Fertilizing the Green in Iran: Techniques of the Coup d’Etat

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Bad news for “liberty minded” LRC readers interested in lucrative positions “promoting democracy” in Iran: the one year USAID $20 million offer to fund organizations working to overthrow the Iranian government expired on June 30, 2009. There is no word on whether this generous grant proposal will be extended or whether funding over the past year has done the trick. As the “Green Revolution” has sadly browned, it remains unclear whether the US government will add more fertilizer and if so whether this will be overt, via the USAID or NED, or covert, via the CIA, which may or may not have burned through the $400 million that then-President Bush allocated it to foment a coup d’etat against the Iranian regime back in 2007. Obama seems to have adopted his own “don’t ask don’t tell” policy when it comes to the issue of whether he has annulled President Bush’s intelligence finding authorizing the CIA to foment a coup d’etat against the Iranian government. The failure to unequivocally state to the American people and the world that this “finding” has been cancelled renders his hypnotically sweet claims of objectivity and non-intervention suspect in the extreme.

But as they say, actions speak louder than words: the Obama administration has announced that it will “rebrand” its existing “democratization” efforts in Iran under the auspices of an impressive-sounding (in a PNAC kind of way) Near Eastern Regional Democracy Initiative, which is said to pursue the same goals (coup d’etat) without naming country names and get a handsome funding boost in the process. That will do it! If it doesn’t, Henry Kissinger tells us, “we may conclude that we must work for regime change in Iran from the outside. But if I understand the president correctly, he doesn’t want to do this as a visible intervention in the current crisis.”

One ponders, lasciviously, the kinds of contracts that will be granted to firms such as Hill & Knowlton and Rock Creek Creative as they continue to come up with such compelling stories as babies pulled from incubators, as well as the later and very advanced “Pora (It’s Time)” and “Otpor (Resistance)” — and who can forget “Gotov Je (He’s Finished)” in Serbia. No word on which Washington PR firm coined the similarly clever (for English speakers) “Where is my vote?” which curiously appeared in slickly-produced English posters hours before “spontaneous” demonstrations broke out in Iran over the “disputed” presidential vote on June 12.

It won’t be an easy sell, sorry to say. Given the opportunity to present a sober list of specific polling violations, opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi punted: rather than the kind of detailed bill of particulars outlining specific polling-station examples of election fraud (such as this writer, a long-time election observer, is accustomed to seeing in genuine complaints) he instead submitted a strange two page general complaint about “the televised debates, the incumbent’s access to state-owned transportation on the campaign trail and use of government-controlled media to promote his candidacy.” As the opposition had accredited observers in virtually each polling station, such detailed complaints should have been forthcoming. He shortly thereafter salaciously promised to produce “secret documents” proving that the election was stolen, but like a cut-rate July 4th sparkler, his bombshell fizzled: the best he could come up with from his special commission appointed exclusively from his supporters was that — gasp — Ahmadinejad used the bully-pulpit of incumbency to project him to electoral victory. Mousavi is right in this, though: As Lew Rockwell points out, Ahmadinejad blatantly used a Keynesian “stimulus” sugar daddy technique that won him many voters among the non-urban, non-elite population which actually turned out en masse to vote for him (good thing we don’t do that in the US!). Also of course, there is the shoe leather factor: as Mousavi held court in the salons of North Tehran’s urban intellectuals and nouveaux riches, the incumbent hit the campaign trail hard in the less glittery Peorias of Iran while cleaning the soporific Mousavi’s clock in a first-ever televised debate on Iranian television.

Perhaps here I should make brief mention of some facts and hyperbole about this whole process.

First and foremost there is the strawman argument that those questioning the US and British media-industrial-complex conclusions about the Iranian elections and US involvement in the “Green Revolution” are apologists for the incumbent president. With the exception of very few writers on the political left, who are drawn to Ahmadinejad ‘s Chavez-like economic populism, this argument does not hold up to scrutiny. I would certainly be interested in seeing serious evidence of this assertion beyond the attempt at hurling it as a slime bomb. Is it so hard to believe that some of us would never want to live under that kind of regime but are still interested in getting to the truth of what actually happened?

Second, there is the other strawman argument that those who point out the US footprints on the Green Revolution are suggesting that each and every protester on the streets of Tehran was in the pay of the CIA. Of course, this artificially high burden of proof of Western involvement was never demanded when claims of US complicity in the Rose Revolution, Orange Revolution, Cedar Revolution, Tulip Revolution, and so on were put forth. These tried and tested techniques of coup d’etat never required such a profound level of conspiracy. As British writer John Laughland points out in his extensive study of these color revolutions:

“This constantly repeated myth of popular rebellion against a dictatorial government is popular on both the Left and the Right of the political spectrum. Previously, the myth of revolution was obviously the preserve of the Left. But when the violent putsch occurred in Kygyrzstan, The Times enthused about how the scenes in Bishkek reminded him of Eisenstein films about the Bolshevik revolution, The Daily Telegraph extolled the ‘power to the people’, and the Financial Times used a well-known Maoist metaphor when it praised Kyrgyzstan’s ‘long march to freedom.’

One of the key elements behind this myth is obviously that ‘the people’ are behind the events, and that they are spontaneous. In fact, of course, they are often very highly organised operations, often deliberately staged for the media, and usually funded and controlled by transnational networks of so-called non-governmental organisations which are in turn instruments of Western power.

This has objectively been shown to be true in the case of Iran, with both extensive evidence of US covert and overt attempts to foment “regime change” there. Certainly there are those in the streets who demonstrate for what they believe to be “freedom” and “democracy.” That has always been the case in such “color revolutions”: no one is suggesting that every last Orange Ukrainian was in the pay of George Tenet or George Soros. Laughland also covers this when he writes:

It was, of course, Lenin who developed the organisational structure for overthrowing a regime which we now know as a political party. He differed from Marx in that he did not think that historical change was the result of ineluctable anonymous forces, but that it had to be worked for.

The idea that all those votes could not be counted in three hours has been blown out of the water by experienced election observers — and this writer has personally seen such rapid ballot counting in practice many times — so there is no need to go there.

Others claim that the US could never be behind a movement to push forward a character like Mousavi because he is hardly pro-American. How quickly we forget that this was precisely the argument used to push forth Vojislav Koštunica when the smoke cleared from the US-engineered coup in Serbia: he is a nationalist who will not bow to American pressure. Shortly thereafter Serbia was firmly ensconced in the firmament of US-allied “Western Democracies” and not too long thereafter was dutifully providing mercenaries for the empire.

But no, it is claimed, Ahmadenijad is the preferred candidate of the neo-cons because the “reformer” Mousavi would be more difficult to demonize, thereby removing obstacles to peaceful negotiation of differences. How quickly we forget the demonization of Iran under the previous “reform” government of Khatami and the passage of such “regime change” legislation in the US Congress as the “Iran Freedom and Democracy Support Act” thereunder.

So, as the green of the revolution turns brown, one is left to ponder whether the Kissinger prediction of a turn to more “active measures” to overthrow the Iranian regime is in the cards or whether President Obama will continue talking out of both sides of his mouth, claiming that reports of US actions against Iran are absurd while authorizing millions more to be spent “building democracy,” i.e. coup d’etat, in Iran.

Whatever the claims, this has all been done before with varying degrees of success. It remains to be seen the outcome this time. There are honest people on both sides of this complex issue and I will not disparage any of them. But at the least we should stop fooling ourselves that this time, finally, the “people power” is really on the march.

10:45 pm on July 7, 2009