Tag Archives: Coups d’état

Vietnam VIII: End of Indo-China

Vietnam VIII: End of Indo-China
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 3:51:42
 
1X

Here it is, the end of the last real battle of the French war: Dien Bien Phu. After this it’s just Geneva and the transition from French ignobility to American monstrosity.

That all comes next time though. For now, maps. And you can, as always, click these for a larger view.

The overview:

The view from Tonkin:

And the specifics:

Then, since all the characters are the same as last episode (ie you can check those notes if you want them), here’s the audio credits, in video form:

 

Bayart, Jean-Francois. “Africa in the World: A History of Extraversion.” African Affairs, 2000, 217-267.

Duncan, David Douglass. “The Year of the Snake: A time of fear and worry comes over warring Indochina.” LIFE, August, 1953.

Editorial. “Indochina, France and the U.S.” LIFE, August, 1953.

Ellsberg, Daniel. Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. New York; Viking Press, 2002.

Fall, Bernard. Hell in a Very Small Place. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966.

Fall, Bernard. Last Reflections on a War. New York: Schocken Books, 1972.

Fall, Bernard. Street without Joy: Indochina at War, 1946-54. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1961.

Fall, Bernard. The Two Viet Nams: A Political and Military Analysis. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1963.

Fehrenbach, T. R. This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness. New York: Macmillan, 1963.

Fitzgerald, Frances. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1972.

Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

Herr, Michael. Dispatches. New York: Knopf, 1977.

Hickey, Gerald Cannon. A Village in Vietnam. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1964.

Huntington, Samuel. “The Bases of Accommodation.” Foreign Affairs, 1968.

Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

Lacouture, Jean. Ho Chi Minh: A Political Biography. New York: Random House, 1968.

Lacouture, Jean. Vietnam: Between Two Truces. New York: Random House, 1966.

Logevall, Frederick. Embers of WarThe Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam. New York: Random House, 2012.

Maclear, Michael. The Ten Thousand Day War: Vietnam, 1945-1975. New York: Avon Books, 1982.

Mus, Paul and McAlister, John T. The Vietnamese and Their Revolution. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.

Moore, Harold G., and Galloway, Joseph L. We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. New York: Random House, 1992.

Niehbuhr, Rienhold. The Irony of American History. Chicago: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.

Sheehan, Neil. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York: Vintage, 1988.

Vietnam III: The World at War

Vietnam III: The World at War
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 2:13:38
 
1X

Well, we’re making time now, and I hope that keeps up. I’ve got some interesting stuff to show you today. First is the cover image for the show. That’s Ho Chi Minh on the left and Vo Nguyen Giap on the right along with their American OSS Deer Team advisors, who we’ll hear a fair bit about this show.

Here’s another one of Giap and ‘OSS Agent 19’ along with their American advisors.

The OSS teams supplied and trained Giap’s burgeoning Viet Minh guerrilla forces and served as political liaisons between Ho and the US regional military headquarters in Kunming in China. They followed the Vietnamese freedom fighters all the way into Hanoi after the Japanese ousted the French and then surrendered in 1945.

Here we’ve got the OSS walking as part of the procession towards Ba Dinh Square on September 2, 1945, shortly before Ho declared Vietnamese independence.

This below is a closer shot of Ho making that announcement, or it purports to be. Either the framing makes it look like Ho is in a studio, versus on a stage in Ba Dinh, or Ho’s actually in a studio and this photo has nothing to do with the announcement in Hanoi that day. Either way, the old revolutionary’s announcing something.

Then we’ve got Giap and his fighters participating in a reception at the American villa in Hanoi after the independence day celebrations:

I cannot imagine what guys like Westmoreland must have thought when the Pentagon Papers came out, along with photos like this, of American officers and Vietnamese guerrillas saluting the US flag and singing “The Star Spangled Banner” together.

Speaking of the Pentagon Papers, another topic we’ll touch on this show is Ho’s numerous attempts to reach out officially to the highest levels of US government. The OSS officers in touch with him, I think, had an impression that he was trying to negotiate primarily through them, but Ho had a much savvier view of who really held the American cards. Here’s a page from the now declassified Pentagon study:

Another page I found pretty interesting (and while I wish I could, there is no way I can make any kind of thorough reading of the Papers. The volume that covers just the period of this show is 245 pages, and the total study has nearly fifty volumes. They’re all available through the National Archives’ site, and they are interesting on every single page.

