• 1979: American Embassies


    American Embassies Are The Same The Whole World Over

    Published in Socialist Worker, 22 December 1979.


    I have had great difficulty understanding the shock and horror which greeted the capture of the American embassy in Tehran.

    The Guardian, for example, collapsed into open racism at the news. ‘The worst in the Iranian character’, ‘a typically Iranian simple-mindedness and emotional need for enemies’ -  thus gibbered the paper that was once supposed to be progressive.

    A brief glance at the history of US embassies and ambassadors suggests that the Tehran students were not so simple-minded.

    Back in the golden fifties, when the dollar ruled the world and American ambassadors were diplomatic Davy Crocketts, we find the case of John Peurifoy.

    He was appointed Ambassador to Greece in mis-1950, because the US wanted a right-wing, anti-Communist government in Greece.

    Peurifoy cultivated Marshal Papagos, an old-time fascist and helped him organise a new right‑wing party, the ‘Greek Rally’.

    The one obstacle to Papagos coming to power was the proportional representation system favoured by the centre parties. So Peurifoy simply threatened to suspend US aid (on which Greece depended) if proportional representation were used.

    The bullying worked. Under the US-favoured system Papagos got over 80 per cent of the seats in Parliament with less than half the votes.

    Having saved Greece for democracy, Peurifoy was moved on to Guatemala, where the left-wing Arbenz government was threatening the interests of the United Fruit Company.

    Following a US-organised invasion from Honduras, Arbenz resigned. The Guatemalan foreign minister of the time recounts what happened next:

    ‘The North American Ambassador Peurifoy visited Colonel Carlos Enrique Diaz, who had occupied the presidency and had just dissolved the Guatemalan Labour Party (Communist).

    ‘The ambassador appeared with a long list of revolutionaries in his hand.

    ‘He demanded that they be shot within twenty-four hours. But why? asked Diaz. Because they are Communists, replied the ambassador.

    ‘Diaz refused. The worse for you, warned Peurifoy as he left the room – and Col. Diaz was immediately overthrown by Col. Monzon.

    ‘Monzon met with Castillo Armas in San Salvador. There an agreement was signed, imposed by Peurifoy with a .45 pistol under his jacket.’

    Peurifoy was next transferred to South East Asia, where, unfortunately, he was killed in a car crash before he could repeat his triumphs. But there was no shortage of arrogant bully-boys to keep the great profession going.

    Like Ambassador Talbot …. who in 1967 explained to Greek opposition leader Andreas Papandreou that the US was supporting the military coup because the situation before the coup had been ‘an absolute replica of the crisis in Iran between the Shah and Mossadegh.’

    American embassies are simply the branch offices of the biggest and ugliest multinational of them all – American imperialism.

    They are a legitimate target for those who want to put it out of business.