Of the many responses of the Bush administration to
the events of September 11, 2001, one of the most significant
and most widely discussed was its intensified and greatly expanded
propaganda program for the Middle East. Announced innovations
have included the appointment of advertising executive Charlotte
Beers to lead State Department efforts to win hearts and minds;(1)
the establishment of a radio station to broadcast pop music,
Eminem, and an American slant on the news to young listeners
the creation of Arabic-language web sites; and the placement
of U.S. government-sponsored commercials and advertisements
in Middle Eastern media outlets. The government has discussed
ways to improve the U.S. image abroad with motion picture executives.(2)
The White House established an Office of Global Communications
to coordinate U.S. propaganda worldwide.(3)
The Defense Department developed plans for an Office of Strategic
Influence to sway international opinion, but backed off following
published reports that stories placed by the Pentagon would
include disinformation.(4) Further propaganda
activities correlated directly with the Bush administration's
planned war against Iraq are underway.(5)
With the attacks, the magnitude of Middle Eastern disaffection
for the United States was brought, violently, to the attention
of official Washington, and a new focus on propaganda was
one result. According to the Bush administration, "a
deep misunderstanding of the United States and its policies"
created this hostility. It argues that a more assertive campaign
of self-promotion would reverse these views. It says that
the end of the Cold War led to neglect of "public diplomacy",
resulting in a diminution of U.S. prestige and global effectiveness.(6)
This is hardly the first time that the U.S., in response
to international developments, has attempted to revitalize
its propaganda activities in the Middle East. An earlier episode
occurred early in the Cold War, during the Truman and Eisenhower
administrations, when the U.S. was expanding efforts to incorporate
the region into a global anti-Soviet alliance. It wanted to
protect and preserve Western control of Middle Eastern oil
resources. It was concerned about the implications for U.S.
interests of the diminished post-World War II abilities of
Britain and France to project Western power and influence
in the area, and by the enormous increase in anti-Western
feeling that had been generated by the establishment of Israel.
The National Security Archive has collected a selection of
documents illustrating aspects of this earlier propaganda
campaign. They describe some of the goals, methods, and problems
associated with propaganda in the Middle East. As the documents
show, in some ways circumstances affecting propaganda during
the 1950s were quite different than those of today, but many
of the complexities that impeded U.S. efforts at the time
Nearly all of these documents are from the State Department
or its missions in the region. They therefore reflect only
one aspect of U.S. propaganda efforts: in reality, intelligence
outfits, including the then-newly created Central Intelligence
Agency, handled a major part of these activities.
Most of the selected documents focus on Saudi Arabia, Iraq,
Saudi Arabia had been established as a national state some
20 years before the time of these documents. Tribal leader
Abd al-Aziz had gained control of most of Arabia with the
help of adherents of a militantly austere interpretation of
Islam, Wahhabism. He declared himself king of Saudi Arabia
in 1932, establishing the primacy of the royal family that
still rules today. Great Britain was the dominant power in
the region, but King Abd al-Aziz granted an American company
(later, after consolidation with other firms, the Arabian
American Oil Company -- ARAMCO) the concession to develop
Saudi oil resources. This was a fundamental component of the
decades-long U.S.-Saudi "special relationship."
Britain created Iraq as a national state after World War
I by consolidating several provinces of the collapsed Ottoman
empire, and established a monarchy, the short-lived Iraqi
Hashemite dynasty, by installing a World War I ally from Arabia
to rule as a king amenable to British interests. Britain appointed
Sunni Muslims rather than members of Iraq's Shi'a majority
to staff its administrative infrastructure. Over the following
decades, the British-established order was contested by a
wide range of opposing factions, including Shiites, Kurds,
Communists, and nationalists, the latter including, by the
1950s, followers of Ba'thism, an ideology calling for unity
among all Arabs, development, technology, and resistance to
foreign and neocolonial interference. In 1958, nationalistic
military officers overthrew the Western-supported monarchical
government, and established a republic. Among the initiatives
undertaken by the new government were measures to end foreign
monopoly control of Iraq's oil resources. Ten years later
another coup led to the establishment of the Ba'thist regime
currently ruled by Saddam Hussein.
In Iran, army officer Reza Khan was supported by Britain
in his 1921 overthrow of the ruling Qajar dynasty. He became
minister of war and prime minister, then deposed the leader
of the country's weak ruling dynasty, and established himself
as shah of Iran. He abdicated in favor of his son, Mohammed
Reza, during World War II. In 1951, Iran's elected prime minister,
Mohammed Mossadeq, nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company
(AIOC), a British-controlled consortium. Having no intention
of ceding its domination of Iran's oil resources, Britain
organized a Western boycott of Iran, and succeeded in decimating
the country's economy. The shah, who did not support his prime
minister's attempts to assert Iranian nationalism, fled the
country in August 1953. Britain and the U.S. engineered a
coup against Mossadeq, the shah returned from exile, and resumed
his Western-supported rule of Iran, lasting until the Islamic
revolution of 1979.
During the 1950s, U.S. propaganda, as an instrument of the
Cold War, was intended "to expose the fallacies of communism"
and to warn of its dangers. [Doc.
20] [Doc. 96] Other
goals for the Middle East included strengthening "Western-oriented
elements," increasing awareness of the Soviet threat,
and building "greater willingness to cooperate both regionally
and with the West." [Doc.
126] In Iraq, "an emotional response" overcoming
antagonism toward the West was sought, since "A realization
of a common, global foe" could "forge a common,
global bond between Iraq and the Western defense powers."
[Doc. 62] In Iran,
propaganda promoted the view that close relations with the
West would "provide the "most profitable course."
[Doc. 71] In all
Arab countries, U.S. propaganda sought "Reversal of the
Anti-American trends of Arab opinion" and guidance of
"the revolutionary and nationalistic pressures throughout
the area into orderly channels not antagonistic to the West."
[Doc. 127] (7)
The targets for propaganda were varied: poor and predominantly
illiterate rural populations, political and economic elites,
professors, teachers, professionals, mullahs, and others
who were "molders of opinion." [Doc.
goals were to be achieved by controlling information and manipulating
its interpretation. The tools used included financial assistance,
pamphlets and posters, news manipulation, magazines, radio
broadcasts, books, libraries, music, movies, cartoons, educational
activities, person-to-person exchanges, and, of great significance
for the Middle East, religion. Information could also be placed
with American media outlets for playback in the region.
Foreign assistance was linked with propaganda to further
American interests: for instance, a National Security Council
(NSC) report in 1952 said that aid programs should be designed
to achieve "psychological" objectives. [Doc.
59] To this end, the State Department's Office of
Near Eastern Affairs argued in 1953 against economic assistance
for Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser, then promoting African
and Asian nonalignment, to show Middle Eastern government
that "moderation, reasonableness and some degree of cooperation
by the recipients with respect to United States basic objectives
will lead to substantial economic assistance; while on the
other hand Arab (or Israeli) extremism and lack of cooperation
will result in far less or no aid." [Doc.
117] This message was considered especially important
for the military sector: the NSC wanted to enhance "the
understanding of the Army leadership [in the Middle East],
and secondarily, the enlisted personnel towards the purpose
of U.S. military aid as a factor in strengthening their national
127] Unfortunately, observers friendly to the American
government in the region noted that economic assistance was
being characterized as an effort by "Western imperialists
to buy friendship." [Doc.
Posters and Brochures
In Iran, the U.S. funded the display of posters at schools,
shops, and other public buildings "sponsored by the Iranian
Government and . . . planned and executed by the Iranian Government
in cooperation with the Embassy." [Doc.
16] Brochures related parables, such as the illustrated
story of "two young Iranian boys who are faced with the
choice between communism . . . and patient study and industry
. . . . The one who chooses communism suffers early and violent
death in a street demonstration. The other boy leads a productive
life beneficial to his country." [Doc. 96] In
Iraq, the American embassy used a mailing list, mobile film
units, and "certain prominent anti-Communist religious
leaders" to distribute propaganda brochures. [Doc.
Newspapers, Magazines, Newsreels
U.S. news manipulation was intended to change the ways reality
was perceived. Thus, Secretary of State Dean Acheson said
in 1950 that U.S. propaganda should seek to refocus Arab attention
on internal social and political problems and divert it from
the Palestine conflict, an issue that immeasurably complicated
U.S. policy objectives in the region. Labeling opposition
to the U.S. "fanaticism", Acheson called for placing
"corrective" articles to respond to critical news
stories. [Doc. 3]
At a working group meeting on ways to exert influence in the
Arab world, measures to "buy in the newspaper more and
be in a position to control the headlines as well as some
of the editorials" were recommended. [Doc.
58] Propaganda guidelines called for "stimulation
of the local press" to report on U.S. economic aid, and
promotion of Western-supported collective security pacts "by
stimulating the writing of indigenous articles on the subject
and then cross-reporting them to other countries throughout
the area." In Syria, the United States Information Service
(USIS) arranged for the publication of anti-Soviet articles
through "judicious use of copyrighted articles."
Anti-Soviet articles were placed in an Iranian magazine [Doc.
96], and the American embassy reported plans for a
nominally independent journalist to seek U.S. help for the
publication of a "purely cultural" magazine. The
United States Information and Educational Exchange Program
(USIE) was to pay his salary and control editorial content,
seeking first to "establish credence," and then
to gradually "develop and use more direct hard-hitting
anti-Sov[iet] material." [Doc.
61] A U.S.-backed Iraqi magazine was planned as well,
"To make Iraqis aware of the dangers of Soviet imperialism"
and to induce them to ally militarily with the West. [Doc.
62] American publications also could be useful: an
embassy public affairs officer touring ravaged areas of predominantly
Kurdish northern Iraq in 1953 (oppositionist activities seeking
Kurdish autonomy were periodically suppressed) observed that
American magazines, requested by a local leader, "may
be as good propaganda as any we put out . . . . Colored advertisements
provide topics for many a conversation." [Doc.
(Iraqi government officials considered but opted against
"reviving the magazine of the young nationalist group,
the Ba'th Al-Arabi" because they decided it "had
too heavy a Shia tinge." [Doc.
118] Iraqi government officials promoted nationalist
ideology as an alternative to Communism, which appealed to
activists seeking political and economic reform. It was presumably
not expected that Ba'thist ideology would become a prominent
factor in Iraq's evolving anti-royalist political climate.)
Plans were developed for an "intimate working relationship"
between the Voice of American and Radio Tehran, and much of
the material for "special programs on Radio Baghdad"
was supplied by the USIS. [Doc.
7] [Doc. 118] In
Iran, the U.S. provided anti-Soviet newsreels for screening
at local movie theaters. [Doc.