McNamara had them prepared as an internal Pentagon investigation into how the war had gotten started and how it was going. He was well into his guilty phase by that point, when he’d personally figured out that it was a horrorshow from the beginning, and the study that became the Pentagon Papers was a kind of first step towards atonement, although he wanted them to come out after thirty years or so, not when Dan Ellsberg chose to leak them.

The first page of the first volume, which concerns the period we’re looking at in this show struck me particularly, because the guys writing it were using some of the very same sources that I am.

The thing I don’t like here is that, well, they dump all over Fall, but the argument that they eventually make is the same one that Fall makes both in Last Reflections and, in part, in The Two Viet Nams. Either way,  in my mind, pretty cool.

And last but never, ever least:

Bayart, Jean-Francois. “Africa in the World: A History of Extraversion.” African Affairs, 2000, 217-267.

Ellsberg, Daniel. Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. New York; Viking Press, 2002.

Fall, Bernard. Hell in a Very Small Place. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966.

Fall, Bernard. Last Reflections on a War. New York: Schocken Books, 1972.

Fall, Bernard. Street without Joy: Indochina at War, 1946-54. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1961.

Fall, Bernard. The Two Viet Nams: A Political and Military Analysis. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1963.

Fehrenbach, T. R. This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness. New York: Macmillan, 1963.

Fitzgerald, Frances. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1972.

Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

Herr, Michael. Dispatches. New York: Knopf, 1977.

Hickey, Gerald Cannon. A Village in Vietnam. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1964.

Huntington, Samuel. “The Bases of Accommodation.” Foreign Affairs, 1968.

Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

Lacouture, Jean. Ho Chi Minh: A Political Biography. New York: Random House, 1968.

Lacouture, Jean. Vietnam: Between Two Truces. New York: Random House, 1966.

Logevall, Frederick. Embers of WarThe Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam. New York: Random House, 2012.

Maclear, Michael. The Ten Thousand Day War: Vietnam, 1945-1975. New York: Avon Books, 1982.

Mus, Paul and McAlister, John T. The Vietnamese and Their Revolution. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.

Moore, Harold G., and Galloway, Joseph L. We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. New York: Random House, 1992.

Niehbuhr, Rienhold. The Irony of American History. Chicago: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.

Sheehan, Neil. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York: Vintage, 1988.

Audio Credits:

America Prepares for World War 2 | America’s Call to Arms | WW2 Newsreel | 1941. The Best Film Archives. YouTube.

D-Day Normandy Invasion: “Gateway to Victory” 1944 United News Newsreel. Jeff Quitney. YouTube.

Flying Tiger Newsreels. Bomberguy. YouTube.

France Surrenders / Terms of Surrender (World War II).  FasttrackHistory. YouTube.

Frances Wall Of Steel Aka France’s Wall Of Steel – Maginot Line (1938).  British Pathé. YouTube.

German Propaganda Films (1941). British Pathé. YouTube.

JAPANESE ATROCITIES / WAR CRIMES vs. CHINA / NANKING MASSACRE WAR BOND 77854. PeriscopeFilm. YouTube.

Original Pearl Harbor News Footage. The Atlantic. YouTube.

PEARL HARBOR NEWSREEL DECEMBER 7TH 1941 JAPS BOMB USA. PeriscopeFilm. YouTube.

Radio reports on the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (April 12, 1945). TheDaveMaybe. YouTube.

Review Of The Year (1938). British Pathé. YouTube.

US Celebrates Japanese Surrender (1945). British Pathé. YouTube.

World Faces Crisis As Japan And China Clash In Far East (1930-1939). British Pathé. YouTube.

World News In Review (1945). British Pathé. YouTube.

Iran VI: Revolution

Iran VI: Revolution
Iran

 
 
00:00 / 1:26:16
 
1X

Alright, here we are, finally. The Iranian Revolution of 1979. There’s still some groundwork to be laid, but we’re getting there this episode, full stop. Let’s take a look at some of the folks coming to center stage.

