History read through omission

I was stopped abruptly a little over half way down the first printed page of a Cold war timeline given to me by David Cole. Under the heading 1950’s a bullet point states that in 1954 the “CIA help[ed] overthrow unfriendly regimes in Iran and Guatemala.” (http://library.thinkquest.org/10826/timeline.htm ) This sentence made me think of the quote posted on one of the walls at the Nike missile site, “How do omissions in the historic record influence my understanding of history?” What is selectively omitted by glossing over these CIA lead coups to overthrow democratically elected Leaders?

“Unfriendly” was the word that stopped me. What exactly is the author of this timeline trying to lead his/her reader to think by using the word unfriendly? “Unfriendly” has negative connotations. In this context it could lead one to the conclusion that leaders of Iran and Guatemala were pursuing military agenda’s in some way aggressive towards the U.S., when in truth the leaders of Guatemala and Iran in 1954 were democratically elected champions of the people. Is the author using the word unfriendly to reference the fact that at that time the leaders of Iran and Guatemala were not willing to bend to U.S corporate interest? Or is the author insinuating a communist threat posed by the these two newly established democracies?

These are both major events in the history of the United States. The overthrow of Mohammed Mossedegh, Iran’s first democratically elected leader, in 1953 was the first time the CIA had been involved in the covert overthrow of another countries democratically elected government. It set a precedent for the overthrow of governments unsympathetic to U.S and British corporate interests.

The CIA’s overthrow of Arbenz followed the same patten. Begin with a democratically elected leader championing reform in favor of the people against corporations. Next the United States becomes involved under the guise of anti-communism. The Government is then overthrown through covert tactics including but not limited to bribery and created chaos through false uprisings. In the end a brutal and oppressive government is put in place that is sympathetic to U.S. and British corporate interests.

Around the same time that Mossedegh nationalized the British-owned Anglo-Iranian oil company Jacaobo Arbenz Guzman took land away from the United States Corporation, The United Fruit Company, and redistributed it to landless rural workers. Concurrently in the United States there was a prevailant fear of communism. This culture of fear made it easy for the united Fruit Company to enlist the United States government in ousting the perceived communist threat. After a U.S. lead military coup inspired by the propaganda and lobbying of the United Fruit Company successfully overthrew Arbenz, a series of military Juntas occupied the royal palace. The Juntas were brutal, the estimated death toll for this time ranges from 140,00 to 250,00 people. The coup served to cripple Guatemala’s fledgling democracy, putting an abrupt and brutal end to the “ten years of spring” and setting into motion years of brutal military rule

Both of these coups glossed over in the specific timeline given to me by David Cole have reverberating effects today. They are examples of the United States covert arm working on the part of corporate interests overthrowing infant democracies culminating in the installation and support of brutally oppressive military dictatorships. our history is in some ways written between the lines, visible in the unwritten, in the omissions.

Mossadegh as Time magazine's Man of the Year 1927

Image from the CIA lead coup that overthrew Mossedegh in 1953.

The ragtag Rebel Army in Guatemala funded by the CIA.

Arbenz on the cover of Time magazine.

Expanded Timeline of Events surrounding the coup’s in Iran and Guatemala


• World War II ends. Iran becomes a target of both pro-Western and pro-Soviet forces with regard to the country’s vast oil reserves

June • Support grows for the nationalization of Iran’s oil industry.

March • Prime Minister Ali Razmara is assassinated.
March • Nationalist Mohammed Mossadegh becomes prime minister and angers the British by wresting control of the oil industry.

July 17 • Due to growing friction between the shah and Mossadegh over oil, Mossadegh resigns. Ahmed Ghavam takes over as prime minister. Three days of rioting ensue.
July 22 • Under pressure, the Shah is forced to reappoint Mossadegh.


March • The C.I.A. begins drafting a plan to bring to power, through covert action, a government in Iran that would be preferred by the United States.

April 16, 1953 • A C.I.A. study entitled “Factors Involved in the Overthrow of Mossadegh” is completed. The study concludes that a coup in Iran is possible.
May 13 • C.I.A. and British intelligence officers meet in Nicosia, Cyprus, to draft plans for the coup. Meanwhile, th

e C.I.A.’s Tehran station is granted approval to launch a “grey propaganda” campaign to discredit the Mossadegh government.
June 10 • C.I.A. officers meet in Beirut for a final review of the coup plan.
June 19 • The final operation plan for the coup, agreed upon by both the C.I.A. and British intelligence, is submitted to the U.S. State Department and the Foreign Office in London.
July 1 • Britain’s prime minister gives final approval to the operational plan for the coup.
July 11 • President Eisenhower gives final approval to the operational plan for the coup.
July 23 • A British Foreign Office memorandum is presented to an Under Secretary of State, reassuring the U.S. that the British would be flexible on the issue of controlling oil in Iran.
July 25 • Under pressure from the C.I.A., Princess Ashraf, the Shah’s sister, flies to Tehran from France in order to convince the Shah to sign the royal decrees that would dismiss Mossadegh.
• The C.I.A. intensifies a propaganda effort, which included planting stories in major American newspapers, to weaken the Mossadegh government.
Aug. 1 • In a meeting with Gen. H. Norman Schwartzkopf, the Shah refuses to sign the C.I.A.-written royal decrees firing Mossadegh and naming Gen. Zahedi as the new prime minister of Iran.
Aug. 4 • Mossadegh, suspecting that British and American governments were plotting against him, h

olds a referendum calling for the Iranian parliament to be dissolved.
Aug. 13 • The shah signs a royal decrees dismissing Mossadegh. Word of the shah’s support for the coup spreads quickly in Iran.
Aug. 15 • The coup begins, but falters and then fails because Mossadegh received advanced warning of the plans. Zahedi goes into hiding.
Aug. 16 • The shah flees to Baghdad.

Aug. 18 • The C.I.A., discouraged by the failed coup, sends a message to Tehran ordering the operations against Mo

ssadegh to be halted.
Aug. 19 • Several Tehran newspapers publish the Shah’s decrees. As a result, supporters of the Shah begin gathering in the streets, and another coup begins. Gen. Zahedi comes out of hiding to lead the movement. By the end of the day, the country is in the hands of Zahedi and members of the Mossadegh government are either in hiding or incarerated.
Aug. 18 • Statues of Shahs Torn Down in Iran
Aug. 20 • Royalists Oust Mossadegh; 300 Die in Iranian Fighting — Army Seizes helm
Dec. 22 • Mossadegh Gets 3-Year Jail Term
• The crushing of Irans fledgling democracy resulted in more than two decades of dictatorship under the Shah.
• Headquarters are established in Florida for the operation to overthrow Arbenz.


• With Zahedi acting as prime minister and the pro-Shah army units in control, hundreds of National Front leaders, communist Tudah Party officers and political activists are arrested.
• Mossadegh’s minister of foreign affairs, Hossein Fatemi, is sentenced to death and executed.
• The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resumes operation.
• June 18 Castillo Armas’s U.S backed forces invade Guatemala.
• Guatemala descends into civil war following U.S lead Coup of the democratically elected Arbenz government.


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