Walter Kiernan’s Iran Commentary
Writer/Broadcaster Offered “One Man’s Opinion”

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | August 24, 2018                     

One Man's Opinion: Radio and TV Personality Walter Kiernan on Iran

Walter Kiernan (1902-1978) was a popular American media personality whose career spanned print, radio and television. Working variously as a journalist, game show host, columnist, author, radio commentator, speaker and master of ceremonies, he had a calm delivery and a Will Rogers-like wit.

Kiernan was perhaps best known for his syndicated newspaper column “One Man’s Opinion”, which also became a daily radio program for ABC.

On TV, he was the “Quotemaster” on the NBC Game show “Who Said That?” and he also hosted and narrated NBC’s “Greatest Moments in Sports”, among many other gigs.

Simultaneous to his hosting and broadcasting duties, Kiernan maintained his aforementioned International News Service (INS) column, featuring his comical observations.

In this selection of commentary from the Iran oil dispute on through to Mossadegh’s overthrow, several of them featuring his chatty barber, Kiernan displayed not only humor but a non-interventionist slant and that rare commodity, critical thinking.

May 29, 1951

My barber says as long as our policy for Korea is “Wait and see,” he’s got one for our policy for Iran . . . “Stop, look and listen!”

He says it’s not original . . . more abandoned-like, but available if caution ever comes back into fashion.

But that was a nice note we got from Iran after bustling into the oil dispute . . . in translation it read roughly “Have you people ever considered minding your own business?”

All Acheson did was tell them how he thought the dispute should be settled, but apparently they had already decided that for themselves. [Sec. of State Dean Acheson]

At the moment it doesn’t appear that we have to get involved in Iran, but it’s not too late.

The decision to keep the war in Korea between the white lines until China runs out of Chinese does not mean that we have surrendered the right to get involved elsewhere. And we can prove it.

June 6, 1951

June graduates will find that employment opportunities never were better. Some will start at salaries as high as $8,000 a year and others will start for whatever privates are getting these days.

But the college draft policy is now clear cut. Those who stand in the top third in the examination now being checked have as splendid an opportunity to be drafted by their local draft board as those in the bottom third.

Some wonder why the examination was held at all if the local boards don’t have to be guided by the results. The answer is a fellow always likes to know whether he’s being taken because he’s extra smart or extra unsmart and now he’ll know.

Some say the draft calls will continue small, though if the war in Korea ends and if we don’t get into trouble in Iran, and if Eisenhower can find anybody in Europe willing to fight for Europe, and if we don’t try to staff, finance, and run the world and if it doesn’t rain. But there may be a few “ifs” about this. Anyway, Stalin hasn’t marched on Europe yet.

July 2, 1951

Harry will make a good umpire for the Iranian-British dispute—he never pays much attention to the shouting in the grandstand. [Pres. Harry Truman]

And it will give him something to do while our own troubles limp along their unmarked road.

But you can see how easy it is to get yourself elected peacemaker. All you have to do is say “Why don’t you fellows stop fighting?” and somebody says “Why don’t you make us?”

Everybody keeps talking about “a satisfactory formula” for Iran . . . The British had something, the Iranians took it, both sides want it, what’s the formula?

My barber says all he knows is that when two people rush for a seat on the bus it is hard to work up “a formula” for the fellow who didn’t get it. He says it’s a good idea, but so is perpetual motion.

October 3, 1951

My barber has tickets for the World Series but he doesn’t think Britain can take Iran in four straight games even with Uncle Sam umpiring at the plate. [The World Series in New York coincided with Premier Mossadegh’s visit and United Nations appearance]

He admires Attlee’s corkscrew delivery but he figures Mossadegh owns the park and knows his own fences. [British Prime Minister Clement Attlee]

He says the minute Attlee pulls the rule book on nationalization he’s left on base as it was his team that wrote it. [Britain’s ruling Socialists nationalized some of its own industries]

He says who can blame Mossadegh for feeling that what is good in Britain for the British is peachy in Iran for the Iranians.