Here we’ve got the two principal players from at least the first half of the episode, both of whom stumble through ’77 and ’78, leading, in a not at all inescapable way, to the events of 1979. Carter spent his campaign and early days in the White House putting out rhetoric right in line with the philosophy of SFD—stop those arms sales, cut off support for unsavory dictator-allies, re-evaluate policy with an eye to places like Cuba. But the Carter White House, for all its promise, largely maintained US commitments to our sinister friends abroad and kept up those arms sales, especially to Iran and even to places like Guatemala, where guns were demonstrably going towards the genocides we heard about way back in episodes four and five.

Despite that ongoing support and despite reciprocal state visits, Carter’s speeches, along with rising international awareness of the worst elements of Iranian repression, convinced the Shah that he needed to liberalize things at home. Those changes, most especially allowing some freedom into politics and the press, led directly, like one-to-one, connect-the-dots to the street protests that eventually brought down the regime.

Ali Shariati, the man in the foreground, passed away in 1977, probably from lingering injuries incurred at the hands of SAVAK. It was too soon to see the Revolution he had a hand in making, but large swathes of Iranian youth, especially religious and secular liberals, subscribed to his philosophical fusion of socialism and Iranian Shi’a Islam. We got into this last episode, but whereas both Shariati and Khomeini saw a role for religion in government, Shariati wanted the ulama, the clergy, on the outside. In a parallel to the thought of Liberation Theology, Shariati saw the role of the clergy and their congregations as a permanent opposition, holding the government to account and pushing it to fulfill what he saw as the truest values of Shi’ism—the defense and uplift of the weak and opposition to oppression and misused authority.

Continue reading Iran VI: Revolution

Iran III: Guns of August

Iran III: Guns of August
Iran

 
 
00:00 / 1:20:00
 
1X

Well, we finally made it. I thought I’d blow from the ancient Persian Empire straight through to the plot of Persepolis in one episode, but just like with Guatemala, things got away from me. This time, though, we’re getting to the coup in August 1953 and looking forward to its consequences as they echo down through Iranian history to the present.


Alright, let’s take a look at some faces. Here we’ve got the Eisenhower crew dead-set on destroying Iranian democracy:

John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under Eisenhower.

Allen Dulles, JF’s younger brother and head of the CIA.

And Walter Bedell “Beetle” Smith, who’d been head of the CIA under Truman and became Undersecretary of State under Eisenhower. He used his later role in the coup against Arbenz in Guatemala to get a well-paid spot on the board of directors of the United Fruit Company.

And here’s Kermit Roosevelt, the American spy in Tehran who put the whole thing together, and without whom the whole thing would have fallen apart after the first failed attempt.

“Beetle” Smith was a slimeball and the Dulles brothers, however much they might have been ostensibly protecting “democracy” against “communism,” seem to have slipped pretty quickly into the ‘power corrupts’ camp.

Roosevelt, though, I don’t know. He was definitely the lynchpin of the coup, but he wasn’t an ideologue, and the excitement he recorded as he passed into Iran was understandable. He wasn’t the cynical CIA man here to put down a fledgling democracy, but the newest patriot of the Roosevelt family, convinced that he was fighting the good fight. Obviously that wasn’t the case, but whereas in the aftermath of AJAX the Dulles brothers were already looking hungrily towards Guatemala, Kermit turned down the opportunity to run that operation and later went on record condemning pretty much every attempt the CIA made to replicate its ‘success’ in Iran.

And here’s some impartial British coverage of events:

Continue reading Iran III: Guns of August

Iran II: Nationalization

Iran II: Nationalization
Iran

 
 
00:00 / 1:07:02
 
1X

 

Here we are at Episode 7. Like I say in the cast, I thought we’d get farther down the road with this one, but podcasts are long and history’s longer, and we’ll have to wait until Episode 8 to get all the way to the coup. In the meanwhile, though, we’ve got the rise of Mohammad Mossadegh, struggles over nationalization, the battle between the Anglo Iranian and the National Iranian, and a trip to the World Court in the Hague.

Next time around, we’ll hit Operation AJAX and Kermit Roosevelt and all the rest, but for now sit tight and enjoy.


