U.S. Embassies, Consulates, Missions and Their Attackers

At the end of a hectic day, I was fighting through the various posts on Facebook, catching941222_162977380537331_429606287_n up as it were, wondering why I engaged in such self-destructive behavior. I stopped abruptly to stare at a Benghazi post that pointed out ten embassy attacks resulting in sixty deaths during the Bush administration and questioning why there was no Republican outrage. Was this a ‘good point’ or more of the nasty, divisive politics that keeps people from actual dialog? A quick check verified the claim, as far as it went.

Benghazi has become a battle cry akin to ‘Remember the Alamo’ and well it should be. imagesThe horrific murders, the denial of support and the State Department’s lying and manipulation under this administration is shameful. But that is the way it has always been done under all administrations. In the case of Benghazi, a brutal reality was shoved in the face of every American, indeed every world citizen, and the fat is in the fire as it should have been for over a century. The Internet and non-mainstream media have shown light on several appalling foreign policy behaviors. The Benghazi battle cry should seek to bring the U.S. State Department and CIA to accountability, because how the U.S. conducts its foreign policy is the problem.

On September 11, 2012, the day the Benghazi Consulate was attacked, there was also a

A view of the damage to the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983

A view of the damage to the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983

mob attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo although no one died in that attack. Since Benghazi, there have been three U.S. embassy attacks and one U.S. Consulate attack, two in 2012 in which seven attackers died and two in 2013 in which three local security employees were killed and one attacker met his fate. We discussed G.W. Bush’s record in the first paragraph, but remember the coordinated African embassy attacks under Bill Clinton in 1998? The U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed; in Kenya 213 people lost their lives, including ten U.S. personnel and two U.S. security personnel and in Tanzania eleven died. During the Cold War there were over forty attacks on U.S. Embassies, Consulates and Mission facilities including the 1983 embassy attack in Beirut in which sixty-three died; seventeen were Americans. Not a single presidential administration escapes the spotlight of U.S. embassy attacks. And those are just the ones we know about over the last 80 years. Therein lays the problem-the secrets.

Robert Whitney Imbrie was a Major in the United States Army and an American diplomat. He was killed at Tehran, on July 18, 1924,

Robert Whitney Imbrie was a Major in the United States Army and an American diplomat. He was killed at Tehran, on July 18, 1924,

To view the geopolitical landscape of embassy attackers, let’s back off about 90 years to the brutal murder of Robert W. Imbrie, U.S. Consul in Tehran in July 1924. The emotion and all the players are long dead and we may look at what happened and what it meant in the context of time.

Historical Context

The 1917 the Bolshevik[1] Revolution was still playing out in Russia. The Russian power cartels were consolidating, dissolving and re-forming. Enemies were being named and framed for elimination and Robert W. Imbrie was in the thick of it. A lawyer out of George Washington University and Yale, Imbrie liked action. He was in the Congo in 1911 and drove an ambulance for the French during WWI. In 1917 he joined the American Foreign Service and ended up in Petrograd as a Special Consular Agent where he defended American interests with vigor. A notorious anti-Bolshevik, Imbrie pounded on the desks of Russian officials, including the head of the secret police, and delivered documents to the State Department that supposedly proved Russia took orders from Berlin. The documents were forgeries.[2]

In search of action, Imbrie moved restlessly from Finland to Istanbul to Anatolia. Imbrie was nothing if not hotheaded and that trait got him crosswise with the State Department in 1923 when he apparently endangered the life of one Louise Bryant by denouncing her to the Turks as a Bolshevik. He earned a time-out in Washington, D.C. for that stunt.  Imbrie must have rejoiced when he got the call to reopen a consulate in Tebriz, Iran and put together a spy network. In mid-1924, Robert W. Imbrie was out of trouble and back in his element when Consul Bernard Gotlieb left Tehran, Iran to return to the U.S. on leave and Imbrie was appointed as his temporary replacement. It wasn’t long before he was murdered.