My barber says it also should be noted that Uncle Sam volunteered to umpire . . . He wasn’t drafted. [U.S. offered to mediate the oil dispute]

Also that more than three-quarters of a million young Americans have been drafted to support their impulsive Old Uncle as he continues to volunteer for trouble the world around. [As the Korean War raged on]

One Man's Opinion: Radio and TV Personality Walter Kiernan on Iran

November 19, 1951

We are now laying $8,750,000 on Iran to win the oil derby but nobody showed up to pay for the $50 gambling tax stamp.

The new law specifies that any one who gambles must have a gambling tax stamp . . . The Korea gamble, of course, is exempt as the law is not retroactive.

But we are now playing Britain and Iran in the professional manner, laying off the bets on one against the other.

First we put odds on “Socialism” with Attlee up and finished out of the money . . . It was an exciting ride but we can tear up that ticket. [British Premier Clement Attlee]

Now we’re riding with “Nationalization” with Mossadegh in the saddle and again we’ve got a fast track and a slow horse.

Our 20-year experience with foreign tracks is that in any two horse race we can depend on that we have been sold, the third horse as a sure thing.

The International Monetary Fund is backing Mossadegh’s ride . . . [IMF] That’s one of the taxpayer betting branches. It’s sort of the RFC of the International Jockeys’ club. [Reconstruction Finance Corporation]

August 24, 1953

I hear Mossadegh’s last words before his government fell around his ears were “How did I know the people wanted to change the oil?”

Not that we ever get mixed up in the internal struggles of an country, but did you happen to notice that Sherman tanks were important to the overthrow?

And we will keep dealing out guns and ship and tanks to foreign governments to strengthen their “external defenses” and we will keep getting mixed up by proxy in their internal affairs.

And some will keep saying that “we’ve got to take world leadership” although at no time have the American people been polled as to whether or not they ever asked for the hot seat.

A look at the Korean casualty figures gives an indication of what “world leadership” means . . . one-third the losses in what was supposed to be a 16-nation battle.

In fact it was supposed to be an all-nation battle according to the striped pants boys in the UN . . . They were with us all the way except in battle.

September 2, 1953

The fate of old Mossadegh is common enough these days . . . hero today, goon tomorrow. [He was overthrown on Aug. 19th, reportedly in a royalist revolt]

He did what he thought was right but he did it to the wrong people . . . and the wrong people today are those who are against you.

If you have enough wrong people with you, they become the right people and nothing can hold out against the right people.

This may sound confusing but if you keep in touch with State Department bulletins you see why the lights burn late in the gypsy tea rooms.

We had many conferences with Mossadegh but none since he went to the clink . . . this indicates an official attitude of recognizing right from wrong, especially when wrong is in jail.

Our system of four-year elections may not be perfect but anybody treating with us today can take even money that Harry won’t be back in October and Ike on the lam. [Truman and Eisenhower, victims of U.S. term limits]

We’re easier to do business with than to do business.

September 9, 1953

This has been rather a quiet week . . . We gave 35 million dollars to Iran and an aircraft carrier to some other country that likes boats and that was about it. [The sum was actually $45 million]

There was a time that the FCC was going to stop giveaway programs on radio and television but I guess the commissioners finally got around to realizing that it would be a violation of national policy.

It’s a poor week we can’t give away more than the taxpayers earned and in this respect Dwight D. doesn’t look much different from Franklin D. [FDR]

And on this national quiz program nobody has to answer any questions . . . All the Shah of Iran said was “We could use money” and we baled up the returns from several million tax slaves and bundled them off on the next ship.

This is all in the nature of winning friends and influencing people and it’s too much to expect that some day some administration will get around to winning a few friends and winning a few people at home.

70th Anniversary of TIME’s Man of the Year Article
Challenge of the East: TIME's 1951 Man of the Year Mohammad Mossadegh


Related links:

Erich Brandeis on Mossadegh, Russia and Persian Caviar | Looking At Life (Feb. 28, 1953)

Colonel Joe Bush Says || Iran Jokes from the 1950’s

Columnist Ollie Crawford’s “Headline Hopping” (More Corny Iran Jokes)

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

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