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TomDispatch: Stephen Kinzer: BP in the Gulf -- The Persian Gulf, How an Oil Company Helped Destroy Democracy in Iran



From TomDispatch today: From a well-known author, a powerful reminder of just what a reckless company BP has been, the almost forgotten story of how BP's great political "spill" of 1953 helped slime our world -- Stephen Kinzer, "BP in the Gulf -- The Persian Gulf, How an Oil Company Helped Destroy Democracy in Iran."

"To frustrated Americans who have begun boycotting BP," writes Stephen Kinzer, author of Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future, "Welcome to the club. It's great not to be the only member any more!"

In a bracing reminder of the historical recklessness of BP that no one has yet explored, even as the Gulf of Mexico is being destroyed for generations, Kinzer, well known for his work on the CIA in Guatemala (Bitter Fruit) and the U.S. record of "regime change" (Overthrow), points out that he's been driving past BP stations long before this year's oil spill. "My decision not to give this company my business," he writes, "came after I learned about its role in another kind of 'spill' entirely -- the destruction of Iran's democracy more than half a century ago."

Here he tells just how, in 1953, BP, then known as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and in possession of all Iran's oil, in conjunction with the CIA overthrew a democratic Iranian government eager to nationalize its own oil supplies. It was the first government the CIA ever toppled and the reckless decision of the company and the Agency would change our world in devastating ways which, like the present spill in the Gulf of Mexico, reverberated for generations.

This is an event that should have, but hasn't, come to mind in the midst of BP's latest disaster. Kinzer brings it back powerfully. He concludes:

"The oil company re-branded itself as British Petroleum, BP Amoco, and then, in 2000, BP. During its decades in Iran, it had operated as it pleased, with little regard for the interests of local people. This corporate tradition has evidently remained strong. Many Americans are outraged by the relentless images of oil gushing into Gulf waters from the Deepwater Horizon well, and by the corporate recklessness that allowed this spill to happen. Those who know Iranian history have been less surprised." Read it now.

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