U.S.-controlled cultural influences, literary, educational,
popular, and person-to-person, were intended to shape the
attitudes of Middle Eastern targets and to inculcate Western
values. U.S. goals included "an all-out prosecution of
the Nixon and doctrinal programs, the first to pour large
numbers of pro-Western, anti-Communist books into the area,
the second to influence the intelligentsia." [Doc.
127] To this end, the American embassy in Iran planned
to disseminate books on contemporary history, political philosophy,
and fiction, in "deluxe", medium price, and low
price editions. "These publications would bear a publisher's
name and have no obvious connection to the Embassy."
[Doc. 16] In Syria,
"indigenous anti-communist books written mainly from
USIS source material" were circulated. [Doc.
Embassy libraries and reading rooms were seen as invaluable
means for promoting pro-Western attitudes. Ambassador to Iran
Loy Henderson remarked that libraries made "major contributions
toward molding public opinion in accordance with USIE objectives."
[Doc. 71] During
weekly cultural programs at the American embassy's library,
"no opportunity to point out how Soviet Russia controls
her creative artists is overlooked in the music program notes."
To feature anti-communist books, the embassy placed "a
special shelf in a prominent position in the Library"
labeled "IN VIEW OF INQUIRIES RECEIVED, THIS SHELF IS
RESERVED FOR PUBLICATIONS EXPOSING THE AGGRESSIVE OBJECTIVES
OF COMMUNISM AND THE METHODS EMPLOYED BY INTERNATIONAL COMMUNISM
AND BY ITS AGENT IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES." [Doc.
"Psychological" plans included providing history
and social science textbooks to schools to "influence
their curricula in directions favorable to the United States,
in order to counteract the Communist trend in many education
institutions in the area." New reading rooms were to
be opened at local universities "under color of sponsorship
by American universities." [Doc.
127] Iran's Ministry of Education cooperated with
the American embassy in planning "activities in the educational
field" for Iranian students. [Doc.
For wider, not necessarily literate audiences, movies were
understood to be especially effective in spreading American
social values. Franklin Roosevelt directed in 1945, the year
of his famous meeting with Saudi Arabia's King Abd al-Aziz,
that U.S. influence in the Middle East be expanded, and proposed,
along with his wife Eleanor, that American films be shown
in the region. [Doc. 1]
During the 1950s, U.S. officials, concerned about insufficient
anticommunist fervor among Middle Easterners, and increasingly
aware of Arab disillusionment with the West, identified a
solution: "we have to make more movies out there."
[Doc. 58] Points
of view to be presented in such films were to be controlled,
if possible: the State Department was advised to approach
an American film distributor to ensure that "pro-Russian"
movies (like "Red Star", a World War II-era film
about Nazi occupation of a Russian village) were not shown
in "critical areas," such as Iran. [Doc.
American embassy officials in that country wanted to show
animated films featuring characters like Mickey Mouse, and
asked if, "in the light of the increasing tempo of the
cold war, Mr. Disney as a patriotic duty could be interested
in preparing such a film that could be used to defend democracy
where the communist system is being touted loudly." [Doc.
4] In Iraq, embassy staff wrote their own cartoon
script, featuring a scary symbolic bear menacing prehistoric
humans. The embassy asked for "Disney-type animation"
to enliven the tale. [Doc.
Attempts to appeal to what were thought to be local tastes
did not always achieve the expected results. A USIS mobile
film crew in Iraq reported some positive reaction to a film
that used puppets representing figures from traditional folklore
to enact an anticommunist parable, but many viewers were evidently
appalled, decrying "these terrifying dummies. . . . Was
there communism at the time of Hoja? . . . . Whence did the
Americans snatch you, Hoja, to make fun of you? . . . . The
films are unbearable. . . . . I have never seen sillier films.
All are mere propaganda for America. . . . . And these ugly
moving dummies, were they made by Truman? . . . . These films
and this propaganda are useless. The only things which can
uproot communism in Iraq are deeds and not words." [Doc.
Exchange Programs and Associations
NSC objectives for the Middle East in the mid 1950s included
a "material increase in the exchange of persons program,
directed primarily to influencing the leadership of the countries
concerned." (Travel restrictions hindered this plan during
the McCarthy era; the granting of "leadership grants"
to leftist journalists or politicians was inadvisable, for
instance, since they were unlikely to receive U.S. visas.)
22] A working group on propaganda strategy recommended
bringing Arab students to the U.S., for example, as a way
of countering disaffection for the U.S. and dealing with a
"rather general and dangerous lack of awareness of the
communist problem and threat." [Doc.
Official visits were recommended as a way to cultivate good
will. Saudi Arabia's defense minister was invited to the U.S.
in 1951, in part because the State Department feared that
the "untraveled, inexperienced, and impressionable young
man" would be unduly influenced by an earlier trip to
France. ARAMCO volunteered to help with his entertainment,
and the United States Air Force, which valued its low-profile
access to Dhahran Air Base, asked that any pictures and press
releases associated with the visit be sent to its Directorate
of Intelligence. [Doc. 29]
The U.S. and allied regimes could also try to direct political
activism in approved directions. An item broadcast by Radio
Baghdad, of probable USIS origin, included praise for a Canadian
"Association for Combating Communism" which had
"foiled several Communist meetings in Montreal without
enabling them to know any of the Association's members,"
adding that it would be "good to set up similar associations
in all parts of the world." [Doc.
The symbols considered useful for propaganda directed at
the Middle East were intended to reflect well on American
society, ridicule Communism and the Soviet Union, and encourage
a belief in shared Western-Muslim values. To this end, a working
group developing propaganda strategy in 1952 discussed commemoration
of an anniversary for the philosopher Avicenna (ibn Sina),
one of many Muslim scholars who influenced European intellectual
history, because the Soviets had "taken the propaganda
offensive" on the matter. [Doc.
58] Often, however, propaganda was aimed at an illiterate
audience, and utilized vivid and crude iconography.
Posters disseminated by the USIS office in Iraq depicting
a "Greedy Red Pig," with a hammer-and-sickle for
a tail, were supposed to make "the Soviet-Communist state
ridiculous as well as frightening to the ordinary Arab."
The American ambassador was sufficiently pleased with the
effort to tout a completely pig-based series. [Doc.
21] To bring the "realization . . . home swiftly
to Iraq" that its interests lay with the U.S., the embassy
planned to produce a map depicting Soviet expansionism that
could be used on match books and other hand-outs, with a "red
color to be watched closely to insure that it [did] not fade
to pink or become muddy": it should be "hot . .
. . The Embassy would prefer to lose the readability and retain
the full impact of the bright red mass." An advertising
campaign was planned to induce Iraqis to request the map,
which would "give it added value." [Doc.
One leaflet distributed by the embassy in Iran, entitled
"Tale of the Beautiful Red Flower," contained an
"allegory in which a red flower resembling the Venus
Fly Trap symbolizes Soviet communism," showing how "lazy
and frivolous bees are lured to destruction." The embassy
was pleased with its impact, noting, "The text of this
brochure has been picked up as an editorial by Iranian newspapers."
American propaganda was created and disseminated with the
knowledge and support of friendly foreign governments that
identified their interests with the West. (Inducements could
apparently help to obtain such cooperation: State Department
representatives in Saudi Arabia, for example, asked for guidance
should the Sultan of Oman ask for rifles and ammunition in
exchange for permission to construct a Voice of America station
in his country.) [Doc. 19]
United States - Saudi Arabia
Close relations with oil-rich Saudi Arabia were highly valued
by the U.S. government: when Secretary of State Dean Acheson
recommended providing medical help in 1951 to an ailing King
Abd al-Aziz (ibn Saud), he called him the "best friend
the United States has in the Middle East," and cited
the "extremely favorable United States-Saudi Arabia agreement
for the use of the Dhahran Airfield." [Doc.
28] But suggestions that American propaganda should
be distributed in the kingdom were viewed skeptically by U.S.
representatives familiar with local conditions.
There have always been inherent tensions in the U.S.-Saudi
relationship, although over the years the American government
and media have usually downplayed these contradictions. For
their part, representatives of a royal family that characterizes
itself as "guardian of the holy places" of Islam
have tended to prefer that undue attention not be focused
on the Saudi government's reliance on U.S. military protection,
or on any quid pro quo arrangements underlying this support.
U.S. representatives in the region were circumspect regarding
Saudi sensibilities: an embassy official said, for example,
that he would not review anticommunist "kits" provided
by the State Department, because the Saudi government would
oppose their distribution. [Doc.
33] American officials preferred to avoid incidents
like the showing of a newsreel on Israel at the Dhahran military
facility: American officials later apologized to a Saudi military
officer who had been present; or the time when a Saudi prince
shot a British consular officer -- he was imitating a violent
movie he had seen a few days earlier, it was thought. [Doc.
The fundamental problem for U.S. propaganda was identified
by the American ambassador: "It appears that this material
has the double objective of promoting and encouraging democratic
government on the one hand while presenting the dangers of
communism on the other. Since Saudi Arabia is an absolute
monarchy its Government cannot be expected to welcome propaganda
of the first category. There is no need for anti-communist
propaganda and the pamphlets described in the airgram would
be incomprehensible to the average Saudi." [Doc.
46] The American embassy advised against offending
the Saudi leadership by pursuing propaganda goals too forcefully,
in order to "obtain Saudi coop[eration] internationally"
and "protect U.S. oil investment SA." [Doc.
United States - Iraq
During the early 1950s, Iraq and the U.S. cooperated in disseminating
propaganda, despite their divergent interests. Iraq helped
the USIS in producing certain propaganda materials aimed at
its Kurdish minority, including a bulletin, newsreels, and
music broadcasts. [Doc.
2] Other propaganda was targeted at the population
at large: the American embassy was "informed privately
and informally that the Government has no objection to the
widespread distribution of anti-Communist material . . . .
The pamphlets will be issued without attribution, but no attempt
will be made to hide the fact that they are produced by USIS."
[Doc. 76] The U.S.
provided material to Iraq's propaganda department for its
dissemination: "By the direct subsidization of two newspapers,
through special programs on Radio Baghdad, and through partial
subsidization of two anti-Communist editors, anti-Communist
information is being placed in public channels." [Doc.
118] [Doc. 119]
In late 1953, opposition activities, including student protests,
led Iraq's education minister to launch an anticommunist program
focused on schools and universities. The American embassy
saw this as "an unparalleled opportunity to reach a priority
target audience through Government channels." USIS suggested
that the Iraqi ministry establish a college-affiliated institute
of international affairs that would arrange and sponsor extra-curricular
activities and "help channel the students' political
interests into controllable lines," staffed, the embassy
recommended, by a professor of Soviet affairs who "could
assist in demonstrating to the students the nature of international
Communism." The Iraqi ministry agreed to accept a Fulbright-funded
USIS also indicated it would ask for a Fulbright-funded emissary
to organize a student athletic program. (The agency thought
diversion was called for: "students flock to coffee houses,
political centers, and other places where the only recreation
is political agitation.")
