This is the last of the series. I’ll start by quoting some of the rhetoric political leaders have used to stir up outrage against those they label enemies, and drum up support for wars. Then, let’s look at what those leaders really do—what deals they make with the devil.
The Great Satan
Shortly after the Islamic Republic was established, Ayatollah Khomeini began to refer to the United States as “the Great Satan.” Prof. Hamid Dabashi writes that this metaphor has been “a cornerstone of the ruling ideology” ever since. The USSR and Britain were, at times, “the Lesser Satan.”
Khomeini called Israel an “enemy of Islam” and the “Little Satan.” Yet despite this bombast, during the 1981-1983 Iraq War, Iran bought an estimated $500 million in arms from Israel—mostly paid for by oil delivered to Israel. Prof. Mark Phythian tells us that this trade was engineered by the Reagan administration, which had decided to allow Israel to channel United States arms to Iran because they wanted to prevent an easy and early Iraqi victory. As Henry Kissinger said, “It’s a pity both sides can’t lose.”
Journalist John Bulloch reports that, regardless of all the mullahs’ denunciation of Israel, there were “never less than one hundred Israeli advisers and technicians in Iran at any time throughout the war, living in a carefully guarded and secluded camp just north of Tehran, where they remained even after the ceasefire.”
The War on Terror
On September 11, 2001, a group of 19 men hijacked planes to strike United States targets. Fifteen of these men were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, and one each from Egypt and Lebanon. The United States response immediately after the attack? Almost all air traffic was grounded, except for planes flying Saudi citizens home—many of them from the bin Laden family. Why?
The Bush family was very close to the Saudis. President Bush and a number of his former cabinet officers were participating in the “Carlyle Group, a giant private equity firm heavily funded by Saudi billionaires – including the Saudi family of Osama bin Laden…in the end, nearly $1.5bn made its way from the Saudis to individuals and institutions tied to the extended family of Bush cabinet officials and associates.”
On October 7, less than a month later, the United States invaded Afghanistan, which had never done us any harm. Initially, the reason given was to capture Osama bin Laden—who was not, in fact, in Afghanistan. On November 17, our government added another rationale. First Lady Laura Bush gave the weekly address normally given by her husband, “to kick off a worldwide effort to focus on the brutality against women and children by the Al Qaeda terrorist network and the regime it supports in Afghanistan, the Taliban.”
Forgotten in the media uproar was the fact that our government had enticed the USSR to invade Afghanistan and then funded the fundamentalist mujaheddin to fight the Soviets. The mujaheddin morphed into the Taliban. (See my post of 8/18/2021 for details.)
Twenty years later, a handful of Afghan women have received a good education and found good jobs—at the price of 243,000 dead and many more disabled, malnourished, and impoverished. Unexploded ordnance is still killing people. Since the Taliban victory most of those educated women were killed, went into hiding, or fled the country.
The Axis of Evil
During his State of the Union address in 2002, less than five months after the 9/11 attack, George W. Bush—aka Dubya—called Iran, Iraq, and North Korea “the axis of evil.” (Later the same phrase was used by various politicians to target whichever country they had in their sights: Cuba, Libya, Syria, etc.)
In March 2003, the United States invaded Iraq for the second time (the first was the Gulf War, in 1991). This time Dubya said the purpose was to “disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.”
Inspectors who had been there testified that Iraq had no WMDs. Even with the barrage of propaganda, including the lies by General Colin Powell at the United Nations, most people weren’t fooled. During the run-up to our invasion, millions all over the world had marched in protest. I was one of them. A man walked up behind our group and shouted, “You want to pay $25 a gallon?” He made it clear what the war was really about.
Deals With the Devil: Iran-Contra
For 40 years the Somoza family ruled Nicaragua, with the support of the United States. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, the family “was reputed to be worth $500 million and to own or control 50 percent of Nicaragua’s land.” In 1979 (the same year as the Iranian revolution), after prolonged guerrilla warfare during which the Somoza regime tried to stay in power via torture, rape, and mass murder, the victorious Sandinistas instituted a Marxist government. The Carter administration attempted to work with the Sandinistas, sending $99 million in aid.
The Reagan administration reversed course, supporting the Contras (counter-revolutionaries). In 1985, officials within the National Security Council (NSC) began selling arms to Iran despite a law passed by Congress forbidding such sales. “A portion of the $48 million that Iran had paid for the arms was diverted by the NSC and given to the Contras.”
Our pals the Saudis also “donated $1 million to $2 million monthly from July 1984 to April 1985 for covert financing for the Contras.”
When information about the deal was leaked, officials within the administration destroyed documents. Congress investigated and numerous officials were tried and convicted. Vice-President George H.W. Bush denied involvement, but one of his diary entries contradicts that. Later, as president, Bush pardoned those whose convictions hadn’t already been overturned, and preemptively pardoned one who hadn’t even come to trial yet.
Deals With the Devil: The USSR, Russia, and Iran
Although Khomeini denounced the USSR as “the Lesser Satan,” in 1986 the Soviet Union shipped arms to Iran in exchange for $18 million in hard currency. This was during the Iran-Iraq War, when the Soviets were the largest suppliers of arms to Iraq—at least $8-$10 billion worth.
The USSR dissolved in 1991. Nowadays Russia and Iran are allies, with the theocracy supplying arms for Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Deals With the Devil: The United States and the Saudis
While Laura Bush was telling us that we needed to invade Afghanistan to liberate women, the Bush administration turned a blind eye to the Saudi regime’s misogynist cruelty and human rights abuses—just as it had never held the Saudis accountable for 9/11. Subsequent administrations did the same.
In 2015, after an uprising led to political instability in Yemen, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition of Arab states to attack that small country. Control of the oil shipping lanes and the possibility of building a pipeline through Yemen were major motivations. Since then, blockades and indiscriminate bombings, including of hospitals and fishing boats, have killed hundreds of thousands. The Saudis have received unwavering support from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and other Western countries. The Obama administration provided “targeting assistance and logistical support for coalition airstrikes, midair refueling for Saudi warplanes, spare parts transfers, and billions of dollars in weapons sales.”
While running for the presidency, Biden promised to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah state” to punish it for the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. He said that, as president, he would cut off sales of military equipment. (Women’s rights were not mentioned.) This June, however, President Biden went hat in hand to Riyadh to beg for an increase in oil production. In August, his administration announced $5 billion in new arms sales to the Saudis.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS)—who had ordered the killing of Khashoggi—was not moved. Apparently he hasn’t forgiven Biden, and would like to see the Democrats thrashed and Trump voted in again. MBS is cozying up to Putin, another autocrat, and siding with Russia over the Ukraine War. He is lowering rather than increasing production. Oil prices are going up. MBS expects that those Americans who see no further than the cost of refilling the tanks of their SUVs will likely blame Biden, and put his pal and would-be autocrat Trump back in office.
After all, you don’t want to pay $25 a gallon, do you?
People around the world are inspired by the courage of Iranian women and girls. Thousands, from Amsterdam to Athens to Istanbul to Washington to Los Angeles have demonstrated in support of the Iranians and against the murderous mullahs. Will the protesters overturn the sclerotic theocracy and usher in a democratic government? Or will their efforts be crushed, as the Arab Spring was?
I’m no prophet. But I do know that none of us can rely on leaders of governments. Human rights don’t count for much against the money those leaders make from oil and the arms trade, nor against their grotesque lust for power. For the sake of money and power they constantly shift alliances. Their lies dominate the public discourse. Let me leave you with a quote from a writer who understood this better than any other:
…it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia… Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible. –George Orwell, 1984