Along the way Imbrie became friends with Allen W. Dulles who was then Chief of the State Department’s Near Eastern Affair Division. Allen Dulles, charming and always a

Allen W. Dulles

Allen W. Dulles

spymaster, would become the head of the CIA, while his brother, John foster Dulles, headed the State Department under Eisenhower. According to Zirinsky, “The State Department understood that it was gambling when it sent Imbrie to Iran. “Of course in sending a man of Imbrie’s rather impetuous disposition to far away countries we are taking a certain risk,” wrote Allen Dulles, on September 19, 1923. “The only question is as to whether the advantages to be gained would justify this risk. I am rather inclined to think they would.” The gamble failed; Imbrie’s impetuosity contributed to his death. Naturally, in view of his anti-Soviet background, the question of Communist complicity in the attack on Imbrie was raised. Despite accounts that the Bolsheviks had put a $40,000 (gold) price on his head, the State Department could find no evidence of Bolshevik culpability. All the evidence pointed solely to Iranian responsibility, abetted by Imbrie’s bad judgment.”

The Murder of Robert W. Imbrie

In 1918, while still in Petrograd, Imbrie had said “I’m never looking for trouble, but if it comes I’ll welcome it with open arms.” He found it on Friday, July 18, 1924 at a miraculous, healing well in Tehran when he grabbed a camera, an oilfield roughneck named Seymour for protection and proceeded to take pictures of the people at the well. Imbrie managed to become embroiled in the extreme anti-Bahai sentiments of the time. The well was a Bahai miracle[3]. It seems that a Bahai was blinded after drinking from the well and refusing to honor the Shi’i saints. His sight was miraculously restored by the well’s water after repenting and making the requisite donations.

Portrait of Reza Shah, former commander of the Persian Cossack Brigade and founder of the Pahlavi dynasty.

Portrait of Reza Shah, former commander of the Persian Cossack Brigade and founder of the Pahlavi dynasty.

As Imbrie took pictures, Sayyid Husain, a seventeen year old mullah denounced the two as Bahais who were poisoning the well and the crowd attacked. Imbrie kept on taking pictures while Seymour hammered the crowd off with a blackjack and they beat a hasty retreat to their carriage. Now the story gets really interesting. In front of the Pahlavi regiment of the Cossack Brigade,the local constabulary stops the retreating buggy and the crowd catches up. Remember the Shah of Iran? Well this was his daddy’s brigade. Keep that in mind as we head for the conclusion.

The crowd was joined by many soldiers to form a mob of about 2,000. According to the official accounts, Imbrie was pulled from the carriage and beaten to a pulp. After a while, Imbrie and Seymour were rescued by police personnel who said they were sorry they had been so afraid of the Cossacks that it took a long time to decide to rescue the pair. The police were also under orders not to interfere with anti-Bahai demonstrations. The police moved them to a police hospital where Imbrie was attacked a third time. At the time of his death Imbrie, who remained conscious, had received 130 different wounds from stones, sticks and pavers including a cut to his scalp that penetrated to his skull. Seymour survived.

What Happened Next

Zirinsky points out that “This murder was instrumental in Reza Khan’s consolidation of power in Iran. In the view of the British Military Attaché, Colonel W. A. K. Fraser, “The event gave him the excuse for declaring martial law and a censorship of the Press. Numerous arrests have been made, chiefly of political opponents of the Prime Minister.” The American view was even stronger. According to Major Sherman Miles, a United States Army General Staff officer sent to Tehran to investigate, the murder was deliberate. Miles concluded that the anti-Bahai rioting in Tehran was intended by the Iranian government to end in the death of a foreigner. Reza Khan wanted a foreigner to die “so that he could declare martial law and check the power of the Mullahs.”


Always follow the money. In the end Reza Khan Pahlavi’s execution of a U.S. diplomat eliminated the old Shi’a based dynasty and the oil money flowed into his bank accounts. Reza paid no political price but twenty people were condemned to death including Sayyid Husain and a fourteen year old Cossack private. Allen Dulles reported to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on February 12, 1926, “When you are dealing with a government like Persia … if you ask them to execute a Moslem for the death of a Christian … if they do it, you accomplish more for the prestige of your country than if they paid a million.” The U.S. and Allen Dulles declared victory and moved on.