The Iraqi education minister said he wanted a campaign to
differentiate the students' "proper 'nationalist' demands"
from Communism. USIS offered to help train personnel to assist
in an anticommunist counter-propaganda program for imprisoned
students. [Doc. 92]
Anticommunist lectures were also to be delivered to students
sent to camps in northern Iraq for disciplinary military training.
[Doc. 95] (The
Arab nationalist Ba'thist ideology had relatively little popular
influence in Iraq throughout the early 1950s; its appeal was
limited largely to academics. At the military camps, anti-regime
students won converts, including some of the military officers
who guarded them. These officers were the nucleus of what
later became Ba'thist domination of Iraq's army.) (9)
By 1954, however, the American embassy was expressing disappointment
with the government of Iraq: "The constant hope of USIS
officers that an indigenous distribution channel for non-attributed
anti-Communist material could be opened with government help
has never, until now, materialized." One problem was
the government's view that the most effective way of spreading
the anticommunist message was "to demonstrate its links
with Israel and with world Zionism. Since support for Zionism
is also linked in the public mind with the United States any
such campaign creates a sort of neutralist 'plague on both
your houses' attitude and could stir up increased enmity against
the United States at the same time." However, the government
provided "the only possible indigenous channels"
for propaganda, and "All other channels must be opened
and oiled by means not within the proper scope of USIS,"
so it, along with the embassy, decided to support the Iraqi
campaign "by supplying raw material for the consideration
of the committee and by such verbal advice on techniques as
may seem appropriate. At the same time, the Public Affairs
Officer and the Information Officer" would "endeavor
constantly to point out effective local anti-Communist lines
other than those which might ultimately react unfavorably
against the United States." [Doc.
Iraqi government pamphlets with "heavy emphasis on the
links between Communism and Zionism" were disseminated
using a USIS mailing list. Ambassador Burton Berry wrote,
"This approach has not, however, had the popular reaction
expected and future Government anti-Communist newspaper articles
and pamphlets can be expected to place more emphasis on the
anti-nationalist, rather than the pro-Zionist, aspect of Communism."
United States - Iran
The U.S. sought cooperation from Iran both for propaganda
directed at Iranians and for propaganda broadcast outside
the country. In 1950, for example, the U.S. ambassador noted
that the Iranian government was "extraordinarily cooperative"
in providing radio facilities for American broadcasts reaching
"Soviet people in sensitive Caucasian and Central Asian
areas." [Doc. 8]
For domestic propaganda, the embassy recommended that "There
should be the minimum of open USIE activity and the maximum
use, if necessary without attribution to USIE, of indigenous,
Iranian channels." [Doc.
6] By October 1950, the American ambassador could
speak of the "close coordination which [is] now effective
between [the] embassy and [the] Iranian Propaganda Department."
But in November, Iranian Propaganda Director Bahram Shahrokh
stopped Voice of America (VOA) as well as BBC relays on Radio
Tehran, saying that his predecessor had been too friendly
to foreign powers.(10) In December, Iran's
prime minister told the American embassy that he expected
Shahrokh to retain his position for some time. The embassy
was not pleased, however, and suggested to the State Department
that it "may wish to discuss this matter." [Doc.
11] In January, the propaganda chief was dismissed,
and his predecessor restored to de facto control. [Doc.
14] The latter assured the embassy that he would "turn
[the] Propaganda Department line closely toward that of [the]
U.S.," that reports from the Soviet news agency Tass
would no longer be distributed, and that he was searching
for a way to resume VOA broadcasts. The American ambassador
said that the "Situation will bear close watching and
any changes must be gradual and inconspicuous." [Doc.
The embassy's public affairs officer recommended developing
a propaganda program purportedly controlled by Iran, with
the U.S. supplying all material, equipment, personnel, and
plans, noting that "even though the program would be
designed to appear as an Iranian Government program, the news
gets abroad that it is subsidized and more or less controlled
by Americans. This fact has been demonstrated by the films
program now in operation." To "have the program
appear to be an Iranian venture" meant that "the
major portion of the program would have to be in the educational
field, developing knowledge of better agricultural and public
health methods. The Iranian Government would reap the public
credit for our program while our benefit would be realized
through helping to raise the standard of living and thereby
a certain measure of political and economic stability would
be the result. In addition, the successful penetration of
the country on this level would ultimately provide a sound
foundation for the dissemination of information about the
USA and its policies." [Doc.
In the spring of 1951, Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq,
in order to increase Iran's share of the revenue from sale
of its oil, nationalized the oil industry. The British government,
however, was determined to retain its control of Iranian oil
resources, and sought support from its American ally. Ambassador
Loy Henderson felt that the Iranian government was insufficiently
aware of the disapproval that the U.S. press was expressing
regarding its policies, and suggested that the VOA transmit
critical U.S. editorials (while also conveying the rather
contradictory impression that the U.S. was "generally
sympathetic with Iranian aspirations for full econ and polit
independence.") He also wanted to have the VOA transmit
programs to Iranians making "friendly ref to Shah as
their progressive leader." [Doc.
During this crisis, the State Department was acutely aware
of the potential for negative reaction to American propaganda.
It commented, "The discretion exercised in the embassy's
relations with local distributors and exhibitor [of propaganda
newsreels] is appreciated; and under the circumstances, the
Department agrees that all caution is desirable." [Doc.
45] These circumstances were made clear in an Iranian
newspaper account in early 1952 reporting that "the Department
of Press and Propaganda has been run by the American Embassy
. . . . It is believed that the American Embassy has been
paying sums of money to the Press and Propaganda Department
with a view to using that Department as a means of propaganda
for the United States." The head of the department was
on the U.S. payroll, the paper said. (Following this report,
the aforementioned agency head requested that a messenger
deliver future USIE scripts to him, without cover notes.)
Soon thereafter, the Iranian Interior Ministry ordered the
closing of all information and cultural centers outside of
Tehran, including those belonging to the USIE. Ambassador
Henderson said that if Prime Minister Mossadeq were determined
to carry out this policy it would "be preferable for
us quietly to suspend operations with hope that after elections
have been concluded and present state natl hysteria somewhat
subsided we may be able quietly and unostentatiously to resume
operations . . . it is our intention in case we do suspend
activities . . . to transfer as much as possible of info activities
to friendly Iran Govt institutions." [Doc.
49] An Iranian official expressed regret to the American
embassy about the closings but said that "Some fo[reig]n
cultural institutions in prov[ince]s had . . . engaged in
activities contrary to [the] interests [of] Iran." [Doc.
In the summer of 1952, the IIA told U.S. media how it wanted
the British-Iranian oil dispute to be covered: show minimal
interest, and minimize Iranian statements regarding legal
aspects of the oil issue: "Avoid statements that would
indicate U.S. concern over fate of Iran or will bail Iran
out in a showdown. Support with factual coverage and moderate,
selected comment Iran GOVT efforts to quell disorder and GOVT
exposés of Tudeh COMMIE machinations." [Doc.
In May 1953, Ambassador Henderson was at pains to assure
the State Department that his embassy was conducting an effective
propaganda campaign: it compiled "a list of 260 articles,
features, editorials and commentaries which ha[d] been placed
in the local Tehran papers, as well as provincial papers,
on anti-communist subjects." In addition, "Individual
Iranian governmental offices are . . . induced to sponsor"
various film titles, "as apart from direct USIS presentation.
As an example: 'Azerbaijan Day' [on the Russian occupation
of a part of Iran following World War II] has been shown publicly
both by the Ministry of Education and the imperial Iranian
Gendarmerie while the Department of Propaganda has refused
to take part in the sponsorship of the film." [Doc.
U.S. news media could be useful tools for both direct and
indirect manipulation of opinion in Iran. The State Department
suggested that it could seek "to inspire editorials or
articles in U.S. publications which can be useful in case
Embassy should desire certain points of view brought out for
benefit American public . . . . Additionally, VOA might pick
up such editorials or articles and play them on Persian program
without any indication U.S. official inspiration." [Doc.
(In July 1953, "Clandestine Radio Azerbaijan at Baku",
which had been broadcasting reports about preparation for
a coup for several months, described "the intrigues of
the American and British imperialists and the subversive actions
of the Shah," as "part of a wide plan that is being
carried out all over the country." Activities included
uprisings, distribution by the army of arms to tribal groups,
meetings with tribal leaders, staged demonstrations, and tribal
conferences organized by the U.S. embassy.) [Doc.
In August, Britain and the U.S. succeeded in engineering
the overthrow of the elected Mossadeq government.
Subsequently, propaganda opportunities vastly improved. In
September, the embassy noted that "USIS Tehran reports
that with the recent change in government the attitude of
the motion picture Censorship Commission toward anticommunist
film material has apparently changed so that it may be possible
for USIS in the future to obtain official permission to show
some anticommunist films . . . . It will be necessary at the
outset to adhere to those films which are factual presentations
of communist aggression. Later, it may be possible to use
films of an even stronger propaganda line." [Doc.
106] The U.S. would seek to inculcate the view "that
Iran leaders and public have chosen to align themselves with
free world and to indicate it in interest Iranian security
and prosperity cooperate closely with Western democracies."
USIS indicated that its activities were to be largely overt
except for "backstopping" material: "speeches
and comments by influential private and government personages;
commentary played back over VOA." It observed, "The
government is recognized throughout the country as being one
brought in and supported by the U.S . . . . it is of the greatest
importance that no stone be left unturned to make this regime
successful." In this, it would be able to "count
on complete cooperation working with the present director"
of Iran's division of propaganda, "who recognizes that
our aims within Iran are parallel and who has shown every
inclination to willingly accept suggestions and materials
for working together." These plans included the dispatch
of USIS employees to various Iranian cities, with the title
of vice consul, to "develop personal contacts . . . supply
as much servicing as possible to newspapers and magazines
in the area, schedule film showings, develop and place material
for radio programming, and develop and direct English language
classes," using persons who were "likeable, friendly
types who mix easily." [Doc.
In the same vein, the State Department supported "A
somewhat peripheral but extremely important propaganda mechanism
. . . the International Educational Exchange Service in the
Department of State which handles Iranians visiting the United
States under Government auspices and sends certain American
scholars to Iran." [Doc.
