Dr. Larry Franklin
Former Iran Desk
Office of the Secretary of Defense
This Memorial Day will be different than the last several. Americans clearly see the downsizing of our troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps by next Memorial Day, no more soldiers’ remains will be flown to Dover Airfield for posthumous ceremony. Maybe by next Memorial Day, burials in our national cemeteries of killed-in action soldiers will cease. Now, after nearly 6500 KIAs in these conflicts, politicians’ speeches will testify that their sacrifices were not in vain and will not be forgotten. However, the harsh truth is that, except for in loved ones’ memories, all will be forgotten. Oh yes, there also will be the occasional reminder of headstones when we lay to rest the aged veterans in our families in national cemeteries.
The Persian Gulf War: who now remembers how or exactly when it started? Who knows how many we lost in that conflict? Veterans of this war will remember as they show their children and grandchildren their “Persian Gulf War” medals and ribbons. During Memorial Day ceremonies to come, they will pay visits to cemeteries where their buddies lie entombed, the grave markers reading “Casualty in the Persian Gulf War”.
Few of these veterans and fewer members of the general public realize that a host of invisible bureaucrats, weak-willed diplomats, politically sensitive senior military officers, and media talking-heads are altering the name of this war -- all for the wrong reasons. Think of it reader: when was the last time you heard the war in which a U.S.-led coalition liberated Kuwait from Saddam’s Iraq referred to as the Persian Gulf Conflict? You most likely have heard it referred to as “The Gulf War”. Perhaps they mean one of our wars against Mexico?
No there is no mistake here. The extirpation of the adjective “Persian” is purposeful and the assault on millennia of geographical references. “The Persian Gulf” is a half-century old. Following the independence of Europe’s Near East colonies, Arab nationalists began their campaign to alter the geographic reference to that body of water adjacent to Iran. The migration of Arab elites to the West has recently propelled this aggressive posture.
Despite a United Nations’ directive that the Persian Gulf remain just that and not the Arabian Gulf, the appellations, they are a-changing. Our State Department -- which refuses to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel -- has a sub-unit called the Bureau of Northern Gulf Affairs. The Arabs will accept this for now. But the U.S. military’s CENTCOM Tampa-based brass have extended this humiliation one step further. In many of our military exchanges and joint exercises, in order to please “our Arab allies”, they will obsequiously refer to this body of water as the Arabian Gulf. The National Geographic Society also decided to alter the name, though, under pressure, has since reversed its decision. However, Google has not done so. This development amounts to one more example of Arabian Peninsula-based arrogance to superimpose their world-view upon a compliant West.
So what is the case for a “Persian Gulf”? Persian cultural values -- philosophical, religious, and aesthetic -- have endured the test of time. Persian Civilization represents one of humankind’s finest hours. Persia’s influence extended far beyond the borders of a country we call Iran today, to include Central Asia and the Transcaucasia regions, as well as the Indian sub-continent.
While the nomadic Arabs migrated out of the desert oblivion of the Arabian Peninsula, Persian ties to the West are well-documented from the beginning of recorded history. The Aryan people migrated from the mountains of the Caucasus to the Iranian plateau. Other peoples who, for a time, occupied this region, including the Babylonians, Assyrians, Akkadians, Elamites, Kassites, and many others have long ago disappeared. The Persians remain.
The Persians’ power base, the province of Pars, gave its name to the Farsi language. The Persians’ great capital cities of Pasargadae and Persepolis, which ran along the southwest coast of the Aryan Plateau, named the adjacent body of water, i.e. the Persian Gulf. It is as natural as the Roman decision to call their adjacent sea “Mare Nostrum” (Our Sea), today’s Mediterranean. It remains so.
Nevertheless, if the fates and political pressure force a name change to “The Gulf” or “Arabian Gulf”, what are we to do with all those medals and grave markers, referring to a “Persian Gulf”? Moreover, it will be yet another surrender to militant Arab historical revisionism. Those who facilitate this appeasement may view their acts as a display of tolerance and sensitivity. The aggressors will interpret such as evidence of moral weakness and lack of will to endure.
Marze Por Gohar Party
Iranians for a secular republic