The Great Disillusionment

Hamilton Butler — September 30, 1951

The Mossadegh Project | February 5, 2022                     

This 1951 column was written by Hamilton Butler (1882-1953), a former interpreter in China, authority on the Far East and Detroit Free Press contributor since 1928. It’s followed by a letter to the editor in response by William N. Rexford (1883-1954).

September 30, 1951
The Detroit Free Press

‘Why Asia Hates Us’


Hamilton Butler (1882-1953) of The Detroit Free Press Acheson-Truman policy has blown up in Iran, as it did in Korea, with potentially even more disastrous consequences. [President Harry Truman and Sec. of State Dean Acheson] The double-crossing of Iran will reverberate through the Moslem world and throughout Asia, as did the sell-out of China to the Communists. Again the people living east of Suez, without exception, are given grounds for believing that they cannot trust the United States. When it is remembered that these peoples make up more than half the human race, the appalling results of losing their confidence and friendship may be clearly foreseen. . .

A FEW weeks ago Pearl S. Buck, who knows Asia as few Americans do, wrote an article for LOOK Magazine entitled: "Why Asia Hates Us." The basic reason she gave was this: The Asians feel that we have taken sides against them. We have destroyed their ideal of us.

“The blow fell at the San Francisco conference (at which the UN was organized in 1945). What happened was reported in The New York Times in an article carrying the headline: ‘United States will oppose colonial liberty—Americans indicate line up with Britain and France against an independence pledge’.”

“What has happened since has been the inevitable consequence of an attitude of mind, a policy, which has denied again and again the true ideals of our people.”

A billion and a half human beings who looked to us for leadership in attaining freedom and independence were bitterly disillusioned.

JOHN COWLES, a trained and competent observer, who has just returned from a trip around the world taking national pulses, writes in the current LOOK: “Our basic American mistake was that, when World War II ended, we did not publicly proclaim that our sympathies lay with the Asians and that the United States was as desirous of seeing an end to European colonialism as were the Asians themselves. “We have got to rethink our whole policy toward Asia.” Yet in intervening in the Iranian oil dispute on Britain’s side, Acheson tied this Country still more tightly to European colonialism and invited upon it the same bitter hatred the whole Middle East has for Great Britain and its policy of fattening off weaker nations.

WROTE Marguerite Higgins from Tehran in The New York Herald Tribune of Sept. 13: The heart of the matter is ... we have suddenly abandoned almost completely our promised program of assistance (to Iran). For the sake of our alliance with Great Britain, the United States has allowed itself to be identified with British-style colonialism. It was a choice made by Secretary of State Acheson in defiance of urgent warnings from his own embassy here. It was a bad choice for the practical reason — all moral considerations aside — that old-style colonialism does not work in the middle of the 20th Century.”

We can’t dismiss more than half the people in the world in which we live as “dirty Asiatics” as “lesser breeds without the law.” We gave them the Declaration of Independence to read and then, when they begin to act upon its basic principles, we join the enemy and cover the retreat of European exploitation in Asia. We need to rethink our whole policy and attitude toward Asia, as Mr. Cowles says, and the sooner we begin to do it the better.

As Others See It | October 8, 1951

Iran’s Oil

CERTAINLY A LOT can be said for Hamilton Butler’s article, “Why Asia Hates Us.” The policy which the United States has been following for the last six years toward Asia is far from the democratic ideals which we are said to uphold. I don’t think we can blame Acheson entirely for teaming this Country with Great Britain in the Iranian oil dispute. Good relations with Britain are necessary in today’s bid for world peace, but certainly it’s a mistake to think we can find peace in a world where a nation’s attitude is no better than the United States, not just with Asia but with the rest of the world.

Mr. Nilkanth Chavre, one-time right hand man of Gandhi, said, “The United States will never find real world peace until it adopts a policy of winning the respect of the majority of the population of foreign countries instead of trying to impress the few of the governmental power with so-called good ‘deals.’”


Grosse Pointe

What Went Wrong in Iran? | Amb. Henry Grady Tells All (1952)
What Went Wrong in Iran? | Saturday Evening Post, Jan. 5, 1952


Related links:

Underwriting Colonialism | Hamilton Butler on Iran, Jan. 6, 1952

The Bully’s Role | The San Francisco Examiner, August 12, 1953

British Should Share Oil Profits and Learn to Take Orders in Iran To Ease Tensions (1951)

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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