Some principal players now. Mossadegh himself’s up there at the top. His Time cover for Man of the Year is even less complimentary (and has a terrible pun to boot).

I couldn’t for the life of me find a bigger version, but it reads, “He oiled the wheels of chaos.” Har.

Continue reading Iran II: Nationalization

Iran I: Take Up the Burden

Iran I: Take Up the Burden
Iran

 
 
00:00 / 1:14:14
 
1X

Hey everybody, we’re back from hiatus.

I spent the fall studying for the LSAT and applying to law schools and scrounging enough cash to stay alive, so the show kind of fell by the wayside. That’s over with now, though, and this next series is set to come out pretty regular.

We’re turning to Iran to look at the coup against Mohammad Mossadegh and all the ways that Operation AJAX have affected Iran and our relationship with it right through to the present day.

This first episode gets all of our key characters onto the main stage and the next one will bring us up through that night in July 1953. We heard about this coup and how it shaped Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers’ perspective on clandestine interventions way back in the first show and now we get to see it play out.

We’re diving way back in history to get the context for what happens in the fifties, so here are some maps for context.

This is pretty much every political entity that you would call or which included Persia for all of recorded history. Neat.

Here we’ve got something much more specific to our episode. These are losses of both territory and sovereignty Iran goes through during the 19th century, from the Treaty of Gulestan up through the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention.

And this is the Caucasus region we’ll be referring to a lot. You might not typically think of Russia as being part of the Middle East, but you’d be wrong. The reason Russia’s constantly meddling in Afghanistan and Syria in the present day is that a finger of Russian territory pushes down between the Black and Caspian seas to touch the little republics between it and Turkey and Iran. And at varying points in Russian Imperial history, to touch them directly. The borders on the map are again related to the treaties of Gulestan and Turkmenchay.

Now how about some characters.

The man in the center of that photograph is the Lord Curzon of Kedleston, later the Earl Curzon of Kedelston, Viceroy of India and later Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Cuzon was the face of British imperialism in its last great grasping gasp and he had his eyes on Iran before, during, and after the First World War.

Curzon, in some senses metaphorically and in other ones totally literally turned over the torch of British imperial ambitions over to Winston Churchill.

I don’t know that most of us have ever heard of a time when Churchill was young, but he comes onto the scene in Iran almost immediately after his military service in the Raj and South Africa.

By the time he’s First Lord of the Admiralty at the outset of WWI, he’ll be taking an interest in Iranian affairs.

And once he’s almost literally become too old to be alive, he’ll be Prime Minister for the second time and destroying Iranian democracy with American help in an effort to hold onto the last imperial jewel still in Her Majesty’s crown.

On the Iranian side, this early on, we’ve got the Qajar Shahs, exemplified in pretty much every way by this guy:

Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar

And their throne was usurped (more or less rightfully), by this guy, the first Pahlavi Shah:

Reza Shah Pahlavi, formerly Reza Khan

Who will brutally modernize and organize Iran, in time to turn it over to his dilettante son:

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi

Who the UK and the US will vocally, economically, and finally clandestinely and militarily support, and who will work out for the Iranians about as well as Bashar al-Assad did for his people.

And as always:

 

The Cambridge History of Iran: From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic. Edited by Peter Avery, Gavin Hambly and Charles Melville. Vol. VII. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Abrahamian, Ervand. The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations New Press, 2013.

Abrahamian, Ervand. A History of Modern Iran. Cambridge, GB: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran: Between Two Revolutions.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Byrne, Malcolm. “The Secret CIA History of the Iran Coup.” The National Security Archive, last modified 29 November 2000, http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB28/.

Fatemi, N. S. 1985. “The Anglo Persian Agreement of 1919.” Encyclopaedia Iranica Vol II: 59.

Katouzian, Homa. The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1981.

Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. Wiley, 2003.

Roosevelt, Kermit. Countercoup: The Struggle for Control of Iran. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1979.

Audio Acknowledgements

Doctor Turtle. “Thought Soup”

Metastaz. “The Prince of Persia”

More News Pictures from Iran. 1941. British Pathé. (YouTube).

Persian Folk Music. Traditional Music Channel. (YouTube).

