Citizenship Day

It was a time of celebration. After days of drenching winter rain, we were now soaked in sunlight. Following years of trying and being cryptically rebuffed by authorities, my friend Dave and his family had been sworn in as citizens of the United States.

We were in Dave's apartment, a few doors down from mine. It was 1970 and the tenement building was in Berkeley California. Dave and I worked in the same restaurant. There, co-workers teased me about my goofy accent. I had recently moved there from North Dakota and retained a distinctively regional manner of speech. Dave – whose full name was Davood – had migrated with his family from Iran 17 years earlier. Even though his first language was Farsi, his accent was so minimal as to be rarely noticed.

Dave had lived in Berkeley since he was three. He and I enjoyed similar types of music and similar libations. We played Jefferson Airplane records, snacked and had a couple of beers. Dave began to relax. I realized that I had never seen him truly at ease. It dawned on me that he always seemed very wary. Dave said, “I'm going to tell you something now that I could never dare to tell you before I became a citizen.”

As he spoke, the warmth seemed to drain out of the sunlight.

Dave told me that agents of Savak – the dreaded secret agents of the Shah of Iran – and their informants were imbedded among Berkeley's large immigrant Iranian minority.

Savak had influence with U.S. immigration authorities. If an Iranian without U.S. citizenship said something negative about the Shah's government and Savak knew of it, they could request deportation of the individual and American authorities would comply.

According to Dave, such a deported person would spend his or her last hours on a plane to Tehran. They would be met by Savak agents, taken to a secluded room, shot in the head and their body thrown down a garbage chute to be disposed of in an unmarked grave.

He went on to voice his belief that Savak had maneuvered for years to block his family's citizenship, probably for reasons related to controlling people through fear.

Shaking off the chill I said, “Dave, I'm very happy for you and relieved that you and your family are out of danger. “

Dave replied, “I'm glad to now be a citizen of the United States. Many people who were born here take that for granted, but I sure don't. However, if the Shah had not been put into power by the United States and its allies, I would be content to be living in a democratic Iran.”

 

 

I lost touch with Dave when I moved to Alaska. Recent revelations by our government revived my memories of that day.

In 2013 the CIA of the United States finally admitted publicly to what had been discussed for decades: they (the CIA) had engineered an overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran, to be replaced by a despot.[1] The Prime Minister of that government was named Mohammed Mosaddeq. The coup is considered to have begun on August 19, 1953.

Previously redacted accounts state that the military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his cabinet was carried out by the United States and Britain. The CIA and MI6 acted as instruments of U.S. and British foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government. Furthermore, we now know the interests of the oil company presently called British Petroleum (BP) was being served. It is also believed that the coup contributed to continuing low prices of gasoline in the United States.

The coup d'état is known as the 28 Mordad coup because August 19 appears as 28 Mordad in the Iranian calendar. Kermit Roosevelt Jr.[2], grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, is named as the CIA agent in charge.

This year (2015) marks 37 years since the Shah of Iran was overthrown by a revolution in 1979. A dictatorial constitutional monarch was replaced by an authoritarian theocracy. Many of us remember that time as if it were yesterday because good American diplomats, their employees and families were held hostage by the revolutionaries.

In the year 1979, 26 years had gone by since the Mordad coup. No doubt, Iranians of that time remembered the coup as if it were yesterday. Today, as I write, my country wrestles with the question of whether to accept our Government's nuclear deal with Iran.

Many of those who oppose the nuclear deal also opposed Ronald Reagan's re-establishment of cordial relations with Russia and its General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. The same people are currently likely to consider Reagan to be the greatest president the US ever had.

History reminds us that Ronald Reagan was caught up in a scandal that almost led to his impeachment when it became public that his government conducted covert arms sales to Iranians (the Iran-Contra Affair).

When analysts suggest that actions of the United States government might have contributed to the ill-will of Muslim extremists, there are those who vehemently deny this assertion. Strangely, those are often the same people who say that they love their country, but fear their government. It seems contradictory that many who fear their government would be so unwilling to concede that our government has a history of meddling in the affairs of other nations. Should we wonder that such intrigues don't have consequences?

Today, Iran has a young population (60% are under age 30), which generally admires the United States and is very wary of their despotic government. There are some, no doubt, who believe that makes Iran ripe for another US-sponsored coup. Good luck with that. Everything has a cause and a consequence and such an action today could have many unintended dire consequences tomorrow.

Dave would be about 66 today. I wonder if he is still alive and (as I do) still listens to the Jefferson Airplane, as we did that long-ago day when he became a citizen of our great country and threw off the shackles of fear. This is one of millions of stories of individuals whose lives are altered by the constant play of geopolitics.

 

[1]Sources include wikipedia and cross-checks. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Iranian_coup_d'%C3%A9tat. Screenshot available upon request.

[2]The first Kermit Roosevelt was Theodore Roosevelt's son. While stationed in the Army at Fort Richardson, near Anchorage Alaska in 1943, he committed suicide and is buried at the Military Cemetery there. Kermit Jr. is his son. Kermit II his grandson and Kermit III his great-grandson.