The parallels between the stolen Iranian election of 2009 and the American of 2000 and 2004 are tempting. The histories -- and futures -- of the two nations are inseparable. Bound up in their tortured half-century of crime and manipulation are the few glimmers of hope for lasting peace in the Middle East.
In both countries, a right-wing fundamentalist authoritarian with open contempt for human rights and the Geneva Convention has come up a winner, with catastrophic consequences. In both countries, the blowback of two George Bushes loom large.
In the US, two "defeated" candidates -- Al Gore and John Kerry -- said and did nothing in the face of two stolen elections. But an unprecedented election protection movement arose from the ashes of those defeats to assure the 2008 victory of America's first African-American president.
In Iran, the "defeated" candidate---Mir Hussein Moussavi---is fighting back, along with massive grassroots resistance. How far they get will define the Iranian future---as well as that of the Middle East.
In a fluid and unpredictable situation, here are some indisputables:
1) A half-century ago, the people of Iran attempted a democratic revolution led by a moderate progressive, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, whose social-democratic inclinations have been revived by Moussavi.
2) Prime Minister Mossadegh was overthrown by the Eisenhower Administration and its Central Intelligence Agency, which wanted to wall in the Soviet Union and protect western oil interests.
3) Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr. (father of the Gulf War general of the same name) used a suitcase full of US taxpayer dollars to bribe Iran's anti-democratic sympathizers and help overthrow Mossadegh.
4) They installed the pro-U.S. general Fazlollah Zahedi, who handed control of Iran to the brutal and vicious Shah. The Shah ruled through the infamous secret terror/torture police force Savak, which Schwartzkopf helped train.
5) A prototypical CIA asset, the Shah used his iron torturer's hand to "westernize" the country and make it more user-friendly to US oil interests.
6) Among other things, the U.S., France and other western powers were moving to provide the Shah with up to 36 atomic power plants designed to provide electricity and, ultimately, radioactive materials with which to build his own atomic bombs.
7) Despite his ostensible commitment to human rights, President Jimmy Carter made a point of spending a high-profile New Year's with the Shah, evoking the bitter hatred of millions of Iranians.
8) The Shah's overthrow by fundamentalist Ayatollah Khomeini led to the 1979-80 hostage crisis that finally sank Carter's presidency. Amidst indications of a secret deal involving past and future CIA Directors George H.W. Bush and William Casey, the release of the hostages was delayed long enough to guarantee Carter's defeat, thus inaugurating the Age of Ronald Reagan, with 12 of its 28 years under the two Bushes.
9) Secret dealings between Reagan/Bush and the Iranians led to the Iran-Contra Affair, when covert operatives like Oliver North funneled arms to the Iranians and laundered cash and drugs through the reactionary Contra forces fighting revolution in Nicaragua.
10) The Contras in turn flooded the US with cocaine, feeding a horrific crack epidemic that has crippled the black and Hispanic communities here for two decades.
11) Those US-financed arms were used to fight the Iraqis and Saddam Hussein, whom the US also supported, and whom Donald Rumsfeld publicly embraced in the early 1980s. The American goal seems to have been to weaken both Iran and Iraq through a horrifying war that claimed at least a million casualties, ultimately infuriating both citizenries.
After a half-century of dictatorship under the Shah and the CIA, followed by the Ayatollah and the fundamentalists, the Iranian public appears desperate to return to the social-democratic vision of Mossadegh, denied so long ago.
In the US in 2000 and 2004, the corporate/religious right put George W. Bush in the White House -- and then kept him there -- with a sophisticated election theft machine built around elimination of voter registrations, manipulation of the vote count, and a wide array of supporting tactics. The US Supreme Court set it all in stone with its infamous Bush v. Gore decision, which prevented a true vote count in Florida 2000. History repeated itself in Ohio in 2004.
In Iran 2009, the ruling fundamentalist elite has barely pretended to count the votes at all, merely rushing to announce a pre-determined outcome. The reigning Ayatollah has played the role of the US Supreme Court by certifying the outcome before a real ballot tally could possibly occur. Holes in the texts of Iranian newspapers and an electronic blackout created by official censors reflect the ongoing vacuum in the US corporate media, which has yet to seriously face up to what happened to the American elections of 2000 and 2004.
What will happen next in Iran is anyone's guess. George W. Bush fueled its fundamentalist right by calling it a "terror state" whose nuclear weapons ambitions are fueled with materials produced by the "Peaceful Atom" Eisenhower inaugurated in 1953, around the time he was disposing of Mossadegh.
Bush's counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is now turning the state terror apparatus -- reminiscent of the Shah's -- against those who would mention the illegitimacy of his rule.
Thus tragedy looms at the brink of opportunity. That democracy in Iran so clearly won at the polls is a sign of great courage and hope on the part of the Iranian people. They are fighting terrible odds, not of their making. Should they break free, the storm would re-shape the Middle East -- and much more.
In the meantime, perhaps their American counterparts, instructed by the ghost of Mossadegh, might finally face up to the true price of sowing such cynical, lethal whirlwinds.
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books on election protection. Bob's FITRAKIS FILES are available via www.freepress.org, where this article first appeared. HARVEY WASSERMAN'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES is at www.harveywasserman.com.