112] In addition, Ambassador Henderson pointed to
the need for a propaganda campaign focusing specifically on
the oil issue, "to relate the present American emergency
financial aid to the need for a prompt settlement of the oil
dispute with Great Britain . . . ." [Doc.
U.S. Government - U.S. Media
Americans as well as Iranians were the tools and targets
of Iranian coup-related media manipulation. The U.S. embassy
and USIS developed propaganda accentuating "popular support"
for the shah "as demonstrated by [the] events of August
19" (the coup) and "continued ovations and praise
in meetings with small groups as well as broader public appearances,"
and they planned to "develop material along same policy
lines for immediate distribution Iran and media and for use
by Department and USIA [United States information Agency]
in [the] U.S." [Doc.
108] The USIA asked to be provided with all "press
materials supporting agreed themes for possible further exploitation
U.S. press and USIA media. Iran situation receiving little
press attention and materials needed help create reaction
favorable new regime, U.S. aid efforts." [Doc.
The infrastructure available to exploit new propaganda opportunities
in Iran included a "P area of the Department of State"
that used "the Department's News Division in dealing
with local correspondents, a Historical Division, and offices
which deal in the placement of magazine articles and arrangements
for official speaking engagements." There was also "a
confidential American agency [the CIA was only a few years
old when this document was created] which is sometimes in
a position to provide assistance in the propaganda field.
I have arranged an informal relationship here which can be
used if propaganda experts desire to have something said or
played in Iran which should not be directly related to the
U.S. Government." In addition, an "ad hoc 'Iran
Propaganda Committee' to serve as a forum for ideas and a
center of attraction for all persons involved in propaganda
activities related to Iran" was established. [Doc.
In November 1953, Ambassador Henderson requested an approach
to "one of the three American publications having most
influence in Iran; namely, New York Times, Time Magazine and
Newsweek" requesting that it carry an article written
by the embassy pointing out that "Wily Dr. Mosadeq"
had an "attempted policy of open blackmail against the
free world . . . . When the Iranian people finally realized
the situation, under the leadership of those loyal to the
Shah and to Iranian institutions, the forces opposed to alliance
with or domination by the communists arose in wrath . . .
" The U.S. also wanted Iranians to understand that it
was necessary for the British-Iranian oil dispute to be settled
on terms acceptable to the West: the article noted that "There
seems to be a failure on the part of many of them to realize
how necessary it is for them to stand behind their Government
in a determined attempt to solve the most important problems
of the country before the emergency aid which the United States
has extended to Iran is exhausted." [Doc.
(The collaboration of American media, including the Washington
Post, the New York Times, Time, and Newsweek,
with "the intelligence community" was discussed,
post-Watergate scandal, in a report prepared by the congressional
Church Committee and in more detail in a Rolling Stone
article by Carl Bernstein.) (11)
Press helpfulness is also illustrated by an incident involving
Kuwait. A late 1953 Newsweek story described insular
and conservative Kuwait, improbably, as a new soft spot for
communism, and reported that "a Kuwait union organizer"
attended a World Federation of Trade Unions conference in
Vienna. U.S. consulate sources observed that there was "no
evidence of increased Communist activity in Kuwait--or for
that matter of any Communist activity" or any indication
that any Kuwaitis had been to Vienna, or that there were any
Kuwaiti unions. But it noted that even if the story were untrue
(perhaps derived from a Soviet broadcast "picked up by
a monitoring service" (not identified)) the article "may
have done some immediate good . . . in that the [Kuwaiti]
Director of Public Security appears to have been enough frightened
. . . to have decided he will accept long-standing British
advice that he should have a British security expert to set
up an anti-subversives department . . . . A cooperative British
adviser would be an invaluable contact man for the Consulate
for exchange of information and would also be important in
the prevention of the development of subversive activity of
any sort in Kuwait." [Doc.
U.S. Government - Academia
Teachers and researchers, with their contacts and regional
knowledge, were and are valued sources of information for
the U.S. government about conditions in foreign countries.
For instance, after learning that University of Michigan professor
George Cameron had delivered a talk on Soviet propaganda,
the State Department approached him for advice regarding the
U.S. version. [Doc. 34]
The initiative did not always come from the government: in
early 1952, the American embassy in Iraq was intrigued by
a U.S. graduate student's offer to survey public opinion among
Iraqis. The research would purportedly be independent, but
would receive funding and be directed behind-the-scenes by
the embassy's office of public affairs. The embassy noted
that "Because of suspicion of foreigners, feeling against
U.S. because of Israel, and gen[eral] reluctance discuss opinions
with strangers, such surveys [are] impossible with open USIE
support." The plan presented an "excellent opportunity
to learn something concerning important young group in Iraq
without any apparent participation US Govt." [Doc.
U.S. Government - Private Associations
Nominally independent non-profit associations of individuals
with an interest in foreign affairs could be used as a way
to convey sympathetic interest in Middle Eastern issues. For
example, Ambassador to Iraq Burton Berry said in 1952 that
"we, as propagandists, can only do our best to keep alive
the hope in the Arab world that a political solution [to the
Arab-Israeli dispute and continuing colonial interference
by Britain and France] on the part of the United States is
possible. We can do this by emphasizing the growing interest
in contemporary Middle East political problems on the part
of Americans;" to do so he recommended "the channel
to the activities of the American Friends of the Middle East
[AFME]." [Doc. 74]
Several years later, a State Department officer commented
that "In a number of cases we have found it extremely
helpful to call on AFME to sponsor certain visits which we
as government were not able to sponsor. Exchanges under such
auspices tend to give the individuals concerned an independent
status which enhances their effectiveness in whichever Middle
Eastern country may be concerned." Occasionally, it would
be necessary for this appearance of impartiality to be real:
"We recognize that to retain AFME's independent appearance
its leader should express objective viewpoints on U.S. Government
policies and actions." However, any such divergence should
be "restrained". [Doc.
After the British and American-sponsored coup in Iran, the
local USIS office requested additional staffing for the Iran
America Society, in order to extend "our operations into
a number of special classes for high ranking ministry people
and others in our prime target groups." The society had
"contributed greatly toward our objectives" as "a
very strong center in which pro-American sentiments can be
widely and efficiently developed with much less chance of
the label 'American Propaganda' being affixed." [Doc.
U.S. Government - Publishing Industry
Victor Weybright, founder of the New American Library of
World Literature, Inc. (publisher of authors ranging from
William Faulkner to D.H. Lawrence to Ayn Rand to Henry David
Thoreau to Ian Fleming to Mickey Spillane) was an enthusiastic
ally of the government (he had worked in a U.S. government
propaganda office in Britain during World War II.) He visited
the Middle East in 1951, and then reported to a State Department
public affairs officer that "we are now working on a
number of forthcoming books at the suggestion of . . . your
staff in which the primary motivation is to be of service
to the international aims of the country." Though he
"leaned over backward everywhere" not to involve
the government in distributing literature, at his request
"your people in Washington are making available to the
American Book Publishers Council, a list of the key scholars
and intellectuals abroad who might well receive review copies
of certain American books." [Doc.
Weybright was told, "certain projects aimed at stimulating
the commercial distribution overseas of United States books
constitute one approach to which we are devoting considerable
attention and effort. It goes without saying that it would
not have been possible to undertake these projects without
the cooperation and efforts put forth by you and your colleagues.
The information which is being collected for you by our Division
of Information Centers will soon be available."(12)
As the U.S. expanded its influence in the Middle East, the
government needed to expand its technical and linguistic capabilities:
in 1952, for instance, the State Department's regional production
center in London had no Arabic typesetting facilities. [Doc.
76] In June of that year, Franklin Publications, Inc.
was established, with a $500,000 grant from the USIA (about
$3.3 million in current dollars.) (13) In
October, the IAA provided the company with "guidance
for . . . publication and distribution of works in Arabic
using funds granted by the State Department," listing
goals that included "reducing Arab ignorance, suspicion,
and resentment of the West and particularly the United States."(14)
To support Franklin's endeavors, the State Department asked
diplomatic staff for information about the book trade in their
host countries, seeking "Comments on the way in which
anti-American feeling might express itself with respect to
the Franklin program." However, "The Department's
role in the undertaking outlined is not to be mentioned outside
the missions or consulates." [Doc.
When Franklin officials (including the vice president of
the D. Van Nostrand Company and the director of the Brooklyn
Public Library) traveled to the Middle East, with Top Secret
clearances, they were to be "treated as private businessmen."
[Doc. 79] [Doc.
80] Dan Lacy, Director of the IIA's information Center
Service, told company president Datus C. Smith, Jr. that although
it would "be desirable both in your present trip and
in any field operations Franklin Publications may maintain
in the area to avoid the degree of association with the Embassy
which would tend to establish Franklin Publications in local
eyes as a mere tool of the State Department, it will be necessary
to maintain a close liaison with the public affairs officers
in the missions concerned."(15) [Doc.
One aspect of the government's propaganda program was the
cultivation of a positive view of America among the people
of the Middle East. The image to be projected was of a society
that valued and supported freedom, that was economically and
militarily strong, and that supported peace and a role for
international institutions in governing intra-state affairs.
In the government's view, foreign observers did not appreciate
U.S. values and accomplishments; therefore, a major purpose
for propaganda should be emphasizing to the world America's
role as a beacon of freedom for the world. Thus, a strategy
session seeking ways to mitigate Arab distrust proposed that
the Voice of America utilize "Lincoln's Gettysburg address--they
swallow that hook, line and sinker -- United Nations, freedom,
away with slavery, and that sort of thing." [Doc.
58] The IIA recommending promoting "an understanding
of and sense of communion with the central themes of Western
thought, with especial emphasis on those most eloquently stated
Western ideals of the dignity and freedom of individual men."
[Doc. 78] Without
irony, a State Department cable declared one month after the
British-American coup in Iran that a primary propaganda goal
was "Allaying Iranian distrust of 'outsiders' (U.S. in
this case) by repeating and reiterating sole interest U.S.
in Iran is in free, independent, strengthened Iran capable
taking her place in community free nations." [Doc.
Demonstrating "the overwhelming and increasing industrial
and military strength of the United States" was viewed
as one way of increasing its influence. In October 1950, the
ambassador to Iran suggested an emphasis in propaganda on
the "quick overwhelming effectiveness U.S. and U.N. in
Korea;" this recommendation was made shortly before allied
forces became bogged down in a quagmire similar to what would
ensue years later in Vietnam. [Doc.
10] The State Department welcomed a suggestion for
a "friendly display of force to strengthen the American
position" by either sending ships to the Persian Gulf
or planes to the Dhahran Air Base in Saudi Arabia. It was
"assumed that such a visit would be undertaken only with
an enthusiastic invitation from the Saudi Government."
