the Cause of Liberty
Two Men of Principle
Joseph De Matteo
In the Cause of Liberty
Two Men of Principle
Fight for Democracy and Self
the early twentieth century in a far off land, men on horses
with guns set out to force a monarch to institute a
constitution, which would give birth to a parliament.
was a strange revolution by American standards.
Not only were they not looking to over throw the monarch,
they were actually asking him for a modicum of
American who has had a hard time understanding the political
thinking of Old World people, I quickly saw this historical
event as an opportunity to broaden my comprehension.
in my research I found more than I bargained for.
I found a new hero.
look at photographs of Mohammad Mossadegh is to see a scholar,
an academic, an accountant, a lawyer, a bureaucrat or a
reality, Mossadegh, who was all of the above, was also a
passionate, highly principled man of monumental character and an
unrelenting tenacity. Without
question these are traits that are hard to find in a modern
American Politico, but were common in America’s founding
fathers. In fact,
Mossadegh had many of the characteristics that Americans believe
to be embodied in our heroes alone.
Iranian Constitution was accepted in 1906; Dr. Mossadegh became
Prime Minister in 1951 and was removed from office in a coup
d’etat in 1953.
more than fifty years, as both an appointed official and an
elected one, he tenaciously worked to bring democracy and
self-determination to Iran; though never at the expense of the
fulfillment of his duties in the service of the Iranian people.
with truth and demanding justice, Prime Minister Mossadegh stood
up to powerful men, and to domineering countries.
At The Hague and the United Nations he presented his case
against the unlawful control that foreign governments had over
his country, illustrated how these governments bought off
Iran’s ruling elite and took Iran’s natural wealth, leaving
the nation and her people poorer for it.
gentleman born to the ruling class himself, Mossadegh lived a
selfless and unpretentious life, in stark contrast to many of
the people to whom he presented his case.
This passionate man believed that reason and truth would
lead to justice. And
he used his many skills and his training in law and finance to
intellectually fight these battles.
justice was not to be had.
one to give up on principle, Dr. Mossadegh was later to fight
another legal battle against the powers who unseated him within
Iran. He fought to
prove illegal his removal as Prime Minister, his arrest, and the
abrogation of the laws regarding control of Iran’s oil, which
had been passed in the Majles (the Parliament).
But again, justice was not to be had.
Mohammad Mossadegh lived out his life in internal exile, time
has been proved him bigger than life: fifty years after his fall
from power his likeness is seen on posters held in the hands of
rebellious students who demand democracy.
People all over the world revere his name and profess to
follow Mossadegh’s Path.
A Fight for Liberty
Washington had a similar background to Dr. Mossadegh. He was born in 1732 (150 years before Dr. Mossadegh) into a
Virginia Planter family. Like
Mossadegh, Washington’s father died when he was young.
One important difference is that while Dr. Mossadegh
spent his working life in government service, both before and
after the completion of
studies in law and in finance, George Washington followed his
two intertwining interests, Western Expansion and Military Arts.
Washington helped in the survey of the Shenandoah lands
at age sixteen, then at age 22, with a commission of lieutenant
colonel, Washington started his military career by fighting in
the small battles which would grow into the French and Indian
men had the responsibilities of a landowner, and Washington was
not without experience in government, having served in the
Virginia House of Burgesses.
men felt the sting of foreign exploitation.
it came time for revolution, the Americans took a different
course than the one the Iranians would take 130 years later.
Neither George Washington nor Mohammad Mossadegh could
sit out the quest for self-determination.
The former, in his middle forties, was a delegate
to the First Continental Congress in 1775, then elected by that
body to Commander in Chief of the Continental Army; the latter,
a young man in his twenties, was a member of the Humanitarian
Society (Majma Ensaniat), one of the regional organizations
organized to promote the constitutional revolution during the
initial 1906 campaign (which was destined to fail).
Mossadegh was also a member of the National Soldiers, an
armed group prepared to physically defend the Majles, the seat
of the Constitution.
Iranians were eventually successful in gaining acceptance for
their constitution. They
formed their government as had been done in England, Belgium and
Turkey before them, under their Monarch.
However, it was not to be what they hoped it would.
The power of two foreign governments was strong in
Iran’s internal affairs, for internal politics could effect
their exploitation of Iran’s huge wealth in petroleum and
could ask if the success in getting the constitution in place
under a monarch was actually a misfortune.
fact is that a strong Parliament working in the best interest of
the Iranian people was a rare occurrence.
And such were the powers against “good” government,
that when a group of men dedicated to the interests of the
Iranian people gained control of the Majles, the tenure of their
control was short-lived.
until 1951, when Mossadegh became Prime Minister, did the
Iranians have an unwavering advocate in the Parliament.
Unfortunately, Mossadegh and the National Movement did
not form a majority of the coalition that got him elected Prime
Minister; however, the country was teeming with Mossadegh
supporters, and Mossadegh embodied National Movement.
one point, because of enormous pressure being put on every
member of Parliament, a group of Ministers resorted to a
filibuster in order to stop the progress of Mossadegh’s
agenda, which was, as Mossadegh summed up in a statement that
sounded very American “governments are made for the people.”
only support in the Majles was slightly more than a handful of
Ministers, therefore in order to prevent the dissolution of the
Majles and a new election, Prime Minister Mossadegh put the
matter in the hands of the people by putting it to a referendum.