 

 

The Coup

The Coup
Guatemala

 
 
00:00 / 1:44:04
 
1X

 

page-break-small

Hey, welcome to the first full episode of Safe for Democracy.  We’re going to be looking at Guatemala from 1930 or so until 1954, in the lead-up to the coup against President Jacobo Arbenz in the June of that year.

What comes after we’ll tackle in the next episode, which should come out sometime next week, if all goes well.

Here below are some sources and maps for anybody who wants help with the geography I’ll be talking about, but if you don’t need or don’t want that, go ahead and listen.

By the way, the cover image up there is La Gloriosa Victoria, a mural currently residing in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Diego Rivera painted it about the events of this very episode. That’s Allen Dulles on the left shaking hands with Carlos Castillo Armas on the right, and it’s Eisenhower’s face on the bomb. The children are, of course, nameless Guatemalans.

Enjoy the show.

page-break-small

 

Excerpted from Nick Cullather's The Secret History
Excerpted from Nick Cullather’s The Secret History

Here we’ve got the plans for Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas’s ground forces at the outset of the invasion. See how even though he only had a few groups of men, he could preoccupy a large proportion of Guatemala’s small army by spreading them out over the long, forested border.

 

Here's another much larger, much more detailed map for reference. Click to see it full size.
Here’s another much larger, much more detailed map for reference. Click to see it full size.

page-break-small

And for anybody who needs it

Here’s a bibliography

“Guatemala Chief Hits Critics in U.S.”  New York Times (1923-Current File), Feb 5, 1954.

“Guatemala’s ‘Plot’ Charges Denounced.”  The Washington Post (1923-1954), Jan 31, 1954.

“President Arbenz of Guatemala Quits.”  Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jun 28, 1954.

Arbenz, Jacobo. 1954. Resignation Speech. PaysDesVolcans. (Youtube).

Cullather, Nick and Piero Gleijeses. Secret History: The CIA’s Classified Account of its Operations in Guatemala, 1952-1954. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1999

McCann, Thomas and Scammel, Henry. An American Company: The Tragedy of United Fruit. New York, NY: Crown Publishers, 1976.

Rivera, Diego. “La Gloriosa Victoria”. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gobiernodeguatemala/5033870374.

Roettinger, Philip C. 1986. “The Company, then and Now.” The Progressive, July, 1986, 50.

Rothenberg, Daniel, ed, Memory of Silence: The Guatemalan Truth Commission Report. New York, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Schelsinger, Stephen and Stephen Kinzer.  Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1982.

Schneider, Ronald M. 1959. Communism in Guatemala, 1944-1954. (Pa. Univ. for Policy Research Inst. Ser. no. 7) (Praeger Publications in Russian History and World Communism no. 80).

Simons, Marlise. “Guatemala: The Coming Danger.” Foreign Policy 43 (1981) : 93-103.

 

Looking at History from the Outside

Photo credit goes to Michael Doherty
Photo credit goes to Michael Doherty

You ever notice how our history seems exceptional?

I don’t mean American Exceptionalism the way it comes up in the State of the Union, or not exactly. I mean the way it feels when you think about it, compared to when you think about the history of Rome, say, or Mexico. There’s something less straightforward about  it, something more nuanced; we have more shades of gray.

Whether or not you agree with any of that, meditate on it for a minute. Try the Vietnam War. Why were the French in Indochina in the fifties? Because of colonialism, simple. Why were we there in the sixties? Supporting our allies, maybe, or war profiteering, or as part of the containment policy and domino theory. Tell that story to yourself and see if it comes out as cut and dried.

It’s natural and almost inevitable to feel that way about your own history. If you’re American, you probably know more US history more intimately than anyone else’s, and that much just by osmosis. The same is true of French history if you’re French, Canadian if you’re Canadian. I’ve spent a lot of time in Mexican schools, and just like their counterparts in the US, they spend every single semester learning about the same group of guys who founded the Republic, repeated year in and out.

I’ve studied more Roman history, more Latin American history, and more European history than my own, but I have a better feel for how it looked and sounded in the back when in the US than in any other place. Everyone feels this way about their own country’s past, which is, just to note, why the phrase ‘American Exceptionalism’ rubs pretty much everybody in the world the wrong way.

Continue reading Looking at History from the Outside