[Doc. 68] [Doc.
Since one aspect of the Cold War was competition between
capitalism and communism as systems for achieving development
and prosperity, scripts prepared by USIE for broadcast by
Iran's Department of Press and Propaganda "did not neglect
to present the result of the latest research in the United
States and to make rather prominent mention of the country.
This is also true of the present new industries series which
have covered such things as plastics, rayon, diesel engines,
chemurgy, frozen foods and fertilizer." [Doc.
47] Likewise, a report on policy implementation noted,
"our films, news releases, and broadcasts have emphasized
economic" (as well as military) developments. [Doc.
(These messages were not inevitably well received. A highly
critical report by an Iranian newspaper -- called "leftist"
by the U.S. embassy -- on American propaganda complained that
Radio Tehran served the interests of the "Yankee World"
and broadcast "USIE-originated absurdities . . . Every
day we listen to the lengthy talks on American rubber industry,
automobile industry, tank factories and the fantastic amounts
of money U.S. industrialists make.") [Doc.
Lover of Peace
The U.S. wanted to be respected for its military power and
also admired as a peace-loving nation, differentiating itself
from a violent and disruptive Soviet Union. So a brochure
prepared for Iranian consumption, illustrated by a dancing
bear, contrasted Soviet statements and its "youth demonstrations"
with the accomplishments of the "Free World" and
the United Nations, including assistance for health care,
food and clothing distribution, and rehabilitation training.
[Doc. 96] Radio
Baghdad broadcasts, of probable USIS origin, denied Communist
claims of social equality and accused the Soviet Union of
hypocrisy, charging that, despite its stated support for peace,
it "mobilizes all its material power for war. It produces
atomic planes, heavy guns, and tanks, and mobilizes and trains
the army in preparation for war, and spreads fear and horror
among the peaceful nations." [Doc.
122] In contrast, "America's moral, religious,
economic and political strength was presented through the
information media with emphasis on our hope and intent for
peace." [Doc. 130]
Present-day American predilections for unilateralism, for
disregarding the United Nations, and for unequivocally supporting
Israel, make it unlikely that Middle East policy decisions
could be used to win over popular opinion among Arabs and
Muslims today, but the 1956 Suez crisis presented the Eisenhower
administration with such an opportunity. The U.S. had forced
Britain, France, and Israel to back down following their invasion
and occupation of Egypt. Following the crisis, USIA recommended
emphasizing the "Strong U.S. position in support of U.N.
on armed invasion of Egypt motivated by principles morality
and justice . . . . taken in interest of strengthening machinery
for settling disputes peacefully . . . U.S. through U.N. took
lead in bringing about cease fire and procuring withdrawal
foreign troops from Egypt . . . Outcome U.N. efforts to settle
current ME problems will have effect degree confidence U.S.
public and other peoples free world may have in efficiency
of international machinery for settlement disputes."
Pervasive fear of nuclear weapons is now being used by the
Bush administration to generate wide popular support for an
invasion of Iraq. During the 1950s, however, winning acceptance
of nuclear power and alleviating nuclear phobia were major
U.S. propaganda goals. Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1953 United
Nations "Atoms for Peace" speech was meant to ensure
that the world was aware of massive and growing U.S. nuclear
warfare capabilities, to defuse mounting international anxiety
about atom bombs, fallout, open-air tests, Strontium-90 in
the milk supply, and all the other side effects of the "nuclear
age," and to neutralize campaigns calling for genuine
disarmament by the major powers. The U.S. vigorously promoted
atomic energy, and sponsored nuclear research and development
programs in countries around the world, including the Middle
East and South Asia. These efforts were intended to demonstrate
the scientific and economic benefits that would accrue to
governments that joined U.S.-led alliances, to create markets
for American technology, and, ultimately, to undermine opposition
to the extraterritorial stationing of nuclear weapons, then
being secretly stockpiled around the world. As President Eisenhower
said, there were certain steps that could be taken "To
hasten the day when fear of the atom will begin to disappear
from the minds of people and the governments of the East and
Among its plans for the Middle East in the mid 1950s, the
NSC included "sponsorship of conferences in the area
on the peaceful uses of atomic energy and the fostering of
regional nuclear studies centers." [Doc.
127] In 1955, a "program to demonstrate on a
continuing basis the advantages of the peaceful uses of atomic
energy [was] stepped up. Scheduling the Agency's comprehensive
exhibit on the subject for showings in Near East countries
this fall and winter was a priority activity." [Doc.
Pacifist sentiments calling for banning the bomb were not
welcome. The American embassy in Tehran was joined by the
Iranian government in waging a coordinated campaign against
a Stockholm-based anti-nuclear peace petition. The campaign
included plans for Iranian army prosecution of an individual
who signed the petition. [Doc.
As part of an effort to create a positive image for the U.S.
in Iraq, the USIS office in Baghdad set up a library window
display captioned "The Atom in the Service of Humanity
. . . the United States is eager to share with the rest of
the world the benefits derived from atomic research, and towards
this end the AEC plant at Oakridge, Tennessee is shipping
radioactive isotopes to collaborating institutions throughout
the world." An Iraqi newspaper story describing the display
noted that it included "pictures depicting the atom in
the service of humanity! One of these pictures shows an atomic
flash and cloud shooting up into the sky after the explosion
of an atomic bomb." The article said that people "should
not pay any attention to such harmful propaganda." A
day later, a notice was pasted to USIS windows declaring,
"We want the destruction of atomic and germ warfare --
Partisans of Peace."
Such negative thinking was not to be countenanced: the embassy
assured Washington that the statement "was removed while
the paste was still fresh . . . . The reaction of the leftist
paper is interesting only in that the pasting up of the sign
by the 'Partisans of Peace' would appear to confirm the community
of interest between the paper and the Communists." [Doc.
Biological warfare was also a sensitive issue: the American
embassy in Iran prepared pamphlets on the topic "as a
rebuttal to Communist germ warfare propaganda" [presumably
North Korean, Chinese, and Soviet charges that the U.S. used
biological weapons during the Korean war]. Thirty thousand
pamphlets were produced, but "only 3,000 copies [were]
distributed because communist propaganda on germ warfare died
down and it was deemed advisable to let the matter lie unless
it were revived." [Doc.
Religion as a Propaganda Asset
Militant interpretations of Islam as espoused by groups like
al-Qaeda terrify Americans today, but for decades the Middle
East's religious tradition was viewed as a valuable asset
that could be exploited to achieve American ends: as President
Eisenhower said in a letter to a confidante, "the religious
approach offers . . . a direct path to Arab interest."(17)
[Doc. 133] The NSC
said in 1952 that "The three monotheistic religions in
the area have in common a repugnance to the atheism of communist
doctrine and this factor could become an important asset in
promoting Western objectives in the area." [Doc.
59] A USIE program for Iran recommended "Development
of specialized materials which tend to instill among religious
elements a friendly attitude toward the West and antipathy
for Communism," although "In the case of religious
leaders (mullahs)" American influence "cannot
be direct and it may never be appreciable." [Doc.
6] (Soon thereafter, the embassy reported that two
mullahs had begun public anticommunist sermons in Tehran,
and that others had been sent to the Tabriz and Kurdish areas
for the same purpose.) Plans called for playing up "Moslem
prosecutions by Communist satellites and Soviet and Soviet-Communist
attitudes toward religion." [Doc.
10] The U.S. expected to be able to rely on anti-Communist
religious leaders in Iraq as well. [Doc.
The State Department arranged for Radio Jidda in Saudi Arabia
to broadcast religious programming in the Tatar, Uzbek, and
Azerbaijani languages. After sponsoring (evidently) the composition
of a Christian-themed oratorio, it planned to approach Beirut's
Armenian Seminary to obtain lyrics. [Doc.
53] Identification of a "common moral front"
among various faiths and American values was encouraged: in
Iran, the embassy distributed an eclectic brochure with a
mosque on its cover called "Voices of God", containing
quotations from the Koran, the Muslim poet Hafez, Jesus Christ,
the Biblical prophet Isaiah, the Chinese philosopher Mo Tzu,
the Buddha, the Sanskrit Bhagavad Gita, Abraham Lincoln, and
Mahatma Gandhi. [Doc. 96]
To demonstrate U.S. religious tolerance, the American embassy
in Iraq utilized posters, including photographs of the construction
of Washington, D.C.'s Islamic center. [Doc.
21] One member of a working group on Middle East propaganda
speculated, "maybe we could get the children of Washington
to do a competition painting of that Mosque in some of the
art classes and develop something along that line." [Doc.
The IIA organized an Islamic colloquium for American and
foreign Muslim scholars, that "On the surface" looked
"like an exercise in pure learning. This in effect is
the impression that we desire to give. IIA promoted the colloquium
along these lines and has given it financial and other assistance
because we consider that this psychological approach is an
important contribution at this time to both short term and
long term United States political objectives in the Moslem
area." Government officials even saw a role for the U.S.
in guiding Islam's modern-day evolution and revitalization:
"Among the various results expected from the colloquium
are the impetus and direction that may be given to the Renaissance
movement within Islam itself." [Doc.
89] The American embassy in Egypt recommended that
a member of the Muslim Brotherhood be invited to attend, because
his position "makes it important that his desire for
an invitation be considered carefully in light of the possible
effects of offending this important body." [Doc.
Princeton lecturer (and former president of the American
University of Beirut) Bayard Dodge met with William Eddy (of
the CIA and ARAMCO) about financial support from oil companies
for the colloquium, to supplement a grant from the State Department,
while the printing in Arabic of conference papers was to be
paid for by Franklin Publications. [Doc.
90] [Doc. 94]
William Eddy also discussed a Christian-Muslim "common
moral front" against communism with New York Herald
Tribune columnist Dorothy Thompson: "As you know,
there have been very few signs that the Western Powers place
any value upon Muslims and from the point of view of psychological
warfare alone, we need desperately some common ground to which
we welcome the Muslims and the Arabs as respected and valued
Perhaps Saudi Arabia could be especially useful: according
to Eddy, its profligate King Abd al-Aziz, "as head of
the puritanical Wahhabi movement to restore the pure faith
and practices of Islam" was "without any doubt the
most representative and influential Muslim in the world today."
Abd al-Aziz's son shared his thoughts on these matters with
U.S. representatives. In 1952, the future King Saud, campaigning
to ensure his succession, obtained elaborate press equipment,
an innovation in his then undeveloped desert domain. To please
the influential ulama allied with the Saudi royal family,
he planned to initially publish religious tracts. He also
planned the first publication in Saudi Arabia of the Koran,
according to the State Department, and asked ARAMCO to get
him radio broadcasting equipment. A department official was
helpful: "It was pointed out to him" that he needed
to get people used to tuning in. "It was suggested that
at the outset the reading of religious material would probably
be the best means of introduction." Prince Saud also
confided that he foresaw giving more tangible form to Saudi
leadership, including "plans which he did not wish to
discuss in detail now to spark plug a pan-Islamic movement.
