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              Carl Rowan on Iran - March 2000


Carl Rowan (1925-2000)

Carl Rowan with Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 Carl Rowan, the late African-American journalist, syndicated columnist and TV pundit, applauded the Bill Clinton administration's "step toward reconciliation" with Iran in a column from March 21, 2000. That step included acknowledging the U.S. role in 1953 coup, which Rowan refers to in the context of his visit to Iran in 1962 while working as a hired propagandist for President Lyndon Johnson.   

The brief editorial reveals little about Rowan's personal feelings about U.S. imperialism in Iran, but he appears to have clung to the U.S. government's positive attitude toward the Shah. As President Kennedy's Deputy Secretary of State and President Johnson's director of the United States Information Agency, Rowan would have upheld this longstanding policy on Iran. Mr. Rowan died a few months after writing this column. Excerpt:  

In one of its wisest foreign-policy moves, the Clinton administration has made a genuine step toward reconciliation with Iran . 

It might seem like small potatoes that the United States has removed the ban on imports of luxury items like caviar and rugs from Iran, decided to return assets frozen since Iran 's 1979 revolution and apologized for meddling improperly in Iran 's internal affairs throughout the 1950's, '60s and '70s. 

But this is a big deal. It could bring an end to an estrangement, often violent, that has harmed both countries. It could end a rift that has undermined Iran 's economy and stopped the movement toward more personal liberty for Iranian citizens, especially its woman. And it could end the unnecessary hostility that has harmed the United States by turning Islamic fundamentalists against it, causing a rise in international terrorism and creating a giant roadblock to peace in the Middle East. 

It seems ages ago -- actually, 1962 -- that I went to Iran with Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson to find a marvelously friendly people and a staunchly allied government. There were not many overt signs that burning in the hearts and minds of many Iranians was a deep resentment that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency had masterminded a 1953 coup in which the leftist prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, was overthrown and the monarchy was restored. 

It seems an eon ago -- really 1978 -- that I was in Tehran conducting the last television interview granted by the Shah of Iran before his overthrow. I remember how conflicted U.S. officials and the American people were in wanting the Shah to prevail but not wanting to make enemies of the revolutionaries who seemed destined to take over that country. 

And it seems many nightmares ago that, after a stunning triumph by the Muslim clerics, the wildest of the insurrectionists seized the American embassy, captured American hostages and ushered in an era of intense hatreds. 

Rowan's 'observation' that Iranians seemed not to mind having had the Shah forcibly installed as their leader is, of course, absolutely ridiculous. Mossadegh's name, image and memory was effectively banished from the country after the Shah took power, and many of his associates were either imprisoned or killed. It is unlikely that Rowan actually asked anyone if they resented the coup while in Iran during his trips abroad with LBJ, and even if he had, those questioned may not have felt safe enough to give an honest answer. It is even more unlikely that anyone Rowan was traveling with, or meeting with, would have brought up the subject. It would have benefited no one to do so. 


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