How the election of 1976 changed the Middle East
The execution of former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, merits only the briefest mention. His indefensible behavior can be defended only in that his step-father was so brutal he went to be raised by Khayrallah Tulfah, his pro-Nazi uncle. Whether Saddam became a brutal sociopath by nature or by nurture we may never know; however, we do know Saddam passed on to his, arguably, insane sons his own delight in the torture and brutal murder of his subjects.
The irony of the last week of 2006 is that former President Gerald Ford, one of the most decent men ever to serve humanity, was honored at his death by the American people at about the same time the people of Iraq broke the neck of Saddam Hussein with a hangman’s rope.
The death of President Ford and the problems we face with militant Iran and the trouble Iran is causing inside Iraq raises some interesting speculations about the presidential election of 1976 that pitted the incumbent President Gerald Ford against presidential wannabe, James Earl Carter.
Long before and while Gerald Ford was President of the United States, the Shah of Iran was America’s best friend in the Middle East. During those years, the Soviet Union was nearing the zenith of its military might and was looking longingly at the oil riches of neighboring Iran. Indeed, were it not for the Shah and his American ally, some experts predicted the Soviet Union would not only seize Iran’s oil but also achieve its long-sought goal of a year-round, warm-water port on the Persian Gulf.
Fortunately, the Shah was a strong opponent of Soviet expansionism. He purchased the latest U.S. military equipment to face the Soviets to his north. Our military advisers and factory technical representatives enjoyed warm personal relationships with members of the Iranian military who were quick to embrace new technology and learning. (The fact that Iranians are not Arabs may have something to do with the Iranians’ willingness to study technical manuals rather than limit their reading to the Koran.)
The Shah admired many of our institutions, to include our social security system. So much so, that he hired Ross Perot’s IDS company to come into Iran to set up a social security system as a way of insuring that Iran’s oil wealth was distributed among the people of his country.
But the pro-women’s equality, pro-education Shah was moving too swiftly for the radical Islamic Mullahs who were loath to see any changes in Iran that might diminish their influence among the Iranian people. Urged on by the Mullahs, the devotees of radical Islam wanted the Shah deposed.
Mind you, like all of the rulers of the Middle East, the Shah was a dictator, complete with a secret police apparatus to keep him in power. Ironically, if the Shah had not been “infected” with progressive ideas such as a social security system and other western institutions that were threatening to the Mullahs, he might well have remained in power to the end of his days.
The U.S. was not the only nation that liked the Shah. He was also popular with all of his neighbors in the Middle East. Why? Because the Shah had no intention of attacking them. Having plenty of oil and being under the protection and influence of the United States probably had something to do with his pacifism.
Had Gerald Ford been elected in 1976, U.S. policy with regard to the Shah would have remained unchanged. Iran would have continued to be a pro-U.S. nation.
But when President Jimmy Carter was told the Shah was dying of syphilis contracted years ago as a student in Paris and that a holy man was waiting in the wings in France to replace the Shah, Carter pulled the Persian Rug out from under the Shah, paving the way for the Ayatollah Khomeini and radical Islam to rule Iran. As Paul Harvey says, “Now, you know the rest of the story.”
Syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and a former research fellow at the U.S. Military History Institute of the U.S. Army War College. He is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2007. William Hamilton.