“Selective Outrage” Over Iran
Letter to The New York Times During Hostage Crisis

The Mossadegh Project | February 12, 2012                    

During the 1979 Iranian revolution in which 52 Americans were held hostage in Tehran, the U.S. actually considered a ground invasion of the country. This letter to the editor, published in the New York Times, was a pointed response to this sentiment.

November 25, 1979

Selective Outrage

To the Editor,

The New York Times, Selective Outrage How ironic is to to witness Americans express their hatred of Iran, or worse, advocating a military reaction, as if Vietnam had not been a sufficient lesson. Most interesting is the remarkably selective sense of outrage in America which starts and ends at the seizure of the U.S. Embassy.

My sense of outrage begins in 1953, when the Shah and the C.I.A. conspired to overthrow the legitimate Government of Mohammed Mossadegh, in part because he nationalized the oil industries but also to assure the opening up of Iran as a market for U.S. corporations. The Shah’s profligate purchases of American weaponry is just one example.

My outrage continues with Mossadegh’s sentencing to three years’ solitary confinement and with the phony election of 1954, in which those opposed to the Shah were routinely beaten. I am outraged that the U.S. Government trained and equipped Savak to repress the Iranian people further.

I am outraged that the now ex-Shah, with the countless billions of dollars he stole from the Iranian people, was even allowed to enter the U.S. Yet I am most outraged that the support of corrupt and repressive dictators in the world is accepted American foreign policy, a policy which inevitably results in situations such as that in Iran.

Brooklyn, Nov. 15, 1979

December 16, 1979

Time to Doff the American Hair Shirt

To the Editor,

In response to Thomas Hilton’s Nov. 25 letter, I agree that it is indeed ironic that American outrage should be stimulated by the 1979 seizure of Americans by Iranians and not by the 1953 overthrow of the Iranian Government by the American intelligence apparatus. However, I suggest that this irony is at least tempered, if not wholly mitigated, by the very factors (Vietnam, Watergate, etc.) that Mr. Hilton reports as having fueled his outrage.

It is intrinsically unfair to justify present violence (as distinct from accepted modes of political action) on the basis of past errors of judgment, and I submit that if such a precept were made the basis of diplomatic response all the nations on earth would quickly find themselves in a sort of global “Hatfields and McCoys” situation. It is immaterial to me whether Mr. Hilton continues to wear the hair shirt of knee-jerk liberalism; I have learned from experience, and have taken mine off.

Allston, Mass., Dec. 10, 1979

[Note the “straw man” argument here — nowhere did Mr. Hilton justify violence in any way.]

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Related links:

Letter to Editor re: Ted Koppel’s Will Fight For Oil in The New York Times

TIME’s “Man of the Year” Choice Portends 60 Years of U.S. Policy

Mossadegh Plays With Fire | The New York Times, August 15, 1953

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

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