Stephen Kinzer's sober review of Iran's history and interactions with the West and Russia ["Inside Iran's Fury"] is a must read for every American. It does not absolve what the radical clerics and President Ahmadinejad are saying and doing, but it helps us to understand the historical precedents that make them distrust our intentions.
Diamond Bar, California
Defending the Shah
Kinzer's dismissal of the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah as purely evil, without mentioning the democratic reforms he put in place, sadly, makes the rest of his "scholarship" suspect. The Shah, for all his greed and corruption, tried to lead Iran into the 20th century. He attempted to bring women out from under the veil and sent them to school. He struggled to bring Western ethics to a country mired in religious fanaticism that was more brutal than his secret police ever thought to be. I spent seven years in Iran during his reign, and while there is no doubt his secret police were feared, are they any worse than our own "renditions"? In today's climate of suspicion, there is no room for biased or incomplete history.
One aspect of Iran's fury Kinzer did not discuss is the concession that led to the discovery of oil in Iran's Khuzestan region in 1908. Weary of Russian loans, Mozaffar al-Din Shah awarded an oil concession to the financier William D'Arcy that covered most of Iran, save a few provinces bordering Russia. Knowing Iran's hold on Khuzestan was weak, the British negotiated through local Bakhtiari clans for access, land purchases and protection, then extracted oil with little concern for just royalties to the central government. This, plus the 1907 Anglo-Russian Agreement that split Iran into Russian and British spheres, set in motion the animosity against the West that was to plague British and American interests in the region, even before the abdication of Reza Shah in 1941 or the coup of 1953.
If I were deputy manager of Westlands Water District and knew you were writing a story about a crashed salmon fishery caused in large part by poisoned and depleted water resources ["Farewell to the King?"], I, too, would probably try to blame environmentalists. But Mr. Jason Peltier should take his head out of the selenium-choked sand and look around: making the desert bloom might not have been such a good idea, and scapegoating fishermen and environmentalists won't water the cotton fields.
John W. Wall
San Francisco, California
RE: Your fictitious article of 3 January 1789, about "swiftboating George Washington" [Last Page: "Same Olde, Same Olde"], I know not of which Delaware boat veterans you refer, but the men of my Regiment were the only ones to ferry members of the Continental Army. I was the coxswain of the last boat to cross the river, which included Gen. Washington. Your claim that he was lodged in a local inn with wife Martha can only be a most perjurious fabrication, as he personally led our successful attack on Hessian troops in Trenton the next morning. I request that your reporter verify accounts of this glorious victory with actual participants before falsely casting aspersions on the character of Gen. Washington. To do otherwise would set a poor example and a sad precedent for future news printers of our fledgling nation. I can only infer that you still harbor Tory sentiments for His most arrogant Majesty, King George III of Great Britain.
Robert A. Erbetta
An image on page 62 does not depict Darius (c. 549-486 b.c.), as the caption says, but Darius 111 (c. 380-330 b.c.).