31 years ago in January 1979 these words were spoken by His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Shahanshah Aryamehr:
"I have devoted my existence to provide them a better life. I have given land to the peasants. I have imposed our industrialists to share their profit with workers. I have developed an excellent health program and established social security. I did everything to better the standard of living of my people. I cannot order soldiers and policemen to shoot people."
"I am told today that I should have applied martial law more forcefully. This would have cost my country less dear than the bloody anarchy now established there. But a sovereign cannot save his throne by spilling blood of his fellow--countrymen. A dictator can do it because he acts in the name of an ideology which he believes he must make triumphant, no matter what the price. A sovereign is not a dictator. There is between him and his people an alliance which he cannot break. A dictator has nothing to pass on and power belongs to him alone. A sovereign receives his crown from the people..."
In Memory Of Iran By Roger Scruton
[An American perspective]
Who remembers Iran?
Who remembers, that is, the shameful stampede of Western journalists and intellectuals to the cause of the Islamic revolution?
Who remembers the hysterical propaganda campaign waged against the Shah, the lurid press reports of corruption, police oppression, palace decadence, constitutional
Who remembers the thousands of Iranian students in Western universities [on Pahlavi burseries] enthusiastically absorbing the fashionable Marxist nonsense purveyed to them by armchair radicals, so as one day to lead the campaign of riot and mendacity which preceded the Shah's downfall?
Who remembers the behaviour of those students who held as hostage the envoys of the very same power which had provided their 'education'?
Who remembers Edward Kennedy's accusation that the Shah had presided over 'one of the most oppressive regimes in history' and had stolen 'umpteen billions of dollars
And who remembers the occasional truth that our journalists enabled us to glimpse, concerning the Shah's real achievements: his successes in combating the illiteracy, backwardness and powerlessness of his country, his enlightened economic policy, the reforms which might have saved his people from the tyranny of evil mullahs, had he been given the chance to accomplish them?
Who remembers the freedom and security in which journalists could roam Iran, gathering the gossip that would fuel their fanciful stories of a reign of terror?
True, the Shah was an autocrat. But autocracy and tyranny are not the same. An autocrat may preside, as the Shah sought to preside, over a representative parliament, over an independent judiciary, even over a free press and an autonomous university.
The Shah, like Kemal Ataturk, whose vision he shared, regarded his autocracy as the means to the creation and protection of such institutions. Why did no one among the Western political scientists trouble to point this out, or to rehearse the theory which tells us to esteem not just the democratic process, but also the representative and limiting institutions which may still flourish in its absence?
Why did no one enjoin us to compare the political system of Iran with that of Iraq or Syria?
Why did our political scientists rush to embrace the Iranian revolution, despite the evidence that revolution under these circumstances must be the prelude to massive social disorder and a regime of terror?
Why did the Western intelligentsia go on repeating the myth that the Shah was to blame for this revolution, when both Khomeini and the Marxists had been planning it for 30 years and had found, despite their many attempts to put it into operation, only spasmodic popular support?
The answer to all those questions is simple. The Shah was an ally of the West, whose achievement in establishing limited monarchy in a vital strategic region had helped to guarantee our security, to bring stability to the Middle East and to deter
The Shah made the fatal mistake of supposing that the makers of Western opinion would love him for creating conditions which guaranteed their freedom. On the contrary, they hated him. The Shah had reckoned without the great death wish which haunts our civilisation and which causes its vociferous members to propagate any falsehood, however absurd, provided only that it damages our chances of survival.
For a while, of course, those vociferous elements will remain silent on the embarrassing topic of Iran, believing that the collapse of Iranian institutions, the establishment of religious terror, the Soviet expansion into Afghanistan and the end of stability in the region are all due to some other cause than the Islamic revolution. Those who lent their support to this tragedy simply turned their back on it and went elsewhere, to prepare a similar outcome for the people of Turkey, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, South Africa -- or wherever else our vital interests may be damaged.
Of course, it is difficult now for a Western correspondent to enter Iran, and if he did so it would not be for fun. He could not, like the ghouls who send their despatches from Beirut, adopt a public posture of the front-line hero. He would have to witness, quietly and in terror of his life, things which beggar description: the spontaneous 'justice' of the revolutionary guards, the appalling scenes of violence, torture and demonic frenzy, the public humiliation of women, the daily sacrifice of lives too young to be conscious of the meaning for which they are condemned to destruction.
He would also have to confront the truth which has been staring him in the face for years, and which he could still recognise had the habit of confessing his errors been preserved: the truth that limited monarchy is the right form of government for Iran, which can be saved only by the restoration of the Shah's legitimate successor. But such a result would be in the interests not only of the Iranian people, but also of the West.
Hence few Western journalists are likely to entertain it.