The people’s support was overwhelmingly, and won the
day. It had been a
hard battle, but by no means was it the end of the war.
forces of the Shah redoubled their efforts to thwart the
National Movement. What
followed was a dramatic move by Mossadegh.
convened Parliament outside the Majles building.
In the open air of Tehran,
Mossadegh spoke amidst countless citizens who’d gathered in
support of democracy. With
the taste of liberty on their lips, the people raised Mossadegh
to their shoulders to have his message heard by all.
what they were up against, the Shah and his supporters decided
to back off until the people’s emotional support of this
troublesome leader waned.
Unfortunately there was a monarch
and a ruling class in place; to make matters worse, both were
supported by foreign governments; all of which found the goals
of Mossadegh and the National Movement antithetical to their own
none of these parties saw Iranian law, or justice, as obstacles.
would prove to be on their side.
the mid 1770s, King George had refused the plea for justice by
the Americans, so the United States embarked on a war of
independence, which it eventually won.
But as we’ve seen, the
Iranians, on the other hand, were not only under the thumb of
their own monarch, but the more powerful thumbs of Russia/USSR
and the British. An
out-and-out revolution may have eventually won them true
autonomy, as it had the United States.
Or they could have lost complete control of their nation
for the first time in their history.
It is true that the American
revolutionary leaders did not have a country to lose; however,
they did enjoy self-government for local issues in their
colonies, and like the Iranian patriots, they were gambling
their property, their lives and the welfare of their families.
two great men were both principled and selfless men.
Neither could be tempted into actions incongruous with
his principles. Washington
even refused a crown and the title King.
Nothing took Mossadegh off his path, not even his
troops were outnumbered, out trained and out gunned.
The scales were so tipped against him that he told
Congress, “we should on all Occasions avoid a general Action,
or put anything to the Risque, unless compelled by a necessity,
into which we ought never to be drawn."
was only tenacity and the strength of Washington’s character
that brought victory to him.
He avoided major battles, exploited every situation and
turn of events. You
can find many times when fate in the form of a fog or politics
in Europe or some other, unrelated or uncontrollable event saved
the day, and say it was not Washington, but luck.
But it was Washington, for it was his vigilance,
self-control and his decisions that allowed him to take
advantage of every opportunity and to avoid every risk.
had the same characteristics.
He was vigilant and patient, he never wavered and, also
like Washington, he saw his goal clearly, and just as clearly
saw the path to it.
was locked in the war, only taking time to give direction to
Congress. He had
other men to practice diplomacy abroad, and take care of the
political problems at home.
Mossadegh, though not alone in his struggles, waged his
war only through diplomacy and politics, only to lose his
government to the gun.
One glaring difference is that once the decision
for revolution was made, America chose not to have a ruling
Jefferson declared that with these words: “We hold these
truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of
Happiness…” Declaring also a new type of government that
recognized that one’s rights derive from one’s humanness,
and further, that the government gets its power from the consent
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among
Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the
in the ruling class coffin is in the next group of words: “That
whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these
ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to
abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its
foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such
form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their
Safety and Happiness.”
opposite was true in Iran; the fact that the people asked the
Shah’s permission and agreement for 1906 Constitution
illustrates that ultimate power was vested in the
government, in the person of the Shah, and that the rights of
the people were granted by the government.
the end, it was that very ruling class that had been kept in
place, a ruling class that allowed for the constitution and the
parliament in the first place, that sent in the soldiers and
stopped the progress toward liberty.
took a great man and did their best to discredit and humiliate
him in a trumped up trial.
Then put him under house arrest, and even banned his name
from being uttered in public speech.
Philadelphia in the last quarter of the 18th century,
the Americans went beyond democracy and parliamentary government
taking the full step to individual liberty, which demanded the
abolition of a ruling class.
This flew in the face of classical teaching.
Aristotle taught that there are people who are
born to lead. As
this might be true in some cases, two facts have caused mankind
a great deal of trouble over the ages.
Firstly, many children
of the great leaders in history have proven to be anything but
great leaders. Secondly,
the growing list of ruling-elite aspirants continually broaden
the entry-level requirements to include themselves.
teachings were not lost to the masses, it would seem, for many
in the general public acquiesce to live under the rule of
despotic regimes, and thereby shoulder responsibility for the
success of tyranny.
The Flame of Government
and his compatriots were using a completely different standard
than their counterparts in the American Colonies. They
had an ancient history and great traditions that they were proud
of and didn’t want to lose.
These were people who wanted only to fine-tune their
government with a little self-determination.
Washington and the Americans, on the other hand, were
spoiled with Liberty. They
were used to being in total control of their own destinies.
in the final analysis, this is the great divide between Mohammad
Mossadegh and George Washington. Dr. Mossadegh saw government in a way that I cannot; to
Mossadegh government was an acceptable tool to be wheeled for
the good of the masses. To
traditionally thinking Americans, government is a necessary evil
that must never be taken casually.
“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is
force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful
master,” so said George Washington.
the fire Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh sought to use for the progress
of his people and nation burned him, and his people, and his
Copyright Joseph De
Matteo. September, 2002, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED