow enough for both sides to be in artillery range of each other.

Anti-sub warfare is based on sonar and acoustic detection of underwater craft. Since civilian traffic is not routed through the channel, the noiseless conditions are near-perfect for picking up the slightest agitation, for example from a torpedo and any submarine that might fire it.

North Korea admits it does not possess an underwater craft stealthy enough to slip past the advanced sonar and audio arrays around Byeongnyeong Island, explained North Korean intelligence analyst Kim Myong Chol in a news release. “The sinking took place not in North Korean waters but well inside tightly guarded South Korean waters, where a slow-moving North Korean submarine would have great difficulty operating covertly and safely, unless it was equipped with AIP (air-independent propulsion) technology.”

The Cheonan sinking occurred in the aftermath of the March 11-18 Foal Eagle Exercise, which included anti-submarine maneuvers by a joint U.S.-South Korean squadron of five missile ships. A mystery surrounds the continued presence of the U.S. missile cruisers for more than eight days after the ASW exercise ended.

Only one reporter, Joohee Cho of ABC News, picked up the key fact that the Foal Eagle flotilla curiously included the USNS Salvor, a diving-support ship with a crew of 12 Navy divers. The lack of any minesweepers during the exercise leaves only one possibility: the Salvor was laying bottom mines.

Ever since an American cruiser was damaged by one of Saddam Hussein’s rising mines, also known as bottom mines, in the Iraq War, the U.S. Navy has pushed a crash program to develop a new generation of mines. The U.S. Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command has also been focused on developing counterparts to the fearsome Chinese naval “assassin’s mace,” which is propelled by a rocket engine.

A rising mine, which is effective only in shallow waters, rests atop a small platform on the sea floor under a camouflage of sand and gravel. Its detection system uses acoustics and magnetic readings to pick up enemy ships and submarines. When activated, jets of compressed air or solid-fuel rockets lift the bomb, which self-guides toward the magnetic center of the target. The blast rips the keel, splitting the ship or submarine into two neat pieces, just as was done to the RKOS Cheonan.

A lateral-fired torpedo, in contrast, “holes” the target’s hull, tilting the vessel in the classic war movie manner. The South Korean government displayed to the press the intact propeller shaft of a torpedo that supposedly struck the Cheonan. Since torpedoes travel between 40-50 knots per hour (which is faster than collision tests for cars), a drive shaft would crumble upon impacting the hull and its bearing and struts would be shattered or bent by the high-powered blast.

The initial South Korean review stated that the explosive was gunpowder, which would conform to North Korea’s crude munitions. This claim was later overturned by the inquiry board, which found the chemical residues to be similar to German advanced explosives. Due to sanctions against Pyongyang and its few allies, it is hardly credible that North Korea could obtain NATO-grade ordnance.

Thus, the mystery centers on the USNS Salvor, which happened to be yet right near Byeongyang Island at the time of the Cheonan sinking and far from its home base, Pearl Harbor. The inquiry board in Seoul has not questioned the officers and divers of the Salvor, which oddly is not under the command of the 7th Fleet but controlled by the innocuous-sounding Military Sealift Command. Diving-support ships like the Salvor are closely connected with the Office of Naval Intelligence since their duties include secret operations such as retrieving weapons from sunken foreign ships, scouting harbor channels and laying mines, as when the Salvor trained Royal Thai Marine divers in mine-laying in the Gulf of Thailand in 2006, for example.

The Salvor’s presence points to an inadvertent release of a rising mine, perhaps because its activation system was not switched off. A human error or technical glitch is very much within the realm of possibility due to the swift current and strong tides that race through the Byeongnyeong Channel. The arduous task of mooring the launch platforms to the sea floor allows the divers precious little time for double-checking the electronic systems.

If indeed it was an American rising mine that sank the Cheonan, it would constitute a friendly-fire accident. That in itself is not grounds for a criminal investigation against the presidential office and, at worst, amounts only to negligence by the military. However, any attempt to falsify evidence and engage in a media cover-up for political purposes constitutes tampering, fraud, perjury and possibly treason.

Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times, is an environmental consultant and a commentator on Asian affairs for CCTV-9 Dialogue.

Freedom Flotilla to Hold Memorial Service for US Sailors Slain by Israel in 1967
May 31, 2010, 1:43 am
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Freedom Flotilla to Hold Memorial Service for US Sailors Slain by Israel in 1967
U.S.S. Liberty Survivor Joe Meadors to Honor Slain Shipmates

On  Sunday, May 30, 2010, participants in the international flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip will hold a memorial service at sea to commemorate the 34 Americans killed and 173 injured in Israel’s 1967 attack on the U.S.S. Liberty.

Joe Meadors, a signalman on the Navy surveillance ship 43 years ago and a member of the Free Palestine Movement delegation to the flotilla, will lead the ceremony in honor of his crewmates. The service will be held aboard the Sfendoni, a ship contributed to the Freedom Flotilla by the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza. It is scheduled to be held in international waters about 30 miles off the coast of Gaza, near the site of the deadly incident.

Mr. Meadors believes that while the facts of that day in 1967 may never be fully acknowledged, the men who died should not be forgotten. “I am sailing again in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he said, “to remember the brave heroes from the Liberty and the forgotten 1.5 million people trapped in Gaza.”

Among the passengers joining Mr. Meadors will be Ambassador Edward L. Peck, former State Department Chief of Mission in Iraq and Mauritania, Deputy Director of the Cabinet Task Force on Terrorism at the Reagan White House, and State Department Liaison Officer to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. Explaining his presence on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Amb. Peck stated that, “I have been on several trips to the Middle East to promote a resolution but I wanted to do something tangible instead of just talking.”

Gaza has been under an Israeli-led blockade since 2006. Amnesty International, in its latest Annual Human Rights Report (May 26, 2010) stated that Israel’s siege on Gaza has “deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages have left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law.”

The Freedom Flotilla carries 10,000 tons of relief and developmental aid to Gaza. These supplies are being delivered by a coalition of international civil society and human rights organizations directly to the people of Gaza, using only international waters and the coastal waters immediately off of Gaza for passage. The flotilla is expected to arrive in Gaza late Monday morning.


British Petroleum and The Legacy of Operation Ajax ( The CIA overthrow of democracy in Iran in 1953 )


Iran has always played a pivotal role in world politics. It was once a world-class empire, it is strategically located at a crossroad between Europe, the Near East, and Asia, and it has the world’s second largest petroleum reserves. In the 18th and 19th Century, it was the battleground between imperial rivals Russia and Britain in what came to be known as “The Great Game”. In both World Wars, Iran held a strategic position and was pivotal to the Allies’ victory. In 1951, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) controlled Iranian petroleum production. Little of the company’s profits went to Iran and the AIOC’s Iranian workers were severely mistreated and underpaid. On April 30, 1951, everything changed. The Iranian parliament, with the support of Prime Minister Mossadeq, voted to nationalize Iran’s oil. The following years would change Iran, America, and the world forever.
In Stephen Kinzer’s book All the Shah’s Men, the author prefaces the book with the discourse of an Iranian woman,

‘Why did you Americans do that terrible thing?’ she cried out. ‘We always loved America. To us, America was the great country, the perfect country, the country that helped us while other countries exploited us. But after that moment, no one in Iran ever trusted the United States again. I can tell you for sure that if you had not done that thing, you would never have had the problem of hostages being taken in your embassy in Tehran. All your trouble started in 1953. Why, why did you do it?’

This woman’s statement gives us a glimpse of Iranian sentiment regarding American involvement in the 1953 Coup, codenamed Operation Ajax; an event that to this day few Americans know about. Are her statements accurate? Did the United States really destroy a democracy? Examining her claim will show that her views hold some truth, and that her sentiments reflect a deep resentment among Iranians. This examination will summarize the Iranian-American interactions that culminated in Operation Ajax, examine the effects of the 1953 Coup, and determine that the Coup was detrimental to Iranian-American relations; specifically, the Coup hurt American credibility, resulted in anti-American sentiment, and directly led to the Hostage Crisis of 1979.

A Brief Look at the 1953 Coup

In 1950, Iran’s economy was in a state of depression. Contrarily, the flourishing Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was pumping oil from Iranian soil with the help of Iranian workers, yet it was the United Kingdom who benefited the most. The company paid the British government more in income taxes than it paid Iran in royalties. According to Pollack, “[The AIOC] lied and manipulated its books to underpay the Iranian government to the tune of billions of dollars…violated the terms of the 1933 concession…paid [workers] 50 cents per day…[while workers had] no vacation, no sick leave, and no disability compensation.” The anger and resentment over the AIOC, as well as Mohammad Reza Shah’s attempts to centralize authority in his hands led to the establishment of the National Front.

The National Front’s confrontations with the Shah, and later the British government, led to the American involvement in Iran that culminated in the events of August 1953. There were two different presidential administrations in America during the time period of the National Front, and while these administrations held the same ideology, they undertook different policies towards Iran. The Truman administration’s black-and-white image of the Cold War led to its support of the National Front and Mossadeq’s efforts. He was worried that British demands would lead to the Iranians turning to the Communists for help. Furthermore, Truman recognized that the National Front was a nationalist movement, a not a Communist movement. This mentality led to closer relations between Iran and the United States during this period of the Nationalization Crisis, including defensive pacts, monetary aid, and more pressure American on the British government to compromise with the Iranians.
In 1950, ARAMCO, an American oil conglomeration, agreed to a 50-50 profit split between it and the Saudi government. At this point, the Iranian parliament, known was the Majles, attempted to workout a compromise with the British. The British refused. This refusal, coupled with ARAMCO’s deal, eliminated any moderate solution and led to the drive for nationalization, resulting in the Majles’s nationalization legislation, which was passed on April 30, 1951.
The British were furious. Their government plotted attacks as well as a coup attempt in Iran, but the Americans once again stepped in supporting the Iranian cause, as fears grew that a British invasion would lead to a similar Russian invasion. Yet, regardless of America’s pro-nationalist stance, Mossadeq denounced any American intervention in Iranian affairs.

Britain then attempted to take the nationalization issue to the United Nations. Mossadeq’s speech to the world community in defense of his actions was compelling and he won the admiration of the American people and the United Nations. The United Nations declared then that the nationalization crisis was an internal issue. This was one of Mossadeq’s greatest victories. Yet the British felt humiliated and were still unwilling to compromise.

At this point, an internal power struggle in Iran led to Mossadeq’s de facto control of the government, and the Shah’s defeat and escape to Rome. It was now that the British attempted a compromise, but Mossadeq was unwilling, making him seem stubborn, particularly in the eyes of newly elected President Eisenhower.

One of the turning points of this conflict came with Eisenhower’s inauguration as President of the United States. Mossadeq thought that Eisenhower would be even more sympathetic to his cause, but he was mistaken. Eisenhower also took a black-and-white approach to the Cold War, much like Truman, but the discrepancy can best be summarized by the phrase, “you’re either with us, or against us.” As far as John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State (whose brother, Allen Dulles was the head of the Central Intelligence Agency) and President Eisenhower were concerned, Mossadeq was against them. Initially, Eisenhower was sympathetic to Mossadeq, but Secretary Dulles convinced him otherwise. The issue was exacerbated by Mossadeq’s threat to side with the Soviets if the British-Iranian dispute were not resolved.

On August 15, 1953, the CIA, operating from the American Embassy in Tehran, underwent its first operation: Operation Ajax. The undertaking sought to depose Mossadeq and re-install the Shah as the autocratic leader of Iran’s government. Through the dispersion of money and the gathering of crowds, the operation was successful, and Mossadeq was defeated.