He said it could do a great deal of good in the Muslim countries
by causing them to work together as a unit." The U.S.
official assured Saud that "his information about Islamic
unity was very interesting and we would be very glad to know
more about it when his plans were more clearly formulated.
In general, however, I told him that we would welcome such
a movement under his leadership because we could be sure that
it would be friendly and wisely led." [Doc.
Image versus Reality
The idealized image to be projected in the Middle East of
a freedom-loving America was contradicted by the U.S. government's
mutually beneficial relationships with autocratic regimes
in the region. Despite rhetorical claims, influential Americans
tolerated and valued authoritarian rule. The State Department
said of American press views of the shah of Iran, "For
a time, some hope was even expressed that he might assume
personal leadership in Iran, possibly establishing military
dictatorship in the fashion of Egypt's Naguib. But as editors
saw the Iranian situation going from bad to worse, they very
soon 'wrote off' the Shah as a force to be reckoned with,
and many now believe that his days are numbered." [Doc.
82] An internal oil company memorandum that fell into
State Department hands observed, "the value of the patriarchal
system of Government of Kuwait and the special treaty relationships
with the West . . . . The continuity which this form of Government
gives, the absence of irresponsible electioneering, freedom
from a local gutter press, and the non-existence of the more
unpleasant aspects of nationalism are factors which greatly
assist the conduct of our operations." (The writer was
also concerned about the resistance of Kuwait's rulers to
reform -- but only because this could ultimately undermine
Western interests.) [Doc.
A 1952 memorandum assessed the likelihood that several Arab
governments could override domestic opinion against joining
a Western-sponsored Middle East defense organization (MEDO).
A State Department official reported, "It is too early
to tell whether the present Lebanese Government is or will
be strong enough to accept MEDO over popular and political
opposition," whereas Iraq, happily, "has the government
which could lead the people into MEDO against their own desires."
For some Americans, openness was a liability. An official
of the Trans-Arabian Pipeline said that the publication of
a Federal Trade Commission report "on the alleged 'crimes'
committed by the petroleum companies" (including illegal
overcharges and price fixing), widely reported in the Arab
press, had undermined the prestige of American oil companies.
Unsurprisingly, State Department propaganda did not dwell
on American failings. The department declined to support publication
of a book by Sayid Amin al-Mumayiz entitled America as
I Saw It because "Although an important aspect of
the Campaign of Truth program is assistance in the publication
of indigenous material," the inclusion of material on
the "Negro problem and anti-semitism seems to promise
a certain sensational approach." [Doc.
The views expressed by some State Department officers reflected
mainstream elite opinion in a still-segregated Washington,
D.C. In 1952, an Office of Near Eastern Affairs official commented,
regarding the anticipated demise of Saudi King Abd al-Aziz,
that "we might well welcome" succession by his brother
to the throne, because his sons "are not especially outstanding
and are all born of Negro mothers." [Doc.
The State Department did not appreciate foreign scrutiny
of American racism, and to counteract criticism dispatched
members of minority groups overseas as emissaries embodying
American diversity -- within limits. In 1954, an embassy official
was concerned that Iranians had gained most of their knowledge
of "the Indian problem" from Howard Fast's The
Last Frontier (which described, sympathetically, attempts
by a group of Cherokees to retain their territory), published
in Iran "with the backing, it is believed, of an unfriendly
power," and of "the Negro problem" from social
critic Erskine Caldwell, published in Iran "probably
under the same auspices." The embassy opposed plans to
invite a Native American artist, Solomon McCombs, to tour
Iran if African-American Olympic track champion Malvin Whitfield
visited there as an athletic representative -- "In the
judgment of the Embassy it would be unwise . . . . to have
two such visits of representatives from minority groups come
so close together . . . . Under the circumstances it seems
unwise to urge that Mr. McCombs be sent, since too much emphasis
on our minorities would probably be misconstrued." [Doc.
Average Americans did not always appreciate that 1950s-style
anticommunist fervor did not preclude government-promoted
international outreach programs. After receiving requests
from several Iraqis for tourist brochures, a concerned Franklin,
Michigan Chamber of Commerce representative contacted the
State Department. He was reassured that a USIS program had
probably inspired the requests, and that "supplying information
on democracy in action is one of the ways in which we are
combating communism." The Michigander had feared that
details on his town would be shared with the Iraqis' "neighbor
to the East." [Doc.
Factors Inhibiting Achievement of Propaganda Goals
Those aspects of U.S. propaganda meant to improve America's
image in the Arab world were hindered by differences between
U.S. priorities and those of the people of the region. Of
these issues, observers familiar with local conditions repeatedly
stressed the primacy of Palestine. During the time span covered
by these documents, Israel's 1948 establishment, with crucial
U.S. support, and the consequent displacement of hundreds
of thousands of Palestinian refugees were events of great
immediacy. The effect on the attitudes of Arabs, and of Muslims
outside the Middle East, was overwhelming.
Secretary of State Dean Acheson, noting that anti-Americanism
in the region was rising, recommended propaganda stressing
that the U.S., despite its stance on Palestine, valued friendship
with Arabs. [Doc. 3]
In 1951, the State Department attributed a decrease in animosity
toward the U.S. in part to "United States efforts to
convince the Arabs of its impartiality as between them and
Israel." [Doc. 17]
In 1952, the NSC said that the Arab-Israeli conflict was one
of the principal threats to U.S. interests in the Middle East.
The ambassador to Iraq said "The basic distrust of the
West . . . is a political distrust," that could "only
be met by a political solution." [Doc.
74] He said that Palestine was always the first topic
raised by Iraqis, who warned interlocutors "not to believe
that lapse of time will change Arab attachment to Palestine
or that the young generation will hold different views or
that U.S. loans and grants will cause Arabs to forget and
forgive." He said, "I suggest that we look urgently
at our plans to bring Arabs around to West outlook and from
Baghdad today it seems that surest way to accomplish this
is by our govts squarely facing two problems" (restoring
Arab confidence in American good faith, and modifying British
and French policies in the region.) [Doc.
73] The president of the American University of Beirut
said that the Arab-Israeli conflict helped America's Cold
War adversary, because the Soviet Union exploited the misery
of Palestinians as victims of Western imperialism. [Doc.
Competing national interests also complicated U.S. plans
for anticommunist propaganda directed at the Kurds. The breakup
of the Ottoman empire and the delineation of national borders
after World War I had left large Kurdish populations in Turkey,
Iraq, and Iran; U.S. policy toward the Kurdish minorities
in each of these countries has always been largely determined
by the state of its relationship with the relevant national
The American embassy in Iran supported Kurdish Voice of America
broadcasts as long as they supported the Iranian government
rather than Kurdish nationalism, to "avoid possible resentment
Central Iran Govt authorities whose continued cooperation
is essential connection USIE activities Iran." [Doc.
27] The government of Iraq cooperated with the U.S.
in producing anticommunist bulletins, newsreels, and music
broadcasts aimed at Iraqi Kurds, but it too was opposed to
any measures likely to augment Kurdish nationalism. [Doc.
2] [Doc. 35] When
the American embassy in Ankara asked for help with Kurdish-language
radio broadcasts from the Turkish government, it was told
that there was no "Kurdish question" in Turkey.
The embassy recommended that Kurdish Voice of America broadcasts
be transmitted instead from either Iran or Iraq. [Doc.
31] Seeming to concede that adamant government objections
precluded the use of Turkey as a base for Kurdish propaganda,
the State Department in Washington noted, dryly, that "It
was not anticipated, of course, that a direct approach would
be made to the foreign governments in connection with the
question." [Doc. 32]
Innate contradictions hindered U.S. efforts to portray itself
to Middle Eastern audiences as a defender of freedom and self-determination,
in spite of its ties with Britain and France and its burgeoning
plans to project its own power in the region. Britain proposed
Anglo-American propaganda cooperation [Doc.
23], but the ambassador to Iraq observed that it was
problematical for America to "present a united front
with Great Britain and France and, at the same time, to avoid
the accusation of perpetuating colonialism." [Doc.
102] In non-Arab Iran one observer said that antagonism
toward the U.S. derived not from its support of Israel but
the fact that "the British tail is all to successfully
wagging the American dog." [Doc.
35] In late 1951, while Britain was striving to reverse
Iran's nationalization of British-controlled oil interests,
an American propaganda newsreel shown in rural Iran included
an image of the British U.N. delegation head. He was "thoroughly
booed, to the extent that no one in the audience could hear
the narration." [Doc.
"Anti-western" nationalism was viewed as one of
the principal threats to U.S. interests in the Middle East.
[Doc. 59] Although
propaganda programs were based in part on the assumption that
U.S. popular culture, and the display of America's material
success, would impress Middle Eastern audiences, local observers
sometimes indicated otherwise. In January 1953, Iran's Ministry
of Propaganda and Broadcasting drafted a report on the activities
of mobile film units in the provinces. The document, which
the American embassy "acquired through informal channels,"
explained that propaganda films were generally well received
by Iranians, but "the more the films are connected with
their lives and the farther they are from odd scenes of American
and European large cities, the better the people will like
and realize them . . . By experience we have learned that
the people in remote areas are frightened of foreign propaganda
and dislike it no matter whether it is American, Russian or
British. A sort of suspicion arises in their minds which is
not desirable if good result is to be obtained from our work."
Not surprisingly, resistance to foreign influence led to
direct attacks on propaganda outlets, despite the best efforts
of friendly government officials. During anti-regime protests
in Iraq in late 1952, inspired in part by the government's
pro-Western policies, opposition groups attacked the USIS
office in Baghdad. [Doc.
83] [Doc. 84] [Doc.
85] Iraq's foreign minister and the American ambassador
agreed that the office should be re-opened without delay "to
offset Commie blow at both Iraq and U.S. prestige." [Doc.
Individual acts of opposition could be dealt with severely.
Through conducting a survey to assess the effectiveness of
propaganda pamphlets, the USIS found out that some were not
being delivered, and it contacted the appropriate Iraqi government
agency. Noting that the American embassy had attained "excellent
cooperation with the Post Office Department in Iraq,"
and "every assistance from the Director-General,"
it reported that "At least one postman who was found
not to be delivering USIS pamphlets was discharged. Another,
discharged as a Communist, was discovered to have kept undelivered
batches of USIS pamphlets in his home." [Doc.