Kirinsky cautions that “What Iran perceived may have been quite different. Despite strong evidence of high-level military involvement in the riot that led to Imbrie’s death, the United States did not insist on punishment of high-ranking officers, nor did it distance itself from a prime minister who also had been implicated. Some enlisted men were punished harshly, but incompetent and culpable officers were hardly reprimanded. Some were even promoted. The United States had reason to be critical of Reza, but it chose to see in him the only possible source of “justice.” Similarly, the only civilians punished were very young. Of course the United States took care to ensure that both of the condemned boys had passed puberty and that there was no serious reason in Muslim law why they should not be killed. Still, the United States insisted on the shooting of two boys, aged 14 and 17, on the action of a court-martial conducted by officers who had failed to prevent the murder of Imbrie by men under their command. The executions of ‘Ali and Husain were just as much sops to U.S. opinion as had been that of Mortaza ( an Iranian author of the time who expressed admiration of Western culture through his works). Under these circumstances, Iran reasonably could conclude that the United States, although a great power, could be manipulated, and that, despite sanctimonious talk about justice, the United States winked at abuse of power.”

Later Reza Khan would fall from power, but the U.S. was never comfortable with the Shia

Mohammad Reza Shah of Iran

Mohammad Reza Shah of Iran

approach to government. Going with the devil one knows, in 1965 the CIA placed Reza’s son Mohammed on the throne as the Shah of Iran. It never mattered that the path to power took place over the brutally beaten body of Robert W. Imbrie.

In 1979, the Shi’I leader Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran from France and just like that the Shah was gone. By now it should be clear that, in spite of U.S.’s best effort to get what it wanted, nothing had really changed. Thousands died, including U.S. citizens, while the U.S. wink, wink, nod, nodded during its support of the rise of the Shah’s daddy, thousands died, including American citizens, placing the Shah of Iran on his throne, and thousands died, including American citizens, upon the return of Shi’a rule through Khomeini. Time magazine named Ruhollah Khomeini ‘Man of the Year’ in 1979 and by then tens of thousands more were dead by Khomeini edicts.

Every Embassy, Consulate and Mission attack I have researched to date is filled with the same familiar smoke and mirrors of public deception and misdirection. So what is the take away? Instead of fighting with each other, join forces and force the government to accountability. In particular, the State Department and the CIA as two of the three major arms of foreign policy need much more light on the work done under the protection of embassies.

While Americans are fighting with each other, these bureaucracies are leaning back in their chairs, lacing their fingers behind their backs and laughing while they plot their next assault. Democrat? Republican? Conservative? Liberal? You are all pawns in their game; an irritation that gets bought off time after time. If the bureaucrats cannot buy you off by creating dissension among you, they throw you a crumb of information and if that fails, they fire an operative or two. Benghazi was brought up front and personal to millions through the Internet. The appalling brutality hit home, the lying hit home, the deception but that is the way it’s always been.

Now we all know the ugly truth. It is high time for the people of the U.S. to stop the process that enables the behavior. Demand accountability from all parts of the government and demand it now.


[1] The Bolsheviks, originally alsoBolshevistsor Bolsheviki(Russian: большевики, большевик (singular), IPA: [bəlʲʂɨˈvʲik]; derived from bol’shinstvo, “majority”, literally meaning “one of the majority”) were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolsheviks

[2] Michael Zirinski’s 1986 Blood, Power, and Hypocrisy and its footnotes are the source materials for all of the Robert W. Imbrie information. It is an informative, authoritative read. http://scholarworks.boisestate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=history_facpubs

[3] Michael Zirinski’s 1986 Blood, Power, and Hypocrisy, pg 283. “The Bahai faith, which began in Iran in the mid-nineteenth century, frequently had been the object of popular and governmental attack.Muslims believe the faith to be a heretical break-off from Islam, and consequently Bahais are not accorded the toleration allowed Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians. The Bahai faith has also converted many Muslims, which helps to account for the violence of clerical anti-Bahai rhetoric; in Islam apostasy is forbidden and is punishable by death. Bahais also have been associated in the Iranian mind with foreign influence, in part because the Bahais were among the first to adopt Western styles of dress. The faith explicitly encourages scientific innovation. After the Bahai faith spread in the West, especially in America, there were many contacts between Western Bahais and their Iranian coreligionists. Bahais have been very prominent among the Iranian associates of foreigners, including Americans. For all these reasons Iranian xenophobia has more than once taken the form of anti-Bahia rioting.”


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