The Myth of the 1953 Coup

“At a time when America is telling the world its aims are to bring democracy to the whole plant, the Mossadeq era proves all of America’s protestations to be a long lie.” – An Iranian Blogger

Many Iranians denounce America’s involvement in the 1953 Coup, but did the event destroy a democracy and is the United States to blame?

First, it is important to note that Mossadeq had a near autocracy during his rule. After the deposition of the Shah, Mossadeq was given near-autocratic powers by the Iranian Majles. Second, the United States had previously made efforts to help the Iranians, but Mossadeq seemed unwilling to reciprocate. Finally, it was Iranians who carried out the Coup with CIA support; it was not an exclusively American undertaking; there was then a great deal of disaffection with Mossadeq in Iran, particularly among Iran’s political elite. In terms of CIA involvement, the Americans only used $100,000 and British intelligence to engineer the Coup.

Mossadeq was certainly not a perfect leader. He possessed many character flaws that hurt his cause. His antics may have been received with favor in Iran, but internationally, they made him a spectacle and a laughing stock. Mossadeq also became increasingly isolated and trusted no one, particularly his fellow Iranians. This led to his denouncement of those who voiced any opposition to his plan as traitors and British conspirators, thereby deepening his opposition base. Mossadeq was also uncompromising; he was unwilling to broker a 50-50 deal with the British, a deal which Truman appealed to Mossadeq to accept. His inflexibility particularly after this incident led Eisenhower and his administration to believe that the only solution to the Mossadeq situation was to depose Mossadeq and place a more easily influenced leader in Iran.

While there is a great deal of evidence and claims that the Coup was not solely fueled by the CIA, the organization did act as a catalyst and was responsible for placing the Shah in power after Mossadeq’s fall. Keddie states that “the coup could not have succeeded without significant internal disaffection or indifference, but without outside aid it would not have occurred.” The CIA unified Mossadeq’s opposition and armed them with money and information, allowing the Coup to take shape. As opposed to restoring power to the Iranian parliament after the Coup, the CIA supported a more malleable figure: the Shah, thus guaranteeing that Iran would become an authoritarian state. This later came to be seen as evidence that America did not want democracy for the Middle East, but rather wanted to control the region.
Regardless of the truths and myths of the Coup, the sentiments of the Iranian people determined the event’s impact on Iranian-American relations. Neither the realities nor the actualities of the events of August 1953 matter when dealing with such an emotional issue. While many argue that it was not solely the actions of the CIA that led to Mossadeq’s toppling, the myth and political folklore created from the event tell a different tale. Many Iranians regard Mossadeq as “an uncorrupted modernizer and democrat who defied the imperialists.” Iranians also conclude that Iran would be a democracy today were it not for the events of 1953. While the idea seems far-fetched, as Mossadeq was a near autocrat during his rule, he was still democratically elected and his powers were derived from the Iranian parliament. The emotional nature of the incident led to the status of Mossadeq as a martyr and a symbol of American treachery. Among the burgeoning Iranian blogs, many place pictures of Mossadeq without any text on significant dates associated with the popular leader as a show of morning over a lost opportunity. The caption of one blogger read, “In honor of Dr, Mossadeq, a man who never betrayed his own people…”