Demands for Change
To the extent that American propaganda was perceived as supportive
of a repressive status quo, it was not well received by those
Middle Easterners who sought political and economic reform,
and who failed to see the benefits to be gained from enlisting
in the Cold War on the Western side. It appeared to these
political activists that conservative regimes embraced alliance
with the U.S. as a way to procure crucial foreign backing,
lessening pressure to establish responsive institutions or
to implement measures intended to win popular support.
In 1951, the American embassy in Tehran said that "The
mental attitude" of Iran's "large rural population
complicates our task . . . . As a whole, they have a deep
and abiding hatred and distrust of the ruling class which
leads them to the belief that our economic and military aid
programs are designed to further strengthen the ruling class
whom they regard as their oppressors. Every effort must be
made to mitigate the strength of this feeling which is definitely
encouraged" by the Soviet Union. [Doc.
The embassy recommended development aid for functional reasons,
arguing that achievement of U.S. objectives depended on it.
The embassy argued that the dire condition of Iran's rural
poor precluded any interest in anti-Soviet propaganda, so
to be effective "the major portion of the American program
would have to be in the educational field, developing knowledge
of better agricultural and public health methods. The Iranian
Government would reap the public credit for our program while
our benefit would be realized through helping to raise the
standard of living and thereby a certain measure of political
and economic stability would be the result." [Doc.
Evaluating the impact of American propaganda on rural Iranians,
field workers for Iran's Propaganda Ministry offered the same
advice: some viewers "said it would be far better had
the government sent them some bread rather than undertake
to spend so much money sending them films. In some places
the inhabitants asked for doctor[s] and medicine rather than
films." [Doc. 87]
Assessing the probable impact in Iraq of a propaganda film
entitled "When the Communists Came", an American
embassy review panel indicated that there was a possibility
of the film "backfiring . . . . [it] does not contain
sufficient recognition of the universal desire on the part
of the peasant in the Middle East for land and for a better
life. These must somehow be represented as available not by
revolution, but by political means . . . . In a country such
as Iraq where land reform is one of the pressing issues, the
brutal treatment of landlords is not likely to awaken any
sympathy among the peasant population." [Doc.
American academic and indefatigable field researcher George
Cameron said he was told by a local Kurdish leader, who had
seen America's previously discussed anticommunist pig poster,
that he knew "the Baghdad man who is producing this sheet
for your Government. I know how much he is being paid yearly
to produce it." The Kurdish leader said that his people
knew more of ill health and poverty than communism, and "If
one fourth of that amount was to be made available in medicines
or in some other more tangible product of your country which
could be used to lessen the poverty or to better the health
of my people, would it not be a far more successful propaganda
approach?" [Doc. 35]
The American embassy in Baghdad told the State Department
a story exemplifying the unanticipated reception elicited
by some propaganda efforts. Several years earlier, the Iraqi
government had shown the Ernst Lubitsch/Billy Wilder film
"Ninotchka", as part of its effort to purvey an
anti-Communist message. (At the outset of the movie, the character
played by Greta Garbo is an ultra-serious Soviet emissary.
By film's end she has been transformed by her Parisian experiences.)
"After several showings the film was withdrawn because
the Iraqi audience considered Ninotchka's somber existence
in Russia preferable to her gay and immoral life in Paris."
The appeal of the American way of life had its limits: in
the Middle East, there was "a hostility arising from
religious sources -- perhaps no longer primarily a zealous
detestation of the infidel but rather a resentment of the
contempt or indifference with which the West is thought to
view Islam and Islamic civilization, coupled with a conservative
aversion to what are thought to be the materialism, godlessness,
and immorality of Western and particularly American life."
Americans living and working in the region cited local disillusionment
with U.S. policy as a major impediment to winning popular
support. The president of the American University of Beirut
stated that "We have heretofore been held in highest
regard by the Arab peoples but we cannot continue to win or
deserve their admiration unless our policies are inspired
once more by the ideals so frequently publicized which the
Arabs had come to admire." [Doc.
24] Advising Franklin Publications on the most effective
tone to adopt for Middle Eastern propaganda, an IIA official
suggested emphasizing "persistent American friendliness
for and interest in the Arab world . . . An especial effort
should be devoted to publications that emphasize U.S. neutrality
between Israel and the Arabs, an awareness of Arab rights
in the controversy."
One participant in a State Department discussion of strategy
observed, "We cannot change the U.S. Government policy
. . . I think our propaganda is to make U.S. policy palatable,"
or "at least less unpalatable." [Doc.
During the Cold War, American propaganda was a tool in an
anticommunist crusade; today, it is a facet of the U.S. "war
on terrorism." Now, as then, it is characterized as a
remedy for anti-Americanism. Now as in the past, U.S. policy
toward Palestine is the primary source of Arab and Muslim
dislike for the U.S., generated as well by apparent American
indifference to the suffering of Iraqi civilians under sanctions
and the pervasive presence of U.S. military forces, viewed
by many as protectors of autocratic and unpopular regimes
rather than as defenders against external aggression.
Methods for disseminating propaganda are vastly more sophisticated
today than in the past: there is now widespread access to
radio and satellite television, videos, popular music, and
the Internet. But the effectiveness of America's propaganda
apparatus is limited by inadequate knowledge of Middle Eastern
languages, culture, and social mores. The U.S. government
seeks help from the private sector in targeting the region,
but a predilection for cartoonish depictions of Middle Easterners
and Middle East issues is likely to limit the appeal of products
created by the American entertainment industry. For the foreseeable
future, exchange-of-person programs will be hindered by visa
restrictions, the inconvenience of travel for those from the
region, hostility, and grass roots movements among Arabs and
Muslims encouraging the rejection of U.S. influence.
Documents from the 1950s in this collection reflect, in large
measure, the assumption that favorable public opinion in the
region was necessary in order to achieve U.S. objectives.
Today, however, Bush administration decision makers see overwhelming
military power as the way to achieve U.S. goals in the Middle
East, and to enhance its prestige. Their policies seem to
embrace a position asserted by George Kennan in 1952: the
U.S. should not expect to be popular or liked in the Middle
East; instead, "We should demonstrate that we are prepared
to act and that we mean business in the protection of our
strategic interests. We should shift the emphasis in our policy
in order to obtain this respect." The response of policy
makers in the Middle East "should not be motivated by
love of the U.S." [Doc.
George W. Bush has described the conflict between the U.S.
and those who resist its policies in the Middle East as a
battle between good and evil -- those who "hate"
the U.S. do so because they oppose freedom and the democracy
for which the U.S. stands. This simplistic formulation is
granted some level of acceptance by a fearful domestic audience,
seeking comfort and reassurance, but is viewed incredulously
by many observers in the region, who are familiar with America's
support for corrupt and repressive dictatorships, in the Middle
East and around the world, and its selective policies regarding
weapons of mass destruction.
In the version of reality projected by representatives of
the Bush administration, and reflected in large measure in
the U.S. news media, America's history of exploiting, for
its own political purposes, the most conservative and militant
interpretations of Islam, in the Persian Gulf region, in Pakistan,
and in Afghanistan, is to be forgotten. So too is America's
habit of looking the other way, when convenient, as allies
accelerated their nuclear weapons programs (consider Israel,
Pakistan, and Iraq.) So too is U.S. aid and comfort for Iraq
during the Iran-Iraq war (while also, on occasion, providing
arms and intelligence to its adversary), thus helping to perpetuate
a horrifically bloody conflict. So too is the Reagan administration's
policy of downplaying Iraq's use of chemical weapons against
Iran during that war. So too is the first Bush administration's
decisions, after Iraq used chemical weapons against Kurdish
Iraqis, to continue providing taxpayer-guaranteed financial
credits to Saddam Hussein's government, and to seek "opportunities
for U.S. firms to participate in the reconstruction of the
Iraqi economy, particularly in the energy area."(18)
During the 1950s, the U.S. sought to project an image of
itself as a peace-loving nation, supportive of the United
Nations and international law (an image not always strictly
coincident with reality), but any attempt to convey a similar
message by the current administration would be belied by America's
denigration of the U.N. in recent years, its massive global
arms sales (to the Middle East, in particular), and its preference
for unilateral decision-making. Likewise, President Bush's
statements of tolerance and respect for Muslims are contradicted
by the powerful influence on his administration of those conservative
Christians who deny the legitimacy of Islam, ridicule its
tenets, and embrace the brutal Arab-Israeli conflict as a
sanctified means to an apocalyptic end -- to include, as they
envision it, the annihilation of Muslims, Jews, and all others
who have not embraced a "born-again" version of
The documents in this collection concerned with the 1953
coup in Iran are of particular contemporary interest. While
campaigning for an invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration
assumes a favorable military outcome for the U.S., a position
that seems irrefutable given the disparate force levels between
the two adversaries and conditions in Iraq following 10 years
of sanctions. Still, foreign occupations are expensive to
maintain: this had much to do with ending the imperial ambitions
of Britain and France. Saudi Arabia, other conservative Gulf
states, Germany, Japan, and other U.S. allies provided much
of the funding that paid for the Persian Gulf war; such generous
subsidies will not be available for an invasion of Iraq. Many
observers conclude that the U.S. plans the invasion, an innately
risky undertaking at a time when the country faces severe
economic problems, only because it is counting on an eventual
financial windfall, to be gained from ensuring a permanent
military presence in the region, and from reasserting Western
control over Iraqi, and ultimately, perhaps, over all Middle
East oil resources.
The Bush administration is evidently contemptuous of opposition
to its planned invasion of Iraq by, according to all reports,
the vast majority of the people of the Middle East. America's
war plans rely on the cooperation of dependent principalities
whose rulers can, with U.S. protection, or must, under U.S.
coercion, ignore domestic opinion. The underlying assumption
is that manifestations of opposition will be limited to a
few demonstrations outside embassies to let the locals blow
off steam, while the U.S. relies on the repressive, often
U.S.-trained, internal security forces of its client regimes
to keep the situation under control. Meanwhile, in its public
statements the administration maintains, straight-faced, that
it is fighting for democracy, and is compelled to resort to
war because the people of the Middle East, sadly, understand
and respect only force.
Propaganda strategies developed in tandem with war plans
will include those arguments explaining and defending U.S.
actions that have the widest popular appeal. As has become
the rule for U.S. military operations, information will be
controlled and filtered by the Pentagon. In Iraq, some will
welcome an overthrow of the present repressive government,
even if brought about by a foreign invasion; the U.S. government
will do what it can to ensure that this reaction monopolizes
news coverage. The administration has reason to be confident
that a passive opposition party, a pro-war mainstream press,
all the apparatus of news manipulation available to the government,
and a public and mass media predisposed to view the motives
of their country in a favorable light, and to hope that their
sense of insecurity will be lessened by an attack on a designated
enemy, are likely to ensure that a U.S. invasion of Iraq will
be judged a success - at least in the short term.
Several more recent documents concerned with the issues discussed
in this collection are appended.
One concerns a case of turnabout involving the U.S. and the
shah of Iran: during the turbulent 1950s, American propaganda
sought to improve the image of the Iranian ruler. In 1969,
after a huge protest in Washington against the Vietnam war,
presidential aide Dwight Chapin sought publicity for the shah's
praise of a beleaguered Richard Nixon: "Friendly columnists
should be called today--and given excerpts of the Shah's remarks
about the President . . . . Eric Sevareid should be called
by Shakespeare [Frank Shakespeare, former president of CBS
Television and director of the USIA] or perhaps by Klein--and
try to get the thrust of the Shah's remarks into his show
for tonight." [Doc.
Protests against the shah grew in the years preceding the
Islamic revolution. In December 1977, immediately before a
visit by Jimmy Carter to Iran, students attacked the local
facility of the previously discussed Franklin Publishing,
Inc. The State Department said the motivation for the assault
was "unclear". [Doc.
136] (The Iran America Society, also discussed previously,
was targeted during the same week.)
A group of American teachers discussed growing anti-Americanism
with State Department officials in late 1978, observing that
recent statements of support for the shah by Jimmy Carter
had "not had a salutary effect," nor was the U.S.
government's underplaying of the Iranian government's violent
suppression of political protests helpful. One teacher said
he was "embarrassed to try to explain the meaning of
such statements to his students." All mentioned Iranian
acquaintances who were encouraged by Carter's statements on
human rights but were deeply aggrieved by his support for
the shah: Iranians "otherwise well-disposed toward the
United States" were "extremely hostile in recent
days as a direct consequence of their sense of betrayal."
An embassy official replied that Iran-U.S. relations were
on a government-to-government basis, that the "Administration
is inclined to see the Shah as Iran's best hope for continued
economic and social development," and commented that
the criticism demonstrated "naiveté about the
realities of inter-governmental relationships." [Doc.
137] (Overwhelming opposition led to the shah's exile
from Iran a few months later.)
Comments in 1979 on Kuwait's news media reflect little change
from conditions described in the 1950 document on Kuwait included
in this collection. [Doc.
9] Kuwait's press was controlled by the government,
restricted its reportage to domestic issues, did not criticize
Kuwait's rulers or foreign heads of state, and practiced self-censorship.
"The owners and editors of the media in Kuwait are just
as interested as the ruling family in protecting Kuwait from
harmful publicity . . . . It is safe to say that, if there
is now a threat to the security and stability of Kuwait, that
threat does not arise from or draw support from the mass media."
[Doc. 138] (The
State Department's most recent report on human rights in Kuwait,
following the 10 years of close cooperation with the U.S.
that followed the ejection of occupying Iraqi forces, suggests
that creation of a truly free and independent press in Kuwait
is as unlikely as ever.) (19)
Manipulation of news, including that with a religious association,
for propaganda purposes continued. Several months before the
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, an "Islamic Association
of Afghan Students" including Afghans, Palestinians,
and Indians, demonstrated in front of the Soviet embassy in
India. The protest was funded by the New Delhi CIA station
and organized by a CIA "asset". The CIA sought images
from extensive Indian newspaper and television coverage to
replay in neighboring countries, and additional demonstrations
were scheduled for Germany, Iran, Denmark, and the United
States. [Doc. 139]
Staged events to exhibit sympathy toward Islam appear to
be conventions for every American president. During the Iranian
hostage crisis, proposed venues for this gesture by Jimmy
Carter included a meeting at the White House with professors
and students of Middle East or South Asian studies, or with
diplomats, or with families of hostages. A visit to Washington's
Islamic Center to express "season's greetings" to
U.S. Muslims was also suggested, although one scrupulous adviser
called the idea "Too artificial." [Doc.
In late 1983, during the U.S. intervention in Lebanon (along
with French, Italian, and British forces) undertaken in response
to conflict among Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese,
the Reagan administration developed plans for a "public
diplomacy strategy" for the Middle East. Its anticipated
activities included making senior officials available for
television, for briefings given to "major media centers,"
and for visits to editorial boards, business groups, churches
and educational institutions. Its targets were congress, business,
labor, and special interest groups, and "major, regional
local, and specialized" media. [Doc.
142] [Doc. 144]
U.S. propaganda was no longer hobbled by the technological
shortcomings of the 1950s. Under Secretary of State Lawrence
Eagleburger noted in November 1983, "The U.S. Government
has an extraordinarily extensive range of communications resources
to support public diplomacy strategies. The breadth and depth
of our capabilities permit comprehensive, flexible approaches
which can be tailored to widely varying audiences and policy
The themes for domestic audiences were: "we will stay
the course [in Lebanon] because it is in America's long-term
interest" and "We do not envisage any change at
this time in the size, role or mission" of the multinational
force (MNF). Foreigners would be told that "None of the
Middle East problems can be seen in isolation from each other
. . . Cowardly, terrorist attempts to force the withdrawal
of the MNF will not succeed . . . Political and strategic
stability is a vital Western interest. Common efforts are
needed to resolve potentially explosive issues, including
the Arab-Israeli, Iraq-Iran and Lebanese crises." [Doc.
(The U.S. withdrew from Lebanon in February 1984, the Iran-Iraq
war lasted for five more bloody years, and the Palestine-Israel
dispute is no closer to resolution than it was 18 years ago.)
Sustaining the war in Afghanistan was a greater priority
for the Reagan administration than the costly intervention
in Lebanon. Working with National Endowment for Democracy-funded
associations such as the American Friends of Afghanistan,
the U.S. distributed books, trained teachers (selected "Based
on the recommendation of local Mujahiddun [those who wage
jihad] commanders,") and taught video documentation
techniques. [Doc. 145]
"Public diplomacy" goals for Afghanistan, developed
as the U.S. consulted "closely with Pakistan," included
making sure that the war stayed in the forefront of international
attention, undermining a Soviet "political offensive",
"involving other governments to a greater extent in supporting
the Afghan people's cause," preventing the Soviet Union
from achieving a negotiated settlement, and seeking "greater
involvement of the private sector in support of various elements
of our Afghanistan policy." A special interagency working
group was formed for Afghanistan, to coordinate efforts "to
maximize media coverage of the war and publicity favorable
to the resistance." [Doc.
3 October 2002
3 October 2002
3 October 2002
3 October 2002
4 December 2002
3 October 2002
7. During the mid-1950s, a specific U.S.
policy for Saudi Arabia, in addition to strengthening the
U.S. "special position," was to take "all appropriate
measures to bring about the cancellation" of an agreement
between the Saudi government and Aristotle Onassis to transport
Saudi oil on his tankers. [Doc. 128] The arrangement would
have ended monopoly control of Saudi Arabia's oil by American
oil companies, but was forestalled by the U.S. government.
8. Similar problems will also probably complicate
the Bush administration's future "public diplomacy"
9. John F. Devlin, The Ba'th Party
(Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1976), 108-109, 194.
10. Department of State, Foreign Relations
of the United States, 1950: The Near East, South Asia, and
Africa, vol. 5 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1978), 615 n.
11. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental
Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, 1978,
see relevant excerpt available online at http://jeremybigwood.net/AJR/Church_Committee.htm,
17 October 2002; Carl Bernstein, "The CIA and the Media,"
Rolling Stone (Oct. 20, 1977), says that former CIA
directors William Colby and George Bush "persuaded the
committee to restrict its inquiry into the matter," and
that the committee's report discusses the issue in "deliberately
vague and sometimes misleading terms." See excerpt, http://www.realhistoryarchives.com/media/ciamedia.htm,
12 October 2002
12. Before establishing the New American
Library, Victor Weybright worked for the American branch of
the British publishing firm, Penguin Books, Ltd. He asked
Penguin to authorize publication in India of an inexpensive
edition of George Orwell's novel 1984, saying "In
this particular case, we are more interested in the effect
of the book upon readers than in the commercial aspects of
any such translation."
Subsequently, an officer of Penguin Books wrote to a colleague,
"With reference to the proposition for an edition of
50,000 copies of 1984 for India, this interests me
considerably, as less than a week ago I had a visit from a
somewhat vague individual from Washington, who is concerned
with the distribution of certain books of alleged propaganda
value throughout the world, and the one title which he mentioned
was Orwell's 1984 and the one territory in which he
seemed to be particularly interested was India, so that I
can only think that Weybright's enquiry stems from the same
(George Orwell's correspondence indicates that he was asked
for advice on propaganda for India and Pakistan, and that
he responded that broadcasting would not be effective due
to limited access to radios.) See Steve Hare, "Big Brother,"
in Selected Articles from Society Publications, available
7 October 2002
4 October 2002
14. Victor Weybright was a "founding
trustee" of Franklin Publications. He wrote that "Franklin
had been envisaged by some of the founders as an adjunct to
American propaganda abroad, but Datus Smith, former director
of the Princeton University Press who became Franklin's president,
soon established a policy that Franklin would never become
a propaganda organization. It developed as the friendly advisor
and occasional short-term creditor of book enterprises which
now operate under local management in most the Arab countries,
in parts of India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Africa and South America.
. . . I was pleased to find that from the very beginning books
controlled by NAL [New American Library] were so well adapted
for foreign translation that a large number of our titles
were utilized." Victor Weybright, The Making of a
Publisher (New York: Reynal & Company, 1966), 251.
15. Dan Lacy received a State Department
Superior Service Medal "for his role in creating Franklin
Books." He was a member of Franklin Publications' board
of directors. In 1953, he joined Victor Weybright in opposing
anti-pornography legislation and in disseminating a widely
cited anticensorship statement (Ibid., 236.) (His later positions
included assistant archivist of the United States, deputy
chief assistant librarian of Congress, and head of the United
States Information Agency overseas library and publishing
11 October 2002
17. Eisenhower also responded to the apparent
suggestion from a shared acquaintance that "preventive
war should either have been waged or at least threatened upon
a number of occasions in the past few decades. He ignores
the fact that no Congress could ever have been induced to
declare such a war. But his failure to ponder what such a
venture would have brought about is mystifying. War is war,
no matter by what adjective it is described. His idea is that
all of these Presidents quailed before heavy responsibility.
No matter what else might be said of President Roosevelt or
of President Truman, I think that no one properly could charge
them with being cowardly either in the physical or in the
18. Executive Office of the President, "NSD
26: U.S. Policy toward the Persian Gulf," October 2,