Today’s Revolutionary Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
When Shah Muhammed Reza Pahlavi became monarch of Iran in 1941, the 21-year-old ruler had a reputation as an airhead more interested in the ladies than government. In fact, the young Shah was little more than a pawn of the British. Perceptions changed in 1949 when a would be assassin fired point blank at the Shah. As his so-called bodyguards cowered, the Shah himself lunged at the gunman. A bullet grazed his face. Suddenly, the Shah was a hero.
He still had no real political power, however. In 1951 a veteran maverick politician named Mohammed Mossadegh rose to become Prime Minister on an anti-British platform. His first move was to declare that all Iranian oil fields were now nationalized and that the British must go. It was a strong statement of Iranian independence – but it threw the country’s economy into chaos and seriously challenged the authority of the monarchy.
For help, the Shah turned to his American friends in the CIA. In 1953, a CIA-orchestrated coup toppled Mossadegh. His power restored, the Shah became an absolute dictator. He said, “We will avoid all costs the experience of some democratic countries where the people give the governments the opposition they deserve!” Savak, the Shah’s secret police, spied on, arrested, and tortured thousands. In the early ’60s the Shah embarked on the “White Revolution,” an aggressive program of modernization and westernization. Not everyone supported the “Revolution”. A little-known cleric, Ruhollah Khomeini, rose from obscurity to lead Shi’ite Muslims in anti-Shah riots. In 1963, the Shah booted Khomeini into exile.
Khomeini: best known for inspiring the immortal lyric: “Americans are mostly cool, mostly cool, but now we’re really starting to fry-atollah! And I know if you were here, if you were here, we’d hit you in the face with a pie-atollah!” (Don’t believe me? Listen.)
In 1971, the Shah staged a lavish festival celebrating 2,500 years of the monarchy. The huge expense of the event stirred further internal dissent. The Shah was always paranoid. Now he had good reason; even his CIA buddies described him as a brilliant but dangerous megalomaniac who was likely to pursue his own aims in disregard of U.S. interests.
By 1978, not even Savak could stop a full-blown revolution. Protesters wore masks to hide from the sadistic secret police. Khomeini called the shots from abroad. On September 7, 1978, the Shah’s troops opened fire on demonstrators, killing between 300 and 1,000. With the massacre, the revolution was effectively lost – for the Shah. On January 16, 1979 the Shah left his country. Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran and took power, turning it into a fundamentalist Islamic state. Iran’s last Shah died of cancer in exile on July 27, 1980.
Culled from: The Big Book of Bad
Morbid Documentary Du Jour!
Louise wrote me quite a long time ago (yes, I do sometimes get embarrassingly backlogged in my e-mails) about a then-recent documentary that sounds like a must-see. As Ryan Adams sang (proof), Thank You, Louise!
Some of your readers might like the PBS documentary “Death and the Civil War”. It’s not about the war, it’s about death and how it was handled– both culturally/emotionally and in the physical treatment of corpses.
If nothing else, you can ponder the contrast between the obligatory gloppy letters sent by comrades or commanding officers, and what must have been the realities of a soldier’s death. (“Dear Madam: Your son died screaming in pain, covered in blood and shit.”)