The Legacy of the Coup

“…Operation Ajax has left a haunting and terrible legacy.” – Stephen Kinzer

The Coup has had many repercussions on American-Iranian relations, reaching from anti-American ideological positions to historical occurrences, such as the Hostage Crisis.
The ideological products of the 1953 Coup include anti-Americanism and an obsession with foreign intervention in Iran. The ideologies did appear before the Coup, but they were strongly reinforced and solidified by the events of August 1953.
First, the anti-Americanism found in the Iranian Revolution and during the Shah’s time can be attributed to the actions of the CIA and the Coup’s placement of the Shah as despot of Iran. While it is important to acknowledge that the British were involved in the Coup, not only did the Iranians think very little of the British, but also the United States was “seen as a betrayer and not just an old enemy.” Prior to the Coup, the United States was very popular in Iran. But because the Americans were responsible for the Shah’s dictatorship and for supporting him throughout his reign, the blame for the Shah’s actions fell on America. The Shah thereby became a symbol of America’s intervention in Iranian affairs. The conspiracy theories that Iranians had perpetuated turned out to have truth behind them: “…the United States did help to overthrow Mossadeq, and it was culpable in the establishment of the despotism of Mohammad Reza Shah that succeeded him.” The event led to a lot speculation about how Iran would have been without Mossadeq’s removal. It became commonplace for Iranians to claim that were it not for the 1953 Coup perpetrated by the Americans, Iran would be a flourishing democracy, an economic powerhouse, and even an American ally. Furthermore, the Shah’s atrocious repression of any opposition, as well as his corruption are blamed largely on the United States. The Shah’s actions were so horrific that in 1976, Amnesty International stated “no country in the world has a worse record in human rights than Iran.” In 1977, Jimmy Carter came to Iran supported the Shah, proclaiming that Iran is “an island of tranquility in a sea of turbulence.” America’s support of the Shah regardless of his actions was a sore point that Iranians did not forget.
Second, the Iranian focus on imperialist intervention can be attributed to Mossadeq’s obsession with foreign involvement in Iranian affairs. The Coup proved the presence of foreign collusion in Iran, an obsession that would blind politicians and Iranians from the political and economic woes of Iran. The paranoia it created acted as a unifying force against the meddling foreigners, particularly the US and Britain. While Iranians had previously held such ideas, the Coup confirmed those notions. Furthermore, the events of 1953 taught Iranians that taking an extreme position would be the most successful method of action. Even though Mossadeq’s extreme position led to his downfall, he achieved the status of a martyr, being even more popular after his downfall than before. Khomeini adopted this technique during the Revolution of 1978-79.

The historical products of the 1953 Coup are key to Iranian-American relations. Much of the anti-American and anti-Western activities carried out by Iranians before and after the Revolution can be attributed to what is seen as America’s act of betrayal. Specifically, the 1953 Coup is responsible for the Hostage Crisis. The hostage-takers’ capture of the American Embassy in Tehran was an attempt to stop history from repeating itself, as the 1953 Coup’s base of operations was the American Embassy. The Iranian students who stormed the Embassy did not want to be subject to further actions against their best interest. Massoumeh Ebtekar, the spokesperson for the hostage takers said, “In the back of everybody’s mind hung the suspicion that, with the admission of the Shah to the United States, the countdown for another coup d’état had begun. Such was to be our fate again, we were convinced, and it was to be irreversible. We now had to reverse the irreversible.” The students who stormed the embassy allegedly had copies of the memoirs of Kermit Roosevelt’s (a key operative of the Coup) called Countercoup during the time of the hostage-taking. Furthermore, the students also believed that the hostages could be held as collateral to insure that the Americans would not engage in another coup attempt. The Coup’s creation of the Hostage Crisis showed the lasting impacts of August 1953.
Operation Ajax initiated a shockwave that changed the Iranian landscape greatly. The deeply rooted anti-American sentiment of the past and of the present is fueled by the 1953 Coup, and the Hostage Crisis was a direct attempt to stop a repeat of Operation Ajax. The installment of the pro-American Shah following the Coup may have seemed to create stability in the Middle East, but in the long run, a deep-rooted distrust of Americans was created; a distrust that is proving hard to overcome.


