Remember that time the US killed 290 civilians? Iran does.

Iranian and US flags side by side
Ed Sykes

This week, as the US celebrated the anniversary of its Declaration of Independence being signed, another big anniversary came and went. It was 30 years since the US killed 290 civilians. And while it’s a massacre that many in the US will have forgotten, it’s an event that many in Iran will never forget.

US terrorism

As the Associated Press pointed out, 3 July marked the 30-year anniversary of the US Navy downing an Iranian commercial flight in the Persian Gulf. This attack killed 290 civilians (including 66 children). That appears to be roughly 290 more than the number of US civilians that Iran has ever killed.

In a 2018 statement, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Ghasemi said this “heinous crime… will never be forgotten”.

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Back in 1988, meanwhile, the USS Vincennes claimed it had mistaken the civilian plane for a fighter jet; even though the ship had “state-of-the-art” equipment. Iran later sued the US and received a $131.8m settlement. But the US didn’t punish the crew. Instead, it gave two Vincennes officers medals. And it even praised Capt. Will Rogers III for “outstanding service as commanding officer” between 1987 and 1989.

It gets worse…

The US didn’t just kill 290 civilians in 1988, though. It did so amid the devastating Iran-Iraq war, in which the US and its Western allies backed Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

As The Canary previously detailed in depth, Hussein was reportedly “on the CIA payroll as early as 1959″; and the CIA worked closely with the Ba’ath Party in Iraq to undermine the country’s left-wingers for many years. United Press International pointed out in 2003 that US intelligence services had seen Hussein as “a bulwark of anti-communism”, and thus used him “as their instrument for more than 40 years”.

Back in 1953, meanwhile, the US had conspired to overthrow a democratic government in Iran and replace it with a brutal pro-Western dictatorForeign Policy says this fuelled “a surge of nationalism which culminated in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and [poisoned] U.S.-Iran relations into the 21st century”. In this revolution, academic Noam Chomsky explains, Iranians “overthrew a tyrant that the United States had imposed and supported, and moved on an independent path”. And in this context, the US saw Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as an ally.

Iraq invaded Iran in 1980. And the US supported Hussein’s regime, as did France and Britain [paywall].

This Western support came in spite of Hussein using chemical weapons against Iranian troops and thousands of his own civilians. The conflict dragged on for eight years thanks to this backing. It eventually killed over a million people and left both countries with deep scars.

Will the real terrorists please step forward?

Tensions are currently rising between the US and Iran because of Donald Trump’s decision in May to withdraw from a multinational deal with Iran and bully other countries into following his lead. This hostility has little to do with Iran’s poor human rights record and everything to do with Trump’s close alliance with Iran’s regional enemies in Saudi Arabia and Israel, the barely reported Middle Eastern conflict over oil pipelines, and the fact that Iran does not bend easily to America’s will.

In 2017, Trump made a speech in Saudi Arabia. It was full of talk about his “magnificent” Saudi “friends”, and full of verbal attacks against Iran on the topic of terrorism. Trump had previously accused Iran of being “#1 in terror”. But his hypocrisy spoke volumes. Because Trump had nothing to say about Saudi Arabia’s murder of civilians in Yemen or its alleged links to Daesh (Isis/Isil) and similar terrorist groups.

As Noam Chomsky has explained previously, the US definition of terrorism hinges very much on a “theirs versus ours” logic. And as he has pointed out, regular international polls agree that the US is the “gravest threat to world peace… by a huge margin”. Indeed, whenever Trump accuses Iran of terrorism, Tehran has every right to remind him about the 290 civilians the US killed on 3 July 1988.

Always demand context

Donald Trump’s close alliance with Saudi Arabia and Israel will continue. And as long as it does, so will US tensions with Iran. But we don’t have to accept US hypocrisy lying down.

Get Involved!

– Ask Theresa May and your MP to support the deescalation of tensions between the US and Iran.

– Join or support the Stop the War Coalition. Show your support for Veterans for Peace, who are fighting for peaceful solutions to the world’s problems. And take action with the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

– Support The Canary if you appreciate the work we do. Also see more Canary articles on Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Saddam Hussein; and for more Global articles, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Featured image via U.S. Department of State/Flickr

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