For anyone old enough to remember back to 1960 the recent photos from Iran of a “captured” American surveillance drone must be reminiscent of another embarrassing saga in American intelligence history. I’d like to say I was still in the crib at the time but I was actually in high school.
This was during the Cold War and the CIA was using the U-2 (a spy plane, not a rock band) to take infrared photos of Russian military installations. U-2s cruised at an altitude of 75,000 feet, considered far too high for Russian radar to detect. Or so everyone thought.
Our government vehemently denied such flights even existed. That is, until on May 1, 1960 a U-2 was shot down and the pilot, Francis Gary Powers, was captured. As Rick Perry might say, “Whoops.”
The photos of Powers and the plane were defiantly shown to the world by the Russians much like the Iranians are doing now with our drone. Evidently it’s true, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Curiously, Powers, who died in Los Angeles under mysterious circumstances in 1977, (his helicopter ran out of gas) always believed that his U-2 had been sabotaged by the CIA. Why? Because Eisenhower planned a summit with Khrushchev for mid-May of 1960.
Even though this sounds like a conspiracy theory it makes considerable sense. Even Khrushchev suspected the downing of the U-2 may have been the work of “American aggressive circles” trying to “torpedo the Paris summit, and prevent an agreement for which the whole world is waiting.”
Not surprisingly, after the U-2 incident, the summit was called off by the Russians. (And the Cold War “flourished” for arms manufacturers and related industries for another 30 years!) Months later Ike gave his famous farewell address, warning of the “unwanted influence of military-industrial complex” which he felt might steer the country toward war for financial gain. (Can you say Halliburton?)
At the time most thought Ike’s admonition came out of nowhere. Perhaps not. In looking back, one thing seems abundantly clear, there’s no money in peace.
Currently, we, and much of the world, revile the Iranian regime. But we don’t exactly have clean hands. Our interest in Iran began in 1908 with the discovery of oil. Ever since we’ve looked at Iran as a combination cash register and oil spigot.
Our “bad behavior” culminated in 1953 when we helped remove a democratically elected Iranian prime minister. He wanted to nationalize the oil industry and we couldn’t allow that. (As in the question, how did our oil wind up under their sand?)
Imagine if a foreign country interfered in our elections. What if in 2000 a foreign power helped overturn Bush’s election over Gore? Actually, that’s a bad example for obvious reasons. Actually, I wish they had.
The point is that we’d probably go to war with any country that interfered with our elections. And yet we are aghast that the Iranians aren’t our fans. As 1 percent-er Willard Romney says of the U.S., we should “never apologize.” (I’m not betting $10,000 on the proposition but it appears that Willard’s middle name is “Mittens.” Mittens? A cat I could understand, but…)
Currently there’s surprisingly little discussion of this drone fiasco, which was clearly a violation of Iranian airspace. (Would we permit the Iranians to fly over the Pentagon?) And yet this story is getting little play, whereas there’s tons of heated discussion about Tim Tebow and the upcoming NFL playoffs. What a country.
Personally, I fear it’s possible the drone incident will be a precursor to a war with Iran. The fact is we’re already in a shadow war there. Just as we are winding down the war in Iraq, we may be ratcheting up one with the Iranians. We seem to love our wars.
But maybe I don’t have the right attitude about the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now possibly Iran. It might make a great sitcom, “Two and One-Half Wars.” Remember, Charlie Sheen’s available.
Instead of the sitcom being about a jingle writer who lives in Malibu, it could be about a madcap general who lives in a bachelor pad in Chevy Chase, Md. Instead of chasing hot babes he could chase hot wars. Imagine the hilarious hi-jinx.
In looking back, Ike’s famous farewell address turned out to be darkly prophetic. The military-industrial complex became a permanent fixture in American politics.
And the “War on Terror” has been as much of a financial boon to the war machine as was the Cold War. In Iraq, for example, our government admitted that as much as $17 billion just “disappeared.” Vanished into thin air. (Or various pockets.)
And yet nobody was prosecuted or even fired. There wasn’t even much of a collective “whoops.” And just think, Iran could be next.
When he isn’t fretting over upcoming wars, Jack can be reached at Jnsmdp@aol.com.