“Operation Ajax taught tyrants and aspiring tyrants there that the world’s most powerful governments were willing to tolerate limitless oppression as long as oppressive regimes were friendly to the West and Western oil companies. That helped tilt the political balance in a vast region away from freedom and toward dictatorship” – Stephen Kinzer

In All the Shah’s Men, Stephen Kinzer gave a review of what a handful of American historians said regarding the Coup. Mark Gasiorowksi said, “U.S. complicity in [the Coup] figured prominently…in the anti-American character of 1978-79 revolution, and in the many anti-American incidents that emanated from Iran after the revolution, including…the embassy hostage crisis.” Mary Ann Heiss stated that the Coup showed the United States’ lack of interest in what is best for Iranians. Keddie stated, “…However exaggerated and paranoid some charges by Iranians may be, suspiciousness and hostility have their roots in real and important occurrences.”
Indeed, the American deposition of one of Iran’s most popular figures, and Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1951 (beating out the likes of Winston Churchill, President Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower), provides evidence of the self-advancing position of the United States and the disinclination towards policies that would benefit the people of the world.
It is important to take some lessons from the 1953 Coup. For one, foreign intervention in internal affairs rarely produces positive effects; it destroys the credibility of foreign governments and further pushes a country into isolation. A regional or global hegemony must be mindful of the people’s perceptions of its actions. What one government may declare as the only rational option, others may consider a gross injustice.


BP, BP Statistical Review of World Energy. (2005, June), 8.

Stephen Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men (Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, 2003), ix.

Nikki R. Keddie, Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003), 123-124.

Kenneth M. Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America (New York: Random House, 2004), 52.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 53.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 55.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 56.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 57.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 59.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 63.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 63-64.

Nasrin Alavi, We Are Iran (New York: Soft Skull Press, 2005), 37.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 68-69.

James L. Gelvin, The Modern Middle East: A History (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 279.

Moyara de Moraes Ruehsen, “Operation ‘Ajax’ Revisited,” Middle Eastern Studies 29, no. 3 (1993): 8-9.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 63.

Keddie, Modern Iran, 130.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 69.

Alavi, We Are Iran, 35.

Alavi, We Are Iran, 36-37.

Mostafa T. Zahrani, “The coup that changed the Middle East: Mossadeq v. the CIA in retrospect,” World Policy Journal 19, no. 2 (2002): 1.

Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men, 215.

Keddie, Modern Iran, 131.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 68-69.

Gelvin, The Modern Middle East, 281.

Gelvin, The Modern Middle East, 282.

Alavi, We Are Iran, 40.

Alavi, We Are Iran, 36.

Pollack, The Persian Puzzle, 70.

Zahrani, “The coup that changed the Middle East,” 4.

Gelvin, The Modern Middle East, 280.

Zahrani, “The coup that changed the Middle East,” 4.

“How to Change a Regime in 30 Days,” The Economist, August 14, 2003, 1.

Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men, 204.

Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men, 213.

Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men, 214.

Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men, 214.

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This Memorial Day, remember Pat Tillman

Pat Tillman was a professional football player with the Arizona Cardinals.

In response to the September 11, 2001 incident, he passed up a $3.6 million contract and joined the Army. His sacrifice became made him a symbol of patriotism and a poster child for Army recruiters.

Pat Tillman came to his senses and turned against the wars. Through friends and family, he made contact with anti-war icon Noam Chomsky.

Perhaps Tillman was ready to make a public statement of opposition to the wars, which would have been a public relations catastrophe for the Army. We will never know. Perhaps the Army knew he was going to go public with a statement of opposition. We will never know.

Pat Tillman took three bullets through the head on April 22, 2004. He was shot at close range by his own men while on patrol in Afghanistan.

A massive cover up followed, in which the public was told that Tillman had been killed by hostile fire. He was awarded the Silver star. The conspiracy to deceive Tillman’s grieving family and the public went to the highest levels of the Army, and centered on one Lt. General Stanley McChrystal.

Eventually, the fraud was exposed, and a half-hearted congressional investigation followed.

Pat Tillman is still dead. His mother, Mary Tillman, still grieves. Lt. General Stanley McChrystal was promoted to supreme commander of the Afghan theater.